Cloudy's SuperTips for FS2004
This is a collection of my best tips for
better installing, handling and flying FS2004. I have found some online, others I have concocted myself. I have tried and included the main "annoyances"
and how to circumvent some.
INDEX WITH LINKS TO THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS
GENERAL INSTALLATION TIPS
ADD-ONS SELECTING AND INSTALLING
A380 FREE DOWNLOADS - Mike Stone vs Robert Versluys
BUG-FIXING (mostly just editing aircraft.cfg and panel.cfg)
BLURRIES - Blurry Ground Textures
PC & FS2004 SETTINGS
ANTI ALIAS SETTING IN AMD CATALYST
PANELS 2D DESIGN
PANELS - Tips on Design and View: colours, resolution, gauge shadows
BRAKES - Standard brakes incompatible with toe brakes
A380 downloads belong to either Stone or Versluys flying model. I have
performed a full comparison. VISUALLY, Versluys is much more sophisticated
TIP: In spite of our friends in Blackpool, I daresay Versluys wins hands down.
Microsoft tell us that FS2004 default
aircraft dynamics have been painstakingly developed by professionals and
tested by pilots. Accordingly, you would think that no tinkering with
the aircraft.cfg coefficients could significantly improve the careful
Microsoft flight models. Think again. There are a few thoroughly-revised
flight dynamics for FS2004 that beat the default ones hands down in realism.
A very thorough one is a redesign of the C172SP in order to use it as
a pilots-to-be training tool. It was commissioned by a fully-fledged professional
pilot school, Melbourne-based Aerospace Industry Training Centre, and
produced by RealAir Simulations (from now on RA). It is an enhancement:
you install is by making a copy of the default C172 folder, renaming it
as you wish, then copying into it a large set of modified files. The main
enhancements as described by RealAir are:
TIP 1: In FS2004 Settings-Display-Hardware you should have Anti-alias turned ON, or else whatever you set the graphics card to do will be ineffective.
As for which setting to use in
the graphics card control panel, I have tested it in my AMD Radeon HD6870
at 1600x1200 resolution. In most Catalyst Control Center (CCC) 3D settings, either no Antialiasing is performed, or it does but also includes the
panels, 2D and 3D, both in the gauges and the background bitmaps! Not only they become blurred, but the small fonts inside the GPSs are blurred to the point of
TIP2: With a Radeon graphics card you normally install the Catalyst software and drivers. My experience with alternative software is negative. Once you have decided about the card's settings in the Catalyst Control Centere (CCC), you can decide not to run anymore, but this will leave you with no control to know the settings and to restore/change them if need be. If your CPU can run FS2004 decently, leave CCC starting by default: having CCC running will use virtually nil CPU and RAM and you will at all times be able to check the card status before flying. To check whether CCC is running, look for the Radeon mini-icon in the Windows tray: it is a group of white bubbles with a red bubble in the centre. Right-click it and the first choice will be "AMD Catalyst Control Center". This will not show if CCC is not running.
TIP3: Open the CCC screen and select Gaming-3D Application Settings. A screen shows four groups of settings, with arrows to "open" them and enter the parameters as suggested below.
Frame Rate Control:
TIP4: Finally go to Presets and record a Preset (name it "FS" for example), which will save the above settings and also a keypress to restore them (for example Control-Shift-Alt C): with this, before starting FS, you can quickly ensure that your Radeon CCC settings are as above. (You do NOT need to open the CCC screen for the Preset to work, but CCC must be running in the background: we have explained above how to verify this.)
TIP5: With the above settings, once in FS the card will anti-alias scenery but not panels, in both windowed and fullscreen mode. Notice however that you cannot start FS and then introduce changes on the spot in CCC. For some strange reason, to see the change in FS you have to exit it restart it.
[I assume that Nvidia graphics cards 3D settings will behave similarly, but I have not tested them.]
Autosave is a utility that can be downloaded
from many places, e.g. flightsim.com mine is Autosave.zip and contains
Autosave.txt and Autosave.dll. The txt file of the latest version reads:
your FS2004 or your PC crashed or you wish to repeate a bad landing, you
don't have to remember to save a flight every few minutes.
A.k.a. known as "The Blurries"! These have been variously reported as caused by an excessive CPU load especially in old PCs. However, this cannot be the case when you are using a state of the art PC that can run FS2004 at over 100fps. It appears to happen sometimes, especially in the vicinity of airports, when one changes the view. In my experience, the issue is not resolved by scenery refresh, or fs9.cfg changes and restart (it will be OK then sooner or later the "blurries" will come back). I could not find the root cause of the issue, but I found a quick solution.
TIP: Just load another aircraft (reloading the same aircraft will not do, loading another livery of the same aircraft will be fine). I programmed two keys in my G13 keypard: one for "load the next livery up", another for "load the next liverry down": pressing one, waiting for the aircraft to load then pressing the other resolves the issue ... until the next time... I recently found that this solution was already suggested in a discussion forum back in 2005!
you have pedals with toe brakes - like the popular CH Pro Pedals - and
you assign, as you should, the toe brakes axes to the corresponding axes
in FS2004, the standard brake action - normally performed with the period
key - no longer works. Now, whenever you press BOTH pedals in parallel,
Flight Simulator detects this and, instead of applying identical - or
minimally different - "Differential Brakes" it automatically
applies "Brakes". This feature is helpful in both steering and
braking the aircraft on the ground.
