191 posts • joined Friday 14th December 2007 20:08 GMT
Re: Model M
I have a little project on the back burner, hacking up an old USB keyboard to provide a separate custom keypad as an adjunct to my Model M, with plans to include a Windows key in the array. I've still got a box of old Cherry keyswitches somewhere I salvaged from a dead keyboard way back when...
Stars in my Pocket
I got one of those things we used to joke about years ago, a solar-powered torch, from a hundred-yen store in Akihabara. Small calculator-sized solar panel, a tiny rechargeable battery and three white LEDs on the front. Runs for several minutes and charges on the desk -- wirelessly! -- when the lights are on. Only thing better would be a RTG-powered torch.
The various spacecraft that fly to the ISS have different roles; Soyuz is the only man-carrying system, the ATV carries large amounts of liquids and propellants as well as solid supplies and is used to boost the station in orbit, the SpaceX Dragon capsule can return material to Earth and so on. Supply runs are almost an incidental part of any mission. There's also the Progress cargo ships and of course the Japanese Kounotori unmanned supply ships which are often not mentioned when talking about ISS logistics; they have a vacuum-pallet component to carry experiments that are going to be deployed on the outside of the ISS.
Re: That name
I was referring to a Reg poster named John Savard, not Mr. Miller-Kirkpatrick.
There was a "John Savard" on Usenet back in the day, regarded by all who read him as the Wrongest Man on the Internet. I wonder if this is the same one?
XP vs. Win8 on older hardware
Someone did a test on a 2007-vintage IBM/Lenovo laptop a while back, reinstalling XP on it and then Win8 and running benchmarks on both. The Win8 install ran the same apps a little faster than XP did with the same physical resources (memory, hard disc etc.)
The wifi router in the comms cabinet
One arse-clenching "shadow IT" deal I came across was the bods in a satellite office who "wanted the internet on their desk". Company policy was that internet access was locked down by proxies, not surprisingly in an industry where billion-dollar fines for breaking the law are not unheard of. Everything business-related is logged in the likely case it needs to be used as evidence in a court of law. But they wanted the internet so...
These suuuuper-geniuses signed up for a broadband package without telling IT or indeed anyone above their pay grade. The engineer turned up and hooked a wifi-enabled commodity router with default passwords into the office comms cabinet which was part of a secure firewalled and firegapped network with billions of dollars an hour in financial traffic flowing through it, never mind confidential customer data etc.
When it was discovered what they had done words were had and there were some empty desks soon after. Then again that particular part of the business was well-stocked with risk-taking twenty-something cowboys who regarded "being caught" as much less likely than "million dollar bonuses all round".
IBM had a choice between the 8086 and the MC68000 for their desktop system, the Personal Computer. They went with the 8086, well actually the 8-bit bus version, the 8088 for a whole lot of very good reasons. One was that while Intel were delivering the 8086 and 8088 in commercial quantities, Motorola were demoing nearly-functional versions of the MC68000 running at half the rated speed. Another factor was that the 8086 was bus-compatible with 8080 family support chips like the 8271 serial port, the 8259 interrupt controller and the like whereas the 68k chip was going to need a new family of support chips which were still paper exercises at the time. The third, and critical factor was the backwards compatibility in registers and addressing modes to the 8080 which made rewriting existing 8080 code for the new devices a piece of piss. Sure the 68k was a dream to write code for but translating 6800 or 6502 code to 68k was a pain in the arse. Intel delivered code conversion tools along with the new 16-bit chips and the rest is history.
"Look around you. Is there any Intel kit out there *outside* the Windows market? If there is, I don't see it, from smart TVs to routers to (whatever). "
Ummm, there's this computer company called Apple, they sell a lot of laptops and desktops and they all have Intel chips inside and they don't run Windows (unless the user wants to). In fact it was a big thing a few years back when Apple gave up on the vastly superior PowerPC architecture and switched to braindead Intel x86 chips for some crazy reason; they swallowed the Megahertz Myth koolaid, after all PowerPC had Altivec, win win! That crazy Steve Jobs guy, what was he thinking!
