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Comment Re:First thoughts (Score 1) 215

The piece missing from your analysis is that Sully's performance is only half the story, or even less than half. The real story is his quick decision to land in the Hudson, a crazy and terrible decision that was right in this circumstance, and maybe no other.

For all the talk of reflexes vs clock speed, etc., how do you program a computer to make a decision like this, and make it smart enough not to do it the next time? I know somebody is going to say "It made sense. It was the only thing he could do." But even if you believe that, how do you code it? Do you just tell the computer that when all else fails, head for a flat open space? How do you tell it which flat open spaces are school yards, or mall parking lots, vs empty freeways or ploughed fields, or a busy freeway?

Yes, pilots are limited human beings, and will sometimes have the wrong answer, or make a mistake; but you're really only moving that to the programmer when you fully automate air travel. I don't believe you can develop or code enough "proper emergency protocols" to meet the flexibility and perception of an experienced pilot.

Comment Re:419 Scams (Score 1) 808

I've seen some poor people that fit that mold; but I've also seen a LOT of people below the poverty line who are hard working, spend what little money they have on necessities, and receive assistance with great shame.

I spent about a decade in the restaurant business, doing everything from cook to store manager. The conception of poverty by people who went to college and got a decent job afterward is skewed. Most of us simply do not realize the margins that some people live on. They can't buy that song they heard on the radio because they can't splurge $15 this week on a cd, and don't have internet access to download the song for $.99. They buy more thread than socks.

They work two jobs because they are in debt for the full price of the last visit to the ER. They plan their day around the bus schedule. Weekends don't mean anything to them except that they have to now find a babysitter for the entire day, and the bus schedule is different. Holidays mean lost pay.

The easy retort is that these people chose their life, and that they could improve it if they wished; but it's not as easy as that, and repeating it ever more loudly won't make it true. Many of these people work every minute of the day to maintain their meager living.

They are often intelligent people who by happenstance, or societal conditioning, tragedy, or accident of birth never got many of the little opportunities that allow us who are maybe not rich but live comfortably to achieve the lifestyle we have.

I've been fortunate (or unfortunate, depending upon how you look at it) to spend time with very rich people and some very poor people. Trying to equate IQ with either station is a fool's exercise. Trying to generalize poor people as unmotivated, entitled, profligate spenders is no better.

Comment Re:Another Benefit of Traditional Planes (Score 1) 419

I highly recommend 2 books for the reader "One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer" by Nate Fick, and "Generation Kill" by Evan Wright. They both tell the same story of the Second Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Marines who invaded Iraq. They briefly mention these "moto" missions whereby fighter jets make very low passes over a firefight. They both intimidate the enemy and provide a morale boost to the troops. Fighting spirit should not be underestimated and at the right time, a low pass might be more effective than a danger close bomb.

Comment Re:ChAir Force (Score 1) 419

Not a military pilot; but I'm a commercial civilian pilot and flight instructor.

The time should count. They aren't flying games or even simulations at all. They can't pause or restart the flight. They're flying real airplanes and the resemblance to a sim is only in the interface. But that interface is the same one they have in the real plane: altimeters, directional gyros, airspeed indicators, even tactical computers. They do not have the sensory input or the personal risk; but sensory input can be misleading, and in most situations notions of pilots flying "by the seat of their pants" are quaint at best. And as for risk, you don't get to log flight time because of the risk. You log flight time because it requires skill to do it well and correctly.

Personally, I would give higher honors to the pilots flying manned airplanes; but that doesn't mean I don't respect these guys or the job they do, or believe they shouldn't get credit or professional reward for doing it.

Comment Re:Mod parent up please (Score 2, Informative) 424

I don't have a paper to cite for you; but I can confirm that staff at nuclear facilities do handle new uranium fuel assemblies with cotton gloves while dressed in casual cotton attire (jeans, work shirts, boots). They don't wear respirators or lead-lined suits.

The uranium fuel used in reactors is predominantly U-238 mixed with a small percentage (3-4%) of enriched U-235. U-235 is the fissile material and while it does spontaneously emit neutrons at a low level, it becomes useful for power generation when placed in the presence of other neutron emitting material and a moderator. A moderator slows the velocity of neutrons which makes them more likely to interact with the U-235. Fast neutrons bad, slow neutrons good. The fuel is loaded into tubes in pellets roughly 1/2 inch long by 1/4 inch in diameter. Each tube is about 12 feet long and there are a number of tubes in each fuel assembly. There may be a couple of hundred assemblies in the reactor. Each pellet contains roughly the same potential energy as a ton of coal. This whole paragraph is oversimplified of course, but you get the idea.

It is indeed the spent fuel that is highly radioactive. All work done on spent fuel assemblies and assemblies currently in the core is done under water. Spent assemblies are moved entirely under water from the core to the storage pool, where they will stay for the licensed life of the reactor. Of course, if your reactor gets a license extension, some of the spent fuel will eventually need to be moved off-site.

Contact the community relations or corporate communications group at your local nuke plant. They likely have an introductory video they can send you. Those videos are cool, if for no other reason, because they film place you'll never get to visit in person. I've seen one video that had a shot looking down into the reactor core during a refueling outage. How many people would get to see that in person?

Comment Re:Suspect?.... (Score 1) 403

The decision to replace the pitot tubes would have been made over time, and it's likely that the pilots had trained for conflicting or errant airspeed indications in the simulator. Even without the suspected pitot tube problem in the Airbus line, it's likely they faced the scenario in the simulator. There was a famous accident involving a Boeing 757 chartered from the Dominican Republic that crashed when the pitot tubes fouled with water.