Carburettor icing is not modelled in FS2004. Set the local temperature to -40 degrees and you can still start the Piper Cub's engine with no roughness. If an aircraft has a Carburettor Heat control in FS2004, its only effect is to reduce very slightly the engine's power.
The following advice is abridged from the author's detailed Review published in PC FLIGHT, June 2009, Dublin.
In the VC the panel is zoomed too close, and the user has to zoom back
to see even the main gauges. This is easy to fix by the user.
In the 2D panel you do not see the scenery horizon, as the view is directed
to the sky! This also easy to fix by the user.
PRIMER WRONGLY LABELLED The Primer button reads "PUSH" but actually "pulls".
NO ILS. The mouse tooltip reads "Condition Lever" and more importantly,
unlike most other FS2004 gauges, does NOT double as an ILS gauge Though
admittedly many real-life C152's do not have an ILS, this is certainly
bringing realism too far.
AI GAUGE. This important gauge moves only between +10º to -5º
and is quite defective even within that limited range, e.g. showing +5%
with the aircraft perfectly horizontal.
CONTROLS. They appear to be in their correct place in both the 2D and
VC, above and slightly to the right of the Radio stack, but they are just
pictures in the background bitmap: there are no FS gauges there so, not
surprisingly, nothing happens if you click on them.
ISSUE. Two on/off switches are shown within the radios, one in the COM/NAV
receiver, another in the ADF one. However, only one is operational.
AND FUEL GAUGES. The rectangular Oil and Fuel double gauge are placed
the wrong way around with respect to the real aircraft. A minor issue
anyway, and easy to fix because the two FS gauges are identical in size.
ISSUE. The real aircraft has a ground-operated rudder adjustment: this
is not pilot-operated and therefore is not really a trim at all. Clearly
a rudder trim should not be included in the aircraft model. Carenado however
did include it, but failed to include a gauge showing the trim's position.
The unfortunate result is that if the pilot inadvertently uses it, the
aircraft will show a tendency to bank, and the trim can only be re-centred
by trial and error.
ISSUE. The real C152's mostly had one tank only, fitted with a fuel cutoff
valve. Carenado's C152 II has instead two tanks L/R, but no valve! If
you change to the C152 after flying another aircraft, you may end up drawing
fuel from one tank only, and are left with no means to correct the weight
imbalance. The usual Fuel Selector gauge should have been included in
the panels: luckily this is easy to fix.
PARKING BRAKE GAUGE. When set, the knob should show in the back position.
Yet, whether you set the park brake on or off, the knob moves back and
forth again! You cannot tell the Park Brake position by looking at the
knob! This glaring error is Carenado's XML code, which reacts to the mouse
click but not to the FS status variable.
BEACON LIGHT SWITCH. The cause lies in issues in the effects file installed.
The model is unstable during climb, certainly not reflecting the real-life
1º wing dihedral: during flight it needs constant aileron correction
or else it will progressively bank left or right, quite annoying in a
model without an Autopilot's Wing Leveller.
the list below, for each item 3 values are shown:
CONCLUSION. Carenado has issued a brilliant product with poor testing. Luckily, virtually all the issues can be resolved by "user tweaking" as shown above: every single TIP described above has been tested by the author. The uniqueness of the model and its many attractions certainly make it a recommended addition to the fleets of all lovers of the remarkable simulation of propeller aircraft in FS2004.
Compared with the default C172 in FS2004,
the default C182 which should be a higher performance aircraft is instead
sluggish. I have tracked down the problem to an inconsistency of the default
in Notepad the file FS2004\Aircraft\C182\aircraft.cfg
CH Pro Pedals well calibrated and set is paramount to enjoy all their
benefits in FS2004:
Now the assignment
in FS2004. Unlike older versions of FS where toe brakes were a yes/no
function assigned by default to F11 and F12, in FS2004 you can assign
axes to toe brakes which will behave gradually as in real aircraft! Let's
set rudder and toe brakes in FS2004, with curve sensitivities already
set above for the CH Pro pedals:
BEWARE HOWEVER 1: Once you have carried on the sequence "Install drivers then plug-in the USB joystick", first for the joystick/yoke and then for the Pedals, the PC will repeat the same USB load sequence every time you reboot and everything will be fine. IF HOWEVER for any reason you need to unplug either joystick or pedals (e.g. to install a new drivers version) always disconnect both, first the Pedals then the Joystick. When later on you reconnect, connect first the Joystick then the Pedals. This will keep the joystick/yoke as joystick1 and the pedals as joystick2. Failure to do so will scramble your assignments in FS2004 and other games as well.
BEWARE HOWEVER 2: Not only the plugging order is important, but the port used as well. If you change the USB port where you plug your Pedals or joystick, you may be forced to re-install the drivers.
