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Comment: Re:Orbital (Score 1) 443

by Kadin2048 (#48258425) Attached to: Antares Rocket Explodes On Launch

It's not a terribly serious setback in the history of space flight, but it could be a serious blow to Orbital.

Their whole program is built around the idea of using old surplus Soviet-era rocket engines, originally designed for the ill-fated N1 program. (The N1 program, as a sidenote, is responsible for one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history when one of its launch vehicles had a failure shortly after takeoff. On top of a zero-for-four launch record, it's not the program I'd pick to emulate.)

My understanding of the Soviet engines is that they have some design features that make them lightweight for their output, but represent tradeoffs not typically taken on Western engines, due to the risk of "burn through". But some people--perhaps including Orbital--thought that the designers had solved the problem and the risks were overstated.

Too early to tell right now, but if the engines turn out to have a fatal flaw, that would be bad for Orbital. It'd probably be good for SpaceX, since they're the obvious alternative, but it'd leave NASA down one contractor for the commercial launch program.

Comment: Re:Interesting... (Score 1) 133

by Kadin2048 (#45874339) Attached to: UK Company Successfully Claims Ownership of "Pinterest" Trademark

In the US, trademarks only extend as far as someone might be confused by their use. It's not a hard black and white line, but you can use "Word" if you wanted to, in an unrelated industry from Microsoft's, provided that nobody thought that customers might be confused and think that your product was, or was in some way related to, Microsoft's. (Obviously since Microsoft is such a big company and does so much stuff, this might be harder than if they were purely in the word processing business.)

A good example is Apple Records vs Apple Computer Corp. There was a lot of argument that went back and forth as to whether Apple Computers might be confused with Apple Records -- which seemed ridiculous at the time, because why would Apple Computer ever get into the music business? So they worked it out and came to a settlement to stay out of each other's turf. That happens very frequently. (It got interesting when Apple-the-computer-company decided to get into the music business; my understanding is that they made Apple Records an offer they couldn't refuse.)

And given how ubiquitous Microsoft's products are -- love them or hate them -- the breadth of their trademarks are probably not unreasonable. A no-name company ought not be able to assert a trademark with any similar breadth, because there's so little chance of confusion.

Comment: Re:Use it or lose it (Score 1) 133

by Kadin2048 (#45874279) Attached to: UK Company Successfully Claims Ownership of "Pinterest" Trademark

Well they are registered in the .com TLD, which is basically United States namespace, so it would make sense that US trademark law would apply at least in terms of the domain name. I doubt some European company would be able to convince a US court to order Verisign to turn over the domain to them.

So at worst, I would think that Pinterest could continue to operate under the "Pinterest.com" domain name; the challenge would be whether they want to advertise in the European market, which might be prohibited without changing their name.

Comment: Re:What is Bruce Schneier's game? (Score 1) 397

If the NSA were to require them to install a secret backdoor then the NSA would be compromising the security of all of their government customers because they don't sell two different versions of their software, it is the same for all customers.

Unless the product has been certified for use with classified information, that's not much of an assurance. The government has its own internally-developed tools -- which presumably it has confidence in (SIPRNet, etc.) -- for protecting information that it deems sensitive. The NSA might well decide that subverting a commercial tool is worth the risk of compromising something that's used by the government, but only in relatively trivial ways.

I don't know enough to impugn Zimmerman et al, but I don't think "it's used by the government!" is necessarily a great seal of approval, unless it's a formal certification (e.g. NSA Type 1 listing) saying that it can be used to protect classified information. And I'm not aware of any COTS software products that are on the Type 1 list; the NSA only approves particular hardware implementations (at least that I've seen, though I'm happy to be corrected although I'd be surprised).

Comment: Re:cut the wire (Score 5, Informative) 164

by Kadin2048 (#39444601) Attached to: DoD Networks Completely Compromised, Experts Say

Or setup a separate ARPA-owned network that no one can access except DOD employees.

This exists, it's called the SIPRnet. You can only access it from secure workstations in secure facilities, and in theory all the network hardware is also secure, etc., etc.

AFAIK, the only recent SIPRnet compromise was Bradley Manning, and that was more of a social exploit than a technical one.

