You may recall that at the very start of November I did a re-install with the aim of getting my sim setup working with the GAP Rhodes scenery, which involved going back to FSX SP2. In the end I was forced to give up on the GAP terrain and go back to Acceleration. In the process I also tried out Kosta's FSX optimisation settings. While the guy clearly knows his stuff, for some reason I couldn't get along with his method, so I wound up going back to Bojote's online Tweaking and Tuning Tool, which had worked well for me in the past and is a simple, one-shot deal.
The problem is that at some point in all that tinkering, something happened that has left me with some unsightly visual artefacts, looking like black vertical spikes that momentarily appear as I pan the view around. I definitely hadn't been getting that originally with a "pure" Acceleration Pack install. Combining that with the problems I'd had a few days before with MCE, led me to the decision to do yet another complete uninstall and reinstall.
Of course FSX isn't just FSX any more. I've accumulated far too many add-ons in my brief flight-simming career already, many of which need to be uninstalled and reinstalled too, which makes it a much bigger job. After a false start, I've got all the absolute basics installed - which for me is FSX, Acceleration Pack, GEX Europe and UTX Europe. Yet to come are MCE, GSX, FSRecorder, plus all the add-on airports and aircraft. I'm hoping to get another chance to work on this over the weekend to get things back to an optimal state.
We are, or course, entering the holiday season now. One happy effect of this is that a lot of stores are running sales and promotions of various sorts, so there are chances to pick up a few bargains, especially in the flight-sim arena. One of my "default" flights if I can't think of anything else to do and have a short time window to fly, is the hop from Manchester to Dublin, so since it's a regular destination I've splashed out on a rather nice looking version of it by the charmingly named "Fly Wonderful Islands" or FWI, which I found on offer over the Thanksgiving weekend.
I've also bought the A318 Jetliner from Just Flight's "F-Lite" range, my first actual payware aircraft. I've been happily flying the FSX default A321 and the freeware Project Airbus A320 with the A321's virtual cockpit transplanted to it. The problem with cockpit transplants is they are fixed to the same position relative to the original aircraft's center point. That means that the A321's VC view is a couple of meter or so further forward than where it should be for the A320. In flight this isn't too much of a problem, but it does make it tricky to judge your aircraft's position accurately when taxiing or parking at the gate. While the effect isn't too bad with the A320, with the smaller A319 and A318 you start to get a much bigger difference between cockpit view and aircraft position.
But to be honest, my real reason for picking up the A318 is that it was the cheapest aircraft they had, on sale at under a fiver, and Just Flight are currently offering a free payware Spitfire Mk IV with any purchase. I have a couple of freeware Spitfires which are great for fun VFR flights, but I've not been entirely happy with the quality of texturing in their virtual cockpits.
Finally UK2000 are running an Xmas 3 for 2 offer on their Xtreme airports. I've splashed out on three airports that I often visit - Liverpool John Lennon, East Midlands and Belfast. The first two were already quite well represented in the VFR Airfields packs I already have, which despite the name also include nicely modelled versions of the major airports. But the Xtreme sceneries really kick the quality up several notches, so it's a really worthwhile upgrade. If I can scrape together the funds before Xmas I might use the offer to get the London airports and possibly Edinburgh and Glasgow, which would mean I had pretty good coverage of the UK and Ireland in terms of airport sceneries.
What I'd really like to do is start improving the European airports that are short to medium haul flights from the UK. France, Spain, Germany and Italy are all good flights with a little longer in the air than the hop to Dublin. This part of the world seems to be monopolised by Aerosoft, so fingers crossed they run a sale which includes digital downloads and not just physical boxed sets, which since they ship from the US can see any sale saving being swallowed up in postage costs.