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Comment Labor, Markets and Level Playing Fields (Score 0) 218

First, Apple is playing by the same rules as every other US manufacture. The main reason they are being singled out is for name recognition, because no one would gives a rip about Dell's suppliers any more. Isn't this really demanding the current benefactor clean up the mess the policy mess put in motion forty years ago? When I was working on a business bachelors in the mid 1990's, one of my classes studied the practices and effect of globalization. Discussion soon came around to the effects of "Free Trade" on labor. It was noted that US legislative changes begun in the 1970's and International trade agreement's, had incentivized seeking the lowest labor costs for manufactured goods. It was noted that those changes both penalized US labor wages, while underpaying foreign labor. This effectively was pitting US "working class" people against foreign "struggling class" people. So corporations now had workers in the US complaining about their reduced cut of profit, while foreign labor was more that willing to accept an even smaller percent of the same profit for similar work. When we ask our instructor how this could be justified, he presented two logical arguments that drove current policy. First, the changes in the US were intended to grow the top-line of US corporations and retain dominance in world markets. Second, attempting to dictate pay and conditions in a sovereign foreign nation would be frowned upon in International economic/politics for numerous reasons. He also informed us that the original theory of globalization did consist of two parts, "Free Markets" and "Free Labor." Free Markets being the practice of minimal trade barriers, and Free Labor being right of labor to organize and collectively bargain on an International level. It should be no surprise that both domestic and foreign governments would have a problem with expanding the power of collective bargaining. (Whole political movements in the US have been based on annihilating collective bargaining.) That plus the weighty influence of corporate myopia could see no down side to stripping out workers rights from trade provisions. Ironically, the Press has once again taken notice of effects of these practices on foreign labor. Once again the Press can not draw a connection between US labor policy and foreign labor policy. Once again the Press feels a need to excuse the policy makers and vilify the producers who work within the bounds of those rules. BTW, Until the late 1990's, Apple retained a sizable percentage of domestic assembly work in the US. As their business recovered from it's "Near Death" experience, they shifted their assembly work to the same factories that one of the industries largest players of the time were using. Specifically DELL. I don't Apple's move so much as comment on their disregard for foreign labor. I see this as climbing out of the hole you found yourself in after the real powers industry had "leveled the playing field" on top of you

Comment Re:1960's Denver is the textbook case (Score 0) 288

Thanks for mentioning this bit of history. I lived in Denver, 1978 - 1989. I believe this overlapped the moratorium period that the city/state obtained from the federal government to curtail the practice. The pumping stopped and the quakes stopped. Those who had poo pooed the possibility had a Homer moment (D'oh!) I am not saying that's proof of the origins of Oklahoma quake, just that it needs to be investigated. That's what engineering is, investigate, understand, do better.

Comment Re:Sour grapes or vinegar... (Score 0) 374

I'm a lazy engineer with enough years of hacking hardware, tools and control systems to not want to waste time on broken products. Windows is one of those products. Microsoft Windows was created broken, constantly patched, but never fix in twenty years. But these comments are not really about Windows vs Macintosh security, are they? It appear to me that Windows fanboys have been in pain for so long that they can't possible admit that they suffer by choice. When faced with that possibility they are quick to point a finger and say, "just wait, you will get yours!" Have they really suffered so much and so long that they can only spit venom, and wish their misadventures on others? Apparently so. As I previously posted, it's Microsofts greed and laziness, not malware writers cleverness that has produced out current reality. Microsoft effectively built in a root level exploit when they implemented Windows with OLE/ActiveX at it's heart. OLE/ActiveX helped Microsoft to displace IBM in corporate circles because any generic Windows PC in a corporate network could be "owned" by network administrators. This had many advantages prior to 1994 when corporate networks were closed. But once the Internet was opened to the public that became a liability. To make things worse, Windows 95 and succeeding versions added full TCP/IP stacks to this mix. Direct access to TCP/IP via OLE/ActiveX became a huge exploit for self executing code. That is the key that MS Windows root kits are based on. What was "good enough" in 1993 is sorrowfully lacking in 2003. That's why I say it is not the brilliance of malware creators that power these exploits, but the myopic greed and laziness of Microsoft. On top of this, it is the constant churn of running battle that is "Windows User vs Malware," that primes the uninitiated for manipulation. Every month these is some new Windows exploit that get lots of press. Then, several time a year some hit-whore writes a "Smug Macintosh users will get theirs" article. This produces FUD in the uninitiated who want to believe the "press" is objective and balance, so they click and install... just to be safe. Will some clever programmer figure out a method for exploiting Mac OS, or even iOS? If substantial money is be gained, it is a high likelihood. But I would be very surprised if the current Apple goes down the same path that Microsoft took.

