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* Posts by John Freas

15 posts • joined 24 Jan 2008

Mass mind control artist condemns El Reg to obscurity

John Freas
Unhappy

That makes two of us.

I contend that the majority of Rush's critics, especially the loudest and most obnoxious are those who have never taken the time to listen to the show, instead parroting on what they read on a liberal blog or saw on MSNBC one night.

Limbaugh does come across as extremely egotistical. It's part of his schtick, it's intended to be done tongue-in-cheek most of the time, although I'd say that there is a fair dose of sincere egotism there too. So what? If you don't like his style don't listen.

As to the mindless zombies, that's a handy excuse for the weak minded. If that many people in the USA were that stupid we'd have fallen off the map a lot sooner than we're about to. Don't get me wrong, I don't agree with Rush on all counts. In fact I think there are times when he deliberately takes an extreme view on some issue for the sensational effect of it, but he's far from alone in that. I know of several other radio and TV personalities that do the same thing for their own gain. If it were a crime, there wouldn't be much to watch or listen to.

Would I like a sensible, calm yet conservative talk show to watch or listen to? Sure. The problem is that like good news in the tabloids, it just doesn't sell, so don't hold your breath for it. Meanwhile I do listen, laugh at some of the antics, nod at some parts and shake my head at others. In the meantime, like the vast majority of this country (East of the Sierras and West of the Appalachians), I am a conservative. I am not a religious fanatic and believe that religion and government are best kept far apart. I believe strongly in individual responsibility and liberty, the two must go hand in hand. I believe Keynes was an absolute idiot, and every central banker on the planet is a clueless boob. I am not a Republican, and I am absolutely not a Democrat. I believe in individual choice, and the power of the States before the federal government. I believe that the Constitution should actually be adhered to.

What I hold true did not come from Limbaugh or any other on-air personality, I am not a mindless zombie, but I do find some common ground with the conservative talk show hosts, as do most of the people in this country, which is /why/ Limbaugh is #1 on the radio in ratings. Do you really believe that many people can be controlled by the words of one person? If that were true Obama's ratings wouldn't be in the gutter.

Believe in what you believe is right, don't follow /anyone/, get your information from the sources you trust, AND the sources that your trusted sources say not to listen to! Then decide for yourself.

Meanwhile, I'm proud to be a regular reader of this obscure little online tech publication. It makes me feel like I'm just a little cooler than I am.

That and I love a good pint of bitter, so I live vicariously through the staff of El Reg (since you can't find a decent beer within a thousand miles of my town) :P.

There you go - flame away.

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'Miracle' plane crash was no miracle

John Freas
Boffin

No, the F-14s are all gone, we need the cash for the new toys.

@Anon Coward:

There haven't been fighter aircraft flying CAP over New York for years, and even if there were, everyone at this party was playing from the same sheet of music. It's not like the airliner suddenly stopped talking to everyone and went off toward a building. Besides, if you were going to choose a target for a terrorist strike in the NY metro area there are a lot better ones than Teterboro, NJ. Trust me, I've been there.

The longest runway at Teterboro is Runway 01, the one they would have been closest to, however by the time they manoeuvered to align with it they would be making a nearly 90° turn to final, which means they would need to start a greater distance from the runway threshold. Assuming they didn't get involved with the groups of 445' and 500' towers out in that area, they would have 7,000' of runway available to land. The figures I find for the A320 show a MINIMUM landing distance of ~5,000'. I assume that figure is based on Maximum Landing weight. With a full passenger load and fuel they were probably closer to their maximum takeoff weight, which is about 20,000 pounds heavier. The airplane can be landed overweight, but the landing distance is increased. Any idea how much for the extra 20,000 lbs? Without reverse thrust? Me either. I'll wager the flight crew couldn't pull that number out of their hat either, but they knew that it was eating away at their landing margin. You can have a look here: http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a297/AirKevin/AA1167/ff600269.jpg for a photo of the airport. Runway 01 is the long one with the biggest space between the runway and buildings (maybe 1,000').

