Friday, April 26, 2013

FGx Globe r3 ~ FlightGear Planes Now In the Sky

One of my several projects over the last few weeks has been the development of a flight simulator visualizer.  You may well ask what is a 'flight simulator visualizer'?

FlightGear is a popular FOSS flight simulator program. Players like to share their in-the-air status online. A JSON feed for this data is available from FGX's Crossfeed. Their current visualizer for this flight simulator data looks like this. I thought is might be fun to wrap the data around a globe.

I have just started rev 3 of my FGx Globe. Here's is what I just wrote about the new rev:
This revision begins to feel as if its getting somewhere. The code is simpler, shorter and does more than before. In particular there is much better separation between the user interface and the 3D world. The user interface is now built using jQuery UI while the 3D all resides in a separate file embedded in an iframe. 
The user interface now provides a table that displays all the flights currently underway. For each flight there is a clickable button that opens a separate window. Multiple windows may be opened - each of which displays the current position and navigation data for a single plane. You may select from a variety of map data sources. The user interface is theme-able with all the standard 20+ jQuery UI themes available at the click of a button. All significant settings are savable as 'permalinks'. 
On the 3D side, the data-handling procedures have been re-written in a much more simple and more straightforward fashion. Also, there first steps have been taken introduce more realistic planes. 
There is still much unfinished work in this build. In particular the only way to remove terminated flights id to reload the window and the only way to completely delete a window is to reset the permalink. And there are several issues with the drop-down lists. Please note that all building and testing has been on Google Chrome. Other browsers will have issues. Other issues are listed in the TBD panel of the main menu.
So the new thing here is that I am using jQuery. I have gone over to the dark side. I have drunk the Kool-Aid.   I say this because, for the most part I code in a very simple and spare style.

The Three.js site says this about the code:
The aim of the project is to create a lightweight 3D library with a very low level of complexity — in other words, for dummies. 
Well, I have tried to match that style. In some ways this is because I resemble the categorization and in other ways because the style is simple and pure. But perhaps the most telling reason is because I am not a programmer.  I actually don't try to write code or build a program. I am a designer. What I am trying to design is a brain visualization thingy or a stock market snooper or whatever.

I could do this using pencil and paper or clay or some such traditional media. But I just happen to like to use JavaScript as my design media.

I plan to write more about coding while being a designer, but suffice it to say that much of my work sticks to "for", "if" and "=" along with parentheses, commas and semi-colons.

So the move into adding jQuery to my repertoire is a big one for me.  I think I will most likely become schizophrenic: Writing in Three.js style on some days and jQuery style on other days.

But not to worry, on both types of days my brain will very likely be placed squarely in the middle of the Three.js target market.

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