In last month’s blog post, we covered the heartbeat of Talking flight monitor and what it will take to address existing bugs and to do an in-place upgrade of the entire system. This week, we will update everyone on my surgery and provide some important news about supporting P3D and Navigraph.
Surgery went well. The doctor wants me off my feet for at least four weeks. This means I can do light weight activities inside. He put a limit on how long I can be on my feet, including how long I can sit at a desk during the day. As a result, I had limited time with my laptop, until my wife found a workaround. Now, I can “sit at my desk” as long as possible. This still means limited times because sitting on the couch with my feet up on my desk chair stresses out my back after a while. At least it is as many times during the day as I want. Doing flights is easy because I can be at my desk until autopilot takes over, then move to the couch. I will keep everyone updated on the next stage of recovery with the next blog post.
Talking flight monitor is now added to the Navigraph HUB. Anyone with a subscription should be able to add the current cycle. This is only for the source builds though. If you would like to build from source to test bleeding edge code, follow the directions found at Building TFM from source. We are currently adding support for the database, so no new features will arrive until this is finished and tested.
P3D 6 was released sometime last month. Some significant changes were made to improve the P3D framework and scenery. However, these changes broke support for the PMDG line of aircraft. In other words, PMDG aircraft do not work in P3d6. PMDG announced that after trying to add support for P3D 6, they had deeper problems than just changing some installer files. In the same announcement, they stated that revisiting this problem wouldn’t happen until the 777 and 747 were added to MSFS. This puts the timeframe sometime in mid or late 2024. As reported in the announcement, PMDG most likely won’t continue support for P3D if the changes require too many resources or too much time. Since MSFS arrived on the scene, the market share for P3D 4 and later has significantly declined. Even though more addons and scenery exist for P3D than MSFS, more addons are being altered or newly developed for MSFS. This brings us to Talking flight monitor’s placement in the market.
Talking flight monitor strives to support as many simulators as possible. However, we are also limited in time and resources. Since market value of P3D is declining in favor of MSFS, and PMDG doesn’t support P3d 6, we are not supporting P3D 6 nor continuing new development on P3D 5. Any new development in Talking flight monitor will be focused on MSFS. Keep the following in mind.
- When features are identical in both simulators, we will support P3D5 and earlier.
- If Talking flight monitor works in P3D6, it is at your own risk.
- As long as the PMDG SDKs are the same or close to the same, we will support the P3D versions.
- When the PMDG SDKs are drastically different, the MSFS versions take priority.
- Navigraph support is independent of a simulator, so works in both P3D and MSFS.
- We will not support Aerosoft products.
- We do not support FS2Crew or similar products.
- We do not support the PMDG DC6, TS4xxx, or similar aircraft.
- Support for Osobo aircraft requires an evaluation.
Again, we will do our best to keep P3D5 and earlier support going. However, we can’t make promises to the effect. We hope everyone understands our decision to back off on P3D support. In the event PMDG does support P3D 6, we will reassess the situation.
Welcome back. Last time, we covered important info about Flight sim expo, some Talking flight monitor updates, and that there is going to be down time because of my surgery this week. Before that happens, I would like to take a little time to explain what will happen with updates going forward. So, let’s start.
The heartbeat for Talking flight monitor monitors aircraft and simulator state, then announces changes based on some user settings. This heartbeat also gives pilots the ability to press a key command to open dialogs or get aircraft information on demand. We also have some utility or satellite systems to help the heartbeat do its job. The previous version of the user interface library we used forced us into a specific coding pattern, which was less than desirable. In the process of building Talking flight monitor over the past three years, we built its heartbeat into a single block of code that is over 5400 lines of related and unrelated source. All together, our code base has over 25000 lines of source that needs to be sorted out. Our plan is to fix as many current bugs and add as many new features as possible while reorganizing the code base. This may take some time since we also have to convert the existing source into the new framework version and move the dialogs and windows over to the new user interface library. The process may take a decent amount of time. However, the plan is to do an in-place upgrade. This means that pilots will not be interrupted with down times or lack preview builds to test. The entire process is always ongoing, so an estimated time is unknown at this time. Starting today, I will not be actively working on Talking flight monitor until my recovery process allows me the comfortable time to do so. I will keep everyone updated on the process and how things are going, especially with Talking flight monitor.
This will most likely be the last blog post for the week. I will evaluate the ability to write one next week and go from there. I hope everyone is having fun flying with Talking flight monitor. It is always our goal to make more and more systems or simulator features accessible with Talking flight monitor. If you have any ideas, feel free to send them through the contact form, and one of us will get back with you as soon as possible. Good luck on all your flights, and I will see you on the other side of surgery.