An issue has been reported by many users of CH PRO PEDALS: when the PC comes back from "sleep", the pedals become inoperative. The obvious solution is to unplug/replug the pedals' USB connector: even better, I have installed a USB hub with 4 ports and their individual switches and it works to a charm.
TIP: If you forgot and started FS and found that the Pedals are not working, no problem. Do not restart FS, just pause it. If the pedals were plugged (or else the USB-switch was ON) unplug them (or switch them OFF) and wait to hear the "dong-dong" that tells you that a USB peripheral has been disconnected. Now plug in the pedals (or else switch them ON if you have a USB-switch): within a second in FS the Pedals will now be operational with no issues.
As is well known, FS2004 will use a significant amount of GPU power, and 100% of any CPU (in a multi-core CPU it will use only the first processor, but it will be at 100% at all times). This waste of components and electricity does not stop if you leave the flight to go to the initial menus, or if you pause the simulation. The good news is, there is a way to completely stop all processing without shutting down FS2004!:
FS2004 is not the most stable program around, and random crashes (say once for every hour of flight) are inevitable. Saving a flight every few minutes or so, there is no consequence. Crashes become serious when you cannot even start the program. We have identified the following issues and solutions: note that they always originate in the contents of the fs9.cfg file.
1. FS2004 crashes always after starting. Whether you are trying to access the initial menu or go directly to a flight, the program crashes before you can see anything.
2. FS2004 crashes whenever you try to "Create a flight" in the main menu. However, if you try other menu items, or start directly by double-clicking a .FLT file, FS2004 operates normally.
3. FS2004 crashes whenever you try to start a particular "flight". However, if you try other flights or the main menu, FS2004 operates normally.
TIP1: A frequent cause is that for some reason the default flight (or the flight you are trying to start in 3. above) is using an aircraft that has been renamed or uninstalled. Check your fs9.cfg file: open it with Notepad, go to the line that begins with SITUATION=, read there the default flight name. Once you know the flight .FLT file FS2004 is trying to start with, find the file in the \Flights folder (or subfolders), open it with Notepad, go to the line that begins with Aircraft= and check that the aircraft name is reflected in one of the installed aircraft (its aircraft.cfg should have a line beginning with title= followed by that identical aicraft name. If it is not, edit the flight .FLT file as needed.
TIP2: (I once set as default a flight that had a name with spaces on it. The line in fs9.cfg was stored without the necessary quotes around the name with spaces and, inevitably, FS2004 crashes when trying to start it. Adding quotes resolved the issue, but after closing FS2004 the quotes were gone, causing crashes from then on! Solution, do not set as default flights with spaces in the name. I have also found that some flights cause a crash if used as default, for no apparent reason. Definitive solution: do NOT change the default flight. Use as default the original FLTSIM. If you wish to jump-start FS2004 in a particular flight, simply double-click the .FLT file.
TIP3: After selecting alternatives in the main menu, or even during flights, fs9.cfg acquires some values which, though not looking abnormal, cause FS2004 to stop functioning. Have always at hand a copy of the "last good fs9.cfg" and restore fs9.cfg using it. (Yes, you may try to compare and one by one change parameters, but this is often less than successful).
Some scenery installers set MipMapping quality to the maximum (8). Since MipMapping is usually carried on by the graphics card hardware, there is no frame-rate penalty involved. HOWEVER, many users - include myself - report shimmering/flickering of textures in the mid-far distance which has been found to be due to the less-than-perfect MipMapping of today's hardware/software.
TIP-XP: The shimmering/flickering is reduced to a minimum - and without ANY loss of visual quality! - by just setting the value down to 5.
TIP-W7: The latest graphics cards are much improved in this respect, and a MipMapping quality of 7 can be used with excellent results
Feathering is a feature of aircraft with
variable propeller pitch, whereby they not only have a lever to control
it but also to put the propeller in a neutral angle. In case of engine
failure, the pilot "feathers" the propeller: this sets it to a position
yielding the minimal drag. Indeed a feathered propeller after a short
while stops rotating in FS2004.
TIP: Press Control-F1 to set Propeller RPM to minimal, then Control-F2 repeatedly (14 times is OK even in the most stubborn cases) to feather it. The sequence is easy to program for a special joystick-button or control-box button.
This is a convenient feature of
most multiple-engine turboprops, whereby if one engine fails, its propeller
is automatically feathered. In advanced turboprops like the real-life
Beechcraft KingAir, the propeller is autofeathered whenever its engine
falls to < 10% torque AND the other engine is producing > 17% torque.
Our Cloudy Checklists include directions as to when to arm the Autofeather.
NOTE: When you arm the Autofeather prior to takeoff, the green annunciators will only show once you have applied full power.
It is handy to have some basic flights that load without changing the aircraft you are flying. E.g. you are flying the Beech Baron over Dublin and you wish to restart in Chicago Meigs, without changing to the default Cessna included in the default Meigs flight.
TIP: 1) Save a flight or alternatively
copy and rename its files: be careful to change to exactly the same new
name both the .FLT and the .WX file. 2) Open the .FLT file in Notepad.
