La Manche

A while back I journeyed to Dover and the White Cliffs. Just went for a walk and to see what it looks like. It’s an odd feeling looking at the massive modes of transport going about their business. Fascinating. Quite a bit like watching aircraft or trains. I took a few photos as a test of my cleaning of my camera sensor. There is a small spot that I can see in photographs still but overall the result is pretty good and I am a happy chappy. I didn’t want to use a gallery for this collection as I really like the photographs. Click on one to get a, slightly, larger image.

Dover Port
Dover Port
DFDS
DFDS
There'll Be Blue Birds Over . . . .
There’ll Be Blue Birds Over . . . .
SS Falcon From Above
SS Falcon From Above
Wreck and Not-Wreck
Wreck and Not-Wreck
SS Falcon
SS Falcon
Langdon Bay
Langdon Bay

Flight Comparisons

I did a thing. I used Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and X-Plane 11 to compare the flying and things. The plan was to fly from Biggin Hill to the Manston Airfield [which is currently shut]. While flying in MSFS I flew over Brands Hatch, my house, my place of work, Leeds Castle, Canterbury and then landed at Manston. I recorded the screen for each of these segments and uploaded them to YouTube. There is some information which needs to be released about the set up first I suppose because this wasn’t an even playing field. I will do that after the take off videos. Now, MSFS doesn’t have any particularly fast aircraft or military planes at the moment. So I used a Pitts Special in that game and my favourite T-7 in X-Plane. The order of the videos will always be MSFS and then X-Plane but it should be obvious from the aircraft involved.

Biggin Hill Take Off MSFS
Biggin X-Plane

The mechanical set-up. The PC has a Core i5 processor running at 3.7GHz. There is 16GB RAM, the graphics card is a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super, the monitor is a 27″ 16:9 1080P thing, I’m not convinced for the need of a higher resolution or size. I’ve got two speakers running a boring stereo output, I’m not that bothered about full 5.1 for the PC, I don’t use it enough. I have a Saitek X52 HOTAS system and that’s about it.

While flying east-ish from Biggin Hill I could see a golf course and realised it was the one near Brands Hatch so I decided to flyby the motor racing circuit and see what it looked like. Here are the results for both simulators.

Brands Hatch MSFS
Brands Hatch X-Plane

My comments on Brands Hatch would be that both simulators manage it quite well but MSFS does put a building on the Brabham Straight. That would be tricky if you want to have a motor race but I guess this is just a simulation and if I really cared a lot about Brands Hatch I could make my own custom scenery for X-Plane.

Some words here are defining the software set up. For MSFS2020 I have essentially bought the deluxe version. I did this because I was quite convinced that I would pay for the extras in micro-transactions anyway so I might as well do it up front. Other than that I haven’t done anything to MSFS. I whacked all the graphics settings to the far right and just let the PC see where it can take me. For X-Plane 11 there are extras and these should probably be explained. The Boeing/Saab T-7 Red Hawk is a bought add-on made by AOA Simulations. There are plenty of free aircraft you can get for X-Plane, a quick look at the downloads website shows 1,128 aircraft for X-Plane 11. I also have lots of after market scenery libraries installed. These allow third parties to create scenery using standard models. There are 83 directories in my Custom Scenery folders, some of these will be airports and some will be libraries. I also have TrueEarth installed which is a paid for scenery collection of the UK. Great Britain South cost around 30 Australian dollars. So, given the time and money I have invested in X-Plane I am probably quite biased towards that, the sunk-cost fallacy.

In the next couple of videos you, probably, won’t know where my house is and you might not know where I work. If you do you will see the differences in this. These videos take you from the Medway Valley four villages over Maidstone and close to Mote Park. More comments after these then.

The Commute MSFS2020
A Faster Commute X-Plane 11

I’ve just changed my embedding technique and so the videos might look different from the one above, I’ll see once this is published. In MSFS my house doesn’t exist. The shadow of it does but the actual 3D model isn’t there. My work place has buildings but they aren’t the right shape. In X-Plane my house is modelled in 3D and my work place has buildings of the correct shape but not the correct colour. Remember that the X-Plane scenery is a paid extra. I know that the original scenery was just shadows on the ground for my village.

