SquawkBox 3 User Manual
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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

1) What versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator does SquawkBox support?

SquawkBox supports Flight Simulator 2002 and Flight Simulator 2004.

2) Does SquawkBox support FlightGear or X-Plane?

SquawkBox only runs with Microsoft Flight Simulator. There is an excellent online pilot application for X-Plane called XSquawkBox. Visit xsquawkbox.net for more information.

3) What versions of Windows does SquawkBox support?

SquawkBox will run under Windows NT 4, Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Windows 95, 98 and ME are not supported.

4) How much does SquawkBox cost?

SquawkBox is 100% free to download and install.

5) Does SquawkBox behave differently when run with Flight Simulator 2004 versus Flight Simulator 2002?

There are a few subtle differences between the two versions.

Setup Questions

6) Should I use the module or external version of SquawkBox?

If you are going to be running SquawkBox on one computer and Flight Simulator on another, you will need to use the external version of SquawkBox. If you are running everything on one computer you have the choice between the two. If it's important to you to have everything in one application and for the SquawkBox window to always be accessible, run the module version. This will typically be the case if you have a single monitor and you run Flight Simulator in full screen or maximized mode. If you have multiple monitors you may find it advantageous to run the external version of SquawkBox and position the SquawkBox window on your secondary monitor.

7) When I run SquawkBox for the first time, I get an error "The ordinal 11 could not be located in the dynamic link library DSOUND.dll". What is causing this?

This error is caused by running SquawkBox on a computer that does not have DirectX installed. Normally DirectX installs as part of Flight Simulator so this is not a problem. But if you are running SquawkBox on a separate computer that doesn't have DirectX on it already, you will need to install it as a separate step. Download DirectX and follow the instructions to install it on your computer.

8) SquawkBox 2.x had an FMC and a TCAS. Where have those gone?

SquawkBox 3 was a complete rewrite. It was designed to provide core functionality related to getting you connected to online air traffic control networks. An in-cockpit FMC and TCAS are peripheral to this purpose and so were not included.

Numerous add-on aircraft feature these gauges and more and more are being made SquawkBox-compatible all the time. See the SquawkBox SDK for information on how to do this.

If you are looking for a freeware TCAS gauge, Lee Hetherington has written an excellent one. It also includes a SquawkBox-compatible transponder. You can download it from AVSIM here.

For a good freeware FMC, try the one created by P8R Software. For those nostalgic for the SquawkBox 2.x FMC, it can still be used for navigation while you are running SquawkBox 3.

General Usage Questions

9) What should I put in my flight plan route?
Which controller do I need to contact first?
How do I plan my flight?
How do I know which procedures to follow?

Flight operation procedures are highly dependent on where in the world you are flying and on the current level of air traffic control staffing. Guidance on these matters is beyond the scope of this manual and this site. A great guide to getting started with virtual flying is the VATSIM Pilot Resource Center. In addition to this many virtual airlines have great training programs for aspiring pilots. Finally, you will find many online controllers that are willing to offer patient help to beginner pilots. If you're ever unsure of what to do next, it's always best to ask for help rather than pretending to know what's going on.

10) Some controller information arrived as a bunch of private messages in my SquawkBox window (or opened a new chat window). But I had neither tuned to a new frequency nor manually requested the controller's info at that time. What does this mean?

This problem occurs because of a flaw in the network protocol used for communication between SquawkBox and air traffic control software. It can occur if the controller in question is running software that still contain this flaw. ASRC version 1.11 (or later) does not suffer from this problem.

11) What are the best ways to minimize SquawkBox's impact on frame rate?

SquawkBox should not have much impact on your Flight Simulator frame rate, but on slower computers it can be a factor. Here is a list of ways to improve the performance of Flight Simulator:

Multiplayer Questions

12) Why do I never see any other planes?

The most likely cause is that you are using Flight Simulator 2002 and have forgotten to connect Flight Simulator to the SquawkBox multiplayer session. Read Seeing other Aircraft for detailed instructions on how to do this.

Another possible cause of this is that there are simply no planes in your vicinity. Use a utility like ServInfo to confirm that there are planes close to your location.

Former users of SquawkBox 2.x will recall that setting up your multiplayer session was exactly the opposite: you first hosted a multiplayer session with Flight Simulator and then joined it from SquawkBox. If you attempt to do this you will not see any multiplayer planes with SquawkBox 3.