3) Find the lines
is useful for FS2004 as well. Instructions:
to reproduce long-haul historical flights a tool is handy to compute the
compass heading needed to fly from A to B. Nick Dargahi´s masterwork
"The Ultimate Flight Simulator" book of 1998 included Chapter
14 "Great Circle Navigation" and a fully-fledged spreadsheet
by Alan Parkinson was included in the CDROM. Unfortunately:
If you don't have a Map icon in your panel and are flying in full screen mode, when you need the Map you use Alt+menu, which temporarily switches to windowed mode. This is slow and distracting and, if too frequent, perhaps not too good for your
's health either.
TIP: Go to menu Options-Controls-Assignments-Button Keys-All Commands: search "Display/hide map" and assign it a unused key or key combination like Control-Q. This will produce the Map immediately and within full screen mode.
HIDDEN COMMANDS: Refresh Aircraft
When you work on an aircraft - say on its panel, textures or aircraft.cfg file - you are typically working on file(s) with some program or utility outside FS, while also watching the progress within FS. Once you change something however, there is no menu function to reread the aircraft files and update it in FS. The traditional workaround is to load any other aircraft and back, a cumbersome affair.
TIP: Again, go to menu . . . All Commands: search "Reload user aircraft" and assign to it a unused key combination like Control-K. From now on, every time you change something in an aircraft from outside FS, back to the FS window just press the assigned key for a quick refresh. [Beware that, as shown in another tip, there is a bug: the refresh sometimes fails to update tail-number format changes!]
HIDDEN COMMANDS: Refresh Scenery
When you start a new flight or go
to another airport, FS will load the new scenery before starting the flight.
TIP: Go to menu . . . All Commands: search "Refresh scenery" and assign it an unused key, e.g. Tab. From now on, every time new scenery is not loaded immediately, just pressing Tab will do it, showing the customary black screen and progress bar. (This tip is from Computer Pilot, Jan'04,p.38.)
HIDDEN COMMANDS: Tail hook
you have carrier-with-arrestor-cable scenery, carrier-aircraft-with-hook
and - first and foremost - a payware arrestor cable utility. For all that
to work, you need a way to quickly operate the hook while flying. A panel
switch may not be handy: it may not even be there at all.
TIP: Again go to menu . . . All
Commands: search "Tail hook on/off" and assign to it a unused key or key
combination like Control-K.
HIDDEN COMMANDS: others
commands normally accessed by panel switches or menu items, it may be
convenient to assign them to key combinations, mostly to be able to program
them via a programmable joystick or special hardware. Other than the above,
my favourites are:
Addons, whether freeware or payware, sometimes are VERY invasive in that their automatic installers change fundamental items in Flight Simulator (any version). After installing an add-on you may find that some original gauges, sceneries and even program modules have been modified, and that an uninstall may NOT bring your FS back to its former state. Even worse, sometimes your FS will no longer run at all!
TIP1: Let us assume you have your FS installed in the path X:\FS. Have also an empty folder X:\fff, copy to it the root files from X:\FS and when running an add-on installer, choose to install to X:\fff instead of the main folder. Then, after you have inspected which new files have been created by the installer, you can easily move them manually to your main X:\FS installation (No matter how large the files, this will NEITHER take a significant time NOR defragment your disk. This is because moving files within the same drive does not actually move the files: only their location tags are changed in the file system).
TIP2: You better produce a backup not just of your \FS folder but of all your PC before any involved install. Read the following story.
TIP3: I have a 7-year-old Pentium 4 PC, a bit too slow to run FS2004 with "all the sliders up and all the addons installed", but good enough as a "sandbox". I install stuff there first, take note of what the installer did, and only then repeat the install in my present intel i7 PC.
STORY: Be very careful with what you install. Back in 2006, having read on the Computer Pilot magazine praise of the freeware 2006 Canarysim VFR scenery for Canary Islands, I downloaded it. I found that it had a complex installer and that, even worse, it did NOT allow the user to select the install folder. I aborted the installation, I renamed my \FS folder as \FSI, then created an empty folder \FS and re-run the installer. Once I was able to read the documents produced by the installer, I realized that the scenery is very intrusive, changing many basic items everywhere within FS2004. So I uninstalled the scenery, deleted the new \FS and renamed \FSI back to \FS. I had done similar things in the past with no issue. This time, however, when subsequently I tried to fly FS2004, nothing would happen: the fs9.exe process would remain dormant in Task Manager, no matter what! I first checked the contents of \FS and found that, incredibly, the CanarySim installer had worked in BOTH \FS and \FSI, changing the original Scenery.cfg and even other files! I had a recent backup of the \FS folder: restored everything as per a week ago. FS2004 would still not run. At this stage I could feel my heart pounding ... I now looked into my Windows Registry and found many orphan entries by CanarySim. Even more incredibly, my old trusted "registry cleaner" failed to detect them! So with patience I searched the Registry, first for FS2004, then for CanarySim, and manually deleted all the entries that related to the CanarySim scenery. After rebooting the PC, my FS was now back alive and well.
