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Atlas Installation Help

Atlas is an addon that lets FlightGear users display a real-time "moving-map" of their flight.

Atlas Installation Help

Postby NewsDude » Tue Mar 31, 2020 3:26 am

Considering the fact that FlightGear will be down for me for a good chunk of this week, I figured that I would finally do something that I've always wanted to do and figure out how to use Atlas.

Now, I've been going over the system requirements which are on the Atlas website and I have some questions.

1.) does FlightGear still use Atlas? The Official FlightGear manual doesn't appear to have been updated since 2015.

2.) In the Official FlightGear manual, it says that the macOS version of FlightGear already has Atlas built-in. So, where would I access it from within the FlightGear app?

3.) If Atlas is no longer a part of the macOS version, where would I get the various components required to run Atlas? Quite a few of the links on the Atlas website appear to be dead.


In case people have no idea what manual I'm talking about, here's a link to it: http://flightgear.sourceforge.net/getst ... rt-en.html
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby wkitty42 » Tue Mar 31, 2020 3:19 pm

AFAIK, Atlas is no longer used... no clue why but then i also have no clue what it was used for or what it even provided to FG ;)
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby wlbragg » Tue Mar 31, 2020 3:25 pm

If you're talking about the program Atlas that precompiled the maps from the actual scenery for use as a scrolling location map, It probably still works. I used it early on when it was first introduced to flightgear and it worked well. Now there's an easier way to go though and that's just to use the built in PHI. If you can find a package you should be able to get it working relatively easily, as I remember it wasn't difficult. I just followed the instructions that came in the package.
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby Hooray » Tue Mar 31, 2020 3:26 pm

atlas isn't "obsolete" - it just works "as is". What it provides ? A moving map, and in fact an accurate moving map - because it contains its own terrain processing routines that "parse" FlightGear scenery/terrain to render moving map charts interactively, and it does so in a different process (out of the FlightGear main loop), so can easily use other cores.

These days, it may admittedly seem redundant and even irrelevant thanks to options like Phi and/or Azure. But the truth is, atlas remains relevant, because it processes actual FlightGear terrain files to create those charts, but also because it's an "offline" application, you don't need a high bandwidth internet connection - it will even work without an internet connection.

As a matter of fact, the right thing to do would be absorb atlas/map into simgear and use it in-sim to dynamically create charts "on demand", which would then include "up to date" airport charts (think runways, taxiways, frequencies etc) - but that would also mean updating atlas, because it's still from the early pre-OSG days, i.e. is using legacy OpenGL:

Read pixel rgb values

Hooray wrote:
Alant wrote in Sat Nov 23, 2019 10:32 pm:I have a moving map, based on slippy map.
Is there any way to read the rgb value of a pixel on this map?
My aplication is to scan a line of pixels to port and starboard of the aircraft position and then process and use this data to generate something that looks like a sideways looking radar return.
My alternative solution is to use nasal geodinfo() to get altitude and terrain type, but unless I scan at very high detail I fear that roads and railways will not be detected this way. This technique works well for my forward looking radar which is used for terrain following.


Even with the requested functionality now available/committed, there remains the obvious issue that such a "slippy map" will usually be based on very different geo data than FlightGear's terrain (i.e. mismatching data). So, the most proper data would indeed be to use geodinfo() - there is a hard-coded terrain pre-sampler available implemented by TorstenD. Or, to create a custom geodinfo() variant exactly for this use-case.

This also applies to aircraft that ship their own sets of pre-rendered charts.

On the other hand, there is the long-standing idea to use FlightGear itself to render a map to a texture, e.g. based on the atlas/map source code (GPL compatible), quoting TorstenD:
Torsten wrote in Tue Mar 18, 2014 10:35 am:What I have in mind for the map is to render the map tiles (small 256x256px fragments of a map) from flightgear scenery data on the fly when the user requests them from within the map application. Thats how openstreetmaps works and I like the idea of reusing proven concepts. There is no need at all - in fact, it's not even desireable - to do that in the main loop. Running a standalone application (or call it process if you like) creating and serving the tiles will add no load to the FlightGear process, no matter how complex the map is.


