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FSX on networked PC's - What, Why & How?


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37 replies to this topic

#1 ant_1984

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 01:04 AM

I can remeber seeing posts about running FSX over networked PC's, basically to offload external apps onto a computer not running FSX to free up processing power for FSX.

My FSX rig, is just that, for FSX and other games, so I have a humble HP box with an e7500 core2duo for my day to day browsing, email, downloads etc and am just wondering how I may be able to utilise this for FSX. Currently I'm just using one monitor and swap the input over depending on what PC I'm using.

So......

What can be run on the networked PC? I'll be using REX Essential for weather, UT2 for traffic and probably other addons but not sure what else might be able to run over the network.

Why? What's the benefit of running over the networked PC's? is there a huge improvement etc?

How is it done? From what I've read there are several programs that can be used including Simconnect and WideFS but I haven't delved any further than this.

I just thought I'd try and tap in to the knowledge of my fellow simmers and see what the experiences have been. :biggrin:
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#2 cmpbellsjc

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 01:34 AM

I have an old Dell that I use for my "internet" computer and like you, just use the rig in my sig for FSX. I used the old Dell in a networked config to run AS2012 and FSBuild. Although FSbuild isn't really on the network, its nice to see the flight plan on another screen, but I like having AS2012 running on that computer so that it takes less load off my FSX rig and allows me to use it from another screen that way I never need to minimize or run FSX in windowed mode. You can also run REX(E) on a networked computer as well if you so choose. UT2 traffic I run on my FSX rig as there is really no need to run it on a network since the UI is closed when running FSX.

I dont run any other apps or programs for FSX that require them being run while FSX is operating, but if I did I would probably try and run them on the old Dell so I can keep as much extra stuff from not having to run on the same rig as FSX.

#3 CoolP

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 01:34 AM

There's not so much of a performance gain in the means of fps, but your computer's resources will stay free of e.g. the rather large memory load of some addons. So those 300mb of the REX-E interface or the .Net based structure of other addons can be run on another PC without any noticeable lag involved. Since this also gives you a second screen to e.g. run some maps and things, it's worth a shot.

For connecting addons which are based on a FSUIPC interface, you will need WideFS. That's payware and offers an easy way to connect all sort of payware and freeware over the local network.

On Simconnect, that's part of FSX. The network setup isn't that easy, but it's free and allows the FSX only addons to run networked.

Some other addons connect locally to FSX (no extra setup needed) and then look for any clients in the network via their own methods. Aivlasoft EFB is one example, just needing some IP address or name to connect to. Running the display unit on a networked PC will save some 400mb of RAM.

You will find some things not being able to run networked. Your AI traffic example is one of them. Same goes for some addons which require the Windows voice engine to run and interact with FSX. I saw some folks trying to pull tricks on that one though, but I don't know if they succeeded or just ran into other problems.

A rough conclusion would be that FSX running on a fast quad core leaves enough room for those background tasks like voice recognition or map/flight planning software. Just their memory load adds up, but it's not like they would grab any fps. This may even be true for smaller machines.

For example, I ran the 'voiced' VoxATC plus FS2Crew voice plus the AI traffic generated. Didn't make any difference on the fps when compared to the operation without the fancy voice stuff.

#4 ant_1984

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 02:07 AM

Ok, so for the immediate future, aside from my AI traffic, I'm only really looking at running Rex Essential, so it may not be worthwhile booting that over to the networked PC.

I'm also going to play around with "FacetracknoIR" and picked up a webcam to give this a shot. I've heard it can be quite CPU intensive. In theory because this works through Simconnect I should be able to run this from the networked PC, does this sound right?

It sounds like until I pick up a second monitor to start running maps/flight planning software or start using some more resource intensive FSX apps it may not really be worth the effort offloading these things to my networked PC.

I'm also thinking of trying out some of the apps available for my iPhone. Do you have any experience with these?
-Anthony Young-

"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return." - Leonardo da Vinci

#5 CoolP

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 02:34 AM

I think I've read something on the attempt to run the face tracker networked. I'm using Trackir and never tried to run it 'off-site' because I newer saw it causing any fps impact. In theory, the Simconnect based software might be able to run networked though, so perhaps Google helps on that one.

