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Comment: $6 Billion? Really? (Score 2) 327

by zelbinion (#43072803) Attached to: Apple's iWatch Could Come With IOS, Earn $6 Billion a Year

I, too, think that the $6 billion figure for the possible size of an iWatch market to be completely fictional. Not going to happen, but I'd really like some of whatever these guys are smoking to come up with a number like that.

As others have already said, a lot of people no longer wear watches because they now carry cell phones. Still others only wear watches as jewelry. Yes, I take the point others have made here that many/most/all Apple products are fashion statements, so you could argue an iWatch would still be jewelry, but in the world of watches, there seems to be generally two categories of "fashion" watches: watches that are "traditional jewelry" meaning that they are gold/silver/titanium, or made from other "traditional" jewelry materials, and watches that have an interesting/modern design (think the original "Swatch".) An iWatch can't compete against the traditional jewelry market and still have a touch screen. The two designs are pretty orthogonal -- I have a hard time thinking that the watch's function as something pretty/shiny/classic can be shared with something with a usable touch LCD screen and not fail at both. I can see how it might be possible to go after the modern/interesting style of "jewelry" watch with a stylish simple/elegant design -- again, think "Swatch" only with some ipod/iphone features included. (I realize the Swatch group now owns many luxury brands. I'm referring to the primarily plastic modern-looking watches like the original Swatch that came out in the 1980's) Anyway, a modern-styled plastic-case iWatch sounds really workable to me, but will that capture 10% of the market? Not bloody likely. Look at watch sales. Where is all the money being made? At the low-end plastic watches? Nope. The highest sales and margins are in the traditional jewelry-type watches. Something I can't see Apple competing with.

So, if Apple is going for an iWatch, they can't target the high-end jewelry watch market, so that's out. They can't target the low-end quartz or digital watch market, because that is already saturated with low-margin products. Their only hope is to define a new market somewhere in the middle with enough margin to make money. So, what is this watch going to *DO* that will garner more than a yawn from the general population (certain Apple fanboys excepted.)

You've got to do more than tell time. A cheap quartz watch will do that, and do it more stylishly.
So, okay, add in an MP3 player, stop watch, and maybe GPS, and other features runners/cyclists might want.
Yes, an iPhone/Smartphone can do those things, but they aren't as small/compact/portable. That's really all an iWatch might have going for it. -- size. Target the sports crowd so that you don't have to take your iPhone running with you. Otherwise, the crowd that already stopped wearing watches because they have a smart phone won't give it a second look.

Could they pack the ability to make phone calls into a watch? Maybe. Generally the two things that eat power on a smartphone are wifi and the display. Take out wifi (or turn it off) and make the screen much smaller, and you might be able to shrink a cell phone into a watch. That might make an iWatch attractive. However, the nice thing about having a smartphone is all the other things you can do with it --things that are going to be hard on a watch (texting, web browsing, e-mail, playing games, etc.) So, if you buy an iWatch that can make calls, do you also keep your smartphone? Do you have two cellphone contracts? If that's the case, I'd rather just have one device and use (or not) a regular watch. The trend in smartphone screen size is going bigger, not smaller. So, the iWatch as a cellphone replacement doesn't seem to make sense.

Really, the only market opportunity I can see for an iWatch is as a wearable ipod with more features (like GPS, maybe have it sync with your iPhone calendar to alert you to appointments, etc.) That could actually be kinda cool. Would I buy one? No. Will it grab 10% of the watch market? Um... probably not.

