This is Not an Official Site

This site has nothing to do with Google Earth except that I am a big fan of the program, and the Flight Simulator module in it.

All of the information provided below is just what I have been able to figure out from using the program.

Landing at Pond Inlet, NU

Landing at Pond Inlet, NU

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Note to Mick Mellen at Google Earth Blog

Hi there . . .

Thanks for great blog. I liked the piece on the GExplorer from Paul van Dinther.

I have been using the Flight Simulator since it was first introduced,
and I fly the plane every day still.  I went out and bought one of the
joysticks that GE supports (Logitech Attack 3) and tried to use it but
the buttons did not seem to be mapped sensibly so I re-wrote the
joystick .ini file using the keyboard .ini file to get some of the extra
key assignment code.

My joystick is now mapped as follows:

I use the original code to handle joystick movement (back and forward,
side to side) and to handle the throttle.

I have four keys on the top, and I use the side keys to move the rudder in 20% increments. The centre key returns the rudder to centre, and the top key just pauses the action so I can answer the phone. On the small plane I do not usually use the rudder but on the jet there is much more need of rudder as one can't turn much by just banking.

I have two buttons on the left side of the base and I use them to
increase the flaps by 20% and decrease the flaps by 20%.

There are two buttons at the rear of the base and I have mapped them to the left and right brakes. On the small plane one can steer on the ground with the brakes, and even turn around on a runway and take off again. The brakes do not seem to slow the jet much and I often overshoot a runway even though I am safely down.

There are two buttons on the right side of the base and I have used
those to control attitude but I rarely use them in flight.

I have mapped the trigger key to change the view. In normal flight we look out over the nose and we see the instrument display. When I pull the trigger the instrument display disappears and the view angle changes to downwards and slightly forward. I usually fly the small plane, and with full flaps and half throttle, flying at about 500 feet, and with the trigger depressed it seems like I am an eagle soaring over familiar landscapes. The effect is just magical. At that airspeed I can still maneuver and climb slightly, but it is slow enough that the earth beneath me does not blur.

The Flight Simulator is just an amazing piece of coding. I have found the small plane to be the most responsive, and I can take off and land reliably. To land, one must approach the runway at a shallow angle (probably 2 or 3 degrees) although I often land by coming in very slow with full flaps, chopping the speed and letting the aircraft settle. On the other hand, for variety I sometimes land at full throttle and no flaps, just to see if I can do it.

There are some very nice runways that are good and flat in Google Earth - some are not flat due to anomalies in the rendering of elevations. I often land in Halifax and at nearby Shearwater Air Force base.

Diego Garcia US Air Force base in the Indian Ocean is a great one to practice on as it is so long, and is rendered as level. Mirabel airport north of Montreal is a lovely one to practice touch-and-go on as it has two long runways at right angles. Unfortunately the imagery is of different seasons and brighnesses.

I flew (as passenger) into many small airports on Baffin Island so I enjoy flying the Google plane around some of those small towns. The small plane seems to be centred on the crosshairs in the display, so one can fly around mountain peaks and canyon sides and almost "brush the walls with your wings" but never crash so long as the crosshairs stay off the mountain. I fly like this around Grise Fiord, NU, which has lovely mountains all around the airstrip. I have never bothered to fly in the Grand Canyon but I expect that one could fly the same away along the canyon walls.

I do not know how Google Earth handles the identification of a joystick, but I would guess that perhaps Windows queries the joystick and gets a string in return, and it compares that string with known .ini files. That's my guess. If there is no match and windows tells GE that there is a joystick, then perhaps it uses the generic .ini file. I would guess that if you don't have a natively supported joystick one could copy the text into the generic.ini file and it might work.

At any rate, here's the .ini file that I re-wrote to suit my Logitech Attack 3 joystick. Note that on my joystick the buttons and axes number from zero. The file would have to be tweaked for other joysticks with different button configurations.