I think what's really neat is some old laptop doing the job on the maps, weather and things. With some free soft like synergy, you will only need one set of mouse and keyboard while that second PC then runs all that extra software.

#6 gliderdriver

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 03:39 AM

Hiya

If tempted to do some networking, can I please suggest that you use 2 x Windows 7 machines, rather than a mix of Win 7 and XP. Win 7 features a simplified networking method called 'homegroup' which will enable you to share files over your network, by 'sharing' folders. Trying to 'peer-to-peer' a mixture of operating systems is a bit of a dark art.

The Active Sky folks offer a very good tutorial, and there is a pdf on 'how to simconnect' at the avsim file library:

http://library.avsim...151797&Cookie=1

As mentioned above, FSUIPC and WideFS offer a legacy network link which some older programs can use.

Good Luck

Phil

#7 ideoplastic

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 05:09 AM

Regardless of the OS you can set-up a working network as follows:

In My Computer Properties make sure that you assign a workgroup name which must be the
same on both PCs. - Reboot.

Ensure you have identical username and password on both PCs.

Set Advanced sharing on all Hard disks and add your username under "permissions" to each
one and ensure you tick all permission boxes.

Ideally you should also assign a static IP address to each PC. You can do this by going to
your Local Area Connection Properties/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) v4/Properties then enter the
IP addresses, etc. - Reboot.

Go to Windows Explorer try to mount a drive from the second PC, if successful
you now have a full working network.

This is just a very quick and abridged instruction. If you encounter any problems or need
more concrete information, do let me know and I'll do my best to help you.

Regards

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#8 chris512

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 05:24 AM

I run my Prepar3d install on one computer and run pretty much everything else on a 2nd networked pc. I like to run my NGX across 3 screens with nVidia Surround so it makes it easier to view navigation software etc.

My ENB data supplier app still runs on the main Sim PC but the display part of it runs over the network on the 2nd pc. I find Windows 7 networking is still harder to do than on a Mac in terms of permissions etc. Maybe I need to do more reading about it though!

#9 Ray Proudfoot

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 05:30 AM

Surprised no-one has mentioned two really attractive applications for FS. One is FS Flight Keeper which acts as a flight logger and moving map.

The other is FS Earth. Not talked about much but if you're curious about "what city or river is that below" then it's a brilliant addon utilising Google Maps. Its heavy use of graphics rules it out on the FSX PC but on a networked one it's a great addon.
Cheers,
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#10 RWFeldman

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 07:29 AM

There's not so much of a performance gain in the means of fps, but your computer's resources will stay free


Thats not true and the statement itself suggest that their WILL be a gain in performance. Having run a dedicated flight computer for years, I assure you there is an increase in performance, equating to FPS and extreme stability, not having any other appss running including antivirus programs!

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#11 ajpongress

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 06:13 PM

My short and quick version answer:

Yes it's worth running AS MANY programs as you can on a networked PC to freeup the FSX machine.
I run the following on a networked laptop:

Activesky
FSBuild
FSINN / Radar Contact
WideClient
FSCommander
ACARS
Browser windows for looking up charts

I can tell you 100% all that running on my FSX machine would lower frame rates.
Setting up a network is easy. Plenty of tutorials on the net already for that. Everything uses SimConnect these days, unless the addon specifically states it runs over WideFS.

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#12 ant_1984

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 10:39 PM

Wow, thanks for all the responses!

Both PC's are running Windows 7 and I found the initial network setup to be pain free, although all I've done so far is share a couple of folders across the 2 PC's and linked in my TVIX media player.

So it seems the general consensus is that offloading as much as possible to the 2nd networked PC will minimise any degradation of performance in FSX.

I haven't bought REX yet so I can't access the thread over on their site with instructions for running over a network, but just a basic query for my understanding: Would you install REX on both the "Server" and "Client" PC so that textures are accessed directly from the Servers Hard Drive but then have the weather program running on the Client PC and therefore weather is injected from the Client PC on to the Server PC?

This is a first for me so I want to understand what I'm doing as best I can.
-Anthony Young-

"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return." - Leonardo da Vinci

#13 CoolP

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 12:01 AM

Thats not true..

