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Comment: Re:How (Score 1) 214

by Solandri (#48947741) Attached to: Indian Woman Sues Uber In the US Over Alleged New Delhi Taxi Rape

if you ever are the victim of a newsworthy accident/ crime, you will get cold called by a number of lawyers, who want to represent you pro bono

because such cases gild their CV, get their name out there. free advertising

They represent you pro bono because they think you have a good chance of winning, and standard lawyer's fee is 33% of any award or settlement. They're not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. The dozen or so lawyers in the $200 billion tobacco company master settlement became instant billionaires.

Comment: Re:Create a $140 billion business out of nothing? (Score 1) 327

by Solandri (#48947701) Attached to: How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft
Close, but you're not thinking big enough. Microsoft committed the same blunder as the Maginot line. They built their empire on PC (x86+x64) dominance - making sure Windows dominated the architecture, and making sure their software dominated Windows. Their defenses were built around x86, and their warning tripwires were set up to detect anyone encroaching on their x86 territory.

They were blindsided when iOS and Android sprang up outside of x86, essentially creating their own Microsoft-free playing fields. They actually had a mobile OS long before iOS and Android (Windows CE, which eventually became Windows Phone after about 5 different renamings), but they were so focused on bringing it into the x86 fold (some of the WinCE PDAs look like Win XP clones) that they completely missed the opportunity for a new mobile sector.

Comment: Re:Create a $140 billion business out of nothing? (Score 1) 327

by Solandri (#48947621) Attached to: How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft
I'm kinda like you. I jumped aboard Sprint's "unlimited data" plan way back around 2000(?) when they first implemented it. I've been tethering ever since (I got aboard before they changed their ToS to say you can't tether). Had to plug in with a cable at first, but on my rooted Nexus 5 I just use the built-in hotspot.

If you want my (biased) opinion, we're getting to the point where we're trying to jam too much functionality into our phones. Smartphones are great (I've had a PDA since 1998), but there are certain things which pretty much require a bigger screen. The way cellular data should be working is that you pay for it on your phone, and it shares it with your tablet and laptop via a hotspot. Instead, the cellular companies are so hell-bent on milking people for as much money as they can they're forcing the adoption of the more complicated and expensive solution of putting a cellular radio in your tablet and laptop, and getting a new service accounts for them.

Comment: Re:Create a $140 billion business out of nothing? (Score 1) 327

by Solandri (#48947551) Attached to: How, and Why, Apple Overtook Microsoft

Now everything's been clones of the iPhone since. Inertial scrolling, multitouch, practically identical user interfaces out of the box down to even the colors of the icons, etc -- they all use these things basically identically. Before the iPhone they had plastic buttons and you would try to scrolled around by jabbing little arrows on side of screen.

You're confusing inevitable industry evolution for copying Apple. The LG Prada did those things before the iPhone, because that's the way the industry was headed whether Apple ever released an iPhone or not. Apple won their case against Samsung only because the judge disallowed evidence Samsung had prepared showing phones they had in the design phase before the iPhone was announced, because they missed a filing deadline. Like I keep telling people, just because the first time you saw something was on an Apple product, doesn't mean Apple invented it. And likewise just because other companies started doing it after Apple, doesn't mean they copied Apple.

Sadly, it all ended in 2011. Look at phones. They're all the same as 2011 iPhone was just with 2015 cpu/graphic, 2015 screen brightness/contrast, 2015 CMOS camera sensors. Same with computers. Everything's just the same as an iPad or Macbook Air from 2011.

Wow, talk about Reality Distortion Field. Apple just had the biggest quarter in history. It came after they abandoned Steve "no one is going to buy a big phone" Jobs' arbitrary and damaging restrictions on what products the company could make. His ego was so inflated, he thought everyone should use the same product that best fit his needs. Since his death you've gotten an iPhone with a wider aspect ratio (something Jobs opposed), a smaller iPad (something Jobs opposed), giving buyers a choice of two different iPhones and iPads (something Jobs opposed - he thought you were so stupid you'd be confused by two choices), and a phablet iPhone (something Jobs opposed). And that's just on Apple's product lineup. If you don't see other changes and improvements in the market, it's because you're willfully ignoring them. (BTW, the MBA has one of the worst screens on any laptop above $500 - not sure why you're holding it up as your champion. The MBPs are much better.)

Most of us who don't like Apple dislike them not because they're Apple, but because they artificially restrict market choice. But Cook has been doing a good job giving users back the choice that Jobs took away. And as long as they continue down that path, there's little reason to continue to hate Apple. You folks who love Apple so much that you hate everything else OTOH...

