Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ProFlightSimulator: Challenge Them!

I just had an idea.

Many of those bogus PFS reviews on the Web are on sites that allow readers to post comments about the reviews. Many of them even allow readers to "rate" the reviews -- or to write their own reviews about the product.

I don't have the time to find them all and make a comment, rebuttal, or rating for every review. But maybe you, my readers, could each take out one or two of the reviews. Your comment doesn't have to be long. All you have to say is "ProFlightSimulator is a repackaged version of FlightGear, which is free for downloading and infinitely better than PFS. And this review was prewritten by the sellers of PFS. The reviewer just copied and pasted the prewritten text with minor modifications, and has not actually played the game. If you search for the reviewer's name on Google you will see that he is carpet-bombing the Web with this stuff."

You can even include the FlightGear URL if you want: . Let's point potential customers to the right place, and see if we can let all the air out of this scam's tires.

We won't totally get rid of it. Getting rid of scammers is like playing Whack-A-Mole. "Dan Freeman" and PFS will disappear, and after a few months they will reappear under different names. But at least we will have kept a few people from getting duped by this incarnation of the scam.

Monday, November 22, 2010

ProFlightSimulator: Get Scammed in Multiple Languages!

Right here on Blogspot, ProFlightSimulator has established an international presence. I just found a PFS webpage written entirely in Portugese. It's rich with screenshots and tutorial videos. I don't know whether the materials presented here are rip-offs of FlightGear, although I have my strong suspicions.

My two favorite images on the page are under the heading "Textura fotorealistica Lufthansa 747 PMDG FS9/FSX" (that's "Photorealistic texture ..." for you anglophones), showing off a downloadable skin for the 747 model. If you look closely at the picture, you'll see that it's a very realistic depiction of a 747 in Lufthansa livery. In fact, the backgrounds are so realistic that -- WAIT A MINUTE, THOSE ARE REAL PHOTOGRAPHS!

These people are liars. They're using real photographs to misrepresent their "product." FlightGear is good, but even FlightGear doesn't have a ground-level view of an airport terminal building that looks as realistic as the one in these photos. And the grime on the aircraft body? And the reflection highlight on the top of the APU's nacelle? No way. It's a photo of a real airplane.

Of course, PFS and their shills never did have a reputation for "truth in advertising."

See it for yourself: Remember, though, it's just a scam. Don't be tempted to buy it. Instead, go to for the real thing. For free.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Microsoft: you might as well learn to love 'em

Microsoft is a big company - so big that there are parts of the business that don't even know each other. It's not unusual to find that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. You can't argue with success though, and there are some things that Microsoft does better than anybody else.

But those things are irrelevant to this discussion. Today, we're talking about Hotmail, a Microsoft product, and how Hotmail protects you from Microsoft.

I recently bought some MS software, and opted to buy the backup DVD. MS sent me a shipment notification via email. The message was sent from Xffice2010.US@trymicrxsxftxffice.cxm - a generic, but harmless, business address. (Address modified to foil harvesting bots. Change the xs back to os to see the real address.) The Hotmail server, bless its silicon and fiber-optic heart, red-flagged the message with this helpful warning:

"This message looks very suspicious to our SmartScreen filters, so we've blocked attachments, pictures, and links for your safety.
Show content"

How do you like that? An MS product tags mail emanating from MS itself as "suspicious." I'm not complaining. I don't think MS should change a thing. It's just something funny, worth a mild giggle or a half-smile as you start your morning. Have a great day, everyone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ProFlightSimulator: Where the reviews come from

ProFlightSimulator has an "affiliates" page for those who are interested in selling PFS. Here's an interesting excerpt from that page:

5. Review Articles:

Product reviews are one of the most powerful ways to "warm up" your visitors before getting them into buying mood. Most reviews you see online are BLATANTLY one-side, showing only the good points.

If you want to MAXIMIZE your sales, you need to give a real, balanced review - showing BOTH PROs and CONs. This way your review will come across as genuine and honest.

Put yourself in the shoes of a buyer. When you read a review, you want the honest truth - so do the same for your visitors and subscribers. Use this pre-written review or modify it to suit your needs:

Click Here to view this sample pre-written review

(I don't know how long those links will be valid. Probably not very long, now that I've posted them here.)

So Michael and Eriz have been busy copy-and-pasting these reviews all over the Web. They've never really played the game, and they don't care about the game. They're in it to make money. What they're doing may or may not be illegal, but it's still a scam.

ProFlightSimulator: an old scam is new again

Well, the flight simulator fans at weren't fooled by ProFlightSimulator. They report under their "News" headline that it's just a reincarnation of an earlier scam, called "Flight Pro Sim."

The forums at FlightGear ( while not exactly abuzz about PFS, are certainly aware of it, and are consoling PFS customers who wasted good money buying an old and obsolete version of FG.