Comment: Re:What are they needed for? (Score 1) 497

by zelbinion (#43038321) Attached to: Boeing Touts Fighter Jet To Rival F-35 — At Half the Price

Well, okay, so you you think you might (or might not) need a fighter jet, or maybe a drone, or a cruise missle... Here's why you might (or might not) want these things:

Drones:
Drones are good for when you need to maintain a presence above a section of ground to observe what is going on, and if you have an armed drone, they are great for taking out point targets (people, vehicles, small buildings, etc.) They can stay in the air much longer than a manned air craft, and they don't risk a human going into harm's way.
Drones are NOT good at carrying a large amount of weapons for taking out larger targets (air bases, power plants, radar stations, bridges, etc.) Some of the larger drones are starting to get this capability, so it is logical to assume that this limitation will go away with some of the larger (and more expensive) drones. However, currently drones do not work well unless you control the air space they are flying in. While man-portable surface to air missiles may not have the range to engage a high-flying drone, they would probably be effective against lower-flying drones. Since most current drones do not have much in the way of stealth or counter-measures, they are vulnerable to any surface to air missile that has the range and altitude to reach them. Even old 1960's vintage SA-2's would have little trouble shooting down most drones. Only when you go to very expensive stealth drones do you gain much chance of surviving air space that is protected by even older, cheaper, less-capable SAM's. However, even with a stealth drone, if the enemy has fighter air craft, you are still in trouble. Once the fighter is close enough to see the drone on radar (stealth only reduces the range at which an air craft can be seen with radar, it does not make it 100% invisible), or the drone can be seen with infrared or visually, the fighter has the advantage. Today's drones are unable to dog fight, and the latency and lack of situational awareness that comes from piloting a drone remotely makes them unable to dog fight effectively, even if a drone were made maneuverable enough to even attempt it (which none currently are.)
So, bottom line, drones are useful if you are facing an opponent who does not have fighters, or where their fighters have already been destroyed.

Cruise Missiles:
Cruise Missiles are great for hitting fixed targets from long range, like bridges, buildings, military bases, fixed command and control stations, etc. They are not as good at hitting moving targets, as they generally lack the ability to search out and find a mobile target and attack it after they are launched. For the vast majority of cruise missiles, you have to know where the target is when they are launched, and the target can't move while the cruise missile is in flight. This makes cruise missiles largely ineffective against mobile army units (tanks, trucks, infantry, etc.) Army units are the only combatants that can invade territory and hold it, so dealing with them is important. Also, while some cruise missiles can be fired from ground launchers, you can drastically increase the range of cruise missiles if you launch them from a mobile platform like a ship or an air craft. Drones, as of yet, can't carry cruise missiles, so you either need new very large drone, or a manned air craft capable of launching a cruise missile to get enough range to make these weapons effective. The nice thing about a cruise missile is that you can attack well-defended fixed target from a distance without having to risk a human in an air plane, and they are faster and harder to shoot down than a drone.

Conventional Fighter (e.g. a F/A-18E/F Super Hornet)
The Super Hornet is a very versatile air craft. It is capable of both air-to-air as well as air-to-surface combat. If you face an enemy that has fighter air craft, the Super Hornet can try to shoot them down at medium range with missiles, and/or at close range with short-range missiles and a gun (e.g. dog fighting.) In the 1960's, the U.S. thought that missiles were the way of the future and that fighter planes didn't need to dog fight anymore. In the war in Vietnam, they discovered that their missiles didn't work as well as they hoped, and that tactics employed by the North Vietnamese air force meant that it was difficult to avoid getting into dog fights. For example, if you are attacking a military base, and that base is defended by air craft, unless you shoot every single aircraft out of the air from long range fast enough to avoid having your attacking air craft getting withing dog fighting range, you are going to have to deal with defending fighters at close range, which means you need to be able to dog fight. The argument against maintaining this capability is that in a modern war, you can just destroy all of the enemy's air craft on the ground with cruise missiles, and never have to engage them in the air. However, this strategy may not work. Most Russian and Chinese built air craft are designed to operate from rough air fields -- roads, or even flat stretches of grass or dirt, so an enemy can distribute, move, and hide their air craft, making them difficult to hit with cruise missiles (remember when I said cruise missiles don't work well against mobile targets?) Another scenario is if the air craft are based in another country which which you do not want to start a war with (like during the Korean war, when MiG's were based in China, and the U.S. would not attack the air bases in China so as to not risk a war with them) the only way to destroy the enemy air craft is in the air. So, since you can't always deal with an enemy air force with either drones or cruise missiles, you are going to need the capability to engage flying air craft, and history teaches that it is hard to always avoid close-range air to air combat, so you'd better have a fighter that can dog fight.
Assuming you win the air war and gain dominance over the battlefield, a fighter with air to air combat ability becomes less useful, unless it can also operate against ground targets. The Super Hornet is actually pretty good at this, and can carry a useful weapons load of precision guided bombs/missiles, unguided (and cheap) bombs and rockets, missiles that target radars, etc. So, once the air war is largely over, the Super Hornet can start attacking ground targets. However, without something that can effectively deal with enemy air craft, you may never get the chance to attack ground forces, which is ultimately the way you win wars. Turning the tables and looking at defense, the only way to prevent an attacking enemy from taking out your ground forces from long range is to deny them the ability to use their air craft, and that means destroying them (often in the air.) This is why air to air combat ability is so important and needed by any effective air force.

