Manual or Automatic Sector File Download
Searching for and downloading the latest up-to-date sector files has always required searching around the vACC’s websites. With the new innovative sector file publication and download feature, it becomes far easier for controllers to find the latest sector files. And it also makes it easier for sector file creators to supply the latest versions to their users. It only takes a few steps to prepare the files to be downloaded via EuroScope, and to setup EuroScope for the automatic download.
The Mechanism of Sector File Distribution
Of course you can still download sector and ESE files with your web browser and install them manually. But once you have used EuroScope’s new download mechanisms you probably don’t want to go back to the manual method.
The new sector file distribution mechanism is a decentralized system and is based on multiple sector file providers, each of which publishes one or more sector files. That lets each vACC or other VATSIM organizational group create and publish their own sector files.
At first, somehow EuroScope needs to know the web addresses of the sector file providers. There is, however, no central list of all sector file providers. Instead, each sector file provider publishes, next to sector files, also a list of its neighbor providers or its subgroups. In this way, EuroScope learns about new sector file providers in a step-by-step manner. This system is very flexible and avoids the necessity to have a central registry for all sector file providers.
All the information EuroScope learns about sector file providers it records in a so-called sector file provider descriptor file, or for short the descriptor file. At first the descriptor file just contains a single entry pointing to URL: http://www.euroscope.hu/sectorfile/euroscope_sector_providers.txt. This default provider contains an initial list of sector file providers. After downloading it, the descriptor file will contain all these entries. Each of these entries represents a sector file provider and the web address, where its so-called provider file can be found. Such a provider file contains two groups of entries:
- Links to neighboring or subordinate providers.
- Links to sector files that this provider offers.
Either part is optional and might be missing.
For example, the German sector file provider VATGER_sector_file_provider just contains a list of sub-providers like Berlin, Langen, Bremen, and München FIRs and even no links to the sector files. After downloading the provider file of VATGER, EuroScope learns about these four sub-providers and adds their data to the descriptor file.
Now you can download the Bremen-FIR provider file. EuroScope learns about the EDWW sector file that is published by this provider. Sector files are published in form of compressed 7-Zip archives to reduce download times. EuroScope automatically unpacks these file.
All entries in the descriptor file contain a next-download time or a download interval. At start-up, EuroScope automatically scans the descriptor file and performs a download for all files that are overdue and which you have marked for auto-download. As an alternative, you can at all times manually force EuroScope to download any of these file. If a sector file has been updated and it is used in an ASR-file, EuroScope is so smart as to propose to automatically substitute the new sector file.
In summary, VATSIM sector file providers form a network that can be arbitrarily expanded without having a centralized registry. There is just one central node that helps to learn about the majority of the larger sector file providers and which is consulted automatically when installing EuroScope. Most important, once you have set-up automatic downloads, EuroScope takes care of everything else. It downloads new version of sector files, unpacks them and even replaces them in ASR-files. The next section explains the Sector File Providers dialog and how to set-up automatic downloads.
Note about sector files: Before step into the next chapter here are some little information about sector files and how we are able to use them in our EuropeScope client. In the aviation or specific on the navigation site there exist a cycle for data that is called AIRAC. In every period of time there are different changes that can be: changes in procedures, sectors (FIR, CTA, TMA etc.) or just information about RWY specification like length and so on. These data comes from different source providers like Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSPs: NATS, DFS, AENA etc.) In the virtual world the providers are Navigraph or Navdata from Aerosoft. There ensure that we have always the newest data in our Flight Managment Computer (FMC) for different Aircrafts. That means there have agreements with real source provider. It needs much time to analyse the data and put it the relevant sector therefore you need manpower in the VACCs and it is sometimes not possible to keep all the staff up to date. Keep that in Mind and enjoy this Masterpiece!
To open the Sector File Providers dialog, click the Open SCT menu …
and there the Download Sector Files … entry. In the Sector File Providers dialog you can download provider and sector files manually and configure the automatic download of these files.
The Sector File Provider Descriptor File
EuroScope manages the links to all sector file providers in a single text file, called the Sector File Provider Descriptor File, or for short the Descriptor File. This file contains the information where the sector file provider files are located (URL and local filename) and what provider data and sector files are to be loaded automatically. Only data for active providers with a specified local file name are stored here.
In the first field of this dialog you define the name and storage location of the descriptor file. The default is
SectorFileProviderDescriptor.txt and the default location is the EuroScope working directory. The name and path of the descriptor file is stored in the profile. That means you may have several completely different sector file download lists if you use multiple profiles. For most users, however, a single descriptor file will suffice.
The content and the structure of the descriptor file is used by EuroScope as a database of sector file provider information and you never need to edit it manually.