Finally, the Flight Pro Sim website is still alive, and it looks remarkably similar to the PFS website. The two main differences are:
(1) The ersatz proprietor of Flight Pro Sim is "Charlie Taylor," while the sock puppet of ProFlightSimulator is "Dan Freeman."
(2) Flight Pro Sim is selling for $47, while PFS is selling for $49.98 - no wait, it's down to $49.
(3) They may or may not be two different (obsolete) versions of FlightGear.

Many of the online reviews are written by "Michael Ortiz." I think that Charlie, Dan and Michael are all the same guy. One review was written by "Eriz Cremonti", which is almost an anagram of "Michael Ortiz."

ProFlightSimulator: Bogus testimonials!

If you act now, you can see this picture on the ProFlightSimulator webpage! In two different places! As two different people!

The PFS main webpage includes a number of testimonials. One could assume that these testimonials are from beta testers, since a project this big would need lots and lots of beta testers. So this guy shows up twice: once as "Ed Dale - Compton, CA" and once as "Wayne Mayer - Durham, UK." Let's hear what they have to say!

First, Ed:

Then, Wayne:

I was once part of a startup that did some underhanded stuff like using bogus testimonials to promote their product. Bogus testimonials are easy to spot. Using photos of long-lost twin brothers like this makes it even easier.

p.s. I hope the PFS creators aren't too upset at me for posting this. Look at all the free advertising they're getting!
p.p.s. Remember, if you like PFS, you'll love FlightGear. Same planes, same scenery, same gameplay, for $49.98 less than PFS. You can even get the same 4 DVDs, if you want.

ProFlightSimulator: something just doesn't smell right

I saw an ad on the side of my FB page today for a new flight simulator game called ProFlightSimulator. I clicked on the link and read about it, a new product just released (today!) by what looks like a one-man company in Australia.

At first, I thought "more power to him." I still like to believe that indie game developers can make it big in a world dominated by EA, Vivendi, and their ilk.

However, there's just something about PFS that makes me more than a little suspicious.

When you click on the link in FB, it takes you to (how's this for free advertising? You're welcome, Dan.), an incredibly long-winded advertisement for PFS: page after endless page of screenshots and hype about it. Lots of hype. It's like watching one of those Veg-o-matic infomercials on TV. It has all the sales tricks, like "Used by the pros!" and "But wait! There's more!" and "Now how much would you pay?" and "... all for the low, low price of ..." and "But you have to ACT NOW, or you'll forfeit this opportunity!"

Then, when you get to the bottom, you find out that you're getting $530 worth of material, including a full-sized book, for $49.99. Do you know what they say about something that sounds too good to be true?

Yeah. So then you start wondering about system performance and hardware/software requirements. The FAQ on the PFS webpages lists some very modest system requirements, but for performance like what is advertised, that doesn't seem like enough. The FAQ doesn't say anything about performance. I've developed computer games, and I've played a lot of different flight sims, first-person shooters, role-playing adventures and other game genres that really push the hardware, and I know what it takes to make something like this look good - and play well.

The Jane's flight simulators, for one example, are visually exquisite, and masterpieces of execution, as long as you install them on the recommended minimum hardware and not the acceptable minimum hardware. On the acceptable minimum hardware, they are slow and choppy and tearfully frustrating. This is something you really, really want to know before you buy - even with a 60-day warranty.

I never buy anything anymore without looking at the online reviews first. I pull up my favorite search engine and search for "proflightsimulator review." Surprise, surprise: I find a lot of them out there, and they're all dated November 15, and they're all written (if they have a byline) by the same person. This is a variant of the "blogging for dollars" practice I wrote about in June 2009.

None of the reviews are real, objective reviews. They're just shills. They all have the same, Billy Mays-ish breathless tone of someone reading directly from the marketing literature. They pretend to be objective by listing a couple of negative points of the software, but even these negatives are spun: when the review says "There is quite a lot of data to be downloaded. The main game itself is already 300 megabytes," and suggests that you order the 4 DVDs, the average user thinks, "Wow! I get over 300 MB of stuff! And enough extra stuff to fit on 4 DVDs! What a deal!"

There is an alternative to PFS and all other commercial flight sims: it's a very capable, absolutely free and public-domain, downloadable package called FlightGear. FlightGear is a lot of fun, and a simulator that I've played with, on and off, for years. If you start reading up on FG, either on its own webpage or on Wikipedia, you'll begin to notice a lot of similarities between FG and PFS.


A lot of similarities. The list of available aircraft for PFS is a subset of those available on the FG website. Both lists include such off-the-wall flying objects as Santa's sleigh and a Willys Jeep. I don't think that's a coincidence.

And then you see this picture in the Wikipedia article on FG:

This same picture appeared in the advertising for PFS.

Uh-oh times two.