Stealth Fighters (e.g. F-35)
Everything said above about the Super Hornet also applies to the F-35, in terms of why you want a fighter plane that can shoot down other fighter planes, and why it is nice to have a fighter plane that can also drop bombs when the air war is over.
The advantage that the F-35 has over the Super Hornet is all about stealth. Making it harder for your opponent to locate your air craft means a number of things: Your stealth air craft has an easier time shooting down enemy air craft, because you can shoot at them before they even know you are there. If you can shoot at the enemy and they can't shoot at you, that's a huge advantage, and helps you either deny their air craft from access to shooting your ground forces, or allows you to gain access to shoot theirs. Another advantage to stealth is that it allows you to strike at enemy ground targets BEFORE you gain air dominance over their territory. If they can't see you very well, you can strike at their ground forces before you've completely dealt with the enemy air force. That is a significant advantage, and something you don't get as easily with a Super Hornet. However, this capability comes with a hefty price, and that price only makes sense if YOU are the one having to engage the enemy on day one.

So, what does Canada need?

Air defense: Is Canada likely to be invaded? Well, no, and if an enemy force decides to try, Canada will not be going it alone, as the U.S. will step in to help out. Will Canada be invading anyone anytime soon? Probably not. So, what sorts of threats is Canada likely to see?

Well, there is a very large amount of area up north to patrol. Who knows how relations with the Russians might go over the next 30 to 40 years? In the past 30 to 40 years, they've already gone from mortal foe to friendly to sort of strained distance, so who knows? Is Russia likely to field a long range stealth bomber any time soon? Maybe, but advances in radar might keep pace with any developments there, and you don't need a stealth fighter to shoot down a relatively unmaneuverable bomber, whether it is stealthy or not. You need something long range and reliable. The Super Hornet is a better fit than the F-35 here, even though the Super Hornet could use a bit more range. Actually, an F-15 would be a better fit, but I don't know if buying those is on the table. Canada in unlikely to get in a shooting match with another fighter over their own territory, so they really need long-range interceptors. Again, an F-15 would be ideal, but they are more expensive than a Super Hornet. The F-35 isn't that great of a long-range interceptor because it has relatively short range, a small missile load, and only one engine.

The other thing Canada might do is cooperate in a NATO action or some other joint-operation, probably including the U.S. In that scenario, if Canada had stealth fighters, it could participate in the first few hours/days of an air war along side the U.S. If it had Super Hornets, or some other non-stealth air craft, then Canada would have to wait until a country with stealth air craft made the first attacks to degrade the enemy defenses before joining the fight. (This would all depend on how advanced the opponent was.)

It is unlikely that Canada would ever go it alone in some sort of military action involving air craft. So, honestly, the only advantage I can see for Canada buying a stealth air craft is to gain favor with the U.S. by spending more money in the U.S., and by sharing the higher risk of attacking an enemy in the first few days of a war, when the enemy is at its most dangerous. The other advantage would be to have more capability to act with military force without the cooperation of a more capable ally, but does Canada want or need to be able to do that? Canada has few enemies, and what enemies do exist are shared with the U.S. and Europe.