Transportation

Have Bad Cars Gone Extinct? 672

Posted by Soulskill
from the quality-in-quantity dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "AP reports that global competition is squeezing lemons out of the market and forcing automakers to improve the quality and reliability of their vehicles. With few exceptions, cars are so close on reliability that it's getting harder for companies to charge a premium. 'We don't have total clunkers like we used to,' says Dave Sargent, automotive vice president with J.D. Power. In 1998, J.D. Power and Associates found an industry average of 278 problems per 100 vehicles, but this year, the number fell to 132. In 1998, the most reliable car had 92 problems per 100 vehicles, while the least reliable had 517, a gap of 425. This year the gap closed to 284 problems. It wasn't always like this. In the 1990s, Honda and Toyota dominated in quality, especially in the key American market for small and midsize cars. Around 2006, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler were heading into financial trouble and shifted research dollars from trucks to cars after years of neglect and spent more on engineering and parts to close the gap. Meanwhile Toyota's reputation was tarnished by a series of safety recalls, and Honda played conservative with new models that looked similar to the old ones. Now it's 'very hard to find products that aren't good anymore,' says Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of the Edmunds.com automotive website. 'In safety, performance and quality, the differences just don't have material impact.'"

Comment: Re:Accidents happen (Score 1) 461

by Kadin2048 (#39107227) Attached to: Nuclear Truckers Haul Warheads Across US

The only reason the UN was even minimally effective was because it provided a venue for the nuclear powers -- who almost exclusively make up the Security Council -- to hash out problems diplomatically. Without the constant threat of nuclear war to bring those parties to the table, literally and figuratively, there's no reason to think that the UN would have been any more effective than the League of Nations.

And the League, as you'll recall, was also set up in the aftermath of a staggeringly destructive war, by a great number of very committed people, and it couldn't and didn't do the job. In other words, the memory of the utter hell that was the Great War wasn't enough, even among people who had lived through it, to keep the peace through diplomatic methods alone. However, the threat of total global annihilation has kept things in check for more than three generations now.

Given how close the Cold War came to going 'hot' even with nuclear weapons making it into a no-win situation, it's laughable to suggest that we wouldn't have gone there in their absence -- when either side could have talked themselves into believing that they could have obtained a real advantage by fighting.

The horrors of conventional war have never been enough to keep people from deluding themselves into thinking that it can be won (because, bluntly, it can be); nuclear war is unique in that it is quite obvious that there can be no winner, and it is to everyone's advantage to avoid, all the time.

Comment: Re:how about molten aluminum? (Score 1) 461

by Kadin2048 (#39107093) Attached to: Nuclear Truckers Haul Warheads Across US

Entirely plausible that the place where the Al is smelted isn't the same place it's worked into finished products... but letting it cool down would just waste huge amounts of energy, since it would then have to be reheated.

In Homestead, PA, there used to be an iron smelter on one side of the river and a steel foundry on the other. They'd smelt the iron and pour it directly out of the blast furnaces into waiting rail cars, then haul it over a bridge to the other side, still molten hot, where it would be made into steel. I'm not sure why they didn't put both facilities on the same side of the river... but I assume it must have been something to do with a shortage of riverfront property on either side causing the split.

This all ended in the late 70s, but I've talked to locals who said that it caused quite a show; the rail cars had open tops and you could see the glowing iron inside as the cars went across the bridge. (The bridge, incidentally, still exists; most of the factory infrastructure is gone.)

Comment: Re:Overstated (Score 1) 358

by Kadin2048 (#38146230) Attached to: Ham Radio Licenses Top 700,000, An All-Time High

Agree with the first part but disagree with the second.

If you get your license and join a local club, and you're not totally unpleasant to be around, my experience is that you'll probably find someone willing to loan you (or just give you outright) enough gear to get started. My local club has an assortment of starter gear that they lend out to new hams, on a sort of indefinite 'gentlemans agreement' that once you get your own rig set up you'll return it to the club or pass it along to another new Ham. There's always someone willing to lend expensive stuff that you only need to use occasionally, too, like TDRs or antenna analyzers.

I'd definitely recommend that anyone new to the hobby join a local club -- if possible more than one, or at least 'shop around' a little and find one that has other members that match your interests. It can dramatically decrease the cost of getting set up.