TIP4: After the above Story, I suggest to avoid the Canarysim VFR scenery for Canary Islands . . .
mesh in FS2004 sceneries comes with different precision levels, mostly:
Not surprisingly, the difference between default FS2004's LOD5 and a LOD9 is remarkable: 16 times more detail! The difference between FS Global 2005 and payware LOD12 sceneries like FS Genesis Grand Canyon is also noteworthy: 8 times more detail. The difference between two consecutive LOD's is instead negligible. Therefore:
careful with what you install. After installing a large LOD9 mesh like
FS Global 2005, you should avoid adding on local LOD10 sceneries (typically
the European countries downloads): you will hardly see any improvement,
but you will notice instead how much slower is your PC in starting a flight.
MESH - Installing the Sceneries
I install a new mesh, I take before-and-after screenshots: after all,
that's part of the fun, to SEE the improvement on the spot! But here and
there I noticed how some improvements "come and go". In his
famous Tips, Tricks & Recommendations for FS2004 Part XII - Mid
Summer Issue - July 05, 2005, David "Opa" Marshall recommended:
to perceived wisdom, the reorder should be either irrelevant or counterproductive,
but it actually works!
TIP1: When you install Mesh Sceneries, in FS2004 Settings-Scenery Areas, put them together, with their Priority immediately above the default continents (Africa to South America) and label each scenery with the mesh size as shown in my example above.
TIP2: Since FS2004 processes mesh priorities in the reverse order, fix the problem by setting the most detailed sceneries BELOW, again as shown in my example above. Thanks David "Opa" Marshall and Steve Greenwood for the information!
This advice is included within some mesh scenery documents, but is easy to forget and it is terribly important. In order to ensure the best frame rates, FS2004 processes mesh scenery only up to a level of precision determined in the fs9.cfg file by the TERRAIN_MAX_VERTEX_LEVEL parameter:
19) If you only have the default mesh FS2004 mesh scenery and your PC is at least a Pentium 4 3.0GHz with an ATi 9800 graphics card or equivalent AMD/nVidia, leave VERTEX at its default value of 19 to enjoy the full detail of the default FS2004 mesh. This value is also preferable if you have also installed 76m mesh covering large sections of the world, like FS Global 2005. This VERTEX default value of 19 is also needed to fully enjoy 38m mesh sceneries, e.g. most of the freeware Europe ones.
21) A VERTEX increased value of 21 is needed for the full detail in 9.5m mesh like FS Genesis's Grand Canyon and Hawaii, as well as many parts of North America and Europe improved in FS Global 2010.
22) A value of 22 and greater is allowed in FS2004, but it will NOT give any visual benefit (I have tested it!), it will only decrease frame rates, so don't use it.
In piston-engine aircraft, for optimal performance (or for the engine to run at all especially at high altitudes) the Mixture control has to produce the correct mix of petrol and air: this control is called "leaning" and internally in FS2004 is a percentage. The optimal leaning depends on altitude and is almost completely independent of the aircraft user: if you have an optimal leaning while cruising with an aircraft, changing the aircraft should not change the leaning. At every altitude there are two main alternative settings: Maximum Power and Maximum Fuel Economy.
TIP1: If you have an EGT gauge, the following is the recommended procedure, used by real-life pilots:
LEANING FOR POWER: This is needed for takeoff, climb, approach and landing. During takeoff below 2,000FT of altitude, it is safer to use FULL RICH mixture. During climb, approach and landing, you should lean for maximum EGT temperature: remember that EGT needs a few seconds to react to a change in the Mixture control. (Unfortunately, some FS2004 aircraft are not meant for an EGT gauge, and if you add one to the instrument panel, it will not work).
LEANING FOR ECONOMY: After the climb stage is over, and before the final approach and landing, an economy setting is desired to save fuel during cruise and descent. For this, Lean for Power, then move the control about 5% leaner.
TIP 2: Obviously Leaning for Economy is not difficult, as it is performed during stages where the is lots of time to find the optimal setting. Leaning for Power is more difficult because, although an EGT gauge will help, it is done in flight stages where fast changes are needed. In FS2004 a solution is to add to the panel the small digital mixture gauge, available for both single engine (engine 1) and twin engines (engines 1 and 2). Once you install it in your instrument panel, you can experiment and write down best settings for your aircraft at different altitudes.
TIP 3: Since the best settings depend on altitude and hardly on aircraft (my measurements show that the discrepancy between any aircraft and their average is normally about 1% and never exceeds 2%, thus insigificant in this context), it is handy to have a simple table for MAX POWER LEANING:
TIP 4: If you have a Saitek Throttle Quadrant, I have good news for you. Although it is good to have the EGT gauge, the Digital Mixture gauge and the above Table, you no longer need them! You just glue on your quadrant Cloudy's ready-made scale: if you use the PowerPoint version, print it at 95% size. It should work on any other quadrant by suitably printing it larger or smaller. The three lines on the right hand side should coincide with the quadrant lines for 25%, 50% and 75%.