The closure of the San Onofre plant was due to a fuckup in the design, manufacture and/or specification of new steam generators intended to keep the two reactors there running for at least the next ten years. The manufacturers, Mitsubishi are being sued and it'll take a court case to sort out who is to blame for the failure of the new steam generators and who is going to pay for it.
In the end it was going to take a few years to fix the problem, get new steam generators built and installed and the reactors were already about 30 years old. It wasn't worth the effort and money that would have been needed to bring the reactors back into operation for only a few more years after that. The decommissioning fund is paid up and the reactors would not get further licence extensions without a lot more money being ploughed into the site even if years down the road the court finds for the plant operators and Mitsubishi pays compensation.
Re: The Tooth Fairy and Molten Salt Thorium Reactors
Yellowcake (U3O8), the minehead product of uranium mining costs US $35 per lb as there's a glut on the market at the moment. Known exploitable reserves at a pricepoint of under $100 per lb are good for about a century of exploitation, probably more without the need to actively explore for more sources. Japanese scientists have carried out proof-of-concept extraction of uranium from seawater, estimated cost US $300 per kilo of metal. There's also reprocessing, at the moment spent PWR fuel contains as much as 2% U-235 after it is removed from a reactor along with some Pu-239 and Pu-240, both of which could be recycled given the will to do so and the facilities. It costs a chunk of money but it vastly reduces the mass and volume of waste needing deep-geological disposal in the future.
Thorium by itself isn't a nuclear fuel, it's not fissile. The most common isotope is Th-232 which can be bred into U-233 which is fissile but only in a very fast nuclear reactor with a much greater neutron flux than a regular water-moderated reactor, and the history of uranium breeders over the past few decades has not been a technological or commercial triumph -- very hot, compact cores with extremely high fast neutron fluxes tend to go wrong in spectacular ways (see Dounreay, Monju, Phenix, SuperPhenix, the fiery Soviet BN-600 et al).
Proposed molten-salt thorium reactors need a kickstarter of several tonnes of U-235 and Pu-239 in the salt to start breeding and burning the magical thorium. U-233 can be substituted but there are only a few tonnes of that material in existence in the world, it is horrendously expensive as it is made in nuclear reactors and it can be used to build functional nuclear weapons (not very good ones but they will work).
Some work has been carried out in pebble-bed reactors using mixed-oxide fuel with thorium; bits of the "peebles" flake off, dust and crumbs, pebbles crack and disintegrate, jamming the mechanisms that should move them through the carbon core (see Chernobyl) where fission and breeding takes place. The Germans are still waiting for their broken pebble-bed reactor to cool down enough so they can start decommissioning it; it was shut down in 1987. Basically any nuclear reactor that relies on moving fuel around at 700 deg C is probably a bad idea, and that's what the molten-salt thorium breeder has to do to work at all.
Folks like the Indians are working on using thorium in regular PWR reactor designs as a mixed-oxide fuel, experiments are taking place in a Norwegian test reactor at the moment to see what happens chemically, physically and radiologically to pellets made from a mix of thorium, uranium and plutonium over a period of years. This is very long-term research though because uranium is cheap and plentiful for at least the operating lifetime of the next generation of new nuclear plants (sixty years and more).
Re: Inconvenient facts
1. The coal industry is just one that needs billions spent on clean-ups and remediation. Aberfan ring any bells? Recent news from Scotland is that an open-cast coal mine's operators have gone bust leaving a gaping hole and piles of toxic waste for somebody else to deal with, and no money to pay for it. There was no ringfenced fund as there is for nuclear power generators for waste handling and decommissioning.