Well, I wouldn't want to run heads with anyone on that issue. ^_^

I'm not always running my networked setup, so REX-E, Plan-G and e.g. EFB also run locally, right on the FSX machine of mine, adding to the usual 'local' addons like AI-Traffic, MCE or FS2Crew or some RXP GPS exe. I didn't receive a fps decrease nor did I run into stability problems with that local setup so far. I'd say Win7 x64 doesn't have a problem managing all that software and leaving FSX intact, fast and stable.

So perhaps that (obvious) theoretical improvement by offloading things isn't that prominent in practical terms on e.g. an overclocked i7 with some 8 to 16gb RAM? Unfortunately, I can't judge the 'it must be better, so it is better' phenomenon taking place from time to time. So I guess actually trying a networked setup is a good idea indeed as the personal mileage may vary. :smile:

Since the OP wrote about some second PC being available, it makes perfect sense to me and, in the case of Simconnect, also comes for free. The main advantage, for me, is the added comfort when working with the second screen and system.

Would you install REX on both the "Server" and "Client" PC so that textures are accessed directly from the Servers Hard Drive but then have the weather program running on the Client PC and therefore weather is injected from the Client PC on to the Server PC?

With REX-E, the answer is that you have to install it on both PCs in full. The former REX version allowed for the weather engine part to run as a separate and small exe, while REX-E combines all modules into one large app.

So, depending on where you've started REX-E, the weather injection and even texture processing will be available. As said, I'm running it on both PCs and sometimes switch the local and networked operation. Works without a hiccup so far.

The Simconnect network setup isn't as intuitive as e.g. sharing folders in Win7, but there are some good guides available. They will all work since the SC setup itself is generic. REX-E itself just 'grabs' that SC interface, there's no extra step necessary, except for defining the FSX folder to be on the FSX machine, not the network client.

#14 CoolP

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 03:16 AM

I performed some tests.

Loaded my A300 at Aerosoft's Frankfurt with UT2 traffic, AES enabled and the usual stuff like GEX and UTX Europe being active. Then I've locally started pretty much all I have, which means REX-E, FSC (connected), Aivlasoft EFB plus Display Unit and plan active plus moving map, Plan-G (connected), the Aerosoft Calculator (fps hog! kidding), my browser (Firefox) with some tabs and a flash video, MP3 player, pdf reader showing a 200 pages colour manual.. and then looked at the fps which came in at some 23 after REX-E was finished with injecting the current EDDF weather and looking out of the A300's VC. Trackir was connected, EZCA processing and my my small M-Panel software was running too, same for my Logitech soft for the joystick.

Then I've closed all the extra stuff and started the networkable programs on the client. So REX-E went off locally and started on the client, same for the EFB Display Unit, FSC, Plan-G and so on. Again, all connected. I've also closed the browser, the MP3 player, the pdf. The client then injected the weather into FSX and my fps were, again, some 23.

Then I've left the client apps running and started the local programs again. I e.g. had two instances of Plan-G running, the browser came up again, the MP3 player. Same 23 fps at EDDF while sitting in my A300.

As said, your mileage on the actual fps gains may vary. Regardless of running the soft locally or on the networked client, my fps remained at those 23 mentioned. The only big impact I saw was on the overall RAM load, which isn't much of a problem with some 12gb installed. As for stability, as mentioned above, the switch from the local to the networked operation happens quite often and I never saw any problems due to the programs the FSX machine ran.

Edited. On another attempt, I rebooted the machines and then loaded up the same situation while avoiding anything extra. So a fresh FSX start, no browser after booting, just a plain doubleclick on the fsx.exe and then injecting the weather from the network client. The cleanest run I could achieve. 23 fps again. I've later added all the extra programs and let the browser play its flash video while MP3 also performed and, still, 23 fps.

And here's some outside screenshot. Because I like that plane. :smile:
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#15 chris512

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 05:25 AM

One of the major advantages for me is that I don't lose the sound of my cockpit by having to click on a different window on my Sim PC. If all of my Nav progs etc are on my secondary pc then I don't lose my "FSX/P3D Focus" makes it feel more realistic to me.

I think it helps not having loads of progs all competing for one hard drive too? Surely that must be true right?