Others have complained that the Super Hornet is older technology and would be need to be replaced sooner than an F-35. Well, yes and no. The airframe is based on a design from the 1970's, but it has been updated, improved, and is made from more modern materials in many places. Also, the laws of aerodynamics really don't change, so the only disadvantages to an older air frame is efficiency and fatigue life. Since the Super Hornet would be newly built, as would the F-35, there is no advantage to either plane in terms of fatigue life -- they will both start new and slowly wear out to the point they need to be replaced or repaired. In terms of efficiency, the Super Hornet is actually better than the F-35. The F-35 has quite a number of compromises made to it's shape in the name of stealth. The F-35 is slower, less maneuverable, and can't carry as large a weapon load as the Super Hornet. The F-35 has a longer range on internal fuel, but the Super Hornet can carry more fuel in drop-tanks to compensate. So, there's no real advantage there, either. The electronics in the F-35 are more advanced, and this gives the F-35 more capability in certain scenarios than the Super Hornet, but electronics can be upgraded, often much more cheaply than buying a new plane. In fact, the biggest long-term obsolescence risk is actually with the F-35's stealth technology. If Russia or China makes a more advanced radar than can better detect the F-35, than the major advantage of the F-35 is nullified (at least for well equipped opponents.) The stealth features of the F-35 isn't something you can easily upgrade later, because it is built into the structure of the air craft. When advances in radar technology make the main advantage of the F-35 less of an advantage, what are you left with? A plane that really isn't that much better than the Super Hornet, at twice the cost.

The F-35 will have significant capability advantages over well-equipped opponents compared with the Super Hornet for probably the next 20 years or so. After that, the differences between these two planes in terms of capability will be largely down to which air craft is getting a radar upgrade and better electronics. Is that 20 year advantage worth the cost? For Canada, and their needs, I don't think so. For the U.S.? Maybe.

Comment: Re:Saturation (Score 1) 589

by zelbinion (#42767469) Attached to: Missile Defense's Real Enemy: Math

Yes, that's the one. However, I don't think you can scale up the costs by a simple price per pound ratio. It is entirely possible to build an airplane for less than $10,000:

href=http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/ten_grand.html

If you don't have to put a pilot inside, and using more mass-production techniques, you could probably get the cost down even further. My cousin built a plane in his garage for less that $30,000 that can easily carry 500 pounds (assuming no people on board). It was designed for aerobatics so it traded speed and maneuverability for range, but the concept is the same. The biggest road block to doing something like this before now is the prohibitive cost and complexity of building an autonomous guidance system. That part is getting cheaper and easier all the time.

Heck, this guy: Bruce Simpson built a cruise missile with off the shelf components for $5000, though I think it is too small to carry a reasonable payload.

Comment: Re:Saturation (Score 1) 589

by zelbinion (#42766309) Attached to: Missile Defense's Real Enemy: Math

Phalanx shoots 75 rounds per second. I don't think you can just fire 3-10 rounds per target. These would quickly run out of ammo. GPS can effectively be jammed at ground level. With directional antennas, it is much harder to jam them in the air, as you can filter out any signals at a little above the drone's altitude and below. So, you'd have to be ABOVE the drone to jam GPS signals. This limits the available platforms to electronic warfare aircraft, but with a movable directional antenna, even these signals could be filtered out without much difficulty. There is also more than one GPS system, so you can't just turn it off, or reduce the error correction to make it unusable. Cameras with relatively straight-forward image recognition software would be enough for terminal guidance. The technology for this has existed since the 1980's, and is relatively cheap these days. While not full RPV, it shouldn't be difficult to make the drones able to accept basic directional commands (change navigational way points, confirm target selection, etc.) Using spread-spectrum frequency hopping and limiting the number of times updates are transmitted would make jamming this communication channel extremely difficult. There are open-source software radios that could handle this sort of set up easily at very low cost.

