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Published 20-Jun-2002

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  Phone line checks  

In the last column, we looked at some of the checks to make to narrow down problems with slow Net connection speeds. This week we'll go through some other simple checks you can make.

Firstly, ensure you have call waiting turned off on the phone line your modem is connected to. With call waiting on, when someone rings, a signal is sent down your line and the majority of modems get confused and disconnect your from the Net.

When you're having problems with normal phone calls, then your modem is going to find it that much more difficult to communicate with your ISP's modem.

When callers remark that you sound as though you're talking from the bottom of a well, that is, there is an echo on the line, there is possibly a fault on your line. Hum and/or crackling on the line falls into this category as well.

Another indication of a degraded line is that you suddenly notice that the volume of the ring tone has decreased. Turning the volume to maximum doesn't improve the situation. If you've got a fax or answering machine on the same line as your modem, take these off and check if your modem connection improves. In some cases, a more modern push-button phone may help since the older ones use more power down the phone line than newer ones to keep the phone number memory charged.

  LA International airport  

A fascinating site to have running while you browse other sites is the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Monitor. It shows arrivals and departures at LAX with a ten-minute delay (for obvious reasons). Click on any aircraft on screen to get height and aircraft details. The map can be expanded out to a distance of 96 miles. It's certainly a busy airport, at any time of night or day.

You'll need to adjust your time since LAX is on Pacific Time (PT) which is about 17 hours behind AEST. So if you're online and traffic is not very heavy, use the Replay feature at the top of the page to adjust the time to 0900 PT or 1700 PT. Expand the map out to 96 miles, at the bottom of the page, to get an overall picture of aircraft in transit, landing and departing. At the 6-mile map resolution, at peak hours you'll see both parallel runways being used, as well as getting a good roadmap of LA.

One trick to get flight details of aircraft is to replay for a time of 10 minutes earlier than the current viewing time. Plane spotters should keep an eye out for QF11 and QF25.

You may like to look up the international airport codes to see where planes have come from. Sites such as Flight Lookup have a list of such codes.

  Australian train simming  

With some free tools now becoming available, those with a flair for graphic design now have the tools to demonstrate their skill by building Australian locomotives and rolling stock for MS train simmers. For example, Discreet have a free version of their 3D modelling tool, gMax. And Microsoft Trainsim have released a free game pack, with a demonstration locomotive, to accompany gMax to help designers get started.

Train Sim was released in Europe and U.S.A. this time last year and in Australia before our summer last year. The growth in free rolling stock for the game has increased rapidly - a quick visit to sites such as UK TrainSim or will confirm this.

However, you don't have to be a graphic designer to make a contribution to the trainsim community. Areas such as locomotive physics, sound, background knowledge of routes and rolling stock and railway work practices all have their place.

Some readers may remember the early version of MS Flight Simulator. It came on one floppy disk in those days! This simulation game has grown to the extent where those taking flying lessons are often asked by their instructor whether they have Flight Simulator on their computer so they can practice before their next lesson. Keen designers extended their interest in aircraft to build more models and make these available to the wider flightsim community as free downloads. is a central site offering free quality add-ons and worth a visit to see what's available.

webDotTrainSim is becoming somewhat of a focal point for Australian trainsim news with daily updates on recommended downloads, tips to help you install locomotives and rolling stock, and step-by-step guides to help you change engine values to give you a more realistic driving experience.