Comment: Re:Careful With This Logic (Score 1) 205

by Solandri (#48943029) Attached to: New Study Says Governments Should Ditch Reliance On Biofuels

The same logic saying biofuel is inefficient (requires a lot of land for low energy yield) is the same logic saying meat is inefficient (which is true, meat is energy inefficient) because it requires a large amount of crops for the livestock.

It's worse than that. A comparison purely on efficiency ignores another vital factor - cost. Yes solar panels might be 50x more efficient than plants at capturing solar energy. But they're infinitely more expensive. You have to manufacture the solar panels. Plants manufacture themselves. Why build shiny 50-story high rises at the cost of billions, if "magical" one-story houses which build themselves and self-replicate are widespread?

That's what biofuel is. Its reputation has been tarnished badly in the U.S. by the corn lobby using it to put themselves on the public dole.* But their fundamental basis is sound. The cheapest and most prolific solar collectors in the world are plants. Not only do they cost nothing, they will spread by and maintain/repair themselves. Nature has spent hundreds of millions of years working and plants are the most efficient solution it came up with for harvesting solar energy. They are so successful that all life on earth (except at hydrothermal vents deep underwater) get their energy from plants. Heck, all oil and coal originally came from plants.

All biofuels are is taking the energy in plants and converting it into alcohol fuel, instead of an alcohol drink or ATP. The only impediment I can think of is that plants are such an attractive energy source, they've had to evolve defenses against being consumed for hundreds of millions of years. Consequently, modern plants store that energy in a form where it's exceedingly difficult to extract (cellulose). But there should be workarounds: Certain animals like termites have cultivated bacteria which breaks down cellulose into its component sugar molecules. Or we might be able to genetically engineer a plant which keeps more of its energy in the form of sugar than cellulose. Or we can take a plant which already does that (e.g. sugar cane) and engineer it to grow in a wider variety of climates.

* Corn ethanol began because of the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Food shortages led to price increases and starvation. To prevent a recurrence, the government began subsidizing farming (mainly corn) to insure there was always overproduction. This crashed the price of corn, so the government set it up so it buys all the corn from farmers at a price which can keep the farms in business, then resells it. Since there is more supply than demand, there is always corn left over. This excess corn would otherwise rot in silos, so a variety of uses for it have been found - feed for cattle, HFCS, foreign aid. And during the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, someone came up with the bright idea - why don't we convert it into alcohol for fuel?

It's a fine idea for excess corn. The cost of growing and harvesting that corn is a sunk cost. You're never gonna recover that cost, so it's better to do something with it than nothing. So turning it into ethanol makes sense. But the moment you start growing corn for the sole purpose of turning it into ethanol, the economics of it completely breaks down because now it's no longer a sunk cost. Not only has the corn lobby been looting our country's treasury for decades, it's been impeding the growth of other legitimate and more efficient ethanol crops by distorting market prices with their subsidy.

Comment: Re:So.... (Score 2, Informative) 258

They're part of the fragile balance of our precious, vulnerable ecosystem

That's a myth dreamt up by people wanting to protect the environment, but who had never taken any higher-level math or engineering courses and had no clue how dynamic systems function. Fragile balances are almost impossible to find in nature, for the simple reason that if something is fragile enough that any perturbation would upset it enough to destroy it, it would've self-destructed long ago before man ever showed up.

Nearly all surviving balances in nature are stable equilibria. They're not fragile at all. If you perturb them, it just re-stabilizes at a new equilibrium point. e.g. If you tilt the bowl in the wiki picture, the ball doesn't fall off the top of the bowl like in the first picture or roll away like in the third picture.. It just settles in at a different spot on the bottom of the bowl in the second picture, now-tilted slightly.

Comment: Re:Would a smaller plane do? (Score 1) 291

by Strider- (#48937217) Attached to: US Air Force Selects Boeing 747-8 To Replace Air Force One

This seems like an obvious question but why does one guy and his staff need a more than 400 passenger plane?

Technically speaking? He probably doesn't, but that doesn't really matter. Like it or not, the VC-25 is part of the image that the presidency presents to the rest of the world. If you want to present an image of strength and the supremacy of the American Ideal, showing up in a European aircraft is not the way to do it. Also, showing up in a smaller aircraft (787 or 777) doesn't help either. Like it or not, it's partially dick waving, and the 747-800i is really the only choice.

Comment: Re:track record (Score 4, Interesting) 291

by Solandri (#48935817) Attached to: US Air Force Selects Boeing 747-8 To Replace Air Force One

If the two-engine planes are such a risk, how the hell have they got air safety certificates?

Because the certification for twin-engine planes only looks at engine reliability and environmental factors like rain and hail. It doesn't consider being shot at with missiles and small arms fire, which is a required safety criteria for Air Force One.

