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Andrew Heath

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The Invite-Only Beta is almost upon us, so it is a great time for another development update!

Pending final bug fixes, we will be sending out the approval emails to the invited users soon. If you are lucky enough to get one, you will be authorized to access our software at the time you receive the email. Those who make it into Phase 1 will receive invite codes for Phase 2 to distribute at your discretion, but those codes will not be immediately available. We will keep you posted on when they become available to distribute.

Here is a quick recap on the original plan for Invite-Only Beta, Phase 1 and what may or may not have changed since the announcement was first released:

  • Pilots will require an invite code and subsequent approval in order to participate
    • Status Update: This is still the case. All available invites have been distributed and those who received an invite are patiently waiting for the approval email, which will come soon.
       
  • ATC will be hand-picked by POSCON staff and will be required to sign an NDA
    • Status Update: This is still the case. One thing to note, however, is that we will most likely be very slowly implementing ATC. In fact, the first couple of weeks will most likely see little to no ATC coverage on the network as it still requires some additional dev work.
       
  • Operating times will be schedule limited
    • Status Update: This is no longer true. We plan to have the server up and running 24/7 as we have separated our development and production environments. We will inform everyone of scheduled down times when we make updates to the production servers.
       
  • Number of users was planned at between 500-1000
    • Status Update: This is still the case; we have invited between 600-700 users to Phase 1.
       
  • NDA is not required for Invite-Only Beta, Phase 1
    • Status Update: This is still the case. You are not required to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) unless you are hand-picked to be an ATC. We will continue to maintain a select group of NDA pilot beta testers to test new features in our development environment.

Having said all that, now I want to take some time to outline features that made it into this phase. I think outlining these features is an important part of the process of managing expectations.

Voice System

One of the main blockers that prevented us from releasing POSCON sooner was the decision to completely rewrite our voice system. Six months ago we were using the TeamSpeak 3 SDK for our voice infrastructure, but we decided using TeamSpeak 3 would limit our technical growth into the future.  As a result, we opted to get rid of TeamSpeak completely before any sort of public release. Over the past few months we have worked tirelessly to develop our very own custom infrastructure and I am happy to report that it is now completed. Our voice will have the following features at Invite-Only release:

Voice Server Supports:

  • Many simultaneous connections.
  • Ground-based transceiver locations; there are currently 4,667 locations entered into our database.
  • Propagation of transceiver locations to the Radar Client.
  • Option for separate PTTs per radio (e.g. VHF #1 and VHF #2), separate volume controls per radio, and separate audio devices per radio.
    • The server supports this, but the pilot clients do not support this yet.

Voice Effects Supported:

  • Full VHF simulation including:
    • 8.33 kHz and 25 kHz spacing.
    • Terrain line-of-sight processing.
    • Beat simulation.
    • End-of-transmission popping tones.
    • Wavelength simulation.

Website & Administration

Another factor that prevented us from releasing POSCON sooner was the decision to build out a custom Single-Sign-On or SSO. It became apparent, as we added new products and technologies to our software suite, that the generic open-source or even payware services would not meet our needs. I am happy to report that our custom SSO has been completed and is fully functional. Here are some additional web features we will release with:

  • GDPR compliance.
  • A support system.
  • Basic flight statistics.
  • ICAO 2012 formatted flight plan form:
    • An integrated help tutorial is provided on the page.
    • The form validates while entering data.
  • Feedback and generic points system.
  • Live Map used to view online traffic (updates every 2 seconds).
    • Users can leave feedback about each other using the map.
    • Moderators can initiate ghosting, disconnects, and bans using the Live Map interface.
  • Pilot Client Web UI, which can be accessed on any device with an internet connection (see below for more details).

Pilot Clients, Pilot Client Web UI, & Pilot Server

The Pilot Clients are by far the most completed products that we have in our software suite. They have been closely designed in parallel so that the features remain consistent across the various platforms. Once you have logged in to the network, the Pilot Client will send information about your plane’s location, altitude, attitude, as well as a number of the plane’s parameters such as gear and flap deployment, engine RPM, state of various beacon and navigation lights, transponder mode and code, etc. The Pilot Clients also receive similar information from the network about aircraft that are within range of your plane. This information is used to draw 3D models of the aircraft at their correct position and orientation. The information is also used to populate various datarefs so that your aircraft’s TCAS system will be aware of nearby planes.