13) Why do some planes look completely unreal and have large red question marks on them?

When SquawkBox needs to display another plane, it searches through the current models on your computer and picks the one that most closely matches the other plane. If no exact match can be found SquawkBox will attempt to use the closest reasonable approximation. If no reasonable approximation is available SquawkBox displays the question mark aircraft you are seeing. It also adds information about the plane it is trying to display in the callsign tag displayed above the aircraft in Flight Simulator.

For more information on how this works, read Seeing other Aircraft. For a detailed explanation of the model matching algorithm that SquawkBox uses, consult the SquawkBox SDK.

Each time the question mark aircraft is displayed, this fact is tracked in a central database so that planning which planes to add to future model sets can be most effective.

14) I saw another pilot that I know was flying a particular aircraft for a particular airline. Yet his aircraft was not displayed this way. Why?

When SquawkBox needs to display another plane, it searches through the current models on your computer and picks the one that most closely matches the other plane. If no exact match can be found SquawkBox will attempt to use the closest reasonable approximation. So when this happens the model set system in SquawkBox is doing what it was intended to do. In previous versions of SquawkBox planes that could not be accurately rendered simply showed up as copies of your own plane. This often resulted in large drops in frame rate.

If you still believe what you are seeing is an error in SquawkBox or one of your model set plug-ins, review the details of the model matching algorithm in the SquawkBox SDK. This should help you determine if SquawkBox has done the correct thing.

15) I noticed that the default SquawkBox models do not include an aircraft that I fly. Can you please include it in a future release?

If you would like others to see your aircraft correctly, you should create a model set plug-in that contains it and then distribute it yourself. If you wish to submit the plug-in for review I will be happy to certify it and list it on the squawkbox.ca web site.

It is simply impractical to keep up with all the requests for new aircraft. This is one major reason the model set system was created: so that new aircraft can be introduced into the online flying community without being bottlenecked by the development and release of SquawkBox itself.

16) Why are some planes displayed slightly above or below the ground level?

This results from slight differences between the plane model on your local computer and the plane being flown by the other pilot. Since SquawkBox shares the online world with other online pilot software, including ones that work in other Flight Simulators, this is not an easy problem to resolve in practice. Future releases of SquawkBox may include a solution to this problem.

17) I am seeing planes that are popping all over the place when they move. Why?

With the default settings SquawkBox is installed with, all other planes should display with very smooth motion. The most common reason for seeing this is that you have enabled Formation flying mode in the Multiplayer Options. When enabled, plane positions on the ground could be less accurate, especially when viewing planes by users of other online pilot software such as SquawkBox 2.x, FSInn and XSquawkBox.

When formation flying mode is on plane positions will be much more accurate when airborne at the sacrifice of some accuracy while on the ground. As such you should only enable this mode when you are actually doing a formation flight.

18) When I login with SquawkBox, Flight Simulator 2004 fails to join the multiplayer session automatically. Why?

The most common cause of this is that you are running Flight Simulator 2004 with an executable name other than fs9.exe. Ensure that this is the name of the executable and try again.

If the problem persists you can disable the auto-join feature in the Advanced Options dialog. You will then need to join the multiplayer session manually. Read Seeing other Aircraft to find out how to do this.

19) Every time I login it takes a long time to complete and then tells me Flight Simulator failed to join the multiplayer session. Despite the error, Flight Simulator does in fact seem to have joined the session successfully. How can I fix this?

This problem has a number of possible causes, but it is most likely related to a problem with your local installation of DirectX.

Normally SquawkBox considers the auto-join to the multiplayer session as a required step of a successful login. So this inappropriately displayed error can cause your login to fail for no reason. Open the Advanced Options dialog and check the Do not wait for auto-join to complete login option. This will allow your login to complete successfully before the auto-join is complete, which should provide an effective workaround to this problem.

20) When I start SquawkBox I get an error that the multiplayer session will not start. What's wrong?

When this error occurs it is usually a part of a more general error on your computer, where the DirectPlay system in DirectX is unable to host any type of session. This can be caused by an incorrectly installed version of DirectX or more commonly by a misconfigured router on your local network.

This help page has more detailed information on how to diagnose the source of the problem.

Voice Questions

21) How can I setup my push-to-talk button to be on a joystick or yoke?

In the Voice Options dialog, you setup your push-to-talk button to be a key on the keyboard. If you use a joystick or yoke it may be convenient to use a button on that device to transmit on voice. There are multiple ways to achieve this, which are outlined in Integration with Other Products.

