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Submission + - Why BART is Falling Apart writes: Matthias Gafni writes in the San Jose Mercury News that the engineers who built BART, the rapid transit system serving the San Francisco Bay Area that started operation in 1972, used principles developed for the aerospace industry rather than tried-and-true rail standards. And that's the trouble. "Back when BART was created, (the designers) were absolutely determined to establish a new product, and they intended to export it around the world," says Rod Diridon. "They may have gotten a little ahead of themselves using new technology. Although it worked, it was extremely complex for the time period, and they never did export the equipment because it was so difficult for other countries to install and maintain." The Space Age innovations have made it more challenging for the transit agency to maintain the BART system from the beginning. Plus, the aging system was designed to move 100,000 people per week and now carries 430,000 a day, so the loss of even a single car gets magnified with crowded commutes, delays and bus bridges. For example, rather than stick to the standard rail track width of 4 feet, 8.5 inches, BART engineers debuted a 5-foot, 6-inch width track, a gauge that remains to this day almost exclusive to the system. Industry experts say the unique track width necessitates custom-made wheel sets, brake assemblies and track repair vehicles.

Another problem is the dearth of readily available replacement parts for BART's one-of-a-kind systems. Maintenance crews often scavenge parts from old, out-of-service cars to avoid lengthy waits for orders to come in; sometimes mechanics are forced to manufacture the equipment themselves. "Imagine a computer produced in 1972," says David Hardt. "No one is supporting that old equipment any longer, but those same microprocessors are what we have controlling our logic systems." Right now BART needs 100 thyristors at a total cost of $100,000. BART engineers said it could take 22 weeks to ship them to the San Francisco Bay Area to replace in BART’s "C" cars, which make up the older cars in the fleet. Right now, the agency has none. Nick Josefowitz says it makes no sense to dwell on design decisions made a half-century ago. "I think we need to use what we have today and build off that, rather than fantasize what could have been done in the past. The BART system was state of the art when it was built, and now it's technologically obsolete and coming to the end of its useful life."

Comment Re:So - who's in love with the government again? (Score 1) 397

Amen. The guy who posted:

"But you see that is exactly his point, he should not have to present anything in order to prevent the government enacting a new rule. It should be up to the government to present an argument or evidence that this proposed rule is not only a good idea, but necessary. When the government proposes a new rule, the first reaction of a free people should be, "Not until you convince me that it is necessary for this branch of government to implement this rule.""

is exactly the kind of ignorant that he's posing as being against. Incredibly frustrating, if we're taking people at face value.

Comment I don't need The Cloud, but I do need a service (Score 1) 81

And that service is providing a sync path for my data. I'm willing to pay a premium for it. Yet I can't use and enjoy my Android phone with a simple sync path for any price. Its practical functionality depends upon me handing over all of my info to Google's cloud (and that's just for the basic apps, nevermind what I'd like to add on).

Comment More Self-Serving Hype (Score 3, Insightful) 157

Rob Rosenberger at VMyths notes:

et’s cut to the chase. U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III wrote an op-ed for a commercial publication in which he claims a single USB thumb drive caused the worst military data breach in history. And according to Wikipedia, that one little USB stick led to the creation of the Pentagon’s new Cyber Command.
[. . .]

I’ll bet it took so long only because it was a classified operation. This malware would have blown over in a week if DoD-CERT had issued an email saying “hey, there’s a new virus running around, please scan your PCs for agent.btz.”

{sniff} I can definitely smell a lot of groupthink here. Not to mention hype, which goes hand in hand with groupthink.

Lynn suffers from a short memory span. We know this because he thinks the Pentagon got “a wake-up call” when agent.btz slithered into classified networks. If Lynn’s brain had more RAM, he would recall the Melissa virus did EXACTLY the same thing in 1999. It infected classified U.S. networks at a depth & scope even I myself would label “impressive.”

So why this story? Well (from the same source):

You can see I’ve got a healthy dose of skepticism over Lynn’s “Buckshot Yankee” revelation. And I’m not alone: Wired filed a story with the headline “Insiders Doubt 2008 Pentagon Hack Was Foreign Spy Attack.”

Waitaminit. GCN’s breathless story includes the phrase “Lynn said Wednesday in a teleconference with reporters.” You mean to say he gabbed with the media on top of all the hype he wrote in an official capacity for a commercial publication? {sniff} I smell a book deal in the works when Lynn’s boss retires next year.

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