In addition to the aforementioned features, the Pilot Clients also feature:

  • Enhanced ground-clamping using various methods for a smooth experience regardless of differences in terrain.
  • Model matching. Here is how we handle model matching with the various platforms:
    • For X-Plane, the models are distributed with the pilot client itself and contain custom model matching logic.
    • For FSX/P3D, we have integrated the FLAi model set through our Launcher Client application (see below for more details).
  • ICAO equipment and airline code validation.
  • Accurate ground speed monitoring (X-Plane Only).
  • VHF push-to-talk activation indications.
  • AI model sounds and controls (X-Plane Only).
  • The ability to control the maximum number of AI planes that will be displayed.
  • In-game notification of ghosting and disconnects with explanations.
  • The ability to manually toggle ghost mode or request to unghost.
  • Automatic detection of change in aircraft.

The Pilot Clients will automatically ghost for:

  • Sim rate increase, entering slew mode, using replay mode, or deliberate pausing (this can also sometimes be triggered by accessing a sim menu).
    • If you are on the ground and not moving, pausing is allowed.
  • Connecting on or re-positioning to a runway (through a menu) will prevent connection or disconnect the user as applicable.

Pilot Client Web UI Features:

  • Some functions of CPDLC (Controller-Pilot Data Link) will be operational such as the login function and automatic squawk code assignment.
  • Real world D-ATIS (Digital Automated Terminal Information Service) broadcasts are integrated and can be requested in real-time by pilots.
    • The voice portion of D-ATIS is not working yet, only the text portion.
  • METAR and TAF reports can be requested in real-time by pilots.
  • Radio syncing.
  • Ghost and unghost toggle.
  • Disconnect.

Pilot Server Supports:

  • Many simultaneous connections.
  • A variable update rate based on range. When in close proximity to other aircraft, models will update 15 times a second for a smooth visual experience.
  • Airspace awareness. The server can determine a planes position in relation to defined airspace boundaries (both vertical and lateral). This is a very unique feature not implemented on any other network. In the future, this will enable POSCON to build many other features using this core server functionality.

Launcher Client

The Launcher Client is the centralized hub to keep you up-to-date on everything related to POSCON. This product was designed around the idea of "platform software" similar to what Origin, Steam, and other gaming platforms offer. The POSCON Launcher Client mirrors the content contained in the POSCON HQ, but with enhanced functionality: 

  • The ability to download, install, launch, and update all available network software.
  • The ability to switch between development and production environments (for NDA testers only).
  • Token authentication. Once you enter your username and password once, the Launcher Client will take care of the rest.

That's it for now, we hope you enjoyed this update. In the near future we will post a list of frequently asked questions that should help first-time users when accessing the network. If you have any questions you think would be a good addition to this list, feel free to comment below!

Thanks for all the support over the last few years, it continues to keep us motivated!

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      Recent Entries

      Andrew Heath
      Latest Entry

      By Andrew Heath,

      Back in September of 2019, I was browsing through X-Plane community downloads in order to find additional models to enhance the POSCON X-Plane Pilot Client model distribution. During the course of my search, I came across the X-CSL model package and reached out to the X-CSL team via their Contact form to obtain authorization to use their package in our software. The X-CSL team granted POSCON permission back then, but as of January 2022, they have unilaterally revoked that permission.

      The main reason for this blog post is to inform POSCON users that the X-CSL package is in the process of being removed from our distribution and should be fully removed by the end of the week. Once this package is removed, the next time you reinstall your X-Plane Pilot Client via the Launcher Client, the models will be automatically deleted from your computer.