2. Banquaio dam, the failure of which killed up to 200,000 people according to some reports. Really really dead, not exposed to some radiation and might have a fractionally increased chance of developing cancer ten or twenty or thirty years down the line, maybe. Destroyed thousands of square miles of homes, roads, fields etc., a bit like the tsunami that killed about 20,000 folks on 3/11 while no-one died or was even sickened by radiation. Banquaio is not the only dam that's killed folks when it let rip but it's the leader of the pack. Some estimates say the new Three Gorges dam complex in China could kill millions if it ever fails.
3. Folks are already moving back into towns and villages around Fukushima as areas are tested and made safe by active decontamination operations and simple decay of radioactivity as well as weathering out of surface contamination. It's not big news because it's not bad news so you didn't know it was happening.
Re: Humans aren't responsible enough for nuclear power
"We still have no plan for a deep geological repository and vitrification for the spent fuel we have already accumulated over the last 50 years."
Liar. The Finns are digging a deep repository for unreprocessed spent fuel right now at Olkiluoto, the Americans are burying military nuclear waste at Carlsbad in a salt mine. Britain, France and Russia are vitrifying waste and have been for decades, Japan is just starting to. The actual amounts of waste left after reprocessing and vitrification is so tiny in terms of mass and volume there's no real need to spend the money to dig deep repositories for such material for several decades.
The Tooth Fairy and Molten Salt Thorium Reactors
Thorium-cycle molten salt reactors don't exist and never have existed other than in graduate student Powerpoint presentations. Thorium can be "burned" in nuclear reactors but it's difficult since it takes a lot of neutrons to breed it up into fissile U-233, molten salt can be used to transport nuclear fuel through a core to cause criticality and create fission energy. The two ideas have never been put together for a lot of good reasons; for one thing the core I mentioned is a large lump of carbon of the positive-void coefficient sort that burned so nicely at Chernobyl.
I could mention a lot of other things that the proposers of such reactors wave away with "and then a miracle occurs" but the key thing is that we never hear how much the electricity from a molten-salt thorium breeder will cost per kWh at the consumer's meter. The fact that thorium is abundant isn't much to recommend it when uranium is incredibly cheap now and abundant for at least the next fifty or sixty years.
Re: I get the impression Govt projects *never* plan for change
One problem is that Governments themselves change and the new guys always like to fiddle with what the previous lot started, like a dog marking a lamppost. National ID card scheme, billions spent, new guys arrive, project is canned. Taxes go up, taxes go down, new regulations for married couples, special exemptions here and there, small businesses get special treatment (good and bad) etc. Setting up a major project with deliverables beyond an election is going to involve change like it or no.
A Step Further Up
India is the second most populous country in the world with a good education system and plans to drag itself out of a mainly peasant economy based on human-powered agriculture. At the moment the best and brightest graduates of their universities and schools end up in the West or working for Western firms at the end of a video link. Their space program is tiny compared to NASA or ESA or even SpaceX but it's a start, home-grown technology which they hope will improve their tech capability, industry and prosperity.
Getting their Mars probe into orbit is a good start. I hope everything goes well for the rest of the mission but even if it doesn't then they're still a step further up the tech ladder than they were two years ago.
Re: If you came here tonight in support of the project please stand up
That's a classic mob manipulation trick, the "stand up" call. To be sure of it working you can plant some ringers in the audience but a lot of people simply will follow the crowd in such situations. It takes determination to remain seated when nearly everyone around them is on their feet. The really neat thing about it is that the once the waverers are on their feet they will also go along with whatever snake-oil that's being sold afterwards. See also factory-gate strike meetings, religious revival meetings, Apple keynotes and the like.
The use of medicinal cannabis by, among others, cancer sufferers is to ameliorate the effects of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other conventional aggressive treatments for the disease which often have bad effects on the sufferers. There's little if any research results pointing to any real effects cannibinoid compounds have on various cancers either pro or con.
It's also used by people suffering from MS, severe arthritis and the like to help them get through the day but no-one is (yet) claiming cannabis is a cure or even results in slowing the progression or reversing the effects of such diseases.