You are correct that the drones would not have any defensive ability. An air craft could easily pick them off with a gun. However, this gun has a high rate of fire and limited ammunition, so each fighter can only shoot down a limited number of drones. Fly lots of drones, and accept losses due to aerial engagements.

Comment: Re:Saturation (Score 1) 589

by zelbinion (#42765647) Attached to: Missile Defense's Real Enemy: Math

Yep and Yep. So don't hide them. Distribute them, so that a single air strike takes out only a fraction of them. Then, build ten times that many out of cardboard and distribute them as well. Turn everything everywhere into a potential target. Short a preemptive nuclear strike, what are you going to hit with your air strike?

Comment: Re:Saturation (Score 1) 589

by zelbinion (#42765619) Attached to: Missile Defense's Real Enemy: Math

The fact of the matter is, a carrier battle group embarks a fixed amount of ordnance. Replenishment at sea is time consuming. If you throw enough stuff at a carrier battle group, at some point it will run out of ammunition. It is simply a numbers game. There is also no reason a drone needs to cost $275,000. About 8 years ago some hobbyists built a balsa wood model aircraft that flew autonomously across the Atlantic with an on-board auto pilot and telemetry for less than $500. That's a 2500-3000nm range, with simple electronics (which are even less expensive and more powerful today) with the ability to receive data and track the location of said drone for less than $500. Scale that up a little, and a VERY cheap, albeit slow and vulnerable cruise missile is entirely possible. A small drone like this doesn't need a dedicated launch facility. I can be produced in a large number of fairly basic distributed shops. There are no obvious fixed targets to hit with tomahawks or laser-guided bombs. No fixed runways to bomb, nothing to take out with a preemptive strike. Put enough of them into the air, and you simply aren't going to shoot them all down. Radar guidance is probably too expensive, so it would be limited to cameras. The carrier group could certainly put up a smoke screen, but how long can it maintain that? It certainly can't launch or recover aircraft while emitting a smoke screen, so at some point it will have to stop before any aircraft already in the air run out of fuel. With a 2500mn range, the drones can simply loiter until any aircraft in the air are out of weapons and out fuel and the carrier has to stop the smoke screen to recover aircraft. At that point any remaining drones can attack. Phalanx weapons have a limited ammunition capacity, and take time to reload. Yes, they would wipe out large numbers of drones easily, but at some point they will be empty and will become useless.

A plan like this probably was not economically or technically feasible 15 years ago. Only with the miniaturization and drastic cost reduction in electronics needed to build the control/guidance system could you even contemplate something like this. I'm not saying it is simple. You'd need thousands, probably tens of thousands of drones or more, costing many millions of dollars, but that's still cheaper than a squadron of 4th generation fighter planes. I don't care how good your defenses are. If I can cause you to expend ammunition, and you have a fixed amount of ammunition at your disposal, and I can build weapons cheaply enough and deploy them fast enough, I can overwhelm you every time.

The Japanese tried this tactic in WWII with the kamikaze attacks. That tactic had some (although limited) success mainly because they could not train enough pilots well enough or fast enough, and you lost your trained pilot with every attack. At the end of the war they still had airplanes, and even fuel (although it was alcohol based because we had long since cut off their supplies of oil.) Remove the pilot from that equation, and you remove the main limitation on the numbers of drones you can produce and field at one time.

Comment: Re:Saturation (Score 1) 589

by zelbinion (#42764581) Attached to: Missile Defense's Real Enemy: Math

So, don't product them all in one place. Cheap wooden airframes could be built in a garage. Engine production would be a bit more difficult to decentralize, but again, a machine shop in the basement of a house is sufficient to built engines. Unless you carpet bomb EVERYTHING, it is going to be hard to shut down production. The Germans did this in WWII with aircraft production, and were able to still build aircraft right up through 1945 in the face of massive bombing. The V1 and V2 were different, because they required fixed launch sites, and unusual materials for the fuel.

