Tuesday, July 21, 2009

PC GAMES - ATC Simulator

Uh, well may not exactly be a game. This is about a real ATC (Air Traffic Control) Simulator that is used for professional training, but it does make a nice simulation game.

Way back in my Win95/98 days I had a game titled TRACON which was much like the one I just found, but TRACON would not run in WinXP.

I accidentally ran into ATCSimulator 2

This game runs almost exactly like TRACON.

What these games do is allow you to choose a TRACON area, like the Chicago O'Hare (ORD) TRACON area. (see URL link, game screenshot below)

(click for larger view)

(Did you notice how similar the game screenshot is to the pictures in the URL page?)

Then you act as an ATC Controller and guide aircraft on takeoffs, landings, flying through the area, etc. This includes sending voice commands (via a voice simulator after typing in text commands) to change speed/altitude/heading and hearing the pilots reply.

Of course you have to observe all the rules on aircraft separation, airport landing speeds & runway headings, and specified routs.

I spend hours with the old game and I'll likely spend hours with this updated version.

Monday, July 13, 2009

OT - My Forays Into the Linux World

(OT = Off Topic)

On 7/9/2009 I received my brand spanking new Linux Notebook Computer. I chose Ubuntu 9.04 desktop OS. (screenshot)

Personal Note: As I edit this post of 7/13/2009, I am using my Linux Notebook and Firefox

(click for larger view)

My first impression, just using it (out-of-the-box) Linux IS a better Operator System than Windows.

Also, Ubuntu has all the features that WinXP has and just as good, or better, GUI. Note that Ubuntu is a GNOME based desktop (see Linux link above).


  • OpenOffice Suite

  • Evolution email (I installed Thunderbird)

  • Firefox WEB Browser

  • and much more

What you should know about Linux. Linux has its root in the Unix OS, but Unix was cumbersome to use.

Personal Note: I have a fleeting experience with Unix at 2 former employers.

What Linux attempts to do, and does so very well, is to provide a Windows-like friendly GUI.

Understanding what is different about Unix/Linux:

This is a quick-and-dirty overview of how these OS function, and makes them different from Windows. Note that I have gleaned this from several sources, including Ubuntu Repositories (suggested reading for techies).

Unix is linked to folders at all levels, including logon. Example "root" = Windows Administrator logon, but is linked to the \root of the system. Reminder, Administrator logon is NOT the same as Administrator Rights. Any logon can be given Administrator Rights and this is true for Unix/Linux.

Unix/Linux installs work like a plug-ins in Windows (something I was not aware of until recently), like the plug-ins you can have for Windows IE. This means that ALL installed software (apps, utilities, system tools, etc.) are part of (integrated into) the OS. This is unlike Windows where most apps, utilities, etc., run on-top-of the Windows OS. This results in a smother running and more secure OS.

I am not saying that Unix/Linux are error-free. No OS is.

Also, since most of the Linux world is Open Source (aka freeware) the majority of installs cost you nothing. The software loads are provided by organizations like GNOME or Ubuntu.

Installs are done via the Synapic Package Manager (SPM) after selecting sources via Software Sources manager. There is an option for manual install if you download a DEB file (filename.deb) which is the Linux version of a filename.msi in Windows. Note in Linux, "package" = "install files" in Windows. In Linux you install packages.

Example, on my Linux Notebook, I've installed: Thunderbird, Adobe Reader 9 & Adobe Flash Player, a WMP emulator, a NewsGroup reader, and much more. Thunderbird has its own plug-in downloads.


Example of Windows-like GUI (refer to screenshot):

At the top of the Ubuntu Desktop is a "Panel Bar" which has the functions of the WinXP [Start] menu and Quick Launch Bar.

  • The start-menu functions = tabs [Applications] [Places] [System]

  • The quick-launch-bar = the icons to the right of [System] tab

  • On the far-right of the top bar are your Network connection icon, Desktop configuration, date-time, and your logon name and shut-down switch (includes log-off, etc.)

At the bottom Ubuntu Desktop is the equivalent of the WinXP Taskbar. It shows open windows just like WinXP with the addition of Workspace/Desktop/Trashbin (on the far right).