Given the mere seconds they had to decide, they undoubtedly were thinking that it would be hard enough to get the airplane down in one piece without the added problem of having to thread a needle to do it. I agree with their choice.

Oh, and the F-14 was retired from the US inventory on 22 September 2006, so none of those to worry about :)

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John Freas

'e didn't so much fly as plummet.

Regarding gliding:

Anon Coward above is partially correct in that they did not have the altitude to play with in this case, however the idea that airliners glide "like a brick" is incorrect. In fact most jets, including airliners have excellent glide ratios for non-soaring aircraft, typically much better than most light airplanes. The A320 has a glide ratio of about 17:1. In other words at best glide speed it moves forward 17 feet for every foot it descends. That's more than double the glide ratio of a Cessna 172 at 8:1. The big difference here is that the A320 is moving a LOT faster to achieve that glide, and so it needs more room to land.

Teterboro may have been close enough to glide to, but it is a relatively small airport (read shorter runways) closely surrounded by dense residential areas, with some very tall transmission towers just to the south of the airport. What's more, its runways are not aligned with the direct flight path to the airport, so they would have had to maneuver, thus using up more altitude. Had they chosen KTEB they would have had to maneuver to align with the runway, visually locate and dodge those towers and then put the plane down right on the numbers to make it work. In the Hudson they had all of the space (in all three dimensions) that they might choose, as well as rescue services close enough to be useful. While it carried its own risks, landing in the river was a much safer choice than trying for Teterboro.

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Autopilot blamed for Qantas plunge

John Freas
Stop

@ SysKoll

"It's not PAN PAN -- It's Panne Panne."

I'm afraid that actually, it is: http://www.faa.gov/airports_airtraffic/air_traffic/publications/atpubs/PCG/index.htm

While your history and terminology is accurate (as I would say is your right to be annoyed), all contemporary aviation publications from the ICAO to the USA FAA's Pilot/Controller Glossary (link above) spell the terms you mention as "MAYDAY" and "PAN PAN" respectively. You may feel free to correct our pronunciation, however the now-official spelling is as printed.

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Daylight savings shift to cause phone havoc Down Under

John Freas
Thumb Up

@ A J Stiles

"The logical thing to do, if one wished to make the best use of the available hours of daylight after work, would be to get up earlier in Summer in order to make use of the light evenings; perhaps altering business hours to, say, 08:00 to 16:00..."

Yes, that's called Daylight Saving Time (or Summer Time in the UK).

The only difference between individual businesses (or individuals within businesses) choosing to go to work earlier on a case by case basis and the organised rolling back of the nation's clocks is that the former produces a chaotic condition where no one can reliably predict which business has changed it's opening/closing times, and which has not (or by how much), and the latter coordinates everything into one organised transition.

I like your idea, but they already thought of it ;)

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John Freas
Thumb Down

@ Charles

Um, no.

Per...

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology: http://tf.nist.gov/general/history.htm

About.com: http://geography.about.com/cs/daylightsavings/a/dst.htm

The California Energy Commission: http://www.energy.ca.gov/daylightsaving.html (do a CTRL-F search on "not daylight)

The US Naval Observatory: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/faq/docs/daylight_time.php

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylight_saving_time#Terminology (Explains why)

and empirically - Google: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=daylight+savings+time

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John Freas
Stop

Saving, not savings.

Just a note, the correct term is "Daylight Saving Time", a time when we "save" daylight (as opposed no doubt to wasting it in the morning before 6AM). Perhaps not a technically accurate term, but either way it's "Saving" not "Savings".

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Sikorsky announces first flight of 'X2' triplex supercopter

John Freas
Boffin

Re: Booms

Yes, they would and do.

You won't likely hear helicopter rotors going supersonic, however if you have been to an airshow you have probably had an example without realising it.

As Neil Hoskins mentions above, the North American AT-6 (Harvard/Texan) WWII trainer <http://www.airbum.com/pireps/PirepT-6.html> is very good at producing a lot of noise without going anywhere very fast. The distinctive and loud "Brrrrrrraaaaaaaapppp" sound is not produced by the engine, but rather by the propeller as the tips go supersonic. That's why the sound seems to come and go. As RPM reach a certain point the blades boom, below that speed they are much quieter (and more efficient).