Then you go back and click the "Screenshots" link on the PFS webpage, and a lot of those screenshots appear to have been ripped directly from the FlightGear pages over the years. Anybody who's played FG for more than a day will recognize the yellow helicopter with the medical symbol on the side.

Uh-oh times three.

No wonder PFS is so generous with their licensing. Their webpage says that you can buy one copy and install it on as many computers as you like. And that you get "100% free updates/upgrades for life." That's because you can install FlightGear on as many computers as you like, and FlightGear gives you 100% free updates/upgrades for life. These guys are just selling FlightGear.

Like I said at the beginning, I'm all for indie developers going up against the big boys and winning - Marble Blast, for one notable example. (You can buy Marble Blast here, or you can download it for your iPod/iPhone/iPad from the App Store.) But I'm not too keen on entrepreneurs taking free and open source software, wrapping it up in a package and selling it as their own work.

Nice try. You almost got me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I voted

Attention, candidates, campaigners and pollsters:

You can stop bothering me now.

Thanks to the wonders of the modern mail-in ballot, I have already cast my vote. I have registered my decision on all the candidates, the ballot issues, and the judges up for retention. You can tell your hired guns to stop calling me between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 or 10 p.m. You can stop leaving junk mail in my mailbox and flyers at my front door.

And next time, please treat the campaign more like a job interview and less like a playground mud-slinging contest. I'm not going to vote for you if all I hear from you is how bad your opponent is. I know your experts tell you that negative campaigning works, but it didn't work for me.

Please don't insult me by asking me how I voted. In previous blog entries, I've given you some clues as to how I was inclined to vote. But one of the things I like best about the USAnian political system is that ballots are secret ballots.

More about apps (iPod, iPhone, iPad)

Here's why I say that 95% of apps are only marginally useful / relevant / practical. You may think that this entry is frivolous / trivial / unrealistic. I can live with that assessment. (You're still reading this, aren't you?)

I had heard about the Bubble Wrap app. I searched for "bubble wrap" at the App Store and downloaded a couple of promising entries. I was disappointed to find out that they were games, with time limits and scores. Not only that, but if you didn't move fast enough, some little gremlin snuck around behind you and unpopped all your popped bubbles.

In the real world, everybody pops bubble wrap. I haven't yet met anybody who can resist it. But in the real world, popping bubble wrap is not a competition. On one end of the spectrum it's simple, mindless fun, and at the other end it's therapeutic - sometimes group therapy, even.

I wanted an app that was as simple, mindless and therapeutic as real bubble wrap, not something that hijacks that relaxing experience and contaminates it with goals, deadlines, and stress. Heck, if i wanted goals, deadlines and stress, I'd put down my iPod and go back to work.

(I think that the author wrote this entry with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. Maybe.)

Looking for iPod touch 4G accessories

I need your help finding some stuff for an iPod touch 4G.

I've done research all over the Web, and it's overrun by marketing hype, biased reviews (you know, shills), and advertising. I've looked in the local stores, and the selection is limited and overpriced. I figured I'd ask for help from my loyal readers.

I got a fourth-generation iPod touch as a gift, and I've already got scratches on the metal case. Eventually I'm going to scratch the glass front, or simply drop the thing, and that would be bad. I need to buy some protection for it.

What have you had experience with, and what would you recommend? Specifically, I'm looking for recommendations on:
  • screen protector
  • hard-shell or soft-shell case
  • armband-style carrying pouch
While I'm thinking about it, I must say a word or two about apps. The first word is disappointing. The second word is wasteland, as in "Wow, what a wasteland." The current state of Apple's App Store is like the early days of the Mac, and the early days of the World Wide Web: there's a lot of content out there, and 95% of it is garbage. I'd estimate that 95% of what's at the App Store is poorly written, poorly debugged, and only marginally useful / relevant / practical. There's not a lot to differentiate a good app from a bad one: the reviews vary so widely as to call the credibility of all of them into question; and you can't even use purchase price as a reliable differentiator.

(I'll be adding to the wasteland, creating some apps for my employer.)

As for the music, well, I'm joining the revolution late, but not too late. I've finally become sold on digital / downloaded music. Among the massive contemporary offerings, I found some obscure gems. I found Aerie, an early John Denver album, formerly only available on CD as a horrendously overpriced import (if at all), now available at high quality and costing almost the same as it did back in nineteen-seventy-mumble. I also found Greatest Highs, a giant compilation album from the Kottonmouth Kings, a hip-hop group who specialize in raunchy (and mostly inappropriate) lyrics extolling weed and other stuff that I probably shouldn't be thinking about.

Yeah. So please, give me your recommendations for screen covers, cases, and exercise pouches. As always, your comments go through a moderation/approval screen, but unless they're an obvious sales job, they'll be approved instantly.

(I can't wait to see what AdSense offers up with this posting!)