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So, you had a look and wondered “What does he use to make his items on and how does he do it?”

For a start, I target mostly Trainz Simulator 2010 for the reasons a lot of the computers I own just won’t run later versions. If you have seen my other part of the site, you’ll learn I own a lot of laptops. Most of them old Toughbooks, but I own other PC brands as well.

Computer:

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 K/L (Mk3)
CPU:           Intel Core2Duo SU9300 (1.2GHz)
RAM:          4GB DDR2 SODIMM (Supports 8GB)
Hard drive:  Intel 240GB SSD SATAII
GPU:           Intel 4500MHD
OS:             Windows 10
Screen type: 10.1” TFT LED touch screen - 1024x768 resolution
Special features:  Shoulder strap, Qualcomm GOBI1000 (3G/GPS), Smartcard reader (PCMCIA), touchscreen + wacom tablet, removable battery, dockable, rugged, IP65 rated.

Release date: 2008/2009

Want to buy one? Try here (eBay). Prices range from 60 to 200+ depending on condition. (as of 22/01/2019). See here for ownership notes (swearing warning). I could go on forever, but that is for another site.

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Similar machine..

So, my main PC as of writing in January 2020 is an 12 year old Toughbook and you are thinking “god, why? There are better machines out there!”. True, very true, my favourites and much treasured machines are 2 Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 Mk6’s. One has a VERY rare chicklet keyboard that is a UK spec, not the US and backlit spec that others have. Both also have an optional infocase cover (strongly recommended!). Others I’ve specs with a few interesting additions, like the rubber keyboard which is good for waterproof work and a camera. (Yes, toughbooks don’t have webcams, some have point and shoot cameras). Or what about fingerprint readers and smartcards? Not forgetting a lot of laptops are fragile. Drop it on a drain cover, thats it! Game over, even in a bag. Toughbooks, I’ve had a CF-U1 slip out of my hand and it survived with a few scratches. How many computers do you know you can just pick it up and stick it on your shoulder? Or grab it by the handle? Or put an X-strap and hold it in your hands? Answer: Not many, there is other rugged computers out there however, and they are just as good. I prefer the looks of the toughbook. The older ones last nearly forever, I still have a useable Toughbook CF-18 Mk4 and it works very well. Add an SSD and these things are virtually silent! They have no fans.

Ever had a laptop turn heads? The toughbook does. People do ask about it and are intrigued by it, however, they do think its rather old (we all know how modern they are!).

If you noticed, the graphics chip is an Intel 4500mhd which is weak and supports DirectX 10.1. So, no Train Simulator and Trainz Simulator 2012 maximun support. Program on the tiny keyboard is a royal pain in the rear sometimes, in fact, any document typing. If you however spend time with the machine, it is possible to touch type. Battery drained while working away? Hibernate, swap the battery and turn the computer back on. However, if you are careful, you can get more than 3 to 4 hours out of a charge with a battery wearing out. One thing I would like to do one day, is go over to “Thin Clienting”. Which is a central server allowing loads of stripped down computers to connect to it (called Clients) which pretty much centralises everything. The desktop, data, input/output is all streamed down a cable or even over the air. The massive advantage is centralised management and data retention. Its game over if I loose my laptop unless I back it up regularly, however, a server can be knocked out easily if its hacked. Which is better evil of the 2? Performance is a problem if you get a connection at all in places and the required port can be an issue on some wifi networks.

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How many laptops would cope with this sort of punishment? The Toughbook is under the larger monitor (yes, I’m using it as a desktop). Or rather, who would actually risk their laptops like this?

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The optional Infocase X-Strap. Its a godsend when carrying the computer, especially from train to train and when standing on the train. The D-rings can be used to attach a shoulder strap or a user harness (which I don’t have yet).

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Typical problem with most laptops, virtually pristine HP Probook 6475b when I had it damaged by being dropped out of my locker at work in a bag, an example of the damage. .

So, I talked a lot about the hardware and why, so what about what I use? Well, 3D Studio Max, Adobe Photoshop are main contenders, but if I am programming, Visual Studio/Basic/C++ also gets used, so you may see some example of programs on the site that are also incomplete or nearly complete. I have tried alternatives, but I do also find them difficult to use and nowhere near as feature rich as the rest above. I would love to also go to Linux, but stuck to Windows for the time being due to incompatibilities on other operating systems which rules out Mac’s. (And I dare not drop a mac! That would be expensive!) Virtual machines would work, if the performance wasn’t an issue. Admittly, its getting better, but 3D Studio Max requires graphics drivers to work properly and 3D ones at that, or performance is an absolute joke. When installed into a train sim, I use Trainz Simulator 2010 Content Manager (ver 3.3) and Train Simulator Blueprint editor. One thing you will notice is that I’ll offer out the Trainz version first, then the Railworks/Train Simulator version. I almost always build for Trainz then convert to Railworks, because Trainz is MUCH easier.

The process is quite simple, you gather as many drawings, photos, information, etc for a project and you start building from that. I start with the 3D side first, see how far I get before I have to stop (as I am notorious for picking difficult projects. Look at 20003 and how long that has taken.), find out as much of the game engine as possible as well, like shaders, etc. Produce a UVW (texture) template mapped to various parts of the model, add a render to it which puts on various surface imperfections and lighting, paint it, break up the model, export it, test it, fix it, test it, fix it, test it again. Break up/Produce other supporting models (cabs, bogies, etc), fix it, test it, fix it, test it again, fix it, test it again, etc. Produce engine specs with tools, test, fix, test fix, test fix. Produce sounds where possible, as again. Scripts where needed and you get the idea. Offer it to a small group, offer it to a large group, etc. That is why a simple model will take a long time which is why it can be difficult to complete. Its like software, a lot go through test fix cycles and get stuck in development hell. What is difficult here, is I am one person completing many projects with the time I have. This isn’t a full time job, nor do I ask for money (although I don’t mind a small donation which will help with computer costs). My full time job which gets in the way as I often take overtime is currently Train Cleaning for a Train Operating Company.

I think I’ve covered everything here

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