 SF writer and blogger Jay Lake has terminal cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy, not because it will cure him but because it will help him live longer. He talks frankly in his Livejournal about the effects of the drugs he takes and how they ruin his quality of life but he also acknowledges those same drugs are why he's still alive today. http://jaylake.livejournal.com/
Re: Publishers Workflow
Scrivener, the package Charlie uses to write the lies he tells for money is an IDE not a word processor. The publishers don't want a dump of his source code, project files, his notes, wiki articles about Colorado Springs and other research material, fourteen previous versions, that chapter he cut out because it didn't do anything for the story etc., they want the finished "executable", a large number of words in sequence that reads like a book. That .exe will usually be requested in Word format; in previous times it would have been a hardcopy manuscript laid out in a publisher-specified format to allow for pencil-edits and notes, monospaced fonts to make word count easy etc.
Revisions will be required and at that point Charlie will fire up Scrivener again to produce a release candidate but at no time does the publisher get to see his source code, just the finished product which is words on a page. At the end of the day the text actually goes out to the printing plant as Quark files or something similar, not a Word document as it's now ink on paper, one step further along the production chain from ideas in head where it started.
I'm a friend of Charlie, I've sat in his office drinking tea and watching him shave yaks for hours instead of writing lies like he should.
Re: What's the point of Surface Pro
So how much does the proper grunty desktop cost along with the $400 Nexus 10 compared to the Surface Pro which is itself a not-bad "desktop" computer (i5 CPU, 4GB RAM, networking, decent screen, excellent pen graphics etc.)?
"And then I write
By morning, night,
And pretty soon
My name in Dnepropetrovsk is cursed,
When he finds out I publish first!"
There's a whole long list of folks who did the work and published second or, worse still, never published at all and their names appear not on the long list of Nobel laureates. Getting your name on the licence plate at the front of the juggernaut (it's the Higgs boson, not the Brout Englert Guralnik Hagen Higgs Kibble boson) is frosting on the cake.
I wonder if they'll let Prof Higgs into the Royal Society now?
A bit different
The 3.9GHz-boost i7 Haswell CPU costs a bit more than the 3.4GHz-boost i5 CPU in the standard iMac -- upgrading to that i7 on a build-to-order iMac is another 190 quid. Adding another 8GB to take it up to 16Gb as you specify in the Dell XPS is another 160 quid. Third-party external Blu-ray drives run to about 50 quid or more, I don't know if Apple offer an external drive. The Apple build-to-order page doesn't offer a 2TB internal drive, just 1TB standard and 3TB as a 120 quid upgrade. The Dell warranty includes on-site service, no need to carry the unit into an Apple store under your arm.
OTOH the Dell tops out at 16GB which is a joke for an i7 workstation-class machine these days. It uses laptop SoDIMMs for some reason.
I'd reckon the extra 100 quid jump over the previous model is justified by all of the upgrades together rather than any individual improvement (Haswell, CPU speed hike, graphics upgrade etc.).
It might have been worth mentioning the build-to-order page at Apple says the new 27" iMac supports up to 32GB of RAM although the Apple price for the upgrade is hilarious as usual. Running firebreathing graphics programs on the 8GB supplied as stock is not going to be a pleasant experience, and even maxing it out to 32GB is going to put a crimp on performance for 4k video editing, 3-D modelling and the like.
Re: Get rid of the analysts
"CUPERTINO, California—July 23, 2013—Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2013 third quarter ended June 29, 2013. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $35.3 billion and quarterly net profit of $6.9 billion, or $7.47 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $35 billion and net profit of $8.8 billion, or $9.32 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 36.9 percent compared to 42.8 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 57 percent of the quarter’s revenue."
Quarterly figures year-on-year, last year was $35.3 billion, this year $35 billion. That's "flat". Margins are down i.e. less profit per dollar revenue. Apple are forecasting their next quarter to be about the same, revenues in the region $34-37 billion, still pretty "flat".