Given that we do have existing code to render such maps, and that the Canvas system does have support for loading raster images (sc::Image), this would be the most straightforward option to ensure that there is no mismatch between a moving map and a corresponding radar display, because it'd be using the same underlying terrain/vector data.

http://wiki.flightgear.org/Atlas
Image
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby wlbragg » Tue Mar 31, 2020 3:50 pm

Well put Hooray, it would have taken me two days to post that much information. Bottom line is, yes, I agree it is still very useful and very relevant for certain applications. But, if you're looking for just a simple moving map PHI is more than adequate an gives you RL data to some extent.
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby Hooray » Tue Mar 31, 2020 4:23 pm

tiled web maps are obviously great for many reasons, but people without a broadband internet connection may still want to use a different tool, or even an offline solution in general.
And like I said, there is the issue of mismatching data - FlightGear has never been particularly good at this, but there is now an increasing tendency to rely on "online functionality", i.e. there is a growing assumption that people do have an internet connection, and that they're online while using FlightGear - depending on whom you ask, that is not just controversial, but increasingly problematic.
As a matter of fact, it would make sense to generalize on James's "developer mode" concept and come up with a dedicated "mode" system for FlightGear to cater to different people's needs, which may include bandwidth/security needs - thus, a dedicated "--offline-mode" would definitely make sense to ensure that FlightGear remains accessible, and usable, regardless of internet connectivity.

Apart from that, there is the issue that some of our really long-term contributor are in fact behind GSM-style connections, as well as a growing number of hard-coded online assumptions that have hit the project repeatedly - remember the METAR URL issue ?

Bottom line, it's not a good idea for the project to rely so much on infrastructure and make connectivity assumptions, FlightGear must remain usable in offline mode.

In other words, having a nice and fancy GUI launcher is one thing, it being required to remain "optional" by using a toolkit/dependency that other core developers disagree with (Qt), is another issue - however, implementing desirable functionality like the package manager/hangar system by tying said functionality to this very optional dependency is literally begging for trouble sooner or later, and certainly not in line with keeping things "optional".

Atlas can help the project to remain/become self-sufficient (again).

We've previously seen how this reliance on online infrastructure can hit the project really hard and affect the project for years to come (mapserver).

And there are numerous other examples where people opted to declare features (contributions!) as "obsolete" in order to phase them out.

5 years ago, I wrote the following in the context of people declaring PUI "obsolete" (or Nasal for that matter):
GUI Styles vastly ignored, Why ?
Hooray wrote:like Stuart said, there are several overlapping efforts at modernizing FlightGear's GUI (do a forum search for "Qt5" to learn more) - none of those have announced a feasible concept for dealing with the existing plethora of existing legacy dialogs, intended to be used from inside the simulator (same process, same window) - especially long-term maintenance to prevent diverging UI front-ends and different capabilities, i.e. 5+ years from now (just look at the plethora of GUI front-ends supporting different features


Overly relying on external data sources is a bad idea for an open source project that needs to be self-sufficient

Any plans for a new GUI?
Hooray wrote:As far as I can tell, the work that lies ahead to properly port the existing UI to a new framework has been massively underestimated, and while Phi is very promising, it's also demonstrated that we cannot afford ignoring the DRY-principle, because otherwise we end up with diverging functionality among different UI approaches - e.g. imagine having to use Phi to control the space shuttle, having to use PUI to fly the 777 etc


Unfortunately, to some extent, this is exactly what's been happening over the course of the last couple of years.

It isn't too far-fetched to suggest that sooner or later the project's increasing tendency to add functionality with a focus on people being online, will leave some people out of the loop.

Absorbing atlas back into the project can help the project to become self-sufficient again.

Also note that, while atlas may seem huge/complex and archaic, all that is needed is porting Map.cxx - which is really just 600 lines of self-contained C++ code, because it's a standalone executable - and it deals with all the parsing/scenery processing using atlas APIs, so given that it's designed to run in a separate process, it could also easily run outside the fgfs main loop, i.e. as part of an OSG ReaderWriter plugin, at which point it would become trivial to also support BTG files at the canvas/image level, because the plugin would process the BTG files using Map.cxx: https://sourceforge.net/p/atlas/hgcode/ ... rc/Map.cxx

This would also mean that Phi could use at atlas/map based back-end for the creation of maps based on actual FlightGear scenery, as per Torsten's original idea.
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby NewsDude » Tue Mar 31, 2020 5:40 pm

So what I think I'm hearing is that Atlas is obsolete from a coding perspective, but is still usable and is still relevant when it comes to practicality.
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby Hooray » Tue Mar 31, 2020 5:47 pm

Yes, I'd say that should be accurate - even though the project hasn't been updated in 2 years apparently.
So you may have to build from source and report any issues here.
Even though, if you are on Linux (debian specifically), you might be lucky - according to the commit logs, the most recent contributions were made by the debian project.
Otherwise, you'd need a build environment with autotools support. I also seem to remember that atlas could work with software based rendering, even though that may no longer be the case.