Welcome back! Last time we covered the new PMDG 737 cockpit panels window and our intent to list all converted panels in each update. During our time off, we went to Flight sim expo and had a great time. There is a little to cover, so let’s get started!
Flight sim expo
Flight sim expo was a great experience, and we plan on doing it again next year. The museum staff and expo volunteers did an excellent job helping out and accommodating us as blind visitors. We took a look at several exhibitors and have things to report.
One of our main stops was the Navigraph booth. Everyone there had great things to say about Talking flight monitor. We had the time to explain what Talking flight monitor did for the BVI pilots community, which was one of the problems they had when we applied for access to the Navigraph database. As a result of talking to them in person, we are ever so close to getting access. At this time, I am in conversation with their CEO on where to save the nav data when it is available. He also pointed out that since FMS data manager is going away at the end of this year, and since it is not accessible for us, they are going to include us in the Navigraph HUB. We will keep everyone up to date on this matter when something new comes around.
Fly by wire A320N support
A new development came out of visiting Fly by wire’s booth. After talking to
their head developer, we discovered that we could support the A320N and the A388 when it is released. This would require pilots to make use of a helper utility called sim bridge. It comes with the A320N and is the mode in which we would access the FMC. The Fly by wire SDK is complete and well documented. The only thing we are waiting on is access to the EFB. Without it, it is impossible to set your Sim Brief user ID and access settings.
The Beyond ATC booth had a few things in store for us as well. After talking to the lead developer about accessibility problems BVI pilots ad with ATC software in the past, he was interested in making Beyond ATC completely accessible for assistive technology. We will see what is in store for us when it is released.
Talking flight monitor presentation
Our presentation went better than expected. I don’t know the final count on attendance, but we had a few key people present. Among them were the Navigraph CEO with two other managers, some active-duty pilots, some retired pilots, and some interested hobbyists. You can access the presentations from expo by accessing your flight sim expo account or waiting until the no-share clause of our agreement is no longer valid. Once this done, anyone can watch them on YouTube for free.
Talking flight monitor’s 3rd anniversary event
Talking flight monitor is now three years hold! Happy birthday TFM! This year’s event will take us from George Bush International (KIAH) to Toronto (CYYZ) on September 2, 2023. This is the first Saturday in September. Everyone should start parking at KIAH between 11:30AM and 12:00PM EST. We hope to have everyone off the ground no later than 1:00PM EST. This is a Vatsim event, but is not required for those who don’t want to use Vatsim as their ATC. For those who want to watch the event streamed live, we will stream it live from our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/@talkingflightmonitor).
Development down time
I am having surgery on August 2, 2023. There will be at least a week of down time for initial recovery, so there will be no development progress during this time. I will reevaluate my recovery progress after the first week to see if resuming work is possible. I will keep everyone updated on my progress. My problem is not serious or critical, so I will remain stable through the recovery time. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers – I hate general anesthetic!
Talking flight monitor updates
Now, on to Talking flight monitor updates. July has been busy, so not much in terms of development has happened. We do have a new jump to runway, jump to gate, and destination runway dialog available. We will cover jump to gate and destination runway. Jump to runway has no new features at this time.
Jump to gate
Jump to gate is a dialog where pilots can enter an airport code and get a list of gates and ramps available at the given airport. In the current release of Talking flight monitor, pilots have to sift through gates and ramps to find a suitable gate or ramp to park. In the new version, pilots have the ability to narrow down the list of interested gates or ramps, making it easier to find one to use.
Destination runway is a feature that gives pilots the ability to track ILS landings with heading and altitudes instead of percentages. In the current release, pilots enter their destination airport code, choose an ILS runway and press OK. When the ILS becomes active, Talking flight monitor will start reporting ILS tracking information in heading and altitude values. In the event the system crashes or restarts, pilots have to choose their destination runway once again. This could cause problems on descent or on final approach. In the new version, pilots still enter their destination airport code and choose an available runway. However, we expanded the list of runways to include ILS and LOC only approaches. New in the destination runway dialog is a checkbox allowing the pilot to save their current destination runway for future use. When checked, the system will save the chosen airport and runway. We also included a new key command ‘destination runway info’. To access this new feature, press right bracket (]), then the letter N on the keyboard. This will announce information about the current destination runway. Now, there are safety nets in place if the system crashes or the pilot is forced to restart.
We don’t have a release date for the new Talking flight monitor, but we will keep everyone updated as we make progress. We hope to see you in the next blog post. Happy flying, and if you need anything, send us a contact us form on the website.
