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State of the Site -- March 2024


  • State of the Site -- March 2024

    Click image for larger versionName:	capture_500470.jpgViews:	0Size:	27.7 KBID:	2297669 It's Anniversary Week!

    Looking back a few days, March 8th marked the one year anniversary of separating Trainsim.Com from its previous owner, and ending a negotiation which had started five weeks earlier.

    But that's not the only anniversary at hand...

    Tonight, March 12th, marks a somewhat more significant milestone -- the one year anniversary of moving onto our own servers, and thus having total control over our collective destiny as a community.

    You're probably wondering... "Eric, did you have to break out the calendar and fact-check those dates?"

    Nope. They're engrained. Engraved. Not quite a tattoo, but close enough not to be forgotten,

    It just so happens these date coincide with a bigger milestone, which is towards the end of this week, when my wife and I will get to celebrate (or co-miserate?) on yet another trip around the Sun together.

    Yes, some days, I've wondered when I'll finally get to see the parole board, but she keeps reminding me it's a life sentence....

    For the most part, we've had a great journey together. Along the way we picked up three reasonably OK kids, a couple grandkids, and all the other "stuff" that goes along with almost three decades together.

    You can't truly celebrate without a banner or two, and we've got 'em... Click image for larger version  Name:	capture_500468.jpg Views:	0 Size:	114.5 KB ID:	2297676

    You might have noticed a new feature added last week, which I'm referring to as Banners. These are headers that will start to appear at the top of threads which discuss a file or bundle that's hosted in our file library. We've already got a handful active right now for routes, sound sets, and other items that have come up in discussion in the last two weeks.

    All too often, we'll discuss a route or repaint, but don't mention the actual file in the library. That can make it challenging for someone who hasn't already discovered it, and might want to give it a try. By providing the name and a link into the library, hopefully this will help make it a little easier for folks interested to find and download those items.

    So far, it seems to be working.

    We recently had someone start up a thread with questions about the GN Hi-Line route. That route has been seeing 2-4 downloads a month over the last year, which isn't bad for something added to the file library in 2007 and updated in 2009.

    Since the banner went up, there's been an additional 14 downloads.

    Not every thread mentioning a download will justify one, but if you see a thread which does, please let me know. It only takes a minute of "behind the curtains" activity to get it activated.

    I have to point out the credit for this idea goes to TrainSimJack -- he PM'd me a mockup of his idea, and I was able to throw it together with a little tinkering under the hood. I see it as entirely worthwhile use of time value considering the value that can and will come from it.

    If you've got an idea for something to make the site a little better experience, by all means, send me a PM with your thoughts. No guarantees they'll be as straight forward as this, but I'm always willing to take a look at new features.

    TSRE Back On The Tracks

    Click image for larger version  Name:	capture_500434.jpg Views:	0 Size:	29.3 KB ID:	2297675 For those of you who've used TSRE over time, you're probably aware that Piotr Gadecki, its creator, stopped supporting the application back in January 2022 for personal reasons.

    In the almost-two years that followed, several of us had tried to get a new version compiled with minor changes. Almost all of those attempts were unsuccessful.

    Then two months ago, a new member to the site came forward with the steps they'd been able to use to get TSRE to compile successfully. By January 16th, I and several others were able to get builds launched. But there was still a piece or two missing -- we could each create a copy of the TSRE executable, but couldn't get it to run on another PC. Useful if I wanted to make changes for myself, but I knew ultimately others would want to use those features. After a little more trial and error, another new member stepped forward, and by February 14th, a successful build v8.000 was able to be created and run on other PC's.

    Piotr/Goku's contributions have been invaluable in terms of our hobby. Without TSRE, we would not have seen a revival of route building over the few years. We're glad to see him popping back up recently and helping provide some additional guidance here and there. Should he ever decide to take up working on TSRE again, I know it would be well received.