Now, as an example of "no OS is fault-free;" after installing Thunderbird I thought, well, I didn't need Evolution email any more.

You "remove" packages the via SPM, so I removed all references to Evolution. BIG mistake. When I rebooted, logon went as expected BUT I got no desktop! PANIC! Turns out that Ubuntu uses some core files from Evolution to create the desktop.

Contacted my system's Tech Support via email, and they gave me the command (via Linux Terminal = Window Repair Console) to reinstall the Ubuntu Desktop. Answer in under 2hrs. THAT'S what I call Tech Support!

Well, that's it for this "pass." I will update this post as I gain more experience with Linux.

7/15/2009 UPDATE

Sorry, couldn't resist

(click for larger image)

This is my present Ubuntu Background (aka Wallpaper).

7/27/2009 UPDATE

Well I ran into an issue having to do with Open Source software, which I was aware of.

First, and expansion on just what Ubuntu is. In the Linux world Ubuntu is called a "desktop," but it can be considered a GUI for Linux. The colliery in Windows is WinXP vs Vista, they are both Windows OS but have have very different GUI (among other things).

So Ubuntu is a GUI that runs on Linux, and there are others.

That leads to the issue of Open Source software, Ubuntu operates slightly differently than the other "desktops" available for Linux. Sometimes the differences can be confusing. This also applies to apps and utilities you may add.

Open Source does lead to an inconsistency that a proprietary OS (like Windows) does not have. The publishers of Open Source software may not follow the methods/specs that other publishers do. Their software will work, but (for example) data may be kept in files not consistent with general Linux locations. This is the many-chiefs-in-the-soup syndrome.

I ran into this trying to setup a wireless connection. Advice from Linux user groups said look in one location (file folder), Ubuntu users had a different location, and there were other variations.

In my case, none of the Linux locations were used, the files I needed were in folders for the specific wireless/network management software I was using.

8/4/2009 UPDATE

  • Virus Threats to Unix/Linux

  • Yes there are. As I've said on a previous post on viruses, Windows has a high attack rate because it's the Big Muther on the block (most popular OS), but as Linux becomes more popular it is coming under increasing attack.

    There is a Linux Antivirus tool, ClamAV. It is included in Ubuntu's Package Manager (aka Install Manager) but requires a separate install of the GUI for ClamAV, ClamTK.

  • Linux Games (my favorite subject), see link for a list.

8/7/2009 UPDATE

"Microsoft acknowledges Linux threat to Windows client"

Microsoft for the first time has named Linux distributors Red Hat and Canonical as competitors to its Windows client business in its annual filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The move is an acknowledgment of the first viable competition from Linux to Microsoft's Windows client business, due mainly to the use of Linux on netbooks, which are rising in prominence as alternatives to full-sized notebooks.

"Netbooks opened Microsoft to the possibility that some other OS could get its grip on the desktop, however briefly," said Rob Helm, director of research for Directions on Microsoft. "Now it's alert to that possibility going forward."

In its annual Form 10-K report for the fiscal year ended June 30, Microsoft cited Red Hat and Canonical -- the latter of which maintains the Ubuntu Linux distribution -- as competitors to its client business, which includes the desktop version of its Windows OS.

Previously, Microsoft had only noted competition from Red Hat to its Server and Tools business, which includes the Windows Server version of the OS for server hardware, in its 10-K reports.

"Client faces strong competition from well-established companies with differing approaches to the PC market," Microsoft said in the filing. "Competing commercial software products, including variants of Unix, are supplied by competitors such as Apple, Canonical, and Red Hat."

The filing goes on to note, in a thinly veiled reference to netbooks, that Linux has gained what Microsoft characterizes as "some acceptance" as an alternative client OS to Windows, in particular in "emerging markets" where "competitive pressures lead OEMs to reduce costs and new, lower-price PC form-factors gain adoption."

It also mentions the work of Microsoft's own OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners Hewlett-Packard and Intel to support Linux on PCs.

Seattle-based blogger Todd Bishop called attention to Microsoft's acknowledged change to the competitive landscape in a blog post on the TechFlash Microsoft Blog. He also posted a link to Microsoft's 10-K filing.