      An equally important reason for this blog post is to shed light on what transpired to get us to this point, a point where we are taking a drastic step backwards regarding user experience. The reason for this decision is because the founder of the X-CSL model package, a man named Aleksandr (Almik) Mikitas, revoked permission to use these models after our "Out of Beta" announcement was made public. He wrote to me shortly after the announcement and claimed that permission was never granted to use these models, even though a senior developer from his team clearly granted us permission over two years ago (see the email exchanges). As mentioned earlier, I originally wrote X-CSL via their Contact form in September of 2019 to ask for permission and Aleksandr responded and handed me off to his senior developer who subsequently granted permission to use the models with the stipulation that we give credit to X-CSL, which we did: https://forums.poscon.net/docs/support/manuals/acknowledgements/

      Despite my best efforts to convince Aleksandr that the lack of communication was isolated internally within his team and not at all POSCON's fault, he has decided to take punitive action against POSCON members by requiring us to remove the models. This action only serves to hurt you, the user, by making it more difficult to use the X-CSL package (i.e. you now have to go download it from their website and use scripts to get it to work with POSCON, which is hardly worth the time). While I have many theories about the timing and reasons behind this new requirement, I want to stick to the facts here as much as possible.

      Speaking of facts, here is an important one: Aleksandr Mikitas now works as the MTL Designer and Membership Assistant Coordinator - Eastern Europe and Northern Asia for the International Virtual Aviation Organisation (IVAO). To my knowledge, Almik did not hold this position with IVAO at the time I approached X-CSL in September of 2019.

      I have put together an evidence package in case POSCON users want to dig deep into what was said and by who. Publicly releasing my personal correspondence is not something I take lightly, but I find it entirely relevant to the current situation. An important note about the email exchanges is that all respective parties were always CCed on every email so anything said was guaranteed to be seen by both Almik and myself.

      Based on the email exchanges with X-CSL, my lawyer concluded that X-CSL and Almik implicitly allowed POSCON to distribute these models. Why else would Almik have referred me to his developer in order to give us technical information which would enable POSCON to include these models in our software? Our intentions were clearly outlined from the very first email sent to X-CSL. Almik and his developer never said, “yes include the package in your installer” directly, but they also never said “no.” Even though Almik was CCed on all the emails from the beginning, I recently reminded him that he was the one who referred us to his developer and as a result, his developer told us how to include the model package in our software. The POSCON developer programmed software based on this representation. The X-CSL developer's role in this was perpetuated by Almik — Almik referred POSCON to his developer, so it implies that Almik knew what this was about, and approved of it.

      What's also interesting to note is that Almik says he created this package for the benefit of all X-Plane users, "Each our model is a our free time, effort and even money to give the best results for all XP users as free," but by revoking POSCON's authorization he actually has made it harder for X-Plane users to use the X-CSL package on their preferred network of choice, unless of course that network is IVAO.

      At the end of the day, POSCON will comply with X-CSL's demands, but I think it is important to shed light on what sometimes happens behind the scenes in this "community" and why we can't have nice things.

      Reflecting back, this whole situation seems eerily familiar to the recent debacle between AIG and FLAi (click here for additional reading material). Bottom line, this type of behavior in our community needs to be called out and more importantly, it needs to stop.

      What Happens to the POSCON X-Plane Model Package?

      To be honest, this doesn't really affect our model package too badly. There was approximately 70% overlap between BlueBell and X-CSL, so there will be a few unique models that will disappear in addition to some liveries. If you are interested in helping the POSCON model project recover from this loss, please reach out to Jeffory Beckers, our Model Asset Manager.

    3. Jarrett I. (1016071)
      Latest Entry

      By Jarrett I. (1016071),

      I'm sure you've seen those four letters before - RVSM - and you may have a fundamental knowledge about the airspace, but do you know why it exists? Here are the answers to the most basic questions:

      1. Where do we find RVSM airspace? Higher cruising altitudes.
      2. What happens in RVSM airspace? Airplane separation is reduced vertically.
      3. Why does RVSM airspace exist? To allow more aircraft in the sky.

