(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.
- 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.
- 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:
Here are the new settings that you will see after clicking on the cog wheel:
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).
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).
"Radio Ready" - White Mic Icon
Your radios are configured correctly, but you are not currently transmitting.
"Transmitting" - Green Mic Icon
You are transmitting and listening on a frequency.
"No Reception" - Yellow Mic Icon
Your radios are set up to transmit, but not to listen.
(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.
(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.
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!