Comment: Re:Not going to disappear quickly.... (Score 3, Interesting) 291

by Solandri (#48935743) Attached to: US Air Force Selects Boeing 747-8 To Replace Air Force One

Even if Boeing stopped building 747 variants tomorrow, they'd be around for ages. They're the mainstay for long-haul travel, and dwindling sales probably are more related to market saturation - as in, there are enough in the air now to meet current demand - than any inherent shortcoming in the design.

An individual airframe is typically retired before 100,000 pressurization cycles. This is a limitation of the aluminum used to make the skin, which unlike other ferrous metals does not have a fatigue limit. In other words, aluminum always grows weaker with use. As you get closer to 100,000 cycles, you increase the odds of a catastrophic fatigue failure where the aluminum literally unzips like plastic shrinkwrap after you've cut a notch in it. (Aloha 243 had nearly 90,000 cycles due to its short-duration island-hopping history.)

The 747 is typically used on long-haul overseas flights lasting 10+ hours. This drastically reduces the rate at which airlines can rack up pressurization cycles. Even if one were flown 2x a day every day, it would take over 130 years to reach 100,000 cycles. By comparison, a 737 used for the 40-minute LAX to Las Vegas route may fly 10x a day and reach 100,000 cycles in a little over 25 years. This is why 747s are hanging around - their skins simply have less wear and tear on them despite being in service for more years and logging more flight hours than other planes.

The 747-8 was always a bit dodgy. When Boeing made the original 747, they weren't planning to make it with a partial second deck. It was supposed to be a stepping stone to future models with a full second deck (designing the 747 nearly bankrupted the company). Boeing pitched the full two-decker model to the airlines for decades but could never get enough interest to justify actually building it. Then Airbus came with its "who cares if we'll sell enough to make money, our governments will pay for it if it doesn't so let's build it" A380, and Boeing threw together the 747-8 as a possible alternative.

The slow rate of A380 sales (nearly 10 years old, 318 orders, 147 deliveries) seems to substantiate Boeing's marketing research that there just wasn't sufficient demand (yet) for such a large plane. By comparison, the 747-400 had 465 deliveries in its first 10 years. The 747-8 has 119 orders, 83 deliveries in the same timeframe as the A380. As you state, in the 400-525 passenger category, the market is pretty well-saturated by older 747s which are still airworthy.

I suspect that there are more refinements to come - it's just too useful an airframe to discard. It may take Boeing a bit to roll in some of the working dreamliner tech but it seems reasonable that they'd try to do that when time and demand permit.

In terms of airline operating economics, the number of passenger per flight nearly always has a larger magnitude of effect than efficiency gains for new technology. For an airline you are almost always nearly best-off flying a plane with slightly more capacity than the number of passengers. Airbus tried to claim the A380 would be so efficient this wouldn't matter, and you could fly a 747-sized number of passengers on a A380 for cheaper than a 747. I was very skeptical, and the fact that airlines aren't tripping over themselves to replace their old 747s with A380s is a pretty good indication that it's still cheaper to fly a 747 for 747-sized passenger capacities.

The next place to watch is to see if Airbus will roll out a twin-engine competitor to the 777 (maybe a longer A350-1000?). Airbus' competitor to the 777 had been the A340 (both are in the 300-450 passenger range). But the A340 is a 4-engine plane which uses much more fuel. Consequently, the 777 beat the A340 into a bloody pulp in the market. The 777 has had 1827 orders in 20 years, vs 379 orders for the A340 in 20 years. Right now, that's the gap in Airbus' lineup

A320 = 100-200 passengers.
A330/A350 = 250-370 passengers.
* A340 = 300-420 (retired in 2011)
A380 = 500-625 passengers.

That leaves a gap between 370-500 passengers which is currently being filled by the 777 and legacy 747s. Airbus claims you can configure the A380 for as few as 407 passengers, but no sane airline is gonna do that when they can configure the exact same plane for 500-650. I suspect they're holding off on a 777 competitor in hopes of directing more sales to the A380, but such sales inevitably end up going to the 777. In contrast, Boeing's lineup tightly covers all passenger capacities pretty well right now:

737 = 100-200 passengers
787 = 240-360 passengers
777 = 315-450 passengers
747 = 467-525 passengers

Comment: Re:that's the problem. 3/16th" hole = opened (Score 1) 367

by hey! (#48935183) Attached to: Why ATM Bombs May Be Coming Soon To the United States

The issue as I'm sure you know isn't "opened", but rather "opened within a certain length of time." Obviously given unlimited time you can get into anything, and you probably can get into an ATM a lot faster than a decent safe. But once you have the explosion routine down pat, you can probably be away with the ATM money in *seconds*. In terms of practicality and low risk, that's hard to beat.

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell