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Comment Re:What exactly is the law/rule? (Score 1) 319

If the rulebook says "When we plug in our testing machine, your car needs to be emitting X, Y and Z", then they were totally within the rules.

I am familiar with the rules, but they are too long and complex to explain here. It used to be about passing the test, but other companies got caught doing the same thing 20 years ago. Now there are limits on real world emissions as well, called NTE, for heavy trucks. Apparently cars are not subject to the same restrictions.

Comment Re:Nail everyone? (Score 1) 618

If they use the same shop/lab model to pass EU and USA testing, there must be a switch in there for "Detected_testing_regime == EPA." And they might have intended to turn on the same controls when "vehicle_sold_to == USA," but the guy responsible for that code screwed something up.

Having a different tune in the ECU for every region would be a waste of memory. Just flash the modules with with region specific binary files. Also, your postulation doesn't explain why it passes US emissions tests, but doesn't meet the standards outside of the test environment.

Your are correct, having different modes is allowed by the EPA. It just has to be documented. What VW is actually accused of is switching to a mode that is, "neither described nor justified in applicable COC applications..." They didn't document their code.

Comment Re:Reason all code should be open source (Score 1) 618

Technically speaking, Volkswagen is in trouble for not providing proper documentation of their code to the EPA. Auto manufacturers are allowed different modes, they just have to provide high level documentation of those modes to the agency. The mode in question isn't documented.

Comment Re:I'm more curious about *why*... (Score 1) 618

What gain did they achieve by doing this? None of the vehicles in question are "performance" vehicles, so it's not like they were doing it so that the vehicles had "great performance" when not being tested, yet still passed.

Depends on what you consider "performance". From an engineering perspective, fuel economy is a part of performance. Volkswagen diesels are known to rival hybrids in terms of fuel economy. What they gained by doing this is a cheaper vehicle with better fuel economy.

Comment Re:Single line of code? (Score 2) 618

Also, to enable the cheat mode the engine would have had to load a different set of operating parameters. Those parameters must be stored somewhere, and doubtless constitute more than a single line of code.

Some thought must have gone into this fraud.

You don't just punch in a guess at those operating parameters either. Lots of data gathering and evaluation was done to get them to meet requirements. This was a decision at the program (I'm not talking software) level. A budget was approved to design, test, and implement this strategy. There was no lone gunman.

Comment Re:Does it really matter to the air? (Score 1) 618

I haven't found out if the normal driving emissions are actually"bad" or just fall foul of U.S. automaker protectionist lobbying.

It all depends on your point of view. We are talking about NOx here, which is harmful to humans primarily due to free radicals. This kind of damage requires long term exposure to cause issues. It also damages the ozone layer.

Keep in mind, diesel emissions regulation was much less strict ten years ago. The kind of emissions these vehicles are emitting were quite common back then.

Comment Re:How test mode was triggered (Score 4, Informative) 618

The test mode was triggered by monitoring which wheels were turning, position of the steering wheel, etc.

Basically they wanted to avoid the cost of installing a urea injection system so they cheated instead. Honda engineers were reported to be perplexed about how they managed to do this miraculous feat of engineering.

As a diesel emissions engineer, I was always fascinated by how Volkswagen was able to do what they claimed. I had tried to make their technology work, it's extremely difficult. SCR is much simpler and more economical.

I had thought for a while that other companies had some secret information that my team was missing to get such good performance. Now I think other companies are just cheating.

Comment Re:Hang 'em high... (Score 1) 471

I skimmed through the Federal Test Procedures, and didn't find an explicit rule saying "car should be in normal operating mode", however, I did not search exhaustively, and this is a SECRET mode.

All modes have to be communicated to the EPA in the certification documents as an AECD (auxiliary emission control device). Volkswagen is in trouble for an AECD that is "neither described nor justified" in certification documents.

There is also a "Not to Exceed" emissions law that was put into effect when manufacturers tried to do something similar years ago. In my opinion as a diesel emissions engineer, (IANAL) Volkswagen violated that regulation as well.

Remember software engineers, always document your code. There could be a legal obligation to do so!

Comment Re:2 for me, 2 for others (Score 1) 842

Education foundation that provides free BOARDING school to children of high risk adults - i.e. homeless, drug addicted, criminal convictions. Because normal public school can't help the kids if their parents are the problem.

I think you are on to something here. Maslow's hierarchy says that a person has basic needs that must be fulfilled. Without meeting those needs, a person cannot live to his or her full potential. A boarding school would certainly meet those basic needs. However, I would take it a step further and have a staff member who's responsible for loving the children as their own. I know, it sounds strange! But that is a need that has to be met. Just a person to sit down at dinner and ask them about their day is important!

Based on this summary, it sounds like some of Notch's needs are not met. He basically has no social group to belong to. If he want's to help the world, maybe he should join the Peace Corp. There he will meet a group of individuals with a common goal, and grow his social circle. With that need fulfilled, he can move on psychologically, and do something epic.

Comment Prepare Yourself (Score 1) 842

Being wealthy is only a burden if you let it be one. If you don't want a bunch of attention, don't buy a bunch of flashy things that will attract attention. If you want to save the world, hire an economist from a university to study ways to maximize the impact my money has in benefiting society.
Take time, travel, learn, become well rounded and interesting. Heck, move to Bhutan and steal from yourself. Build yourself to be willing and able to accept the responsibility that comes with this great power.

Comment Ubuntu was great on the desktop (Score 3, Insightful) 167

Since Ubuntu was/is a very easy to use desktop environment, it has become familiar to a lot of people. Those people ended up developing cloud services and stuck to what they are familiar with, Ubuntu. It's that simple.

I know if I were to setup a Linux server, Ubuntu or Mint would be my first choices. Not because they are best suited for a server environment. Because I am familiar with them on the desktop.

Dinosaurs aren't extinct. They've just learned to hide in the trees.