Comment: Re:But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (Score 1) 358

by Kadin2048 (#38146168) Attached to: Ham Radio Licenses Top 700,000, An All-Time High

Hopefully, the power losses in 100 feet of coax will not be too much if I use RG-213 coax and put a weatherproof automatic antenna tuner at the base of the multi-band vertical antenna.

If you can, you should investigate using some sort of ladder line rather than coax; even if you are using an antenna design that would require a balun, you will probably still do better in terms of signal loss with a 100 foot run. Of course, the tradeoff is that it'd be HF only, but it sounds like you probably already have a VHF/UHF antenna. (Also you can use an antenna, like a G5RV, that's optimized for feeding by ladder line.)

I've also seen some very clever homebrew arrangements where you can basically make your own heavy-duty ladder line by stretching THHN wire from 2x4 posts sunk at intervals into the ground. Similar to old knob-and-tube wiring almost. It's quite elegant looking when done right.

Comment: Re:But how many of those 700,000 are alive? (Score 2) 358

by Kadin2048 (#38146122) Attached to: Ham Radio Licenses Top 700,000, An All-Time High

And this is a problem ... why?

Imagine if we actually required the sort of test that some old farts seem to advocate for. Very few people would pass, new licenses would dry up, and eventually the cellcos and the other usual greedy suspects would steamroll whatever was left of the ARRL and have the spectrum reallocated. End of story.

Those "appliance operators" you speak so disparagingly of are, just by virtue of using the spectrum allocated to the Amateur service and perhaps being active in a local club or sending a few bucks to the ARRL, what keeps the hobby possible.

Frankly, I'm all for lowering the bar further, down to a nominal fee and a test that only covers the legal aspects and RF safety. Not because I don't think the electronics are important, but it's a hell of a lot easier to interest people in the electronics once they've already started to play around a bit and see the applied side of things, and we need the warm bodies if we want to hang onto the spectrum.

Also, there are valid aspects of Amateur Radio that really don't rely on or require much electronics knowledge. For some people, Amateur Radio is more of a means to some other end, or an accompaniment to some other interest/hobby. There are a significant number of people in my local club who are Red Cross volunteers or paid employees, and maintain Ham licenses in order to do EmComm stuff. That's a totally valid use of Amateur Radio, but it doesn't require much theoretical knowledge of radio, just the actual practical radio-operation skills to get the messages across.

The ARRL is slowly taking more of a "big tent" philosophy, and it's time for the rest of the community to be a bit more welcoming if we want to have any hope of surviving for a few more decades.

Comment: Re:In other words... (Score 1) 722

by Kadin2048 (#36805060) Attached to: Bill Clinton Says 'Paint Your Roofs White'

Also, I doubt that exterior paint is a fraction of the paint sold; most is probably interior paint.

In my house, based just on the layers of paint on windowsills and baseboards, there have been at least 4-5 complete interior paint jobs. (Corresponding to each time the house has been sold.) There's been only one done outside in the same period. It may be a slightly more extreme than usual case, but I suspect most houses are similar. I'd bet the interior of a house has more paintable surface area, too (think about ceilings!).

Comment: Re:What about those that live in colder climates? (Score 1) 722

by Kadin2048 (#36805004) Attached to: Bill Clinton Says 'Paint Your Roofs White'

It's a whole lot easier to just have someone come in and blow fiberglass insulation into the attic than change the pitch of the roof. Engineer the roof for the snow/wind load, then insulate the living spaces below.

In a modern, well-insulated house, the attic isn't part of the heated living space anyway. If you're heating or cooling your attic, you're doing a lot of things wrong.

Comment: Re:Great, so how the hell do I paint ashalt shingl (Score 1) 722

by Kadin2048 (#36804904) Attached to: Bill Clinton Says 'Paint Your Roofs White'

They're talking about flat roofs, which you normally find in cities, on large buildings, and can't see from the street, not pitched roofs like you find on SFHs in the sub/exurbs.

For houses there are "high albedo" shingles in traditional colors that you can buy. They look fairly normal but reflect back a larger percentage of infrared insolation than a traditional asphalt shingle. Light grey also works better than black.

Nobody is really suggesting that you go painting a shingled roof white.

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