Star Wars Incom T-65 X-Wing (Freeware/FSX)

A quick look at an X-Wing Fighter to celebrate Star Wars Day (May 4th) 2017

As it’s International Star Wars Day today, I couldn’t help but have a bit of a dig around to see if I could locate something related that I could throw about in FSX late this evening.

And behold, I found an X-Wing!


Download Link

The Incom T-65 X-Wing (FlyAwaySimulation.com)


If I’m honest, when I first booted the model up into FSX, I wasn’t really expecting an awful lot.  The X-Wing was originally built for FS2004 and ported over to FSX, a process that can have varying results.  Additionally, texturing and rendering have improved significantly since the days of FS2004 and this means that some earlier models can look like they might have been built from cereal cartons and sticky tape.

X-wing_3

In the case of this marvellous little freeware though, I was very pleasantly surprised.  Yes, the model does look a little dated compared to some of the newer aircraft that we’re able to pick up for our sims now but it still looks plenty good enough to make me feel like I’m 7 years old again.

It also has some really epic features that only served to further enhance my regression to early childhood.  Things like the top of R2-D2 turning left and right in line with any rudder inputs and the ability to change the wing formation from flat into that legendary “X” shape from which it derives it’s name, just about busted my ‘coolometer’.

X-wing_1

Ohh, and in terms of flight dynamics, Holy Hell!

It’s so fast that I kept looking for the ‘Ludicrous Speed’ throttle setting (bonus points if you get that pop-culture reference) and so agile it’ll make Lord Vader’s helmet spin.  Not only that, but the flap settings have been cleverly designed so that it’s possible to fly at a shade over 10 knots.  Meaning that you can just about grab a Banther Burger & Salamander Stick from the local Intergalactic Fly-Thru on your way home. (What?  Bringing the Empire to it’s knees is hungry work!)

X-wing_2

All in all, despite being an older-generation flight sim craft, it’s bloody brilliant!  If you’re one of the wonderful ‘Generation-X’ kids (as I am), then I’m pretty certain that you’ll get some real pleasure in taking the X-wing out every so often.

X-wing_4

Now I just need a Death Star to blow up and my night will be complete.

#MayThe4thBeWithYou

Pointing Devices

A look at some common computer pointing devices

Pointing devices enable us to be able to navigate around the graphical user interface of a computer system easily, without having to be aware of the various command line prompts that would otherwise be needed in order to open and utilise applications.

Similar to most computer system peripheral devices, pointing devices come in a variety of designs.  The most common of these is the computer mouse, of which most of us will be familiar.  Other pointing devices include game pads, touch pads, track balls, joysticks, and graphics tablets.


Mouse

The ‘mouse’ gets it’s name from it’s original appearance; that of a small rounded rectangle with a cable attached to one end. A mouse sends data to the graphical user interface (GUI) by having it’s movement tracked across the desk or mouse pad.

A typical wireless mouse with two buttons and a central ‘scroll wheel’

Most of today’s mice make use of optical technology to detect it’s movement through use of a laser. Unlike it’s ball-type predecessors, the lack of mechanical moving parts makes this mouse both more accurate and reliable.

Today’s wired mice are generally connected to a computer system through a USB port and, similarly, wireless mice connect to the system through a USB port transceiver. Alternatively, some mice make use of Bluetooth wireless technology to achieve the same goal.

The most common of today’s mice mice that come bundled with computer packages will typically have two main buttons and a central ‘scroll wheel’. However, there are a number of variations on this with some mice having up to 24 buttons available. This variation in buttons can be used for such things as moving forwards and backwards within browser windows or may be used to program functions for higher level PC gaming. Other mice, such as those that come with Mac computers have only a single button present.


Trackball Mouse

A Trackball Mouse is, to all intents and purposes, an upside-down version of a normal mouse. Instead of the later style of optical sensors, a trackball mouse has a ball just as the earlier versions of standard mouse had.

A Logitec Trackball Mouse

Signal are sent to a computer system from a trackball mouse by rolling it’s ball by movement of our fingers, thumbs or the palm of our hands. Similarly to a normal mouse, a trackball mouse will have at least one button to send signals to the computer system.


Touch Pad and Trackpoint

As the name might suggest a ‘touch pad’ is a small, touch-sensitive pad that is operated by the user running their finger across it’s surface. This is then converted into an electrical signal which is translated and transmitted to the system unit.