Comment: Re:Saturation (Score 1) 589

by zelbinion (#42764447) Attached to: Missile Defense's Real Enemy: Math

It's all a numbers game. Okay, so 3,000 cheap cruise missiles isn't enough? build more. An F-15 carries what, 8 air to air missiles max? Plus the gun, so best case, an F-15 can shoot down, say 12 cruise missiles, assuming they can launch, get to the the intercept, and have enough time to expend all of their stores. An F-22 carries 8 missiles as well, plus a gun (but with less ammunition than an F-15). F-18 can carry maybe 6 missiles, and the same goes for the F-16. So, how many of these do you have in-theater and can get airborne with the fuel, range, and armaments to do the job? So, let's say you have maybe 100 F-15, 50 F-22's, 250 F-16's, and maybe 60 F-18's available. Let's assume you could get a maximum of ~80% of those in the air in time (some would be down for maintenance, others might not be fueled and armed yet, etc.) so, maximum best-case theoretical anti-missile kills would be:
80 F-15's x 12 = 960
40 F-22's x 10 = 400
200 F-16's x 10 = 2000
50 F-18's x 10 = 500
Total: 3860

Now, add in a carrier battle group with maybe 8 AEGIS cruisers/destroyers, each with roughly 70 interceptors. That's another 560 potential kills, plus CIWS, the carrier's sea sparrows, Marines shooting MANPAD's machine guns, whatever. Figure maybe another 100 kills, max.

Final total: about 4500.

Okay, fine. So what if I build 10,000 cheap cruise missiles? Maybe 30% of them fail for some reason (hey, I said they were cheap, we've got to expect some failures.) The US shoots down 4500 of them. That still leaves 2500 you can't shoot down. Maybe their accuracy is pretty bad, and only 5% of those actually hit anything. That's 125 hits with 500 pound war heads on your carrier battle group. I think that would safely take care of it.

So even while the strike is being executed, the US counter-attacks with cruise missiles. At, what, exactly? The cheap cruise missiles I have in mind have wheels and can take off from a road, or any reasonable flat piece of ground. Distribute the cruise missiles to 500 hundred locations around the country, and scatter paper decoy's to another 500 sites. What are you going to target? When you hit a launch site, what have you done? Put a hole in a road? Collapsed an empty building? Big deal. I just blew up a carrier battle group.

If the airframes were simple wood construction, you could have relatively unskilled labor build them in hundreds of small shops distributed throughout the country. The engines would be a little more complicated, but no more complicated than an air-cooled motorcycle engine, and some Asian and Latin American countries produce many thousands of engines a year without the technical advances of a super power. A decent motorcycle might cost $1000 US to manufacture. Let's say my "cruise missile" costs 10 times that: $10,000.

Okay, let's build 10,000 of them: $100 million, in U.S. dollars. That's less than a single F-22, less than four F-15's. With $100 million dollars worth of cheap ordinance, I've taken out an entire carrier battle group, costing BILLIONS of dollars. Let's not stop there. How about we build another 10,000 cruise missiles, and target the airfields where all of your expensive planes (now out of fuel and out of weapons) have to land. Those get launched right after the first wave, so your tomahawks haven't arrived yet to take out the launch sites. The returning fighter planes return to wrecked air fields, the patriot batteries have all been expended, and there are still another 1000 cruise missiles loitering around waiting for your F-22's and F-15's to land on roadways so that they can be destroyed on the ground. Many more billions lost.

Granted, any prolonged fight with the US is generally not a good idea. The US has such a vast military and such massive manufacturing capability that a prolonged war would not be winnable unless you also have vast resources. However, if you are a nation (like North Korea) that doesn't always act rationally, and has far fewer resources, I still think there are reasonable strategies that could produce some pretty impressive results comparatively cheaply. Unless you employ weapons of mass destruction, I think a quantity vs. quality approach is nearly always a viable strategy if you can produce enough quantity cheaply enough.