MSFT revenues for the same quarter year-on-year, roughly, grew from $18 billion in 2012 to $19.8 billion in 2013, that's 10% growth and not "flat". But Steve Ballmer is "fat" and that's nearly the same word so QED!
Re: Get rid of the analysts
Under Cook this year's financial results for AAPL are flat, no numerical growth with reduced profit margins (more money spent for the same revenue). MSFT's profits and revenues under that blundering incompetent Ballmer are up about 7% year on year over the same period. Cook has an MBA, Ballmer doesn't (and neither did Steve Jobs).
Re: Anyone find this kinda creepy?
Four cameras would handle 3-D gesture recognition quite well (insert obligatory reference to _bad SF movie_ here). They might not be visible-light but IR like the Kinect uses.
The "Smith" reference might be to Winston Smith, the traitorous renegade who tried to evade Big Brother's benevolent surveillance.
India's planned thorium reactors use MEU, about 20% enriched, as a neutron source to transmute the thorium into an isotope, U-233 that will fission and release energy. The planned fuel mix also includes plutonium for an extra kick and the two non-thorium additives produce (theoretically) about 10-20% of the energy produced in a complete refuelling cycle. As far as I know the Indians have never actually built or run a thorium-based reactor, they're still a paper exercise. A few folks are working on using thorium as a fuel additive in existing PWRs and heavy-water reactors but it's still early days and there's no economic justification for using it since uranium is really cheap now and into the forseeable future.
As for the comparison between lead-acid batteries and pumped storage... Dinorwig in Wales stores about 8 GWh at full capacity, a car battery stores about 600Wh so it would take over ten million of them to match the capacity of Dinorwig. Assume a wholesale cost of about 50 quid each just for the batteries (never mind housing them, supplying the charging gear etc.) the battery array would cost about the same as Dinorwig did to build, roughly 500 million quid. Great! Except you'd have to replace all the batteries after a couple of years of operation, especially if they get deep-cycled. Dinorwig was built about forty years ago and is still going strong -- I think it costs a few million quid a year to run and there's no plans to close it as it still works fine, it's mostly concrete and pipes and water doesn't wear out.
Re: Slightly fruity comparison
The generators at Fukushima Daiichi did in fact start up OK after the earthquake knocked out the grid connections. The tsunami arrived about 30 minutes after the earthquake and the flooding knocked out the generators. The battery power reserves kept things running for a few hours after that until they were exhausted at which point the reactor cores started to overheat and the hydrogen explosions happened.
As for earthquakes, Japan IS an earthquake zone. Over 100,000 people died in the 1923 Kanto earthquake in Tokyo, over 5000 in the 90s in the one in Kobe. I've spent a couple of months total in Japan over the past few years and I've been through two noticeable earthquakes, not noticed a couple more very small ones and seen news reports of others elsewhere in the country on the TV. The earthquake in 2011 resulted in the big refinery at Chiba blowing up and spewing massive amounts of toxic smoke across large areas of eastern Tokyo but basically there are no safe places to build anything in Japan. And let's not forget taifu (typhoons) -- did you know the cause of the second-greatest loss of life in Japan in 2011 was a pair of typhoons that killed over 90 people? At the same time no-one was dying or even getting sick from radiation at and around Fukushima Daiichi.
As for the sea defences of the nuclear power stations it's worth noting that nearly every coastal city in Japan was unprepared for a tsunami of more than a couple of metres in size. That failure to anticipate a 15 metre tsunami resulted in 20,000 people dead and large areas of the country smashed. The sea defences at Fukushima Daiichi were actually of a much higher standard than the towns where people lived (and died), built to defend against a five-metre tsunami in an perceived excess of caution.
Re: Read behind the press release
The "too cheap to meter" reference was made about proposed fusion power, not fission. It was a publicity guy who said it, not an engineer or anyone who knew what they were talking about. The falsehood is too good not repeat though even though it never applied to fission.