Other airshow aircraft like the Stearman and other biplanes are good at this, as are some personal aircraft such as the Beechcraft Bonanza (when equipped with a 2 bladed propeller). That's not to suggest that they're flying around like this all day, but at maximum RPM they can make a lot of noise.

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Jeery Jerry loves Vista, y'know

John Freas
Thumb Down

@ Anonymous Coward

"...vista is a steaming pile of dog turd. Everyone knows it - Except the Americans. Good luck to them."

Agreed about the steam and the turd, but even we [Americans] can recognize crap when we actually get our hands on it. Well, at least most of us. In any case, when presented with the opportunity to run Vista at home I thought for a microsecond and kept my copy of XP Pro. My work computer still uses that OS and although over the past 2 years it has gradually bloated and slowed by about 60% as all Windoze installations eventually do, it is still better than a fresh install of Vista. I can't wait to see what they do this spring when we're all due for new kit. Hopefully it'll be XP again.

When the time came to replace the home box I decided to try a Mac. I'm no Fanboy, it's my first time on one but I figured it couldn't be worse than Vista and if it was better then I'm ahead of the game. So far so good, and I know what some of you are saying, and no I didn't consider Linux because with two young kids I didn't have time to fiddle with it.

So, all that to say that even over here we aren't all rushing to get our fresh pile... er, copy of Vista.

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Hummer glummer on high oil price bummer

John Freas
Stop

@ Lardis

"How are you going to squeeze four American arses into a nissan micra rather than a Hummer?"

This is a trick question as American's don't travel together in cars. You'd be hard pressed to find 4 Americans in an automobile of any size, thus squeezing the more typical *one* of our fat arses into a Micra would probably just about work, said driver feeling all the better for the improved gas mileage they're getting as they drive in formation with the rest of their family contained in 3 identical Micræ.

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Air France pilot in white-knuckle near miss

John Freas
Boffin

@ K

The IT angle is that the call to "Climb, Climb" came not from ATC as the pilot indicated (ATC doesn't shout Climb, Climb, they use the term "Immediate" preceding the instruction which is understood to imply shouting and expletives.) The call that was heard came from the Traffic Alert & Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) which is a bit of computerized kit that looks at the transponder signals of all the aircraft nearby and predicts their flight paths in three dimensions. If any of those paths will converge within a certain distance of your airplane you will receive a Traffic Alert (TA), first "Traffic!, Traffic!" which alerts the crew to look at the screen which depicts the traffic around the airplane, and then if nothing changes it will switch to "resolution" mode where it decides in concert with its counterpart in the other airplane, whether it is better to climb or descend to avoid the collision and announces that decision to the crew via a Resolution Advisory (RA) while its counterpart in the other airplane does the opposite. In this case the box apparently yelled "Climb!, Climb!". The RA includes a graphical depiction on the vertical speed indicator of the required vertical speed needed to safely avoid a collision.

The thing about TCAS is that it works within a framework of expectations and predictions. If you're chugging along straight, level and on-course, and another aircraft is converging such that it will pass safely behind you in a couple of minutes the box remains shtum so as not to annoy the driver. However, if said driver unexpectedly yanks the machine into a turn toward the other traffic, the convergence angles change and if the other target is suddenly predicted to enter the safe bubble that the TCAS intends to preserve, it will set off the alarm. By making a large maneuver in busy airspace you can go from no alert directly to a RA in an instant. ATC would never have instructed such a maneuver because they know the big picture, but apparently our driver didn't bother to check for other traffic before his little demonstration.

C'est la vie.

As to cockpit riders, the choice to secure the cockpit is as far as I know determined by the country that sets the rules for the airline. If France doesn't require a secure cockpit then Air France can let anyone they want pop in for a visit. The USA (and I imagine the UK) requires that any aircraft flying into or out of the country be secured the same as domestic carriers are, but if a French flight between two countries with no such requirements chooses to operate differently that's still legal. Of course the more likely event in this situation is that the driver simply ignored the rule since after all, the First Officer had long ago grown bored of his "regardez ceci" stunts and he needed a fresh audience.