While Linux on servers is a well-established market among business customers, Linux as a viable alternative to Windows on PCs has never taken off. However, the emergence of the netbook as a low-cost, smaller form factor to the traditional notebook PC has certainly changed that, so much so that Microsoft lately has been pushing a lightweight notebook as an alternative to netbooks, Helm said.

"Microsoft would like the netbook to go away and be replaced by lightweight laptops -- ones with long battery life that cost enough to justify running full Windows on them," he said.

Helm added that Microsoft is trying to discourage the production of inexpensive computers where Windows becomes the most expensive component because it can't make as much money on Windows on these devices, and they could drive down the price of Windows.

Microsoft's current Windows client OS, Windows Vista, had too large a hardware footprint and was too expensive for netbooks, giving Linux an opening in that market when it emerged late last year. However, Microsoft's eight-year-old Windows XP OS is still the dominant system for netbooks, and the release of Windows 7 in October will feature a Starter Edition that is especially geared toward that market as well.

11/19/2009 UPDATE

Here's my latest experience.

They came out with an update, Ubuntu 9.10 (was running 9.04) so I decided to do a full install. Full reformat of hard drive and install of Ubuntu 9.10 (like a full install of Windows).

I quickly found out I HAD to be online to install, why? Linux does not have every hardware driver that may be necessary on the boot install (Live!) CD, so it may have to go to the Repositories (Linux software resources) and download the drivers for your hardware.

Now if the Windows Setup had this feature, going online during install and downloading necessary drivers, there would never be hardware issues with installing Windows. Like WinXP not having SATA drivers on the CD.

Talk about smooth! The full install went without a hitch (more later). Until.....

Post install, while reinstalling apps, etc. I ran into a problem that killed sound on my Notebook PC. This is to show that ALL Operator Systems have some problems, including Ubuntu.

Turned out the cause was a hardware problem. On Ubuntu 9.04 I had an additional (optional) hardware driver installed, for the in-built Modem on my Notebook even though I did not use the Modem. Had no problems on v9.04. I stress that this hardware was optional.

After installing Ubuntu 9.10, the Modem driver was NOT installed. At this time I had good sound. I installed the driver for this Modem and lost ALL sound. Also the tool-tip for my Volume Control icon said Dummy Output. It should have said Internal Audio Analog Stereo.

Removed the Modem driver and sound came back and the Volume Control icon had the normal tool-tip text. Why the problem, this Modem was voice-capable so you could use the Notebook's mic & speakers like a phone. With Ubuntu 9.10 this caused the links to sound functions to be disabled (Dummy Output). I quickly found out that others had the exact same problem after installing Ubuntu 9.10 so it's a common problem.

As for the remainder of the installation:

There were some glitches in applications/utilities. The simplest example just happened (which prompted me to post this update). In v9.04 there was a utility Font Viewer, automatically enabled, and it worked. In v9.10 the Font Viewer is not enabled BUT can be using the Main Menu editor under Preferences (aka User Preferences). I enabled it, but Font Viewer did NOT work. Why? Simple, this utility has been removed in v9.10 but they did not remove it from the menu listing. There is a replacement that can be installed using the new Ubuntu Software Center (aka Package Installer), Font Manager.

There were several utilities that I could not install on v9.10, but most had replacements.

Now is Ubuntu 9.10 an improvement? In general, YES.

For one thing, it boots noticeably faster. A game I installed, that under v9.04 would not close the game-window properly, under v9.10 closes without a problem. All apps/utilities also seem to run smoother.

1/19/2010 UPDATE

An example on why I think Ubuntu Linux IS the better Operating System.

This morning when I got to work (we had a 3-day weekend) I turned on my WinXP DELL Desktop system and logged in.

Just after that, I took my Ubuntu Notebook PC out of the case along with the AC Adapter and USB Mouse, connected everything including our Network, finally turned on my Notebook.

Ubuntu booted to the desktop AND I manually ran the Updater. All this while my WinXP was STILL booting to the desktop. I mean the fully booted WinXP with all services & drivers loaded. I am NOT including the boot-run of Symantec Antivirus.