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Comment Old Star Trek game on VAX (Score 1) 186

When I was a kid (80s) my dad would always show off his text-based Star Trek game, which he played on a VAX terminal at work. I've always looked for a port of that game, but heck, I don't know the exact system it ran on or even the real name of the game, just that he text-commanded his way through space firing photon torpedos at Klingons. One day I hope to find it and boot it up on his home computer, I imagine he'd have a fit (and not leave the computer for days).

Assistance, ideas, or vague leads are appreciated.

Comment Re:AWESOME CONTEST!!! (Score 1) 690

In the Toytoa vehicles (Lexus, really) I've worked on ('01-'05 models)... there are two throttle position sensors on the throttle body. These were Lexus IS, GS, and LS... we were taking the larger inner diameter throttle bodies off the higher displacement motors and putting them on forced induction 2JZ motors in the IS300s.

These TBs were hybrid DBW, meaning you had some amount of throttle control via direct physical cable, and the rest controlled by electronics. If the electronics stopped functioning you could never reach full throttle.

The pedal is linked to the TB via a physical cable (so there's no need for 4 sensors). Both TPS output voltage on a different angle/output ratio, and the ECU is constantly comparing the two outputs. If at any time the output ratios don't agree with the expected preprogrammed curve the vehicle goes into instant limp mode, which means you lose all DBW functionality and you've got at max around 35% throttle (via the physical cable connection)... the electric motor which drives the throttle valve through the rest of it's operating range is completely disabled. Takes a hard reset of the ECU (disconnect battery or pull the ECU) to reset from that limp mode.

I highly doubt any subsequently designed Toyotas use the "honor system". Even so, sensors aren't going to help you... the ECU has the capability to ignore pedal input altogether (or your cruise control couldn't work). If the ECU is saying "I need full power, Scotty!" and the sensors all agree "We're giving it all she's got!" you're still accellerating.

The fix is simple. Regardless of what the ECU thinks it should be doing, if the brake is applied it should override and cut throttle. Period. That will mean you hotdog-powerbraking-load-up-the-torque-convertor-and-explode-off-the-line guys will be short one trick when running from a dig, but that's why God gave us Aftermarket ECUs.

Comment Re:Safety Critical (Score 1) 913

I'll call "citation needed" on your "huge number of replaced PCMs" (the repetition of the word "module" is unnecessary.

The good thing about electronic controls is that they can be monitored and checked. For example, most Toyotas with drive-by-wire (so, most modern Toyotas) have 2 throttle position sensors each reading an offset angle at an offset rate. The ECU is constantly checking BOTH these sensors, and if the range or rate from both don't "agree", it will trip a code and limp home. This is to prevent the situation where a faulty TPS makes your vehicle accellerate out of control, as the ECU thinks it's not getting the throttle response it's requesting and keeps asking for more. You won't find such functionality on completely physical systems.

You could even test for the "stuck accellerator" situation via the ECU... why not have it cut the throttle when you apply the brakes? There aren't many driving situations that don't involve racecar ass-hattery which require you to be on both simultaneously, especially in automatic transmission vehicles. You can do this if your controls are 100% electronic.

Comment Re:Safety Critical (Score 1) 913

Giving up moderating this thread to reply. I tested performance brake systems in a past life.

In a controlled test, given a well maintained set of brakes, your post is bang-on. In the right conditions the engine will not overpower the brakes even at full throttle.

Keep in mind, however, that the majority of vehicles on the road aren't well-maintained test vehicles and drivers aren't creating controlled test scenarios. There are situations where your response to the situation can render your brakes all but useless and make them quite incapable of stopping the car at idle much less @ WOT. If you've ever driven down a mountain leaning on the brakes instead of using the engine you may know what I'm talking about... it doesn't take long to overheat most modern non-performance-grade brake systems.

Consider the scenario where an ineperienced driver uses the brake to maintain speed, instead of instantly realizing they need to stop. Your throttle is stuck open to some degree (not neccessaily WOT) and you keep riding the break to stay near the 65 mph speed limit instead of coming to a complete stop. In such a scenario your brakes can overheat in a few minutes' time, coating your rotors with a smooth layer of melted brake pad. When you finally realize there's a problem it may be too late for your brakes to help you much... glazed rotors will make the brake pedal feel like you've replaced your pads with hot butter.

I'm not saying that (even glazed) wouldn't eventually win the fight... but I'd expect results significantly different than some of the controlled "not so bad" tests I've heard about.

Comment Re:over one second? (Score 1) 464

Any sort of energy that is released in the term of a second or so is useless against anything but stationary targets where you can assume you will hit the same point for that entire second

Northrop Grumman's Mobile/Tactical High Energy Laser system disagrees with your assessment... just ask the mortar shells it shot down. They've been able to shoot down large and small caliber artillery rockets, artillery shells and mortars.

Last I heard someone decided it was too expensive given the current technology and cut funding. NG was working on a less expensive version dubbed Skyguard, which may be able to protect traffic at commerical airfields from shoulder-launched anti-air missiles. (Haven't seen any videos of that system yet).

There's also the YAL-1A, same concept but mounted on a turrent in the nose of a 747.