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Galaxy's smallest known black hole discovered

John Freas
Stop

Has everyone missed the most important point about the Schwartzchild question?

It's spelled "Isle of Wight."

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Need a new duster? Avoid Woolies

John Freas
Paris Hilton

All better now... oops.

Well it appears that the folks at Woolworths got right on it. If you click on the link from the search results page it says "Sorry the page or product you are looking for could not be found..."

I feel much better now :P

Paris? Need you ask?

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Redmond puts key Vista update on ice

John Freas
Stop

Missed the point.

Lord B: The problem isn't overinflated expectations of quality in software, we've long since given up on that, but the problem at hand isn't with a buggy Beta release, it's with a faulty patch that is pushed out on Windows Update and for many users installed automatically. I can understand how it can happen and I can just as easily understand how people would be pretty tweaked if it corrupted their operating system.

I'm not sure why I feel compelled to say this regarding the recommendation to run to Linux, but here goes; I have played with Linux and here's the problem with it: The overwhelming majority of computer users are novices at best and Linux, as capable as it is and as far as it has evolved, is still not all that user friendly to the uninitiated. For the off-the-shelf computer buyer an operating system needs to be as idiot-proof and intuitive as possible. Linux, even with a GUI, is neither. Yes, for the IT crowd it's a fine choice, but it's not for the masses.

As to Vista: It's buggy in its first release? <gasp> Why is this a surprise? Do we really have that short of a memory? Every MS OS release since DOS 6.1 has been buggy as heck until they got the majority of holes patched or just abandoned it and moved on. Why the whinging about Vista? Would I dump a pile of money on it? Of course not, but I don't buy cars in their first year of production either; anything brand-new is going to have far too many bugs in it for my patience to bear. Better to let the gotta-have-it-now crowd work them out and then jump in when the product has reached maturity. I waited for SP1 to come out for XP before I tried it and I have no intention of moving to Vista at all (on those boxes of mine that still run Windows) until forced to do so.

Ah the price of impatience and short attention spans.

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Autothrottle problems suspected in Heathrow 777 crash

John Freas
Alert

Software issue, but not autothrottles.

It's important to understand how the current generation of electronic aircraft systems work in order to understand how this could happen:

The engines on modern airliners use FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control), in other words: throttle-by-wire. On FADEC engines the throttle levers do not typically move with inputs from the autopilot, they rest in a detent for the desired flight mode and there they stay. On take off you push them up to the forward stop and the engine computers do the rest, shortly after takeoff you pull them into the "Climb" detent and again the computers do the rest, however unlike older mechanical systems the thrust levers do not move in response to changes in engine power within a given mode.

Therefore, if the autopilot commands more or less thrust there is no physical indication to the flight crew, only the change shown by the engine instruments. The reverse is also true, if a pilot takes over manual control, physical motion of the levers is nothing more than an input to the computer. If the computer does not process this request appropriately then you won't get the desired result. Yes, the /autocontrol system/ can be overridden "In all instances", however that only removes it's inputs to the system, it does not take the computer out of the loop (it can't since the only link to the engines is through the computer). I agree that it is not likely a problem with the autothrottle system but rather the FADEC.

I too loathe the Airbus philosophy that the computer is smarter than the pilot (one reason I don't own a General Motors car), however this issue may well demonstrate that allowing the pilot "override" authority doesn't guarantee that full control will be obtained or maintained.

On another note, the 2 hour rule exists. The rule only applies to twin-engined aircraft (those with 3 or more are unrestricted) and it can be extended to 3 hours on certain more capable aircraft. The rule involved is called ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine OPerations) for those who would like to search on the term. Thus certain twin-engined aircraft can cross the south pacific without having to stop in Hawaii, Midway, Guam, etc., although the route chosen often has more to do with straight-line Great Circle distances than the proximity of alternate landing sites.

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