Next up is a flight and stall turn over Leeds Castle. Leeds Castle is near the village of Leeds and not the city in the North. It’s a pretty castle although I don’t think I have ever been inside the actual buildings. I think in the following videos it is clear that X-Plane does the better job, once again it has a scenery pack installed for Great Britain.

Leeds Castle – MSFS 2020
Leeds Castle X-Plane (with add-ons)

As I headed east I was reasonably sure I would land at Manston on the eastern tip of Kent. The last time I ever flew in a Chipmunk was from RAF Manston when that still existed. Along the way is Canterbury, the home of the Church Of England and other such religious paraphernalia. I wondered what the city would look like as I passed overhead. I had not seen this before in X-Plane and was quite curious.

Canterbury MSFS2020
Canterbury X-Plane 11

Again I think it’s clear that X-Plane nails the cathedral but I have to point out that I have paid extra for the scenery pack of the island of Great Britain. I would be annoyed if it didn’t look better. The last two things then are landing at Manston.

Manston MSFS2020
Manston X-Plane 11

You’ll notice that MSFS2020 was a little busy with other aircraft on the runway. Hence I landed late and on the right side of the runway. You can turn off other players or you can see them all. X-Plane has the option to have other people flying in the sim, you can also have AI aircraft and set their aggressiveness for combat. You can also have real world traffic in X-Plane and I’ve tried that and it seems to work quite well, depending on the ground ADS-B coverage from a particular database.

My overall thoughts. I think I prefer X-Plane. This is probably for a number of reasons and not all of them might be valid. A lot of this comes down to the sunk-cost fallacy. I’ve spent more time on X-Plane, I’ve spent more money on X-Plane, I prefer the military jets, I have no inclination to program a flight computer, I like shooting stuff. I will say that I think the clouds in MSFS look a lot better and they might not kill the PC like they do in X-Plane. I am sure that over time there will be a lot of extras and add-ons for MSFS and these will take a little while to become ubiquitous. I think I’ll see if I can lock the chase view in MSFS because I’m not so keen on the camera always staying horizontal, I prefer the default chase view in X-Plane. I’ve a feeling that X-Plane is more detailed in its settings and more customisable, this is generally what happens with non-Microsoft stuff, you have the chance to tinker more. MSFS is a good simulator and with full settings it wrecks my PC which is a pretty decent PC so I would expect the graphics to look good. X-Plane just has that edge for me.

There’s a part of me that wants to be snobby about all this. I want to write that X-Plane is for proper flight sim people and that MSFS is just a tiny bit “arcade” and that if you really want to fly then you would have had X-Plane, P3D, or DCS or other such simulator because you would have found them. Me being snobby is my brain taking full command of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. This goes along the lines of “you aren’t a real XXXXX unless you do YYYYY”. So, you aren’t a true Scotsman unless you are born in Scotland. You aren’t a true Scotsman unless you wear a kilt and have your own tartan [which is a bullshit thing made up by the Victorians]. You aren’t a true Scotsman unless you wear nothing under your kilt. You aren’t a true Scotsman unless. . . . . and so on. Now, sometimes there are qualifications and so on that can prove you are a particular thing but even then some people might say “oh, you aren’t a real XXXXX until you’ve had YYYY happen”. J Clarkson uses this when describing motorists, he says you aren’t a real motoring fan unless you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo. Clearly he is using the fallacy to great comic effect, along with being a bit of a prick. People seek legitimacy through the things they do. Many will say, especially those with internet balls, that you aren’t a real XXXX unless you have YYYY. This is bollocks. I have to remind myself a lot about this when I’m thinking. I actively work to make sure that I consider this and work through how my brain thinks.

So, my conclusion is: I really like X-Plane and will probably “fly” in that more than I will MSFS. But, if you’ve bough MSFS and you like playing that then good on you and I hope you enjoy the time you have.