I am well known to be very obsessive with my PC, selecting with the utmost care its components and assembling them fastidiously, then trimming out any unnecessary running program or service. That said, when it comes to overclocking, I have my reservations. If a PC was assembled with the main components meant for overclocking, a few incredible achievements can be read online ("I overclocked 50%!"), but chances are that the weakest link of a PC will not overclock any more than 25%, and since there is always a hidden weak link that has not been overclocked, we will be lucky if we get a 20% increase in overall game speed and frame rates. In most PCs the increase will be smaller, and even 20% is not that significant in computer terms, or in Flight Simulator either: for example, if you are unhappy with the 15fps you get in your favourite scenery with your favourite aircraft and panel, you will not be happy with 18fps either. For many years now overclocking a PC has no longer been risky, but to get stable overclock a careful thought and experimenting is required. Overclocking will inevitably raise the temperature of some important components: not the CPU, where the overclocker always fits one of the excellent recent coolers, but in the graphics card and Northbridge, where cooling is normally not under control of the user. Of course, all cooling issues can be resolved by liquid cooling, but the installation is not for the fainthearted: also, personally I am happier using my money to buy faster components instead.
The 2D Panel view in FS2004, regardless of your Graphics Card capabilities and your FS2004 Display Hardware Setting, is displayed in "adaptive 8-bit colour": why? Only Microsoft knows. If you design/redesign your own panel background and save it in 24-bit colour (RGB) it will work but with some issues.
[You can make the experiment. Copy a panel background and rename the file. With a good bitmap editing softwaree.g. Adobe Photoshop or The Gimpconvert it into 24-bit colour (RGB), change general luminosity and a few colours and details: now the image no longer has the low number of original colours. Save it, make a copy, convert from RGB to Indexed colours (use Diffusion if the image has more than 256 colours) and save with another name. Organise your files to have two otherwise identical panels for the aircraft, one with the 24-bit background, the other with the 8-bit background. Run FS2004, load the aircraft with one of the panels, capture and save the screen, then repeat with the other panel. Now compare the two screenshots: surprisingly, the 8-bit panel looks significantly better, with much lesss "colour banding"! This is because Photoshop, The Gimp or any other specialised bitmap processing software have all their time and CPU at their disposal, ask valuable colour-rendering information from the user, and finally make a much better job at colour indexing than FS2004, which is geared towards speed more than accuracy.
TIP: Whenever you develop or modify a panel background, which is best done in 24-bit colour (RGB), after the work is completed, save a copy for future use, then convert it to 8-bit colour (Indexed), check and fix any "transparency dots" (nearly black pixels converted to transparent black by the Indexing) and use the 8-bit version in your FS2004 aircraft panel. (Note: as far as I have been able to find, the above does not apply to Virtual Cockpits).
PANEL NIGHT COLOURS
In every FS2004 aircraft, in every \panel.*, at the end of the panel.cfg file there is a [Color] section with three lines: Day=* , Night=* and Luminous=*. The parameters have the same format R,G,B for the three monitor display colours. Let us examine the three parameters:
TIP: While running an aircraft in FS2004, open the panel.cfg file and write down (or comment-out with "//") the original [Color] values. Then set Night=200,60,60 and Luminous=60,200,60. Refresh the aircraft in FS2004: quite obviously, now the luminous gauges will show in green, while everything else will be red. At this point you will find three possible situations:
1) ALL THE GAUGES ARE GREEN AND THE BACKGROUND IN RED. You are lucky. You can now set, say, Night=220,120,80 for a reddish background and a Luminous=200,180,120 for yellowish gauges. Then adjust the parameters for the perfect colour equilibrium you are seeking.
2) EVERYTHING IS RED. Typical of historical aircraft, with no light bulbs inside the gauges. Here the Luminous parameter is useless. Adjust Night= to match your personal taste and the needs of the prevailing colour of the panel background.
3) SOME GAUGES ARE GREEN WHILE OTHERS ARE RED. Awful looking! A very common situation. If your offending gauges are one or two secondary ones, you can change them. Otherwise the solution is to bring everything to the same shade of colour. Examples:
PANELS: Edit the 2D background to your usual resolution.
Dedicated flightsimmers often fly full screen in a fixed resolution, yielding an optimal image quality. Problem is, most 2D backgrounds are 1024 pixels wide and the related panel.cfg definitions are described in terms of a 1024x768 pixels screen ("size_mm=1024"). If your resolution is different, e.g. 1600x1200, FS will enlarge everything to the window (or the screen) size. However, the background will have the inevitable loss of sharpness because of the enlargement. You can improve this significantly and easily.
TIP: Edit the 2D panel background bitmap in a program such as Photoshop or The Gimp, convert to RGB, increase its size to your fullscreen size (e.g. 1600x1200), process it (maybe adding a few details and sharpening) and finally redraw the limit between the panel and the "transparent" view: this will minimize the dreaded panel-border "jaggies". Now Index colours and save. You do not need to modify panel.cfg at all: FS2004 will fill the whole screen with the gauges keeping the original proportions. The new background will also be automaticallyand separatelystretched, so that not only it shows your improvements but also, and most importantly, every pixel in the bitmap is now univocally represented by a pixel on screen. The improvement is remarkable and really worth the effort. I have done it for all the aircraft I usually fly.
wish to use an existing background - possibly including gauges
and/or their shadows - to place upon it new gauges with their special
new shadows. Rejoice! You don't need to draw
anything with the mouse! (or, God forbid, move and reshape
one by one the existing shadows in the background bitmap for hours on
end!). The following method will yield perfect results and take only 30
minutes or so. Remember to backup the result of each step below - with
a different name or numbering - before proceeding to the next step. In
this procedure all the bitmaps should be saved in uncompressed .BMP format.