When the descriptor file is loaded and found to be completely empty, one default provider is added automatically with the following attributes:
- Name: EuroScope main sector file provider
- URL: http://www.euroscope.hu/sectorfile/euroscope_sector_providers.txt
- File name:
- Download automatically.
This is the default provider. It fills your descriptor file with a list of the major sector file providers of VATSIM, so you have something to start from. This default provider is maintained by the author of EuroScope and kept up-to-date as good as possible.
The second part of the dialog is the Available sector file providers list. This is basically a display of all the sector file providers that are contained in the descriptor file. By clicking an entry in this list you see the sector files that this provider publishes.
The individual columns in this list are:
- (Provider) Name: The name of the sector file provider.
- A: The check box in the column activates the automatic download of the provider file.
- (Local) Filename: The local file name where the downloaded provider file is to be stored. It can be a relative or absolute path. The sector files of a provider are downloaded to the same path. Currently it is not possible to store the downloaded files somewhere else than with the provider file. EuroScope will extract all files from to the downloaded 7z file to the folder to this path. All files will be extracted and after that the SCT file is checked for availability. If the packed SCT file does not match the _.SCT naming convention, then the extraction is treated as failed and the files will not be used.
- Last Download: The Last Download field indicates the date and time of the last download of the provider file.
- Next Download: The Next Download files indicates the date and time of the next planned download of the provider file.
The fields below the list reflect the currently selected list entry:
- Name: Same as the Provider Name field of the list.
- URL: The URL field contains the web address of the provider file. This is the identifier for the providers and must be unique.
- (Local) Filename: Same as the Local Filename field above.
With several buttons you can start a manual download and also edit the entries in the descriptor file.
- Download: The Download button allows you to manually download the selected provider file.
- New: The New button creates a new entry for a provider that is not supplied by one of the other provider files. It usually should not be necessary to manually create an entry as all files are supposed to be published via the network.
- Update: The Update button allows you to update the selected provider entry.
- Browse: The Browse button allows you to browse through the directory structure of your disk and choose a location for the selected provider file.
If you want to delete an entry, un-check the A-field and delete the Local Filename from the entry.
So far for the functions behind the buttons and fields of this section. What can you do, if the sector file provider of your desired area does not show up on the list or if it does not seem to publish any sector files?
- Desired sector file provider is not in the list: In this case your provider might be relatively new, so that is does not appear in the default provider’s list yet. Or it might be referred to by a neighboring provider. So you might first want to download one of the neighboring provider files. If they contain an entry for your provider, it will afterwards show up in the provider list. If all fails you might be able to find the web address in the Internet and enter it manually via the edit fields and the Update button.
- Provider seems not to publish any vector files: This is for example the case when you click a sector file provider who has delegated the sector file publishing to subgroups. The VATGER provider is an example of this category. Download its provider file by clicking the download button and afterwards the subgroups will appear in the providers list. Their entries will finally show the sector files you are looking for.
This list shows the sector files that the provider publishes that has been selected in the providers list above. The columns of this list are:
- Sector Name: The Sector name field contains the name of the sector described by this sector file.
- File name: The file name field contains the designation of the sector, which is the first part of the file name. The full file name consists of this designation and the version identifier.
- Version: The Version field displays the current version of the provided sector file. It is the second part of the file name.
- A: The A check box is used to activate the automatic download of the sector file.
- D: The D-check box indicates that the sector file has been downloaded.
- C: The C-check box indicates that you confirmed to replace all occurrences of the sector file with the latest version without further questions.
There is just one button in this section:
- Download: The Download button allows you to manually download the selected sector file.
All sector files are downloaded to the same folder that the provider’s provider file resides in.
Once an ASR-file is linked to a particular version of a sector file, EuroScope can automatically detect links to outdated files and correct them with the latest downloaded version.
The Automatic Download
Once everything is set up for automated download, EuroScope checks for updates on the files as scheduled in the provider files. When a newer version of the sector file is downloaded, either manually or automatically, this new file is at first just saved on your hard disk. As the version number is part of the file name, there is no risk that the new file overwrites the old file. EuroScope saves the fact that a new version is available in the descriptor file.
From this moment on, every attempt to use any older version of that sector file will lead to a prompt whether you want to use the newer version instead. Such attempts may happen in two situations:
- when trying to load the sector file specified in your profile,
- when trying to load an ASR file, which specifies an obsolete sector file:
After you agreed to substitute the newer sector file in an ASR file, EuroScope will furthermore asks, whether you want to replace that newer version also in all other ASR files:
When you accept, EuroScope will substitute the newer sector file version in all ASR files that are currently open. It also saves your answer and will henceforth substitute it also in other ASR files as soon as you open them.
