I have always been astonished, confused and secretly impressed by the amount of time that people voluntarily spend creating or helping others online.As an example, there are hundreds of thousands of forums online with specific themes that anyone can use; Hayley is taking her first steps to opening a salon and the advice given by a whole community of holistic therapists has been invaluable.They spend their evenings answering the questions of others without any incentive other than that warm feeling of having done something nice.

Open Source software is another interesting topic.If you’re not aware of the term, ‘open source’ refers to a piece of software which can not only be downloaded free of charge but the source code is also available meaning that anyone with the right knowledge can alter or add to the code.Google has produced a fair amount of Open Source software but there is always the clear vested interest of publicity however I don’t think it would be fair to attribute the same motives to a game that I’m going to feature today.

Flightgear (www.flightgear.org) is an Open Source Flight Simulator which was first released back in July of 1997.It is the combination of work from hundreds of talented programmers from around the world who don’t get paid, nor do they receive any real credit for the work they do but still choose to participate.The result is a very capable flight simulator that anyone can download and enjoy completely free of charge.

The attention to detail is impressive:

Scenery – Over 20,000 real world airports have been included, complete with accurate markings, lighting and taxiways.The worldwide terrain is geographically accurate and includes lakes, rivers, roads, cities and towns.

Sky accuracy – By checking your computers clock and geographic location the game can change the skyline accordingly.At the time of writing it is 15:00 in New York City so if I were to choose to land in John F Kennedy airport then the weather and lighting conditions would reflect a winter afternoon in that part of the world.The game even goes as far as placing the sun, moon and stars in their correct placed based on the date and geographic location.

Aircraft – As well as including a number of commercial, light aircraft and military jets there is also the opportunity to model your own.Of course, the Wright brothers ‘flying machine’ is also included for good measure.

Although the graphics aren’t up to the standard that you would from the retail game Microsoft Flight Simulator, they still convey an impressive sense of realism.I think it is important to remember that the fun in a game like this comes primarily from the feel of controlling and manoeuvring the aircraft rather the just taking in the scenery.

The relatively non-intensive graphics also give the game the advantage of being able to run on most modern entry level systems and rather than being a Windows only application support has also been provided for Mac OS X, Linux, IRIX and Solaris.Worryingly I’ve been booked in for a real life flying lesson at Exeter airport this summer so think I might have to get some practice in…..


About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.