Friday, 3 August 2012

No man is an island. Unless he lives on Rhodes.

It's been a busy couple of days here at Vesuvius Air.  On Wednesday I bit the bullet and delved into the shadowy world of processor overclocking.  I'd deliberately bought an i7 2600K processor with this in mind.

The PC motherboard had an option for pre-loaded configurations to boost the 3.3GHz clockspeed to anything from 4GHz up to 5GHz, so I started with one of those for a modest 4.4GHz.  Unfortunately under load, the processor temp started creeping up beyond my comfort zone at 70C, so that course of action was quickly dropped.

Next I found a couple of overclocking guides on the web, but these seemed to spend a lot of time looking at memory speeds as well, plus when I used the recommended Vcore value they started at, it turned out to be nowhere near enough to get the PC to boot.  I had some scary moments with the PC looking like it wouldn't even POST, but completely removing the power lead for a few seconds was enough to reset things.

In the end I took a leaf from Intel's own advertising blurb "Overclocking so easy, your granny could do it." and simply raised the clock multiplier and then brought the Vcore voltage up in steps until the machine was stable.   The result is that the i7 3.4GHz is now running happily at 4.5GHz.  Funnily enough, though the processor does naturally run hotter under extreme load (and by that I mean using a test program to drive all four processors to 100%, something that rarely happens in real life), the temperature quickly stabilises into the low 60Cs, well within safe tolerances.

After that I thought I'd take a turn around the island of Rhodes, one of the few places I have actually flown to.  My flightsim mini-goal is to replicate that flight from Manchester International to Rhodes, but for this I just fired up the default ultralight at Rhodes International Diagoras and let fly.  The default FSX terrain for the terminal isn't bad, but as I gained altitude I realised that something was wrong.  There were absolutely no other buildings visible outside the terminal.  Now I knew in real life that the last time I visited (about five years ago) the area around the airport was a bustling scene of development projects (most of them half completed thanks to Greece's strange tax laws.)  Puzzled, I headed north up the coastline to Ixia (where I had stayed) only to find it too was unspoilt countryside.  Cresting the northern plateau to where I would expect to see Old Town and the harbour spread out below.... again absolutely nothing.  The coastline showed the distinctive outline of the harbour, where legend has it the great Colossus of Rhodes once stood, but there were absolutely no signs of habitation.  Clearly FSX had thrown me hundreds of thousands of years forward in time to a later geologic epoch where all trace of humanity had been erased from the planet.
The only building on the island.
Eventually though, after scouring the island, I did find one single, solitary house.  Who knows what strange tale the occupant could have told about what had happened to the rest of the island.

Flying over the freeware version of the city and harbour.
This clearly wouldn't do.  The first thing I did was search online for freeware scenery for Rhodes, which I found at Avsim.  This didn't do anything to the Diagoras terminal buildings, but it did add photoreal textures to much of the island, plus a few 3d buildings and boats were added to the harbour and city.  This was significantly better especially once you were up to about 2-3 thousand feet.  One thing it changed that I didn't like was the addition of a wooded area between the runway and the sea, which I'm pretty sure doesn't exist.  But I did a complete circuit of the island and I would say that about 3/4 of the island is covered by these photo I would almost have been happy to leave it at this, but I knew better was available.

GAP's Rodos payware, flying over Old Town.   You can
clearly see the old fortress modelled.
The following morning I bought the Greek Airports Project Rodos addon, for a very reasonable price IMO. This pack not only revamps the terminal, but the adjoining village of Paradisi, further up the coast to the hotels at Ixia (where I'd stayed) and through into a completely realised city complete with fortress and harbour.  There's also another version of the photo-textures to fill in the areas that haven't been fully modelled.  It's now a much nicer place to fly, and should give good views when coming in to approach.  I think this is it for payware scenery for me.  Unless there are any major omissions at a destination I want to fly to, like the complete de-population of Rhodes, and even then I'll probably look for freeware first.  I can totally understand though how simmers can wind up sinking hundreds of dollars into addons.

Arrived at Heathrow
For the rest of the day I retried my usual hop from Manchester to EMA, but it became clear that EMA has stopped giving me ILS landings, possibly as a result of installing the UK2000 VFR Airfields pack that covers it.  So in between all the real-world visitors we had that day (none of them particularly exciting) I managed to squeeze in a flight from Manchester to Heathrow instead, which went off without a hitch.

I've also finished all of the Private Pilot lessons in the Learning Centre, but after several tries I gave up on the "checkride" at the end.  It's a very fussy examiner, on one occasion failing me because my roll-out was both too early AND too late.  Which is funny because the maneuver she failed me on didn't include a roll-out.  Go figure.

Next up I'm planning to move onto the Instrument Flight section of the lessons and get a little more comfortable with VORs and ILS.  I understand the theory behind both, and in practice I've been able to futz my way onto the glideslope about 75% of the time, but I really don't have a firm enough grasp on either to be confident about them.

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