Saturday, December 28, 2013

What is this?

Recently I went to the Mini Maker Faire at The Powerhouse Museum which was good although mini, but afterward as I was leaving I saw this:

No, this is not trickery. What IS this huge overhang being built onto the UTS building?
The mystery is only increases when you se that the "roof" is being built about eight stories up.
I am still amazed by this.


Here is the link to a page where someone has pointed out that scientific data is disappearing . .

Even today when we have an always-on internet, truly huge storage spaces even in our own home PCs never mind "cloud" services, scientific data is disappearing to the point where "for the papers that were written more than 20 years ago, there was a 90 per cent chance that no data was available."

This is SERIOUS crap.
THIS is the kind of thing that will come back to bite us in our collective a**es in future.  This means we are losing scientific information, and not just that : the most important part of all the information of science is the raw data itself.  The bit that's being dropped.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The end of an era?

I just read this article on the F-35 program. It does get technical in places, but I'll try and summarise it, long with a few thoughts of my own:

1. Not for the first time, the US military is trying to develop a "universal" military jet : the trouble is, this did not work the last time it was tried (F-111) and this time it's even worse: they don't have any other plane projects (apart from drones). they cite the F-4 as being a successful example of this idea but I'm not seeing it. The F-4  was not designed for multi-role operations and it certainly was not designed with a VTOL version in mind. 

2. The main problem is that the Marines want a VTOL version of the F-35 to replace their "Harrier" VTOL planes. This has meant that the design is a lousy compromise between the needs of the three different air forces (Airforce, Navy and Marines): if it were not for the Marines' demand for a Vertical Takeoff version, the whole thing would be a whole lot simpler, lighter, thinner and as a result, cheaper and faster. 
As a general theme, maybe the Navy starts with an airforce plane and toughens it up for carrier landings with stronger airframe and landing gear,  adds the tailhook and larger, folding wings so it can land on a carrier, but mostly the plane is not that much off the land based model: not so for the Marines version though.

This half-assed idea that you can make "universal" plane is really the source of the problem. On the surface it looks like you are going to save money -  which looks good on paper, only the savings are more than offset by the fact that you will end up with a dud that doesn't do any of the three or more jobs you wanted it to because the requirements are all different

3. The bureaucracy has exploded. I chalk up the death of the British aircraft industry mainly to the burden of bureaucracy that was visited on it by their government: check out the TSR-2 project. It was actually a good design that would still hold up well today but the whole process of getting it into the air was dragged out by endless committees and and dithering about things that should have been decided by one manager and then done. The result? cost overruns, huge burdens of paperwork that achieve nothing and the decrease of the plane's effectiveness . . . It sure looks to me like the Americans have the same sort of problems here. 

I suspect the real problem here is the same one the Brits had: the budget has shrunk so they are trying to "economise," except the nature of bureaucracy itself works against such things: in tough times, huge swathes of people try to shoehorn themselves into public servant jobs since it is "secure", and where is more secure than the defense related industries?then there are all the "watchdogs": office buildings worth of paper pushers who are there to make sure that things get done wihout waste . . . . except that they themselves are part of the problem itself.

Okay, you can take that last one with a grain of salt if you like, but the signs are there: any industry where all of the competing companies are being swallowed up into one is a sad sign.  Competition is what keeps costs down and performance up: when there is no real competition, those two things go south.  BAck in the time of the F-4 there were at least six aircraft companie making jets that could compete for contracts. Sure , there was a bit of derring-do and crookery going on but the competition was still there: what we have now is a monoculture: Boeing (who really make airliners) and LockMar. 

I just hope our own defense folks are looking relly carefully at the next cheque for the F-35 project because it looks to me like a waste of money we don't really have . . . .

Uncle Sam better be hiding some good aces up his sleeve or he's gonna hafta hand in his World Sheriff badge.
Will US stealth drone fighters really wipe the asses of those uppity Chinese fighter pilots - or will Chinese hackers jam their signals and render them useless (or worse!)?
We may find out soon . . . .

Seasonal gratings

Just a couple of oddments that I dug up and found fun:

Special thanks to Harris Academy for this. If only we could do more of this . . . . . . . ;)

 . . . and of course, this from the wonderful XKCD. Thanks Ryan, and Mary Eczmas to you all!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Over the years that  I have owned an iPhone there have been occasional odd moments where on opening it, an odd app would be running even thhough I have not used it. No big deal.  . . . but yesterday was a non-trivial fail. I was listening to my music on my iPhone and for no reason that I am aware I got a blast of a Beyonce song . It shocked me, not because it was so bad (it was crap, but that's not the point) : it came from the iTunes store and I never even use that app on my phone.
Either someone has hacked Apple's software in an intrusive way, or it is a bug in iOS. 

. . . . but then the whole mobile internet thing just never seems to be very stable.  I try to connect my laptop to the phone for internet access each morning on the train and some days it just won't work. At one time I set it up to connect laptop to phone using wireless but that just stopped working within a day or two by itself for no reason that I can discern, so it's back to the cable connection . . . . and even then some days it just won't work.  I'm just glad I don't depend on it for some important stuff or work related data or I'd be up the creek.

Is anyone reading this? Probably not.  I don't care. If your only measure of success is popularity then you are a tragic fool.

Apparently the thing to do these days is to follow other people on Twitter, only that will mean that you are just soaking up the same crap as they want to feed to you, complete with concealed adverts and promotion of ideologies you probably don't even recognise.
Give me the full net any day: at least I can choose my own opinions about things and have pictures and so on.  Ninety percent of everything on the net is crap, so the story goes: it's pretty close to correct.

I'm really not a "following other people" kind of guy. Give me some intelligent discourse instead.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The thing that banks fear

Here is one of the best articles I have seen in  very long time: it provides some insights into why the banks have become so powerful in the modern world and why they might not be so in future.
Go here on the ABC site for Alan Kohler's excellent article.
I am definitely not directly involved in big finance or the stock market - but I am always interested in the gigs on there since ultimately it will affect us all since we almost cannot avoid using banks.
I considerd buying bitcoin as a reserve but it relaly looks like a bubble at the mooment and besides, even if you bought it when it was cheap and it has now risen in value many times,  you stil need to convert it back into your local currency to use it again  . . . . and hang on, isn't that exactly the type of behaviour which led us all into this mess in the first place?

For a more entertaining take on the money madness mess, yo ucan always go to YouTube and search for Max Keiser's The Keiser Report.