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State of the Site - September 2023


  • State of the Site - September 2023

    Click image for larger version  Name:	capture__11240.jpg Views:	17 Size:	148.3 KB ID:	2287494 A month ago, we were in the middle of a heat wave. Today, the leaves are already starting to turn, there's a definite chill in the mornings and evenings, and my wife's tomato crop is finally starting to slow down.

    Oh, and the Green Bay Packers are definitely back in action with a Week One victory at Lambeau Field South (also known as Soldiers Field...). Fall is in the air.....

    Heading into fall and winter usually means a couple things around here -- more new users, and people spending more "indoor time" with their hobbies. If either of those include you, welcome and welcome back.

    For me, winter usually means more route building time, and this year, perhaps more time in Blender. I've dipped my toe into that pool lately, and I do like how that water feels.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	capture_400658.jpg Views:	0 Size:	56.3 KB ID:	2287485 In what's becoming a somewhat regular topic, I've got a few new features to share.

    A file section dropdown has been added to the Search Descriptions page. This was available under the Advanced Search menu item for the past month, and is working well enough that I moved it over to be part of the default search when looking by keyword or phrase. The default option will still search the entire library if you don't select anything from the dropdown, but you can also be more selective and filter results down to an entire category (e.g. Railworks) or a specific category + section (e.g. Open Rails - Cars).

    Additionally, a date range filter has been added.

    Hopefully, this will result in some more productive searches for everyone.

    This also frees up room on the File Library menu, which is admittedly getting a bit crowded. Additional menu moves may still be coming.

    The Advanced Search page has since been repurposed, and currently has two new "in development" options available to use.

    The existing library searches are good for finding items that are included in the descriptions, but that's not always very complete. What's been needed for a while is the ability to search what's inside the zip files, and also to be able to search within the consist files to see what other downloads might be needed.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	capture_400657.jpg Views:	0 Size:	81.8 KB ID:	2287486
    As of this week, we're a bit closer to that goal.

    On the Advanced Search page, there's a new Engine/Wagon Search option to help you in those cases where you see a specific shapefiles, engine or wagon required for a consist or activity, but don't know where they are found in the Library. .

    For those who create scenery objects and models, this should be helpful to help you find who might be using your items. And yes, this should make it a bit easier to help our payware partners find cases where their shapes that have been (cough) accidentally (/cough) included in uploads, and help report files back to us to perhaps pull from the library or have the uploader fix.

    You can also Search Consists to see what activity files might use a particular engine or wagon.

    A few caveats -- these two options only work on traditional zip files with folder based contents. It does not work with files that have executable installers. Understand that while the searches are automated, the indexing behind the scenes still requires some sleuthing and indexing scripts to be run as new files are added to the library. While I'm working to get that automated, it may take some time for new items to be fully indexed and available in these deep searches.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	capture_400659.jpg Views:	0 Size:	125.0 KB ID:	2287487 For file uploaders, there's been a minor change to the Upload Complete screen you see after submitting a new file.

    In addition to the confirmation message advising that your submission is in the approval queue, you will also see a preview of what your listing will be in the file library search results.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	capture_400660.jpg Views:	0 Size:	95.1 KB ID:	2287488 The "Update" function introduced last month has also been expanded. You can now modify the file section, region and thumbnail, as well as add links to any videos you have on sites like YouTube or Rumble. You can also add a links to remote downloads housed on your own server or perhaps cloud services like Google Drive.

    Just keep in mind that there's no undo function...

    If you've uploaded files to the library in the past, there's a good chance that these options are already available for your existing files. If your files haven't been associated to your login yet, please feel free to PM me so that can happen.

    Recently, someone suggested seeking out ads from train simulation and game companies like Dovetail and the various payware providers still serving the community. I'd like to take a moment to explain why we don't.

    We've all been on other forums or Discord channels supported by the various commercial outlets, and seen where the conversation tends to be artificially filtered to be mostly positive and without any room for dissent. People who find fault with the products are routinely moderated out of the conversation, or banned entirely. If we took advertising, the pressure to keep that income could very well lead to an athmosphere where maintaining the relationship with advertisers might start to interfere with that freedom. At best, there'd always be the perception keeping our advertisers happy was being done at the expense of individual opinions.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	fastpass-lineart.jpg Views:	0 Size:	146.1 KB ID:	2287489
    Personally, I like the freedom of opinion we have in both the written articles and forum conversations that take place here, and want to keep it that way.

    Our First Class Members and FastPass subscribers currently enjoy an ad free experience, and for everyone else, there are ads managed and sourced by Google.

    While we do get some income from Google, that only covers about 6-8% of our operating expenses. The rest gets covered from membership subscriptions, including First Class and FastPass. I'd like to see us get to a point where that 6% wasn't necessary, but we're not quite there in terms of being able to survive on subscriptions alone.

    Its also worth mentioning the cost of the First Class membership - it has not changed since at least 2012. I'm committed to keeping it at the present cost for as long as possible, but that could change if the number of subscribers can't keep up with cost increases over time.

    I know that our "every-dayers" who visit often and read these monthly messages probably get a bit tired of hearing about it, but keeping the site viable has to be treated as a shared goal and is not something any one of us can carry alone. The number one cause of sites like ours going dark forever is an inability to pay for hosting, storage and bandwidth.

    If you're a current subscriber, thank you very much for helping ensure we're here for the long term.

    If you're not currently a subscriber, I hope you'll take a moment or two now to think about the value this site holds within the train simulation community, and specifically, the entertainment value of what you've been able to receive in terms of downloads and content.

    Put another way.... for less than the cost of a piece of DLC for Railworks, TSC, or Run8, you could be enjoying a FastPass. For less than the average route add-on, you could have a full year First Class membership.

    Regardless if you're a paid member, or just someone stopping by for the first time, thanks for being part of our community. Come back again soon.
    Last edited by eric; 09-13-2023, 05:21 PM.

    • landnrailroader
      landnrailroader commented
      Editing a comment
      I plan to continue with my first class membership but buddy, at 2:04am I am making zzzzz's, this old codger of 84 just doesn't do all night stands anymore. Right now I'm piddling along on the Alaska project and working on a 10 years old's history of the Cumbres & Toltec, my other passion besides MSTS, my wife, and 5 cats that let us use their home as long as we feed them.

      Jerry Sullivan
    Posting comments is disabled.



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