Nuclear electricity costs about the same as coal-generated electricity. The cost of nuclear fuel is trivial, it's paying off the loans to build a reactor in the first place that brings nuclear electricity pricing up to the same level as coal generated power where digging up and moving millions of tonnes of coal each year makes up most of the final bill. Dumping the coal waste into the atmosphere is free.
Superconductors are essential in some niche applications, without them devices like NMR scanners and the like wouldn't work. We could make do with X-rays, I suppose but the fine detail and resolution NMR can produce would be lost meaning surgery would return to being a fishing expedition again. Niche but a very useful niche. There are other tasks for which superconductors are essential (Josephson junction sensors etc.) and some engineering depends on them for good performance and energy efficiency, linear motors and maglev systems like the Shanghai airport link and the proposed Japanese high-speed maglev between Tokyo and Nagoya for example.
Ramping nuclear power plants
The French ramp some of their later-generation plants since they generate 80% of their electricity from nuclear and they don't have many fossil-fuel load-following plants available to top up production otherwise. There's a problem dialling the power down in PWRs due to a buildup of a neutron absorbing fission product, Xe-135 in the fuel rods which is usually "burned" away at full-power settings but this is fixed in the newer PWR designs like the EPR1400 coupled with better operating procedures which limits the effects of the Xe-135 buildup.
Nuclear power reactors run 100% baseload wherever possible as the cost of fuel is trivial (about 0.7 US cents/kWh according to US government figures I saw a few years back) compared to the cost of operation, regulation and paying off the loans to build the plant in the first place. Generating at a 70% power level doesn't save the operators much money, refuelling tends to be done on a fixed schedule and not when the fuel rods contain a certain amount of "ash", but ramping down output means the operators earn less money than they could at full power settings.
Re: Intermittency of Solar
Smelting aluminium is not viable with intermittent energy sources. Cutting the power off and letting the melt in a electrolysis cell solidify means using jackhammers to clean it out, it won't magically spring back into life when the wind starts blowing again as the solid crust doesn't conduct electricity. Abundant hydro in Norway and geothermal generating sources in Iceland allow them to export their cheap electricity in the form of refined Al but the electrical supply has to be reliable and on-demand for the smelters to work effectively.
Re: Flywheels anyone?
Flywheels cost money to build and operate and you don't get a lot of storage for your investment. The cheapest mass energy storage system around is pumped hydro. In the UK the two big storage plants are Dinorwic in Wales and Cruachan in Scotland, holding about 8GWhr each when fully topped up. That's about half an hour of normal consumption in the UK. They cost about a billion quid each in todays money to build so reckon to spend about 100 million quid per GWh for this sort of storage, assuming you've got lots and lots of water (not something solar plants tend to have nearby given the near-desert conditions they're situated in) and good geography with high and low reservoirs separated by only a kilometre or less to reduce energy losses due to friction. They still waste about 30% of the energy produced by solar, wind and other generators in the store/resupply cycle.
Other uses for thorium
Thorium is used in small amounts in specialist welding rods and wire. Still not a mass market though.
Re: Thorium reactors and A-bombs.
The US fired a couple of U-233 devices back in the mid-50s and they worked well enough. They may not have been weaponised i.e. turned into something they could drop out of a B-52 but they had Pu-239 and U-235 to play with. I've never heard what the Soviets might have been up to with U-233 at the same time.
The proliferation problem with thorium reactors breeding U-233 is it can be chemically separated out of the fuel stream to produce pure U-233 which will work as a bomb core. Regular uranium reactor fuel starts off with a small percentage of U-235 mixed in with lots of U-238 and the spent fuel has a mixture of Pu-239 and Pu-240 in it, produced by breeding up from the U-238. Pu-239 makes good weapon cores but the presence of Pu-240 in the mix causes a lot of technical problems if someone tries this, with massive amounts of radiation and a lot of self-heating and the Pu-240 is difficult to near-impossible to separate from the good stuff next door.