      There you have it... the simple definition of RVSM. Now, let's get technical:

      179238233_rvsmexample.thumb.jpg.7dec5a890cb6b0df0630858cc6783e10.jpgRVSM stands for Reduced Vertical Separation Minima and it's located between FL290 (29,000ft) until FL410 (41,000ft) inclusive. To understand RVSM, you must first understand what the vertical separation requirements were above FL290 before 2005. Prior to RVSM, aircraft were required to be separated by 2,000 feet vertically above FL290 due the possibility of altimetry errors at the higher flight levels. RVSM airspace allows for a reduction in vertical separation between qualifying aircraft in order to allow more aircraft to operate in crowded enroute airspace thereby allowing for more efficient traffic flows. Airplanes of course move a lot faster at higher altitudes though, so it is only natural that this little amount of separation may make even the most vigilant pilot a little nervous. However, it is important to note that before implementing RVSM, aviation authorities instituted a required set of parameters that must be met in order to operate in RVSM. If any of these parameters cannot be met before entering or while operating within RVSM airspace, the aircraft is required to advise ATC and exit RVSM.

      Before we get into other details about RVSM lets recall that in many countries, the East ODD and West EVEN rule applies to vertical separation. This practice ensures that two airplanes are never assigned the same altitude flying in opposite directions. In some regions that are geographically more north/south split such as Italy or Florida for example, they have elected to modify the rule to favor North ODD and South EVEN as the determining factor for vertical separation. Either way a region chooses to separate traffic, it is important to recognize that these rules exist are crucial to establishing a baseline for high altitude vertical separation.

      Now that we have covered the basic rule for opposite direction vertical separation, let's talk about what makes an aircraft RVSM approved. In order for an aircraft to operate in RVSM airspace, a certification is required from the governing agency of that nation (FAA, local CAA's, etc.), but the basic equipment that an aircraft should have operational include: an autopilot, two independent altimeters, a transponder with an altitude reporting capability, and an altitude alerting system. During flight in RVSM airspace, pilots will cross check their two independent altimeters to ensure the difference does not exceed a specified tolerance, which could range anywhere between 50ft to 200ft.  If any of these items malfunction during flight in RVSM airspace, notification to air traffic control is essential.

      Let's talk about air traffic controller's responsibilities in regards to RVSM airspace. Aircraft will have an equipment code in their flight plan assuring ATC that they are RVSM compliant and capable. If an aircraft alerts that they are no longer RVSM capable, ATC will have to either ensure separation of 2,000ft with that aircraft at all times or descend the aircraft outside of RVSM (below FL290).  However, just because an aircraft is not RVSM capable does not mean they can never fly between those altitudes. Many corporate jets are not RVSM capable but still request to cruise above RVSM airspace (e.g. FL430). In this scenario, the controller will climb the aircraft through RVSM airspace while ensuring 2,000ft separation is maintained between other traffic at all times. 

      On a final note, RVSM aircraft require a maintenance certification as well. The next time you start up your flight sim and connect to POSCON for IMG_20190825_235257469.thumb.jpg.8e83b29248a45ce99a0d2db21142efb2.jpgyour online flight simulation experience, take a look at the outside of your aircraft. Depending on the quality of the aircraft in terms of realism and study level, you should see what's called an RVSM critical area (see image to the right). Aircraft maintenance technicians must run specific tests and certify that everything located within this box meets the required RVSM tolerances, which are often stricter than in flight checks accomplished by pilots. Static ports, pitot tubes, and AOA vanes are small examples of what can be found in these boxes, of course, these are important functions that will assure RVSM tolerances when in flight. Pilots check this box during preflight inspections to ensure this critical area is free of residue, damage, dents, or other non-normal appearances on the components in the boxed lines.

      On POSCON, our air traffic controllers are well trained on RVSM procedures. When flying online, ensure your aircraft is RVSM capable and make sure you indicate it properly in the flight plan equipment code section ("W" is the letter identifying that the aircraft RVSM capable). If you do not include "W" and are offered an RVSM altitude (it happens), simply say to ATC "Negative RVSM". And of course if you are having issues with your autopilot, now you know you are required to tell air traffic control.