Welcome to week 9 of the PMDG 737 rebuild series. This week, we step away from building panels and focus on a much larger feature that TFM desperately needs: database support. I would also like to remind everyone of support options at the end of this post.
The following discussion on TFM’s new database support has nothing to do with Navigraph, which is a different feature from the below description. Read carefully before spreading the word.
TFM now has the ability to store data it generates in a database. We start by focusing on speech history. The new features include the following.
Brings 2 new settings to the output category. ‘Save output to a database’ and ‘Include timestamps in the speech history’. When checked, ‘save output to database’ will make use of a TFM generated database to store different information. When not checked, TFM will revert to its current behavior. The speech history size control in the output category in settings will not be available when using database support. When using database support, a new feature, ‘Include timestamps in speech history’ will become available. When checked, timestamps are included in the speech history found by pressing right bracket (]) then CTRL+S while TFM is running. When not checked, the speech history behaves the same as before with the exception that history is kept forever, and across restarts.
TFM automatically generates the database and everything it requires to use the new database features. The current location for the database is the user’s documents folder under Talking flight monitor/data/TFM.db. Manually deleting this file or folder structure will force TFM to regenerate the database on next restart. To stop regenerating the database after it is deleted, uncheck the ‘Save output to a database’ box in output category in TFM settings before deleting it and restarting TFM.
The new database support provides limitless possibilities in the future. With something simple such as speech history to something as complex as storing complete flights, landing rates, custom panel states, and more. The only limit is your imagination. This brings us to an important topic. TFM support and feedback channels.
Support and feedback
TFM has a few support and feedback channels available to users. With new users coming on board, joining different BVI communities, and the number of BVI pilot communities growing in number, it is impossible to reach everyone in person or on a Team Talk server. So, it is critical that new feature requests/feedback go through one or all of the following channels. We can no longer take feature requests, bug reports, and feedback by word of mouth.
Available support channels
- Send an message through the contact us form on the website.
- Report a bug or feature request in the TFM issue queue.
Other options will come available in the coming weeks. We would like to request users make use of the options above when requesting support. It goes a long way in speeding up fixes, implementations of features, and reviewing feedback.
Just wanted to drop a quick post here and let people know of the current status of TFM and support for the new PMDG 737 for Microsoft Flight Simulator.
As of now, PMDG has not yet released an SDK (software development kit) for the new PMDG 737. As a result, FSUIPC 7 has not been updated with any new offsets that might be required. Additionally, the existing offset block for the 737 is actually disabled in FSUIPC 7, since they weren’t needed until PMDG came out with their new aircraft.
We’re keeping an eye on the FSUIPC and PMDG forums and will have some more information once the new SDK comes out for the 737.
People have often wanted to know a little about us, and how Talking flight monitor (TFM) got its start. We will introduce ourselves and give a little background on TFM.
First, let us meet Jason, the founder of TFM. I have dabbled with coding all my life, ever since I learned Basic on the Apple 2E when I was a kid. Talking Flight Monitor started for me as a project to keep me sane during strict Covid lockdowns in Canada.
I have been interested in aviation for a long time. My first experience with flight simulation was with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and an incredibly old product called FS Navigator. I had often thought that we could do much more with the flight simulation add-on infrastructure.
Next, let us meet Andy, TFM’s co-founder. Having graduated with honors and as a lifetime member of the Delta Mu Delta international honor society, my work embodies excellence and dedication. In my 16 years of experience, I have embraced leadership and innovation in accessibility and software and web development. Proficient in multiple programming languages and familiar with the government and nonprofit sectors, my project management and leadership roles have provided opportunities to advance inclusive design in transportation, information technology, and the gaming industry. I have always been interested in flying, especially when I had some sight. Unfortunately, I knew nothing about flying an airplane. Now that I am completely blind, the ability to fly in a simulator is impossible if it were not for TFM.
We created TFM out of frustration with other simulator addons which were limiting, inaccessible, and others which were discontinued. With these addons, workarounds were standard par for the course, requiring most BVI pilots to limit their flying capacity instead of enjoying a flight. Since its first official release almost two years ago, TFM has grown from a small Python app which monitored a few aircraft instruments to a .net based simulator addon that supports most freeware aircraft and the popular PMDG 737, 747, and 777 aircraft series. TFM now has over ninety keyboard shortcuts, monitors over one hundred aircraft instruments and systems, and provides a way to customize your flying experience. If you have any questions about getting started, feel free to fill out the contact form and one of us will get back with you.