By A Path

Out walking the other day I spotted a lovely looking flower and so I used Google Lens to see what it was. To use Google Lens have the phone camera pointing at something in the Google App. Google will then do it’s best to figure out what you are looking at. It could be a bar code and Google tell you what the product is or it could be a leaf or flower. It’s how I found out what the plants growing in my garden were.

Don't Use Them Up
Don’t Use Them Up

When I got Google to tell me what this flower was it said Opium Poppy. I was rather startled and so did a proper search back at home and this is one variety of opium poppy. Now, whether it has any opium in the eventual seeds I do not know. I’m curious but not that curious. It amuses me a lot to know that opium is growing near my house.

Contrast
Contrast

Last night the sky was quite dramatic with large clouds and the sun at a low angle making the dark portion of the cloud on the right hand side. It looked a lot better than this picture shows.

Unused

One of the drawbacks of this lockdown [and by drawback I mean an entirely trivial thing that doesn’t really matter] is the inability to see new places. In the past I would often go for trips to see what is out there. During my normal summer break I would have travelled the length of this country seeking out new things. I would also have travelled to Germany to spend a lovely weekend watching bands at the M’era Luna festival in Hildesheim. The last three months have been spent at my house or in the local countryside [I am aware of the privilege there and I’ve written in the past about how I feel lucky to live where I do]. While I’m happy enough with my surrounds it is nice to get out and about. I miss seeing new things. I miss growing with experiences. I miss just sitting in a darkened room for two hours while images flicker in front of me.

Because I’ve not been doing anything new I haven’t been using my “big” camera. I’ve had plenty of projects to keep myself busy and the tech in my house just mysteriously keeps improving but I miss trying to get that lovely shot. Trying to frame a picture and get the camera settings correct so that the image “works”. By now I should have had trips to RAF Brize Norton and RAF Wittering, I should have been teaching weapon skills and I would have taken myself to the Lake District to bag some more mountains while camping at a site nestled between them. While the iPhone has been everywhere with me and I’ve taken some photographs with it I’d rather be out there doing proper stuff. I’ll have to think about how to do that. Maybe at the weekend. but, currently

the camera rests.

Megaliths

This area of Kent in which I reside has some decent human history going on. When mostly forested the island of Great Britain [it amuses me immensely that this place is named after a part of France, must make those racists really angry, especially singing Rule Britannia] had many locals doing their thing and trying to survive. Once people died they were buried in long barrows. These constructions had large stones, megaliths, placed at their entrances. There are a number of these in the Medway area and yesterday I used my exercise to go and complete my total of the East Medway Megaliths. These beasts were placed around 5000 years and and that is pretty darn impressive as far as I am concerned.

Kits Coty

In the past I’ve seen the coffin stone and I’ve also seen Kits Coty before as it’s on a running route I take. Here’s the view from Kits Coty, the weather was lovely but I am concerned that it’s been too warm for too long and the upcoming catastrophe of anthropogenic climate change is accelerating:

Kent from Kits Coty
Kent from Kits Coty

I’ve just discovered Scheduled Monuments which is a list of important stuff as agreed by the Secretary Of State for that stuff. There’s a lovely interactive map on the Historic England website. You can also download a PDF version of the map and it is gorgeous. So, Kits Coty is scheduled monument 1012939 and according to that website:

This example has a particularly well-preserved burial chamber and is also of high archaeological potential due to the survival of the remains of the burial mound and the flanking ditches. The burial chamber having been taken into guardianship, the monument is also of high amenity value.

Historic England

Little Kits Coty

Just down the Downs is a collection of stones called Little Kits Coty or the “countless stones”. I think I’ve written about them before but they are still just as pretty and nestled in a corner of a field. There is no path to them so you have to take on the traffic!

Countless Stones
Countless Stones

These boulders are also a scheduled monument as recognised by the Secretary Of State. These are number 1013673 and part of their description reads:

The atypical example of Little Kit’s Coty House represents an unusual variant of this class of monument but nevertheless forms part of the group of Neolithic burial monuments known as the Medway Megaliths. Being held in Guardianship, the monument is of high amenity value.