Note: It is important to keep in mind, that EuroScope will change all the references to the new sector file in memory only until explicitly saved. When saving a modified ASR or PRF file, you will be prompted to save the memory update to the file on disk.
Finally, EuroScope asks you whether you want to delete or keep the old version of the sector file:
If the update happened while you were using a different profile not using that particular sector file, EuroScope will asks on the next occasion you load the affected profile whether it should use the new version of the sector file.
Publishing Sector Files
The following section describes the file formats and procedures of the EuroScope sector file download mechanism. They are intended for VATSIM groups who want to publish their sector files via the download mechanism of EuroScope; we call such groups so called sector file providers. If you are in charge of sector file maintenance and you want to support the automatic download by EuroScope, this section is for you.
Preparing you sector files for the EuroScope download mechanism is relatively easy. There are two types of files that you have to provide:
- A Sector File Provider File,
- One or more 7-Zip packed archives containing the sector files, that is .sct, .ese and associated files.
Keep in mind that all text files intended to be used by EuroScope must be encoded as ANSI (or ANSII). UTF-8 encoding will cause errors loading the files.
The Sector File Provider File
Your sector file provider file contains a list of the sector files you are providing and also references to other sector file providers in your neighborhood. These neighbor links are intended to form a worldwide network of all available EuroScope sector file providers without establishing a central registry.
Once EuroScope has got knowledge about the URL of a sector file provider file, it can download it, either manually or automatically. The file itself is downloaded and stored in the user’s local file system without any modification. The content is loaded into memory at every start-up of EuroScope.
The format of this file is the following:
- First line: “EuroScope Sector File Provider File” – the first line must contain this text. It is used to identify a valid provider file.
- Self description:
NAME:<the name of the provider>– it is just an update of the provider’s name, for example the name of the vACC.
URL:<the URL of the provider file>– it is once again just an update as EuroScope can not download the file without the URL. You can also use it to change the URL to another place.
NEXTDOWNLOAD:20090720– the next expected download time with the format
YYYYMMDD. If set, the automatic download will look for an update only after this date has passed.
DOWNLOADINTERVAL:48– the regular download interval (if
NEXTDOWNLOADis not specified or already passed). The value is in hours, the default value is 48.
NAME:LHCC - VACCHUN Sector Files
- Links to other providers – by linking to other provider files, you can build a peer-to-peer network of sector file providers, independent from the default provider list. Of course, you should keep any links that you include up-to-date. Otherwise, if a URL has changed, an outdated link would create a duplicate entry of the provider and would not be working any longer.
PROVIDER_NAME:<the name of the provider>
PROVIDER_URL:<the URL of the provider file>
PROVIDER_NAME:LHCC - VACCHUN Sector Files
- Sector file descriptions
SECTOR_NAME:the user readable name of the sector file>
SECTOR_FILE_NAME:<the base name of the sector file>
SECTOR_VERSION:<the version number of the sector file>– be sure to make version numbers in a way that newer versions have an alphabetically higher version number; and here the term alphabetically is important. Consider that in alphabetical ordering the string V3 is higher than the string V21!!!
SECTOR_URL:<the URL of the packed files>– see below for more details about the packing
SECTOR_NAME:LHCC - Hungary (complete)
Packed Sector Files
The vector files are packed together with their associated ESE files, and possibly further helper files that you want to distribute, for example PRF files. All these files are packed together by help of the 7-Zip command line utility. 7-Zip is freely available under the GNU public license and comes with the EuroScope installer.
EuroScope uses 7-Zip to unpack the downloaded sector files. It is not necessary, but highly recommended to use the very same utility for packing. This way you avoid any compatibility issues.
EuroScope simply calls the 7za.exe utility without specifying a full path. Therefore, it is necessary to have this program either in one of the directories that are listed in your PATH environment variable or have it reside in the current working directory of EuroScope. If you start EuroScope from the installer-created shortcut then it is not a problem as it sets the current folder accordingly. But if you create your own links (e.g. using different profiles) then do not forget to set it.
7za a Hungary_2009_05_08_v70.7z Hungary_2009_05_08_v70.sct Hungary_2009_05_08_v70.ese
Note: The SCT and the ESE file names MUST have the format _.SCT/ESE. No other file names are accepted as sector file.
You can put as many files to the 7z archive as you like. The SCT file is a MUST, the corresponding ESE file is recommended. Additional files (like PRF or alias files) can optinally be included in the archive. They will be extracted to the client machine, but will not be used automatically. Only the SCT and ESE file pair will automatically be recognized by EuroScope, as described in the previous section.