Comment: Saturation (Score 1) 589

by zelbinion (#42763157) Attached to: Missile Defense's Real Enemy: Math

I've always thought several thousand simple, relatively stupid, cheap "cruise missiles" could pretty easily defeat a carrier battle group. When I say "cruise missiles" I'm talking about pilot-less drones that are really small air craft (could even be built of wood) with a warhead aboard. You wouldn't even need them to be completely autonomous, though a auto-pilot would probably be a good idea. You'd need a satellite up-link to control them (and to diminish the possibility of someone jamming your control signals) but it seems like it wouldn't be very expensive to build a cheap small aircraft (again, wood would be okay) with a simple air-cooled piston engine and a propeller, a remote control system with a simple auto pilot, and, say, a 500-pound free-fall bomb attached. Build many thousands of these for the same cost of a few modern fighter planes, and then fly them en-mass at a target. Sure, the combination of defensive aircraft and anti-missile systems would knock-down the vast majority of your "cruise missiles", but it would only take a small number getting through and dive-bombing the target with a few well-placed bombs to destroy the target. This seems so much less expensive than building a modern air force/navy/etc. I don't understand why other nations haven't tried it.

Comment: Re:Flaw (Score 1) 76

by zelbinion (#36172652) Attached to: Six Cities Named For Vehicle2Vehicle Communications Trial

Why run the cars off the road?
I'd rather have a system that tells the other cars they are about to be rammed from behind and causes them to move over.
OUT OF MY WAY.

OOO! ...and something that prevents people from jumping the gun when they should be yielding right of way. No one seems to understand the rules at 4-way stops anymore.

Go in the order you arrived
Yield to the person on your right in the case of a tie. (At least in the U.S.)
Take turns.
SIMPLE!

Nope -- too many mouth breathers can't figure that out.

Comment: Re:Sci-fi not SyFy specific problem? (Score 1) 607

by zelbinion (#36084280) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is It Time For SyFy To Go Premium?

What about Fringe? It isn't spaceships and aliens, but I'd call it sci-fi a la X-Files. It's a decent show, and seems to be doing okay in the ratings. There are a number of special effects (again, not spaceships) but it certainly must be more expensive to produce than some reality TV crap. I agree that higher budgets make it harder to make sci fi shows profitable, but it CAN be done. BSG did it, Babylon 5 mostly did it (the 5th season was in doubt, so they kind of wrapped things up in season 4, so that season 5 felt like an afterthought.) X-Files had a long run, and look how long all the Star Trek spin-offs lasted. SG1 went 10 seasons, which is longer than a lot of sitcoms.

Anyway, I think it is certainly possible to make decent, well scripted sci fi programs, even these days. However, very few networks are trying it, and I don't think any network could pull off a full line up of expensive-to-produce sci fi shows and remain profitable as a network. Maybe if syfy turned into a virtual channel, that only released for-pay content on-line (via netflix, hulu, or direct) and just did one or two shows a season, and/or licensed their shows to other networks they could produce some decent sci fi. Will they? Probably not. I expect the "new" model to be what netflix is doing. My guess is that in 20 years there will be very few actual networks anymore. Instead, you'll have a collection of TV studios producing a handful of shows and licensing them individually to online distribution channels. A few TV channels will probably remain, but the only content they will produce is live national/local news programs. Everything else they'll license from some other production company. My 2 cents, anyway... I would hope will result in better quality programing, but in truth we'll still probably have a lot of crap, simply because it is cheap to produce and there is a willing low-brow audience willing to pay for it.

Comment: Re:I love the idea (Score 2) 472

by zelbinion (#35834918) Attached to: Why Google Should Buy the Music Industry

Well, probably that would run afoul of anti-trust as well. However...

If Google did a hostile take over of, say, two of the major labels, and then immediately offered favorable licensing terms to apple, amazon, and microsoft; then apple, amazon, and microsoft might get a clue as to what google was doing, and each of them might buy up a few labels themselves, and reciprocate the licensing deals with google. End result: everyone except the RIAA and the top music execs win, and no anti-trust. As long as there is no collusion or under the table agreement between any of the parties, it could work... I think it would just take someone to set the example of the new business model.