In such a situation, a known power setting in straight and level flight would produce a certain airspeed, give or take some margin. The difficulty in the Air France situation would be the whole "straight and level" thing. The Airbus aircraft have a "rough air penetration" speed that pilots should assume when entering turbulence, but they would have no way of ensuring that the airplane remained at or below the rough air penetration speed without their pitot tubes. They could use power settings and attitude to take a shot at it; but they would not be assured of having a safe airspeed.

Overseas flight crews are VERY experienced professionals. You might find young pilots fresh out of a civilian academy on domestic flights; but overseas flight crews are seasoned vets. They know all the tricks, but sometimes circumstances trump skill. There are no procedures, and there is no training that can account for everything.

Of all the scenarios I've heard, the pitot tube problem seems the most realistic, but it's all academic until the investigation is complete. The Journal really has no business printing such an article this early. Nobody's going to pay much attention to us armchair quarterbacks on slashdot, but the Journal carries an artificial importance. The article is purely sensationalism at the cost of pain and confusion to family members.

Comment Re:Best Photos (Score 1) 582

I guess if you're the pilot, you just hope nothing gets ingested into those engines, sitting 6 inches from you, or that you never get any leaks in the hot section. Very impressive machine, actually; but scary from an operational standpoint.

Comment Devil's Advocate (Score 2, Interesting) 368

To play devil's advocate for a moment, let's think about how many flights are made daily, and for how many years we've been making them, and this is the first time we've lost an airplane to bird ingestions in all/both engines. Reducing risk is great (multiple engines, redundant systems, etc), and I'm all for it; but I wonder at what point we see diminishing returns for the cost. Should there be an acceptance of these risks at some level?

Comment Re:A pretty good one, actually (Score 1) 821

In the past year, I set up my mother's new Vista PC, and a new Dell Ubuntu system for myself. I have to say that the Ubuntu system was up faster, and worked better. I had a small battle getting drivers for my mother's printers and scanner, electronic picture frame (a simple usb storage device), etc.; but my peripherals worked perfectly out of the box. I took her picture frame home and loaded pics on it from my system.

There is no perfect apples to apples comparison for these things; but having set up both systems as shipped, the Ubuntu was a more pleasant experience and showed better hardware support.

Comment Re:Michigan (Score 1) 325

Wow. Sounds just a tad bit bitter.

Your semiconductor factory probably works very well that way; but my enterprise doesn't so much. My on-call admin (me, this week) is expected to carry his blackberry; but the others don't have to carry it outside of work hours. My systems are very stable, so it's not unusual to go a week with only 1 or 2 calls. It's less normal, though not exactly rare, to go a week without getting called at all. So why should I pay shift differential and upset everybody's lives with rotating 3rd shift schedules?

After all, if I want the 3rd shift person to be up to speed and able to handle any call, I need him to be in the office on 1st shift regularly enough to know what's happening with new deployments, etc.

I don't doubt that you've found the right solution for your environment; but why bag on the other? I do save the shift differential; but the bigger thing is disrupting my staff's lives with rotating off-hour shifts.

Comment "despicable way to punish the poor" (Score 1) 98

I don't know if these regulations are federal or state; but in many jurisdictions (maybe all, don't know) there are laws against turning off the power when it gets too cold. Here in Kansas at least, it's actually called the Cold Weather Rule. The company has to send personnel out to turn meters on. So no, the power company is not despicably punishing the poor. Even if it wanted to, it couldn't.

Smart meters offer a lot more than simply remote disconnect. A great deal of what they offer is related to their reporting abilities. Standard meters don't communicate at all. They simply spin dials which often are still read manually. Slightly more advanced meters can report to a truck that drives down the street, or across the grid itself to the utility company. But most of the installed meters out in the world are simply dumb circuits with a spinning dial on them.

A smart meter will allow you to view your usage by hour or quarter hour, depending on how many data points your utility company wants to keep. This will allow you to participate in programs that increase off-peak usage. It's better for you and for the utility both if we can flatten the graph on power generation through the day. With smart meters, the company can offer incentive programs that reward the off-peak usage, or programs that might let you participate in other ways. You might be able to install a thermostat that talks to your smart meter and adjust it remotely. Or you might get lower rates in return for letting the utility adjust your thermostat 2 degrees either way during peak times.

When a storm blows through, the smart meters can provide an accurate measure of impact because they're all "ping"able. This will reduce restoration time, especially for those who are on their utility company's "life support" list; people who rely on power for oxygenators, or need refrigeration for meds, etc.

The company can use the smart meters to help measure line loss and know better when to upgrade old distribution lines. It will be easier to detect theft, which really costs the rate-payer.

So no. It's not a big illuminati conspiracy to beat up on poor people. If anything, it displaces meter readers, who are good hard-working people just like you.

Comment Re:This seems hard to swallow (Score 1) 498

Would you have given over the root passwords for your network and servers in those circumstances?

Yes. I would. I wouldn't like it; but it's not my right to withhold them from the rightful owners. being insulted or mistreated does not make it right to do what Terry did. You can argue that the City was stupid, or even malicious; but they didn't do anything illegal.

It's their network. Not Terry's.

This case will cause grief for sysadmins for a long time to come because it completely validates the perspective of auditors who consider us to be the biggest risk to a company's data systems.

The short-sightedness around here is actually quite surprising to me.

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