At the end, only the panel background will be preserved. You will need
a PC with 512 MB RAM minimum (better 1 Gb ) because you need to have several
open windows: FS2004, a panel design utility, a bitmap editor and Notepad.
Note that, by insisting in having its default panels compatible with resolutions
down to 640x480 pixels, Microsoft forces fuzziness on panels at high resolution
(even when using 1024 gauges and bitmaps). Also, 8-bit colour makes it
impossible to work with textures. So in order to avoid those problems,
we are going to work only on 1024x768 24-bit colour (RGB). (But you may
opt for an even higher resolution, as per the preceding tip).
As is well
known, Microsoft's patch fixes many things, it is not proven that it ruins
anything, it is a free download from Microsoft, so it SHOULD be installed.
As for the No-CD patch - which changes the fs9.exe file and avoids the
need for the CD 4 to be inserted - it is of course unofficial and there
have been different versions around.
If you have
only one hard disk drive, FS2004 will run better if you have it partitioned
and software installed in at least four different partitions as follows:
If you have installed something in disk X: (where FS2004 is) and wish to move it to disk Y: (which has more space or is faster), you can do it in two ways.
TIP 1: To move Scenery to another drive, simply move the folders, then suitably edit with notepad the relevant entries in scenery.cfg (after a backup copy just in case!).
TIP 2: If the files are NOT Scenery you can not move them, because FS2004 expect them to find where they are (e.g. aircraft folders should be inside \Aircraft and nowhere else). Solution: move them anyway, then place a "junction" in \Aircraft (or else) pointing at the new location. (Find directions here http://superuser.com/questions/371034/moving-folders-to-another-drive-under-win7-using-junction. I have now automated the process using Total Commander, some DOS batch files and some VBScript files: I have the destination in view in the right window, click the folder to be moved in the left window and click an icon: my VBScript program does it all in a split second. ) I have successfully moved with junctions the aircraft installed by MyTraffic 2006: now in a SSD, FS2004 flights start significantly faster.
When an aircraft has a radio tuner (mostly COM and NAV and very occasionally ADF as well) with double frequencies (active and standby), mouse-clicking should only change the latter. The ideaas in real-life flyingis that you tune the new navaid, and then you click the button for fast-swapping between the two frequencies.
Problem is, often you find that clicking changes the active frequency, defeating the main use of the standby! This is a common error or bug, and to understand it you should understand how radio settings work in an aircraft in FS2004.
In the aircraft folder, the aircraft.cfg file has a section entitled [Radio]. The default Caravans have this one:
Note the second parameter, "standby frequency": in the Caravans it is always set to 1.
Tip: If you have a Radio tuner with standby frequency, and you find that clicking on your Radio tuner changes the active frequency instead of the standby one, just edit the aircraft.cfg file and ensure that the second parameter is duly set to 1.
Most default FS propeller aircraft feature the Bendix "flat" or "horizontal" radion tuner gauges, meant to be stacked one above the other, as in real-life aircraft. However, many add-on turboprop aircraft use the Collins "square" tuner gauges. They only look different, but work in exactly the same way.
I have handled about 8 different such add-on aircraft and their panels, both freeware and payware. Their Collins tuners appear to be all the same and to originate in a product by Premier. The COM and NAV work beautifully: separately for integers and decimals, clicking the number increases it, while clicking in a lower area decreases it.
Unfortunately, the ADF tuner for some reason is a much inferior affair. First of all it has no standby frequency, but this is a minor ailment in a tuner that is not used too frequently. Secondly, it has no treen light showing that the "Audio" is active. Most importantly, and unlike the two values of a NAV (integers and decimals), the ADF has four values: hundreds, tens, units and decimals. Therefore there should be 8 clicking areas, 4 for increasing and 4 below them for decreasing. Well, this gauge has only 4 areas, and they all show the "hand" with the "+" sign for increasing, but actually the decimals one decreases. Luckily, this is a gauge in .cab format, so anybody can edit the .xml program. You do not need to be a programmer!. Just open in a file-manager the gauge (mostly named s360.cab) and extract into a new subfolder \Collins_ADF the file RadADF.xml. This is just a text file with the following lines:
Gauge Name="RadADF" Version="1.0">
Clearly, the parameter "ADF_FRACT_DEC_CARRY" is wrong: it should be "ADF_FRACT_INC_CARRY" to increase as all others. However, this leaves unresolved the lack of click-areas to decrease values. This is easy to resolve by using, instead of the above, the following improved code, that also caters for the "green light":
<Gauge Name="RadADF" Version="1.0">
The code is much longer, but is really worthwhile and you are welcome to use it.