Comment Re:No surprises here (Score 1) 374

Actually, once the installer is downloaded you still have to enter an administrator password. Try it. This piece of malware is still a piece of $hit and requires the FUD of the Windows community to provoke the gullible user into trusting rumor instead of their own good judgement. I mean, few people leave their automobiles unlocked because they "might" leave their keys in the ignition.

Comment Re:Apple and its fanboys helped make this happen (Score 1) 314

Actually, it's Windows(TM) fanboy's that made this bit of social engineering possible. In the sixteen years I have run my Mac support business, the only time I get calls and question regarding malware on Macs is when there is a Windows community panic, or when the professional media machine needs some controversy hits. The basic assumption required for someone to believe a hostile act, (i.e. forced download of malware from an unrequested website) is a benevolent act, is FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt.) In this case FUD originates in seeing the tribulations of the market dominate Microsoft Windows OS users. Similarly, not that many years ago people had unreasonable fears of developing lung cancer. Once we accepted that smoking cigarettes was the dominate initiator of those cancers and changed our dominate behavior the occurrence of lung cancers dropped dramatically. Yes many non techie computer user now fear computer compromise even when they don't use MS Windows. But then many people fear terrorism enough to forfeiting their civil rights and believe anyone who doesn't is "un-American." A stretch I know, but FUD is at work in this situation also. Go figure... I have to praise Microsoft, if for no other reason than they cut through the proprietary nature of email circa 1993. By embracing Internet standards and penetrating every corporation, they made it y possible to message anyone anywhere. I have to criticize Microsoft for adding TCP/IP to the security nightmare that was OLE and making "ad powered" malware a viable, international and profitable market. Windows powered malware also expanded the anti-malware software business to the huge market that it is today and blurred the line of who is a blackhat or a whitehat. Together these two sides play out a MAD (TM) magazine scenario of "Spy vs Spy" that only Windows fanboys hope will spread to every other OS platform. Apple simply has never shipped their systems with the administration level wide open and waiting for any bogus code to corrupt it. This is one of the reasons Apple is painted as closed and proprietary. But that policy is simple as it is effective. My personal hope is that by 2013 the malware vs anti-malware will have died a slow agonizing death. And that Apple and other like them are the reason that 2013 will not be like 1993.

Comment Re:iPhone isn't innovation... (Score 1) 354

I agree with this. Apple could have settled for being a stepping stone that helped Motorola keep it's head above water a little longer. Instead, they formed yet another mutual partnership with an "also ran" cell carrier and got that industry moving again. Moving as in being the "carriers of human communication," not the overlords getting fat off that most human quality. Our network for communication has come a long way in forty years, but it is not done. The fact that Internet communication is still discreetly separated between separate copper, cable, fiber and wireless providers. All with separate membership and billing rules for each country on this planet tell me we are still provincially minded. Most of the real innovation in personal communication has lead to much gnashing of teeth on the part of established players. The fact is, if they don't own it, control it and stand to make a conventional profit, it must be bad. Never mind an innovation like email, or the public Internet that grew to markets sizes unforeseen by every corporation that stood in the way. But people don't really inherently about corporations any more than corporations inherently care about people. Last week, a fourteen year old posted a key observation regarding technology purchases. The key entry that caught my eye was, "she told me her iPad does more out of the box than other computers." And that's it, specs don't matter to real purchases. What matters is how the purchase serves the purchaser. We have moved on from a time when just having a phone, computer, pager, cell phone, Internet, laptop, smart phone was enough. That stoking "social status" was satisfaction enough. The cell carriers that understand the difference between, supporting their customers vs have their customers supporting them, will gain market profits. Believe anything you choose, but the rest of the world is moving on.