      After reading this article, you should be confident answering when and why the "W" equipment code is required in your flight plan. It is true, there are far too many acronyms in the aviation world, but at least you got RVSM down! See you on POSCON in RVSM and don't forget the whiskey! (get it?)

    4. Network Technology

      Andrew Heath
      Latest Entry

      By Andrew Heath,

      CAPTAINS,

      (if you have been in the flight simulation community long enough, you will understand the "Captains" reference)

      The last technology blog post was published in May of 2020, and what a long journey it has been for our team since then! Thankfully that long arduous development journey has come to an end and users will be able to benefit from our hard work.

      I want to start off by answering some common questions and clearing misconceptions.

      Is POSCON dead?

      Absolutely not! We are very much alive and well!

      We may not seem like a major player in the online flight simulation network arena right now, but rest assured that our technology is far superior to that of our peers and we will be a significant force to reckon with in the near future.

      So, where have you been?

      The short answer is, we have been here all along. . . quietly developing.

      As a result of feedback from early beta testers, we took the drastic step of essentially shutting down POSCON's forward progress in order to rewrite the voice software. This decision was made when we realized that the voice software was not going to be able to sustain our projected growth using the protocol it was developed to use. Making a change to the protocol basically required a complete rewrite, which I am pleased to report is now complete.

      The good news is that the rewrite only occupied one developer for past last year. While he worked tirelessly to bring users a better voice experience, our other developers have been making significant feature upgrades to their components. I am going to take some time to highlight those major developments later in this post.

      Why haven't you posted development updates over the past year?

      To answer this question, we need to address two major issues in the flight simulation community: the hype train mentality and the copying problem.

      1. The hype train mentality. A very common tendency in the flight simulation community is to over-hype a product. Some developers do this on purpose by dropping little nuggets of information or photos on social media regarding a new and exciting product they are working on in order to build hype, then one of two things happens; either the product never gets released (it was vaporware all along) or the product is released, but does not live up to the hype. This community loves to ride the hype train and it is not something that the POSCON team thinks is a professional approach to software development and marketing. We don't want to build up hype around a product that doesn't live up to expectations. We feel it is better to stay quiet and develop rather than to make promises we cannot keep.
      2. The copying problem. No, I am not referring to the people who like to pirate software (and yes, that is a problem too). What I am referring to the issue of other developers/networks (you know who you are) taking our great ideas and benefiting from them. This is something Robert Randazzo of PMDG actually brought up in his recent interview with Jeff Turner over at Sky Blue Radio in regards to Global Flight Operations. I couldn't agree more. Competition is a great thing, but competition means being innovative and developing new ideas.

      Anyway, enough of my rant. . . but those are the main reasons we are careful not to provide too many details about what we are working on now.

      Okay, so what are you willing to share?

      First, I think it is important to point out that all recent updates to our software can be found in the changelogs which are located on the POSCON HQ. I certainly have no intention of covering everything that has changed over the past last year, so I encourage all users to browse through the logs if you are interested in learning more.

      Having said that, there are some main points I want to cover in this blog post.

      Let's first talk about the voice software, since this is what has been the major barrier to our forward progress. The voice software is now using a new protocol which will prevent a lot of the issues that users were experiencing with the previous iteration such as issues with wireless headsets, sample rates, garbling, etc. In addition to changing the protocol, we moved all the voice settings (push-to-talk, audio device selection, volume control, etc.) from the Radar Client and Pilot Clients into the Launcher Client in order to centralize these settings. This means that users will now only need to modify the voice settings once for all POSCON clients. This integration of the voice software into the Launcher Client enables us to expand the capabilities of the voice software in the future to perhaps support web-based pilot and ATC clients. You can find all the new voice settings by clicking cog wheel in the bottom right-hand corner of the Launcher Client:

      Screenshot_5.png.233b7bd6159573869caec8565bfaa21a.png

      Here are the new settings that you will see after clicking on the cog wheel:

      image.png.24cf5c391f784324358d73faaa88b80d.png

      Under the "Volume Controls" setting, we now allow users to control squelch which adds an extra layer of realism to the VHF simulation. You can adjust the squelch by moving the slider left (lower) and right (higher).