Historic England

The White Horse Stone

A small distance away is the White Horse Stone. It’s a single megalith but not quite as mega as the others in this area. According to Wikipedia there were other constructions here but they were destroyed in the 19th century.

White Horse Stone
White Horse Stone

This is monument number 1005181 and according to Historic England, again:

The White Horse Stone is a good example of its type, which survives well. The area immediately surrounding the stone is likely to contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the stone and the landscape in which it was erected.

Historic England

I would encourage you to look over the Historic England website as the maps, provided by OS, are absolutely gorgeous and the information there is pretty good. It also has listed buildings on the site and these are indicated on the map with little triangles.

Roman Villa, Eccles

Just south-west of my house lie buried remains of a Roman villa. It was in position from 65CE through to around 400CE which is pretty impressive. While it lies under farmland now it was excavated in the 1960s and it was quite an impressive size. Given how close it is to the site of the Battle Of Medway along with ease of access to the river and lying not far from where the Romans invaded it would have had prominent visitors and been of some importance. It is scheduled monument 1011770 and there are details if you follow that link. Wikipedia has improved over the last few years and there’s quite a bit of information there along with links to the original papers.

The walking route that is safest to travel from Little Kits Coty to the White Horse Stone involves using and underpass to get to the other side of the A229 Bluebell Hill dual carriage way. This underpass is quite pretty in shape and looks exactly like the launch tubes from Battlestar Galactica [imo].

Battlestar Galactica Launch Tube
Battlestar Galactica Launch Tube

Countryside Noise

I wrote a short while ago about the area in which I live and how I would consider it countryside but there’s also the machines of human activity nearby. In that communication I mentioned motorways, supermarkets, train tunnels and an airport. So, here is a map of Eccles’s surrounding area:

Eccles and environs
Eccles and environs

And here is a map with various things highlighted. The legend is below the picture.

Things Of Humanity
Things Of Humanity
  • Yellow: motorways
  • Green: airport
  • Blue: high speed train tunnel
  • Pink dots: Supermarkets I visit

Below is where I grew up, the village of Hatfield Heath in Essex, and I’ve marked similar things onto that map. Perhaps that is why I like my current village. I spent nineteen years on the Heath and had a very similar environment.

It’ll Still Be Here

I do like living in the country away from things. Well, I’m not really that far away from things; there are two motorways within five minutes, all the supermarkets you could want and I live under the flight path for a small airport, which essentially means this is an almost perfect place to live. It’s generally quiet, even though I can hear the M20 and also the Eurostar as it blasts its way through a tunnel in the North Downs, there are aircraft [at the moment] flying overhead on their way to the money centres of the world and small planes circle around doing their thing at Rochester. So, it’s not quiet but it’s my kind of noise.

My recent angst at all things human society have been calmed by the idea that even if we fuck it all up this planet of life will continue and something will stay here, alive and well. It could take a long time but maybe this planet will once again be an amazing world of life and beauty [beauty being a human property because of the way our brains work]. So, here are some photographs of this wonderful place. It might turn out that everything becomes forested again at some point. Wouldn’t that be great.

Kentish Country
Kentish Country

The vineyard below won’t exist but something will be there.

Kentish Vineyards
Kentish Vineyards

Time Lapse Plans

I’ve been thinking recently about creating a time lapse film of the view outside the back of my house. I think it would be nice. It’s a big open space and the weather and seasons changing would make it interesting. I quite like the challenge of figuring out the tech to do it. I’m going to investigate a small 1080p camera and then see if I can write some script [or steal it] to capture a still from it every hour or so. That would make a six minute video for a year’s worth of photos. Once it’s created I’ll write a communication on here and let you know.

County Lines

Just been for a Noodlemass day walk and took this photograph.

County Lines on Noodlemass Day
County Lines on Noodlemass Day

Here are some lines over Kent on this Noodlemass day. This communication has nothing to do with the drugs gangs infiltrating the smaller cities and towns of the region.