Comment Re:riiiight (Score 1) 192

Thank you for reading what I had to say. You do get the point that company's can exist without innovation or market expansion if they can dominate a market. That said, I have been watching three small company's that have taking the technology forward for over a decade. Scaled, XCOR and Armadillo Aerospace. Scaled is moving close to being able to field an operational two stage to sup-orbital vehicle. XCOR has developed advanced rocket motors, fuel pumps, ignition and valves, plus high temperature composite materials. They are currently working on technology demonstrator which I think the Air Force with snap up. Armadillo has taken on the systems and controls aspects of rocket powered flight. (Not bad for a company founded on profits made in the video game industry.) Currently all three companies are working only slightly outside the realm of the expected. But what if some larger corporation brought them together? For example, the goal of NASA purchasing manned access to the ISS could starting with a government contract to provide sub-orbital hypersonic transport to international points of commerce and government. Doing so would produce experience with design, build and operation of systems that we know will work, to systems beyond our current level of competence. Think of this as a "Stepping-Stone" contract. We may not be able to reliably cross the gulf to regular orbital access, but if we walk on the stones we can get there in spectacular fashion. :-)

Comment Re:riiiight (Score 1) 192

Actually the business case is the same as all other transportation business before it. Can we move a product from one location to another and make a profit doing it. Just as ships had an advantage over caravans, and jet liners have an advantage over ships. The market for transportation diversity has grown for centuries. Ships and planes did not replace the systems that preceded them but they did expand options and markets. Now modern US politician's love to exploit "common sense" proofs for winning arguments, getting elected and protecting the status quo. But common sense arguments can just be exploiting ignorance. (Not stupidity, but ignorance as in the process of ignoring evidence and opportunity.) The restraint of the development of "transit through space" systems is a good example of this. In the nineteen sixties it was though the next great advance in air transport was supersonic travel, i.e. 1800 MPH. Except for the Concord with it's limited range and cargo, no government even tried to make this work. But, anyone who has traveled internationally beyond western Europe will tell you it is an arduous process and shorter travel times would be welcome. If we had developed sub-orbital hyper-sonic transportation systems, such journeys become attractive. Rocket transports that transit above the atmosphere have several advantages. Sonic booms would be limited to terminal area's where re-entry takes place. Atmospheric damage due to NOx emission would be minimal with rocket engines. Hyper-sonic velocities on the order of 10,000 MPH would reduce travel times to humanly acceptable levels of 40 - 120 minutes. But the major advantage to developing such systems is that it would provide us with operational experience toward going full-orbital transit on a regular basis. Robert Heinlein wrote, "If you can make earth orbit you are half way to everywhere in our solar system." But why should we go? Energy harvesting. Our US standard of living is dependent on abundant energy sources. As the rest of the world develops, it will also need abundant energy sources. Rather that squabbling and fighting over limited supplies of fossil fuel and living with the consequences of it's use, we can develop "Big Solar." Large solar power stations can gather the energy that shines past us each day. But to do that requires reliable, reasonably priced transport to an orbit close to the moon. Currently we can barley get people to low earth orbit, let alone the moon, so we need to start somewhere. So the business case is this. Develop something useful that can bootstrap us to solving many of our looming challenges, or maintain the status quo and wait for the collapse.