A Touchpad pointing device

Most touch pads have buttons just like their mouse or trackball counterparts. However there are also a high number of them which can be configured to detect the user tapping it’s surface with their finger, thereby processing that information in the same way it would as a click of the associated button.

Similar to Touch Pads are Trackpoints.  Trackpoints are normally found on laptops and are located either in the center or at the bottom of the system’s keyboard.  Ordinarily, Trackpoints are a small joystick style button that respond to directional force from the user in order to move the mouse pointer around the screen.

A Trackpoint device (above the letter ‘B’) with selection buttons underneath the spacebar

other Pointing Devices

In addition to the more traditional pointing devices above, there are other devices that have another primary function, but can also be used effectively as pointing devices.

Gamepad
Gamepads are primarily designed to be used within gaming applications. They are typically held and manipulated with two hands and feature a number of buttons that control different actions within the game or program.

The latest versions of many game pads also have sensors or pointing devices that can sense rotation, as well as direction of movement. A combination of these two are used to control actions within the game or application.

A Sony PS4, with it’s associated gamepad to the left

Most typically, gamepads connect to a computer system through a USB port although the most recent consoles and PC gaming pads use various forms of wireless technology to connect to the system unit.

Joystick
A joystick is a stick or lever which pivots around a base and is used to control movement on a device. The majority of current joysticks also include a number of additional controls, buttons, toggles or switches to control other associated actions that the input is controlling. The joystick itself inputs the angle and direction of any desired movement.

A Microsoft joystick

At one time, joysticks were the most common input device to be used with gaming programs and applications. However, with the introduction and improvements with gamepads, they are generally used more within flight or space simulators. In addition, joysticks are also often used to control machinery such as cranes and unmanned vehicles (drones).

Once upon a time, legacy joysticks were connected to computer systems via a ‘game port’, a device port that was designed specifically for connecting this style of input device. However, most modern joysticks employ a wired USB connection to connect to the computer system.

Computer Keyboards – The Original Input Device

An overview of computer keyboard basics

Keyboards are possibly the original standard input device. In the very earliest personal computer systems as we’d recognise them today, prior to the introduction of pointing devices, they were the primary method of allowing the user to pass information and data into the system.

Keyboards ordinarily have a full range of dedicated keys including letters, numbers, and special characters. it’s also possible to use combinations of certain keys to create additional characters. Keyboards also contain a range of ‘special keys’ such as the Shift, Ctrl, Alt, Esc and Windows keys. Each of these keys can be combined with others to issue certain commands to the operating system or certain applications.

Despite having the same purpose and a similar form throughout, keyboards do have some variety. Some are designed with a bigger focus on ergonomics while others offer additional features (such as customisable hot keys, volume controls and scrolling). Many keyboards now connect to the computer system wirelessly rather than through a USB or other wired connection. Where a keyboard has a Bluetooth enabled connection, it can be used with both our mobile devices and computer systems.

Ordinarily, keyboards can be placed into one of three general categories:

  • Standard Keyboards have a varying number of keys and capabilities which is dependent on the manufacturer. Standard keyboards can be compact or regularly sized and may contain certain specialised keys (e.g. a gaming keyboard). Standard keyboards may also differ in other ways:
    • Being wired or wireless. Wireless keyboards typically use an adapter that connects through a USB port on the system unit. Others may use Bluetooth functionality that may or may not require an appropriate adapter. Wireless keyboards are often powered by AA or AAA type batteries, although some now are able to function with solar power.
    • Some keyboards might include specialised or programmable keys that are specifically aimed at engineers, graphic designers or gamers.
    • Some keyboards can include additional security features such as fingerprint scanners.
    • Some keyboards might include integrated pointing devices such as track pads.

    An example of a standard keyboard, including ‘hot keys’ and integrated pointing device
  • Ergonomic Keyboards usually have the key layout split into two halves, angled slightly away from each other, so that each hand can use it’s own set of keys.  Additionally, ergonomic keyboards tend to have built-in wrist rests and some may also include an integrated pointing device such as a track ball or touch pad.
Example of an ergonomic keyboard
  • Dvorak Keyboards have the keys rearranged into a more efficient layout which makes it possible for users who are familiar with it to be able to type faster.
The Dvorak Keyboard Layout