----- file Logitech_Attack3.ini starts on next line ------------
controllers_supported = [
  Controller('*Logitech*Attack*3*', 11, 11, 3, 3)

button_press = [
  B0   set(VAngle, -0.35)

  B1   set(DR,  0)

  B1   set(dDR,  0)

  B2   toggle(TotalFreeze)

  B3   set(dDR,  -0.8)
  B4   set(dDR,  +0.8)

  B5   add(DF, -0.2, 0, 1)
  B6   add(DF,  0.2, 0, 1)

  B7   set(DB_0, 1)
  B8   set(DB_1, 1)


button_release = [

  B0   set(VAngle, 0)

  B3   set(dDR, 0)
  B4   set(dDR, 0)

  B7   set(DB_0, 0)
  B8   set(DB_1, 0)

axes = [
  A0      set(DA, 1.0, 0.0)
  A1      set(DE, 1.0, 0.0)
  A2      set(DP_0, -0.5, 0.5)

povs = [
--------------- file ends on previous line ---------

The joystick files are in a folder in the Google Earth program folder. On my machine the folder is here:

C:\Program Files\Google\Google Earth\client\res\flightsim\controller

and I replace the contents of the ini file with the code above. Sometimes Google Earth resets these ini files to default without warning, so I always keep a spare copy of the ini file elsewhere and ready to copy back into that folder.

I hope that you find this interesting. Thanks for great GE blog.

Just ask if I can add anything more . . .   Alan

Sunday, September 18, 2011

marking runways

I have found that the easiest way to find your runways is to mark them with the usual yellow (or blue) pushpin, but in the properties section I choose the altitude as 100 metres, relative to the ground, and extended to ground.

This way, when you are flying in for a landing the yellow pin is up in the air on a yellow column, where you can see it as you line up for a landing.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mapping the Joystick Buttons

Here's the diagram of my Logitech Attack-3 joystick.

I have re-mapped the buttons as follows:

There are four buttons on the top of the joystick, and I have made the centre one into a Pause button - it freezes the action.

Buttons 4 and 5 I use to control the rudder, using one to move it incrementally to the left and the other to the right. The rear top button (#2) is used to centre the rudder again. I don't use the rudder very much when flying the small plane as banking the plane gives me most of the turning capacity that I need. However, to make a tight banking turn to get back onto the glide path for a runway I sometimes use the rudder.

Buttons 6 and 7 on the base of the joystick I use to control the flaps. Button 7 will extend the flaps by 20% on each press, and Button 6 will reduce the flap setting by 20% on each press. The effect of the flaps when extended is to give the wing more lift at lower speeds, and flaps also tend to act as air brakes, slowing the plane at the same time. When I am touring  familiar areas at 1000 feet or so I often use full flaps and half throttle to slow the plane right down so that I can just drift along but still climb if necessary.

I use Buttons 8 and 9 on the base to control the brakes when taxiing. Holding the buttons down applies the brakes and releasing the buttons lets them off. They also work independently so you can use them to steer when landing, and at very slow speeds holding down one brake will allow you to spin the plane around - very useful when you want to take off back the way you landed.

I have found that the brakes do not work reliably or well on the fast jet plane, making it very difficult to stop the plane even on the longest runway.

I use Buttons 10 and 11 to control the altitude of the nose, moving it up or down in increments. These buttons are least convenient for me as I am right-handed and accessing the buttons requires my left hand to slide under my right. I tend not to bother much with them anyway.

The X and Y axis are the movement of the joystick column and I have not adjusted the settings for them. As one would expect, pulling back on the stick causes the plane to climb,  pushing forward makes the plane descend, and the side to side movements bank the plane. The throttle works very nicely, and I have not changed those settings either.

The very best part involves the trigger button. I have changed it so it controls the angle of the view. During regular flight the view is out over the front of the plane, as the pilot would normally see. When I pull the trigger in the view changes to looking almost straight down and a bit forward, and the heads-up display disappears. When this happens, it is as if I am an eagle, and I can soar over the terrain looking straight down. My muscle memory works just fine so I can effortlessly fly the plane with the joystick, rising and falling, drifting to left and right. It is especially cool when flying in mountainous terrain as one can just skirt the cliff edges and drop off the edges of mountains. Very, very  cool.

The code for re-mapping the buttons is in the next  post.

Using a Joystick with Flight Sim

The Google Earth Flight Simulator supports about ten different joysticks, including several of the most common ones. I use the Logitech Attack-3 which I purchased for about $30 at Future Shop, the Canadian arm of Best Buy.

You can find the list of supported joysticks in the Google Earth folder here:

There is another possible place to look for  controller .ini files and that is here:

You will have to look through your Google Earth program folders to find the location of the drivers. It seems like my system has the drivers in two places and I cannot determine which is the definitive location the program uses, so I put my modified driver file in both locations.

It seems that Google Earth queries each .ini file in turn looking for a text string that matches the string returned by the joystick on your USB port. When the strings match Flight Sim uses that driver, so if you have saved your .ini file under another name you will need to move it to another directory somewhere so Flight Sim only finds the new and modified driver. In my case, I deleted all of the other .ini files in the folder as I didn't need them anyway.