Re: Intermittency of Solar
Actually modern GenIII nukes can ramp up and down quite quickly, from 100% power to 70% power in about 15 minutes and about the same time to go back to 100% power. Older reactors can't do this easily for various reasons.
Big fuck-off weight... let's say ten tonnes, the sort of weight a beefy and expensive crane can handle so you'll be spending a few thousand quid at least to build it plus its cabling, support structure, generator/motor system, safety gear etc. into the block of flats. Raise it 10 metres, that's about the height of a three story block of flats. Potential energy is m x g x h where g is gravitational acceleration, about 10 m/s/s so that ten tonne block raised ten metres will hold a total of 1 megajoule! Wow! All that energy! That's a kilowatt over... a thousand seconds... ummm... 20 minutes... is that all?
Re: Thorium reactors
No, they didn't. By the time nuclear power reactors started to be mass-produced in the mid-60s all of the big powers who wanted nuclear weapons had made as much plutonium-239 as they needed in purpose-built reactors like the one at Windscale that caught fire or the ones in Hanford in the US etc. There were attempts to build reactors that could produce weapons-grade plutonium like the British Magnox and the Soviet RMBK-4 but they were not needed for that purpose by the time they were actually getting built.
Modern PWRs and BWRs have some plutonium in their spent fuel at the end of an operating cycle but it's a mixture of Pu-239 and Pu-240 which is pretty much useless for weapons which need high-purity Pu-239 to work well if at all and the Pu-239 can't be separated out easily -- it's actually a lot simpler to separate U-235 from U-238 if someone wants bomb-grade material and that's difficult enough.
Re: Thorium reactors
Uranium is plentiful at least for the next few decades and cheap right now so the price of fuel is a minor part of the cost of generating electricity in existing reactors. It is possible to use thorium in existing PWR designs but they need lots more neutrons to convert the thorium into uranium-233 which can then be fissioned to produce energy. In a regular reactor uranium-235 is fissioned without that breeding step so they don't need a high neutron flux to run. The planned Indian thorium reactors are designed to use medium-enriched uranium-235 and plutonium-239/240 in the fuel mix to provide the extra neutron flux needed to breed the Th-232 up into U-233; this will have knock-on effects on the reactor structures, the radio-chemistry of the fuel pellets etc. and could lead to unforeseen consequences in a decade or two.
There have been attempts to use thorium in pebble-bed reactors but they've not been a great success as the pebbles fracture, spall, shed dust, jam the mechanism etc. I think the German pebble-bed reactor that was shut down in 1985 for these reasons is still waiting for someone to come up with a way to decommission it. Basically if you see proposals for a reactor that moves the fuel around while it's running you're looking at something which can go badly wrong with very problematic consequences.
Re: Augean Stables?
MS wrote off $6.3 billion about a year ago, the aQuantive acquisition that went nowhere but hardly anyone in the tech biz noticed. The acknowledged losses of the Surface RT are small change compared to that. As for the financial results, MSFT 2013 yearly figures released in July were up several percent over the previous year in revenues and profits, probably because the Surface RT writedown this year wasn't as brutal as the aQuantive writedown...
Ookunoshima island in Japan was the home of the Japanese chemical warfare business up to and during WWII. It's now a tourist attraction with a Poison Gas Museum and a cute rabbit mascot to attract visitors. Maybe the buyers can turn Plum Island into a tourist attraction too.
Re: Would you buy...
Actually buying a Chromecast is like buying a razor-blade handle, it's incredibly cheap but the maker expects you to keep on buying expensive blades that only fit that handle for ever and ever. Making your own blades or buying cheap Hong Kong knockoffs is not part of their marketing plan.
Old Smelly 'cause he doesn't have Gillette moments.
Re: 802.11b/g/n is being replaced
There are very few users of 802.11ac at the moment. Once it becomes popular with more users demanding higher-speed traffic it will suffer the same problems as b/g/n is suffering from today and 802.11a (which also occupies part of the 5GHz spectrum) is starting to experience. Enjoy the wide-open spaces while you can.