Comment Re:riiiight (Score 3, Interesting) 192

Before I left Boeing, a young enthusiast engineer and I had a meeting with the two senior Boeing engineers regarding what would become of the McDonnell Douglas DC-X prototype and data. In general they had disdain for what had been accomplished. They considered it a circus sideshow in technology terms. (There was also disdain for a technical "know nothing" Vice President having let two sci-fi writers talk him into finding funding and flying such a thing. Never mind that one of those writers was an accomplished engineer.) Once we got beyond the ego based opinions and down to brass tacks, they did present one trump argument, "The board of directors would never go for it." Looking at the prospects of developing a new Airliner for the mature air-transit market or developing booster for the unknown space-transit market, they would fund the sure bet. There was also the fact that the US couldn't compete on "cheapness" even twenty years ago. The only way they could make any case for being involved was to gain a protected monopoly to build, manage and supply launch services to all government and commercial seekers. Understand that when you are talking disposable boosters the cost of build, integration on the pad, launch and shepherding through the mission determine payload charges The equation changes with fully reusable vehicle, but no one has built or operated one to this day. And no, the Shuttle is not a reusable vehicle, it is a rebuildable vehicle. It can be compared to a "top fuel dragster" in that it uses a few highly developed materials and systems to produce spectacular performance for a very limited time. Not unlike a dragster it must be inspected and rebuilt after each mission. Conventional wisdom says that this is the nature of transit through space, but is it? Bear with me a moment for a comparison. In the early nineteen seventies top fuel dragster were producing in excess of 1000 HP and topping 200 MPH in the quarter mile. Spectacular?... yes. At the same time in a different realm the Porsche 917-10 was producing 1000 HP and could do it for hours on end. And prior to it's dominance the Ford GT 40 dominated the 24 Hours of Le Man with only 400 HP. I believe it was Arthur C. Clark who said, "If a very senior scientist tells you some thing can be done, he is most likely right. But is a very senior scientist tells you something can't be done he is very likely wrong." So, skepticism on the part of traditional aerospace companies is not unexpected. Very few carriage manufactures transitioned to the automotive market ether. Skepticism can be good if it moderates others to hide that twinkle in their eye and say, "Yes we can"

Comment Re:Anyone seeing parallels to IT projects here?? (Score 1) 334

Thirteen years ago I worked at Boeing. I worked electrical installation engineering and design on the 767, 747, and 777. After the McDonnell Douglas take-under the mold was set and the writing was already on the wall. Jack Welch was god and had declared a new day. Engineering wassuperfluous and could be farmed out to the lowest bidder. Final assembly would be farmed out next once some sticky public image issues were solved. Schedules could be set by management and someone would always kill themselves to meet it. So they fired a third of the engineering staff and pocketed that money as profits. Then they set to work selling the next great product. Maybe management should be farmed out... Maybe Seattle needs to reclaim it's company... Maybe someone needs to really figure out how magic actually works...

Comment Which lessons learned... (Score 1) 255

I may be stating the obvious, but I don't expect Orion or any of these new launch vehicles to be completed, but that may be a good thing. The idea of placing highly skilled, highly trained volunteers on top of a giant firecracker is ridiculous. Solid propellents are accidents waiting to happen and that's why military weapon systems drop or boost rocket powered munitions away from the delivery vehicle before they ignite. That's also why those "solid rocket engines" are manufactured in desolate area's of the Southwest and shipped in secure containers. In stark contrast the proposed heavy lift booster continues to be a liquid core vehicle. I personally take issue with the philosophy of placing equipment, not humans on the safer of the two vehicles. These kind of decisions are also indicative of political "grand standing." First lay out a "grand plan for glory," then set a time-table for shutting down a working system, while only "starting" work on the means to achieve the goal. The current administration will not be in office when NASA comes asking for financing to build hardware, so these actions will likely play out as a politically correct method for shutting down the Shuttle program. At some future date I am sure a politician will step forward and claim this action as proof of there effort at "reducing government waste." What's that you say? They already built the Orion capsule... NOT. A "mockup" is not a finished and tested product. That thing is not even an alpha build, it's a Powerpoint show at best. This whole process compares to Microsoft being contracted by the US government to investigate replicating the IBM360. They may get a workable device out of the exercise but the world will have moved on and past glory will be forgotten. The ingenious exploitation of available resources to meet human needs has been a major driver of all know civilizations. The exploitation of space resources has payed for our current level of space exploration, so I don't expect this trend to change. Progress will only happen at a greater level than we currently know when we can routinely travel to space, work there and come back. That means building the equivalent to the DC-3 or B727, because disposable vehicles are a huge waste of funds and resources. There is plenty of documentation to show how and where mistakes were made in creating the Shuttle and that documentation indicates that under-funding and politics were key to it's failure. Engineers and program manager must learn the lessons of economics, finance and politics in order to change the world. Repeating pst mistakes and basing decisions on cheapness will only guarantee failure.

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