I have also changed the gauge background providing a guide of sorts to the four clicking zones. The following pictures show, from left to right, a screenshot of the original gauge, a programmers-guide with the clicking zones, and a screenshot of the new gauge.
If you wish to have this improved gauge, just send me an email!
INSTALL: You can install different versions of FS in your PC, and even different instances of the same version. Beware, however, that they will share the same configuration files! For instance, I have no less than 3 instances of FS2004 installed:
At this point it is clear that you should be very careful before running any but the current version of FS2004. Any other version will overwrite fs9.cfg and other files and wreak havoc with your current install.
It can be done, of course, but it is not something for the faintheared. You can do it of course, but not before ensuring you have "a full backup of everything-FS2004 into another disk". I actually have a VBScript that backs up files, keeps fs9.cfg duplicates and even renames folders, so that S:\FS2004 is always the version that I am running. Otherwise, the Windows Registry will not find the necessary files and FS2004 may even refuse to start running.
Quite a few Flight Simmers are happy with a "standard stereo" 2.1 sound setting: Left Speaker, Right Speaker and a Subwoofer to boost the bass. After all, FS2004 only produces a standard stereo output, so why bother?
Think again. Most PCs come today with built-in audio with optional "5.1" output, that is 5 speakers (Left, Front, Right, Rear Left, Rear Right) plus subwoofer. Even better, most PC sound cards come with hardware and software very adept to simulate a 360º sound environment out a simple stereo signal.
TIP 1: Navigate your Sound Card settings and you will find one to produce surround sound (Creative Labs calls it "CMSS 3D").
TIP 4: The loud sound from your engines, as reproduced by your woofer, can be a bit loud for your neighbours,
but that can be easily adjusted on the spot with the bass control most 5.1 speakers have.
knows that in FS2004 the tail number can be changed at will by opening
aircraft.cfg in notepad and editing the line atc_id= . . . Less
known is perhaps that not only the reference number in FS dialogues is
but also the number actually depicted in the aircraft exterior. Most interestingly,
you can also edit the font and colour of the tail number as displayed
on the aircraft! Proceed as follows.
Some users complain that the Caravans taxi around even with Throttle idle, Condition Low Idle and different propeller settings. This is strictly realistic however! At idle settings, the real-life Caravan tends to taxi and to do so at quite a high speed. So in FS2004, as in the real aircraft, you have to use brakes and parking brakes to control that. Some addon aircraft panels carry a taxi gauge that sets the throttle to a desired fixed taxi speed.
can be set either in fs9.cfg or via the Settings-Display-Hardware dialogue
in FS2004. If left to 0 (Unlimited), FS2004 will try to achieve the highest
possible frame rates, leaving less processing power for other functions
and thus producing frequent visual interruptions known as "stutters"
and also sometimes less than perfect rendition of the scenery. So there
is a consensus that the framerate should be limited (except for VFR scenery,
see below). Normally any value above 20 is acceptable for comfortable
flying including curves. If however you are using
a CRT monitor, rather than using an arbitrary value, for optimal
display refresh your FS2004 upper framerate limit should be a sub-multiple
of your screen refresh rate in Hz, as in the following table:
needs a careful "ad-hoc" optimisation of FS2004 settings, in
order to avoid the usual problems:
Core i7 under W7: You can use Very Dense Scenery and Ground Shadows with no issue.
VFR ENGLAND & WALES & LONDON - AUTOMATIC SETTINGS
my section on CONFIGURATION FILES - AUTOMATIC UPDATER . My updater is
the ideal solution here. We just need two updater files, and the corresponding
two shortcuts. They should be run before starting FS2004, one to fly inside
VFR, the other outside. The changes thus obtained follow our section above
"VFR ENGLAND & WALES & LONDON - OPTIMAL SETTINGS" and
are as follows:
Once Terrain Detail is set to Land Only or Land and Water, the result of the Water Effects setting is as follows:
None: dark stationary immobile waves.
Low: same plus strong reflection if looking towards the sun.
High: as above but the waves "move". Not a perfect effect, but certainly better than stationary waves like in a picture! Using some of the Water Textures and Reflections addons bring on some additional improvement.
I read in Computer Pilot 9,5 May 2005, p.50, that the High setting uses CPU rather than the graphics card, thusbringing down the frame rate. I tested all the possible alternatives in heavy Chicago port scenery (enhanced with a Chicago City addon), and I got very different results: there was absolutely no frame rate penalty (measured under unlimited frame rates setting), and no increase in CPU use either (monitored via a LCD display).
and his dog knows this one, but just in case ....
TIP 1: To transfer a world weather between different installations of FS2004, just copy the flight's two files, with extensions .FLT and .WX. This way you can even produce a collection of real world weathers to be used at different times and places. This is very useful lately when the online weather download has been discontinued.
TIP 2: To transfer a a weather stored in flight xxx (files xxx.FLT and xxx.WX, either downloaded world weather or user-defined) into flight yyy (files yyy.FLT yyy.WX):
Page last updated: 24-Nov-2019