Comment: Re:So basically we have no more sci-fi on TV? (Score 1) 762

by zelbinion (#34593738) Attached to: Stargate Universe Cancelled

I also liked SGU and will be sorry to see it go. I initially didn't like SG1. Hated the theatrical movie that started it all. I thought the concept of aliens running around with Egyptian head gear was irredeemably stupid. However, it got better, and I started to like it. SGA started out pretty stupidly, too, IMHO. However, it got better for a few seasons, and then things seemed to escalate to such a degree it all became preposterous. Every week the crew was able to accomplish some seriously unbelievable feats with systems and technology that was far more advanced than anyone could comprehend and wrap everything up with a little bow at the end. What I liked about SGU is that humans were back to where things were at the beginning of SG1 -- nothing is easy, they aren't the top dog, nothing makes sense, and progress came through a lot of effort rather than pushing the button on the twinkly machine and presto! problem (galactic race of vampires, race of super powerful god like creatures, unstoppable sentient machines, impending destruction by natural forces of unbelievable power) was solved. Yeah, SGU started slow. Just like SG1 and SGA did, but it was getting really good. I liked the messiness of it all -- the grasp on leadership, survival, the ship, the unknown, peace among the crew, etc. were all tenuous, and added tension to the story. What was it Hitchcock said? Something about suspense isn't having a bomb under the table, but KNOWING there is a bomb under the table? In SGU, everything was a bomb -- the ship, the social order, the ability to survive stranded far from home, any of it could come apart with a moment's notice. The writers could have done more with that, but it is still an important and interesting part of the show, unlike SG1 or SGA. With SGU gone, there is nothing to watch on SyFy anymore. I don't have cable or a dish, and now I'm glad. I think SyFy and Hulu shot themselves in the foot by releasing some episodes the day after they aired on TV, and others 30 days later. It was so inconsistent I gave up and watched several episodes on you tube. I guess with nothing else to watch, I won't need to worry about that anymore. SyFy used to have some really good shows. Farscape? FireFly? BSG? Even the Dune remake was pretty good. (Yeah, I know, some people hated it, but it was more faithful to the book than the version from the 80's.) What has SyFy got left? Wrestling? Ghost Hunter? Really??? Goodbye SyFy. You have nothing to contribute.

Maybe this needs to happen. With the move and more internet-based TV viewing, I think the profit is going to fall out of a lot of shows, and they will get canned. With the reduced number of shows, people will realize they are paying too much for TV, and drop some of the higher-priced cable/dish offerings. This could lead to networks failing, reducing the number of networks. Hopefully that will concentrate viewership on the networks that are left, allowing them to charge more for advertising, and regaining enough income to do high-budget interesting shows again. We can hope....

Comment: Re:Proper packaging (Score 1) 480

by zelbinion (#34376972) Attached to: Which Shipping Company Is Kindest To Your Packages?

A friend in college had to do the "egg drop" as a 101 physics class assignment. He lived in a dorm that was 80% engineering students (including me) so he came to ask us for help. We decided the best design was to core halfway to the center of a watermelon, place the egg inside, remove enough material from the core we had extracted to account for the egg, replace the cored section, and tape it shut. Of course we had to test it first. So, at 1 am one frosty January night in Moscow, ID, we dropped the watermelon from the third floor of a building. Upon impact, the watermelon exploding on the sidewalk dissipated most of the energy. The egg came through in one piece, but had a small crack in it. We decided it would have been better to let the watermelon dry out a bit more the next time, to allow the flesh of fruit to compact a little more on impact. We had also failed to account for the little bits of melon that quickly froze to the sidewalk and were immovable for three weeks until we got a day above freezing.

So, the next time you want to ship something UPS, put it inside a watermelon. No ShockWatch sticker needed. If they are too rough on your package, they will get sprayed by watermelon chunks, and it will be obvious something bad happened when your package arrives.

Be sociable. Speak to the person next to you in the unemployment line tomorrow.

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