22) Voice is skipping from time to time. How can I prevent this?

There are a couple of options on the Advanced Options dialog that address this. If you enable the Boost voice thread priority option, it will increase the share of processing time that is committed to playing back voice. This can help reduce skipping. Note that you must completely quit and restart SquawkBox for a change in this setting to take effect. If you are running the module version of SquawkBox you must completely exit Flight Simulator and restart it. Enabling this option could have a slightly negative impact on your frame rate in Flight Simulator.

The Voice Service Interval value can also help eliminate skipping. The smaller this number is, the less likely voice will skip. The smaller the number, the larger negative impact it will have on your frame rate in Flight Simulator. So if you change this value, it would be wise to change it only a small amount and see if the problem goes away. Valid values are between 20 and 50. So first try reducing it to 40. If that doesn't help, try 30, and so on.

23) I keep getting errors when calibrating my microphone. What am I doing wrong?

There are a number of factors that can affect the success of your microphone calibration. For detailed tips to improve the quality of your calibration, read this page.

It is important to note that voice will still operate if some errors are reported. So after trying everything suggested to eliminate the problems, try asking others online if the quality of your transmissions are acceptable. If you don't get any complaints about signal strength or readability, you may choose to just continue without repeated attempts at an error-free calibration.

Weather Questions

24) Why does my weather in Flight Simulator flicker briefly each time weather updates?

This is a known side-effect of setting weather with FSUIPC.

25) My weather sets correctly except the air pressure. Why?

The most likely cause of this is that you have the Smooth pressure changes option in FSUIPC enabled. To rectify the problem disable that option in the FSUIPC configuration dialog.

26) Why are weather updates happening more frequently than I specified?

Confirm that you don't have any weather programs running, including FSMétéo, ActiveSky or even Flight Simulator weather. Running another weather program is usually what causes the extra updates.

27) Why do I never see precipitation in SquawkBox?

Precipitation is not supported in the default SquawkBox weather plug-in. If you would like to have precipitation, either use another weather application such as FSMétéo, ActiveSky or Flight Simulator. Or consider writing your own weather plug-in.

Other Questions

28) What ports does SquawkBox use for network communication?

For connecting outside your local network, SquawkBox uses TCP port 6809 and UDP port 3290 for outgoing connections only. SquawkBox does not accept any incoming connections. The DirectPlay system used by Microsoft Flight Simulator for multiplayer functionality uses a number of network ports, but those are only used internally for communication between Flight Simulator and SquawkBox.

29) I recently realized that none of my sounds in SquawkBox are playing. What happened?

This is usually caused by uninstalling SquawkBox and then reinstalling it in a new location on your computer. Your sound settings are stored in your computer's registry as complete paths. When you uninstall SquawkBox, your personal settings are not removed from the registry. That means this reinstallation scenario can result in SquawkBox pointing to sound files that no longer exist. To rectify the problem, open the Display Options dialog and click on the Restore Defaults button in the Sound section.

30) I tried uninstalling SquawkBox using Add/Remove Programs in the Windows Control Panel but I got an error saying that it could not be uninstalled. What happened?

The most likely cause of this is that you uninstalled SquawkBox and then reinstalled it without first performing a reboot of you computer. This caused Windows to remove the SquawkBox uninstaller program the next time it was booted. To rectify this problem, re-run the SquawkBox installer with the same options you used when you first installed it. Then uninstall the application and be sure to reboot your computer.

31) When I tried to exit Flight Simulator it froze and I had to kill the process manually. Why?

This is usually Flight Simulator hanging while trying to leave the multiplayer session hosted by SquawkBox. You will see this problem if the external version of SquawkBox crashed while you were in the multiplayer session. As such this problem should be very rare. If you are experiencing repeated crashes in SquawkBox this should be reported on the SquawkBox Forum.

This problem can also be caused by the installation of certain types of add-on scenery. If you first started experiencing it after adding add-on scenery to Flight Simulator, remove the scenery and try again.

32) Norton Internet Security is reporting a "fragmented packet attack" and this is causing SquawkBox to stop working. How can I solve this?

To solve this problem add the IP address of the computer running SquawkBox to your trusted zone in Norton. For more information on how to do this, consult the instructions that came with Norton Internet Security.

Copyright 2005 Joel M. DeYoung
All Rights Reserved