Re: Stop downplaying it
Actually a lot of people evacuated after the tsunami and during the reactor meltdowns have returned home to the area around the plant. It's not a disaster so you haven't heard about their return in the news. The Japanese government recently finished reassessing the contamination levels and have opened more areas to the public again. The big worry of contamination shifting due to weather, rainfall, wind etc. has mostly gone away after thirty months, the areas that are still significantly contaminated won't change much and are still out of bounds.
Nobody's building older GenII plants, the sort that blew up at Fukushima due to overheating. The improvements you want have already been developed to the point where new reactors are expected to have a working life of at least sixty years minimum. What gets in the way of them being built is the high capital up-front cost and the fact existing reactors from the 70s and 80s are actually in very good condition, in part because they were overbuilt in the first place and after regular inspections they are often being given licence extensions to operate for another few years and this has reduced the demand for new construction. At the same time gas is cheap, coal is abundant and nobody cares much about CO2 levels and air pollution.
Re: Booting up
I put NT4 Workstation on a dual-PPro box doing graphics work for a printing firm. It was pretty stable as I recall. We had specified a Matrox Millenium for the graphics card, it wasn't fast but the video drivers were solid and well-supported.
The only thing that would blue-screen it reliably was our attempt(s) to install an early version of Open Office -- the installation process would attempt to overlay its own windowing manager on top of the Windows one then crash out. We did get other blue screens occasionally when our main application, Corel Draw went boink on us after doing nasty things to the 256MB of memory this monster was populated with but saving early and often meant it didn't affect us much. Corel Draw did that two-step release thing, step 1 would introduce a lot of new features along with new bugs and the next release fixed most of the bugs. A lot of the bugs caused blue screens from memory allocation faults.
Today I can reboot my current Win8 desktop after a power cut and have it come back up where I left it. Progress, eh?
Re: Simplest solution to XP diehards
XP Home/Pro is a 32-bit OS with a hard RAM limit of about 3.5GB and it doesn't support drive volumes bigger than 2TB. For gamers the limit for XP is DirectX 9. Win 7 and Win 8 don't suffer from those limitations.
I've got a couple of boxes at home here still running XP but they're not connected to the internet when I do run them up which isn't very often (basically backwards compatibility testing and playing some older games).
Re: Astonishingly lovely but just a little bit threatening to look at.
Ah, the old "Mysteries of the Ancients" line makes its appearance again...
The U-2 is basically a high-altitude glider and, as the Gary Powers incident proved, vulnerable to getting shot down quite easily even fifty years ago when flying and spying over somebody else's territory. A modern version would be much better than the drafting-parchment and sliderule designers could manage back then, never mind the refinements in engine technology and construction materials available to today's manufacturers but nobody would bother building one for the purpose of espionage simply because it is so vulnerable.
As for the SR-71 it was a logistical nightmare to operate with major range limitations; sure it could go fast and fly high but it was a fuel hog at the best of times and in high-speed dash mode it would run out of fuel very quickly. A 12-hour mission required a fleet of as many as eight specialised tankers orbiting in safe air outside the target country's 200-mile limit and the range limitations meant the SR-71 couldn't penetrate too far in from the coast before it would have to turn back to safe air to tanker up again. Satellites could see everything below them on every pass in multispectral mode and with the advent of electronic sensors in more detail than any camera a plane could carry and use and without the political implications of another Gary Powers incident, something that was always a risk with the SR-71 spy flights.
The pension scheme for Kodak workers is probably worth robbing, it's been done to other companies that folded as it's usually the last substantial asset left standing after the top knobs have taken their golden parachute bonuses for driving the company into extinction so competently (see the US Hostess corporation for a recent example). The Kodak shareholders group and their advocati* were probably hoping the judge would let them get at the pension fund with the long knives and fuck the retirees. Good on the judge (for once).
*Advocati -- an oily bottom-feeding scum-sucking fish with no backbone.
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