      Screenshot_7.png.4b948da02750b6cd27ec1ad89a64ad62.png

      The Launcher Client also incorporates a new voice status icon located in the upper right-hand corner of application which gives users an indication of the microphone and the radio configuration. Here are the different states:

      "No Radio" - Red Mic Icon
      You are not connected to POSCON (or the voice server) or your airplane radios are not powered (perhaps your avionics are turned off).
      image.png.14922fcee062490205836485f1163ec2.png 

      "Radio Ready" - White Mic Icon
      Your radios are configured correctly, but you are not currently transmitting.
      image.png.6fc970f4668d91b15aae646e93e6f588.png

      "Transmitting" - Green Mic Icon
      You are transmitting and listening on a frequency.
      image.png.80bd29a673f8a009740e97191396653e.png

      "No Reception" - Yellow Mic Icon
      Your radios are set up to transmit, but not to listen.
      image.png.85572bc011d5741ec7b7db75230a3243.png

      image.png.72490d8c38a6ad7ebc85c24ae3ed29e7.png (push-to-talk button/key pressed)

      "No Transmission" - Yellow Mic Icon
      Your radios are set up to listen, but not to transmit. This can happen when you are in Ghost mode or if you don't have your radios configured to transmit on a frequency.
      image.png.ea5a031f16b4b0efe8a6af70a4905828.png

      image.png.b0d7aa827616c5a21b3f0d6499f60fd9.png (push-to-talk button/key pressed)

      In all cases, remember you can use the Pilot Client Web UI ("RADIOS" page) to get better insight into what is happening with the configuration of your radios.

      Other changes to the voice software include:

      • Upgrades to the radio-frequency physical model which helps to better simulate real-world radio interference
      • Antenna position now varies by aircraft type and thus improves ground effects near the airport surface
      • Server-side memory optimization and multi-threading
      • New stuck-mic protection (35 second timer, then mic cuts out)

      The Launcher Client itself has been re-versioned to 1.0.0 and is officially out of beta testing. We upgraded it to the latest dot NET framework and changed the cloud location where it downloads client software from. The long term goal (version 2.0.0) for the Launcher Client is something we are referring to as the "Unified Launcher Client". The Unified Launcher Client will integrate the SimConnect (FSX/P3D/MSFS) Pilot Client, voice software, and authentication all into the same code-base so that multiple applications need not be opened simultaneously to run POSCON.

      One important user-experience note about the new Launcher Client (version 1.0.0) is that when you click the "X" in the top right-hand corner, it will now minimize the Launcher Client to the system tray. In order to completely quit the Launcher Client, you must right-click on the icon in the system tray to quit.

      image.png.c58a5b1661dac7f44a2b86e0781b2600.png

      The HQ has undergone a significant number of upgrades and improvements over the past year. . . far too many to mention here so I encourage you to go view the HQ specific changelog. Our most recent changes (i.e. in the past month or so) include the addition of a brand new Virtual Operators section. Virtual Operators are essentially organizations that are commonly referred to as "virtual airlines" in the community. These organizations can join POSCON and benefit from an integrated connection that will ensure members only fly with approved aircraft, callsigns, routes, and more!

      Also, the HQ development team has been slowly improving the ATC Division pages including a re-design of the Overview and Members pages to offer a better user experience to view information and activity in the division. Speaking of re-design, your User Profile has also been re-designed to offer a better user experience that compliments all your activity!

      The Radar Client has had many updates and improvements as well, please see the Radar Client specific Changelog for more details.

      The Pilot Clients and Radar Client have been stripped of all voice-related items. The software should still work normally, but the voice now is handled by the Launcher Client.

      Wow, that's amazing stuff, but how do you plan on attracting more users?

      Sorry, but this is a Technology blog! Can't answer that!

      In all seriousness, we will be sending out marketing materials soon. We plan on making 2022 a big year for POSCON and we want to thank those who have kept the faith throughout the years. Without you and your encouragement, this wouldn't have been worth it! 

      Happy Holidays to all!

      🎄🥳

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