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TheSkyX Student Edition and MSI WinBook Problems

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jimwayda Posted: 12-08-2009 10:22 PM

I have been having a minor problem with a free planetarium program. The free program works exceptionally well on  my MSI Netbook Computer with the exception that there is a bug that causes the view of the sky to be rendered incorrectly for dates that are less than the year 1000AD. This is a very big problem for me because I have committed to do a presentation on the Christmas Star next week for a large group. The Bug in the free software will not be fixed until the next release and therefore I needed an alternative program. I  had used The Sky about 7 years ago and was impressed with the performance of the program at that time. The real issue here is that the program needs to be compatible with a rather generic NetBook Computer. I contacted Sfotware Bisque by phone this morning at 9:30AM seeking recommendations. I was told that the SkyX would work on NetBook Computers provided that I updated the graphics adapter driver for Windowx XP to the latest driver that is available from Intel. So I purchased the SkyX Student Edition and proceeded to update the Intel Driver before beginning the installation of the SlyX Software. I installed the driver and the SlyX Software this morning at about 10:00AM and have been fighting battles ever since. I am a very experienced user of both free and the competition's planetarium software and am also an embedded firmware engineer that easily adapts to new software environments and user interfaces. I also want to mention that I read the blog regarding NetBooks and was fairly encouraged.

My problems began when I am not in full-screen mode. In this case some objects would not be rendered on the screen when manually stepping through an increment of time at a daily rate. I was examining a close conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that occurred in the past and was centered locked on Jupiter. Whenever the moon would enter visible area of the screen, the two planest (Jupiter and Saturn) would disappear!. If I did the exact same sequence while in full-screen mode, it worked correctly.

I had the program configured to display daylight and also noticed that in non-full-screen-mode, when moving to different parts of the screen by dragging with the mouse, the screen would go from light to pitch dark and back again many times. Note that the time was not changing and was set to 9AM. Just because I was looking in a different direction, the Sun was extinguished.

I continued to experience several other problems throughout the day, the most severe being the slow response of the program that would take up to 30 seconds to change from full-screen-mode to non-full-screen-mode. During this time I was wondering what was happening and decided to take a look with TaskMgr. TaskMgr should that SkyX was consuming all of the CPU resources. Eventually SkyX would begin to respond, but all operations that I tried with SkyX were slow from that point on. I restored the factory defaults and still experienced the same problem after restarting the program and rebooting the NetBook several times.

I then decided to uninstall and reinstall SkyX. Unfortunately, I experienced the exact set of problems and was very disappointed after wasting 12 hours of my time. I was really hoping for a program that was based on the original The Sky program, however it appears that SkyX is not that program. The old Sky program was very reliable and resource efficient and could also run on a minimalistic hardware configuration. Based upon my experienced today, I don't believe that the SkyX is based upon that old tried and true "Sky" core code. I also believe that SkyX in certainly not ready for prime-time on NetBook Computers. If the circumstances were different I might want to volunteer to be a beta tester for SkyX on NetBook, however I don't have the time to do this. I really need a program that will solve my problem with minimal effort on a NetBook computer. The only effort that I have time for is learning a new user interface. I don't have the time to work-around many bugs.

I would appreciate any suggestions that you have regarding maybe trying another product from Software bisque that is more stable on a NetBook. If there is no other supported product, then I would like a refund. I am available by email all day tomorrow.

Sincerely,

-jim wayda

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Software Bisque Employee

Thanks for the feedback.  If you want a refund, we'll do so. 

Or, if you want to continue troubleshooting the issues you describe, we'll try to help...

As we discussed on the phone yesterday, there is presently some "manual tweaking" that must be done to TheSkyX so that it runs acceptably on a Netbook.  By default, the Target Frame Rate is 30 fps; too high for Netbook computers, and will cause the "slow response" you describe.

  1. From Tools > Preferences, click Advanced and set the Target Frame Rate to 5 fps or so. 

Any performance difference?

As for the "disappearing Moon", this is typically a driver issue related to the Intel hardware on the Netbook. See this article: http://www.bisque.com/sc/forums/p/8221/29340.aspx#29340.

  1. From Help > About, what is the exact version of TheSkyX Student.
  2. What is the exact model of Intel display adaptor on the Netbook?
  3. For my info, how much RAM is on the device?

Thanks.

Daniel R. Bisque

Software Bisque, Inc.

862 Brickyard Circle

Golden, Colorado 80403-8058

Office Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday GMT-7:00

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Software Bisque Employee

Jim,

We purchased an HP netbook last month to work on these issues. I agree right out of the box there was some unacceptable behavior. The good news is that with some updates to the Windows 7 that came on the netbook and several changes to TheSkyX it is now running very nicely. The first issue we had was the netbook was running OpenGL 1.2. A windows update changed that to OpenGL 1.4 and that made the biggest performance enhancement. Can you run the compatibility test to see what version you are running?

The next update will automatically detect netbook computers and perform the following adjustments:

* Reset the Toolbars to a smaller size with no text (a single toolbar is also created for netbooks)

* Turn off the "stacked" chart status dialog and instead put the status in the status bar along the bottom (a configurable status bar along the bottom is a new feature). This makes all docked dialogs fit better.

* Numerous changes were made to the docked dialogs to be more space efficient.

* The frame rate is set to 1 fps.

I assure you the underlying code is even more efficient than TheSky6, as we are able to plot at 60 fps on a fast computer which is about 10x as fast as TheSky6. However, with netbooks the aforementioned changes are required to make the experience positive.

Steve

Stephen M. Bisque

Software Bisque, Inc.

862 Brickyard Circle

Golden, Colorado 80403-8058

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