    Until then... we now have a chance to move forward, and are doing so as what's known as a fork. Goku's original code remains the project's master, but I'm proceeding to make adjustments to that, which will be released here to the public.

    Three weeks ago, TSRE v8.002 was published, and is available for download in the file library. v8.003 is in testing, and can be Click image for larger version  Name:	capture_500458.jpg Views:	0 Size:	173.4 KB ID:	2297673 downloaded from the forum topic where it's being discussed, but will not be in the file library until more testing is completed.

    The focus of changes up to now has been items which are mostly non-destructive and non-file altering. Many of the items are configuration changes -- different colors for highlighting items in the editor, bringing in pre-set values for some of the terrain editing tools, and some new symbols for interactive items such as signals, speedposts and platforms. None of those items influence what gets saved to a route.

    This approach will change in some of the upcoming versions. There's been no shortage of suggestions to improve the route editor, consist editor, shape viewer and activity editor, and I want to temper some of the expectations on what might be on the horizon.... While I'm very familiar with writing out items into the World files, I'm less comfortable messing with the files created by the Consist Editor. Where I'm absolutely hesitant to go -- changes to the TDB/RDB, modifications to terrain and terrtex files, and generating of Activity files. While file structures are usually pretty straight forward, the documentation on those files is quite thin and lacking, and could catastrophically destroy a route.
    View the Changelog: v8.003
    Thus... I'm treading lightly.

    That said... if you're a little more familiar with those files and willing to run with scissors a bit, please let me know. I'm more than happy to roll changes from others into the testing and stable versions that get released here going forward.

    I've also forked the v8.x codebase from Goku's, and made it available on GitHub for those who might be interested in experimenting with their own compilations. Be warned... getting the compiler set up is not for the casual user... but if you're up for a bit of a challenge, the instructions are available in the "Compiling TSRE" thread.

    Something that this break-thru will allow for.... future changes in Open Rails with regard to routes. It's always been possible to define non-standard objects or parameters manually within a World file, which would either be enabled or ignored by ORTS depending on the code. Unfortunately, TSRE would wipe out all non-standard objects and tokens when an edited route was saved. That's no longer a barrier. Eventually, writing out new objects will also be possible -- one that's in prototype is a non-square forest object, something I've advocated to have for over ten years. Being able to add parameters to an existing forest might be able to trigger "planting" rows of items instead of random placement, possibly define more than one tree texture to be rendered. Absent an editor, those items were never going to move forward.

    It's really an exiting set of prospects when you think about it... time to see what happens.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	capture_500469.jpg Views:	0 Size:	6.5 KB ID:	2297678 It seems we may have lost another community website. Although we'd heard Yuri Sos's family was to keep the site up and running, went dark last week.

    Fortunately, much of the site has been captured on the Wayback Machine, but the real loss is going to be all of the documents where Steam4Me is linked as a resource.

    One of our members in Australia has been been in contact with the family, and there's some hope they'll have a change of heart. As I've done with other sites, I've offered hosting on our server if that's what it takes to get the site back up and running.

    To that end.... we're a largely open source community, but our creations are at risk if we're not thinking about what happens when we're gone. Several members have shared their incomplete routes, and many now share their source when they upload models. I'd encourage more people to do that as they take on modeling projects in Blender.

    Like it or not, we all have an expiration date, and as we've found out, our families may not follow what we've asked them to do when we're gone. That's what happened with Otto Wipfel's site, and now apparently with Yuri's.

    With that... it's time to sign off and thank those who continue to help support the site via their contributions, be it files in the library, posts in the forums, or by maintaining a FastPass or First Class membership.

    I do hope your time here winds up being at least as much fun as it's been for me.

    Thanks for stopping by!
    Last edited by eric; 03-12-2024, 09:23 PM.

    • jdgremsjr
      jdgremsjr commented
      Editing a comment
      Wow!!! it doesn't seem like it has been a year, where does the time go?
    Posting comments is disabled.



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