All these systems use chemical lasers, and while we can fit them into "a few semi-trucks" (or a 747) right now, they're far from being hand-held. In any event, we're past the "Can we shoot down X with a laser" argument and are currently figuring out how to make it smaller and more cost effective. It takes intermediate research programs such as these if we ever want our ships, tanks, or soldiers making pewpewpew noises when they pull the trigger.

Comment A new revenue stream from flights (Score 4, Insightful) 560

I can see it already...

TSA bans the carrying of batteries over a certain size (size is their "see, we thought this through and want to be reasonable" argument). They'll release a special video on YouTube showing exactly how big an explosion they can get from a common laptop battery, and the masses will be in awe that they ever boarded a plane with such a disaster waiting to happen. Mystbusters will also film an episode where they Confirm the "Exploding Laptop Battery" myth... the episode will when a laptop battery they stuffed with 11 pounds of C4, rolled in a coating of thermite, and dipped in ball bearings is used to destroy 4 decomissioned planes somewhere in the middle of the desert.

This ban will affect laptops, portable game systems, video players, etc... the things you actually use during the flight. You'll have to remove your battery at the ticket counter, and your airline will give it to TSA to put in a special fireproof container for the duration of the flight.

The airlines come in and say "We're on your side, travellers" and begin to retrofit planes with power outlets at the seats. Ticket prices will increase slightly to help cover this retrofitting on behalf of all travellers.

Of course, 110v will be "too dangerous" and 12V cigarette lighters will be "too big to fit", even though both would allow you to use things you probably already have in your laptop bag.

Instead, they fit the planes with 8.23 V outlets which require a special 103, 72, or 45.8 degree angle doohicky (depending on the aircraft manufacturer) with three and a half prongs, which is now the special "Saf-T-FlitePower" plug. You can buy cheap throwaway adapters on each flight for something like $25 (these fall into 23 pieces or short out after 3 uses), and travel accessory companies will start selling slightly better made adapters for $75-$150. Dell will add one to your laptop for $250 if you check the correct box on the 8th tab while building it online, but it's ok, because 67% of the time the box will magically be checked by default (people who didn't mean to get one will wonder WTF this this with 3.5 plugs is when they open their UPS box and it will ride around in their laptop bag unused for 4 years).

Now, when you're on the plane, your outlet will be disabled, and it will take the flight attendant typing in a special code with your seat number to turn it on. You can buy one of these codes with your ticket, or may get one automatically if you purchase a certain fare class, and the reason for the whole thing is to cover the cost of the retrofitting (nevermind that they already increased the base cost of the ticket to help cover this, and the functionality which allows them to turn off individual outlets quadrupled the cost of the retrofit in the first place). Also, please be patient while the flight attendant enters your code... for safety reasons this has to be done after reaching cruising altitude, so on some flights you may be halfway through the flight before you even get power. (No kidding, if you've ever been on Frontier and gotten a DirecTV access code).

Once you get off the plane, you'll travel down to the baggage claim, where an avalanche of special fireproof containers will come tumbling down the little ramp. Have fun sorting them out with everyone else on the flight who had to check their battery.

Of course, those of us who don't check bags (I haven't checked a bag in over 10 years and fly 4 segments a week), will just be screwed, but luckily the SkyMall catalog will start selling a cool new device which allows you to pedal up some power for your laptop while in flight! (Eventually, there will be alternatives, such as The Wind Powered Laptop Energy Device" you attach to the overhead air duct, and The Solar Laptop Power Supply which you suction cup to your window and hope you have an AM flight with a starboard window seat on a flight headed due north.)

Comment Re:unilkely (Score 1) 560

Soda and pretzels in steerage... I'm guessing Continental.

Continental still offers the snack and drink for free... except on sub-45-minute flights where there's barely time to get the cart into the isle between cruising altitude and starting the descent.

Comment Re:FluMist (Score 1) 430

The live attenuated flu vaccine, FluMist...

Before I clicked the link, I thought you were talking about getting sneezed on by someone who has the flu...

Marketing department might want to rethink that name. ;)

Comment Re:Or just switch to linux! (Score 1) 178

But you drag up a situation that was resolved nearly a decade ago.

Linux Kernel 2.6 Local Root Exploit - February 10 2008
New Linux Flaw Enables Null Pointer Exploits - July 17, 2009


My point was that the ISC was created in response to a virus that had an impact on Linux. More to the point, that "Linux" ( much like "Mac" ) does not mean "invulnerable". Any competent system admin will tell you that.

fixes were quickly available and easy to apply

This has less to do with existence of exploits and more to do with competency doesn't it? Tell you what, if you can tell my mother-in-law how to apply this decade old fix to a Linux system correctly, without excusing yourself for a moment to go outside and bang your head against the wall, I'll concede.

Comment Re:This is great! (Score 1) 174

411 can give you directions without GPS now. It's something people don't realize. You're billed by the call too, so it's pretty darn nice. Goog 411 can help you find the place, and regular 411 can do the rest.

Meanwhile, trusting in your GPS when you don't have cellphone reception can, you know, lead you off a cliff.

Nothing beats simply planning your route *BEFORE* you leave.

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