But if you have previously built an application from source, used autotools, you should be up and running pretty quickly. I believe the most likely issue are updated dependencies.
But that should be relatively straightforward to fix.

In the meantime, it might even be feasible to update atlas/map as needed, and get them added to FlightGear in the form of "utils" ($FG_SRC/utils) - that would ensure, that both tools can be easily maintained by the FlightGear community. And this is also how other tools have been previously absorbed into the FlightGear build system.

Obviously, it'd be great to find a contributor interested in updating atlas and getting it integrated with FlightGear, possibly even so that it is shipped (again) as part of the FlightGear distribution in upcoming releases. A first step might be downloading the latest sources and updating the build system (dependencies), and maybe start using cmake.
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby NewsDude » Tue Mar 31, 2020 5:48 pm

Thanks Hooray.

If you have never built an application from the source code up before, what would you recommend?
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby Hooray » Tue Mar 31, 2020 5:59 pm

depends on your OS, and if you have other coding experience or not (think JavaScript, Python, Perl).

Also, it'd help if you don't mind working in a terminal/shell environment (console).
Otherwise, you'd need to find an IDE (integrated development environment) for your OS and ideally one capable of building a project using the corresponding build system (GNU make/autotools).

If that doesn't sound too scary, it's not that complicated actually.
You'd probably want to check out youtube tutorials/videos covering your OS and the IDE in question, and then build a really simple project from source, to take it from there.

Alternatively, if you have previously tinkered with virtual machines or containers, that might be another option.

To be honest though, it might be better to team up with others interested in atlas, according to the mailing list, some FG users are still contributing to the project, and maybe you can reach out to some of them to see if they'd be interested in working together.

So, if you have never done any coding before, havent' built any programs from source, don't know about source code management, you are unlikely to find the experience very enjoyable - unless of course you have a strong background in related fields (often maths, software, IT, physics, engineering) - or simply have plenty of time on your hands to learn new things, i.e. because you are in high school, retired or under quarantine ;-)

Seriously though, this community is rather active actually - and it might even be possible to reach out to some of the folks who have created scripts to build/update FlightGear and related tools - for instance, there is a "scripted compilation" article in the wiki, and if that supports atlas/map, you'd be all set actually (at least on supported platforms). And even if you are using a different OS/platform, that would be a good starting point, e.g. to build/run the software inside a container/VM (docker).

Either way, it's a good way to get in touch with people who have the right background and experience/expertise: http://wiki.flightgear.org/Scripted_Com ... ian/Ubuntu
The script can be seen here: https://sourceforge.net/p/flightgear/fg ... compile.sh

And a list of contributors can be seen here: https://sourceforge.net/p/flightgear/fg ... compile.sh

I am saying this, because those are the people "in the know", i.e. they have a track record of building FlightGear related tools, and automating the process.

Again, depending on your backgrounde/time frame this could be a no brainer, and depending on the status of atlas, it could also be a huge mess.
So it's not for the faint of heart :-)

But it'd definitely be a worthwhile thing to look into. I guess, without any experience, I'd suggest to look at a few youtube tutorials covering how to build a simple "hello world" style app from source (written in C++)

If you have that working, the next step is building an OpenGL based application. And the rest is really just following instructions and updating dependencies as needed, i.e. trial and error.
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby NewsDude » Tue Mar 31, 2020 6:13 pm

Okay, I'm starting to think I've bitten off more than I can chew with wanting to tackle the Atlas project.

Are there any atlas-type projects which might be easier to set up? Earlier in the topic, I see that something called PHI?

I thought PHI was the built-in map that just gives you the waypoints. There's no scenery or topography with it.
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby Michat » Tue Mar 31, 2020 7:49 pm

Last time I used Atlas, I did generate 1024x textures and I love it.

Notice that PHI map- in- broswer requires a init prop in the launcher --httpd=8080 IIRC.
Phi map provides charts-map which is supercool if you are flying over US.

Favourite topography map still is http://mpmap02.flightgear.org/v3/ but without altimetry, there were similar map on internet where you click you got Alt data, how sweet ¡

Altough there are many other maps in FG.

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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby Hooray » Sat Apr 04, 2020 9:22 am

For atlas, there are also build instructions to be found here:

http://geoffair.org/fg/fgfs-049a.htm
http://geoffmclane.com/fg/atlas-07.htm
http://atlas.sourceforge.net/index.php?page=screenshots

I guess we should update the wiki article based on the postings here ?
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Re: Atlas Installation Help

Postby Johan G » Sat Apr 04, 2020 1:59 pm

Some posts where split off to the new topic PHI setup help.
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