* Posts by Alan Brown

6143 posts • joined 8 Feb 2008

MH-370 search loses sharpest-eyed robot deep beneath the waves

Alan Brown
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Re: Waste Of Time

> And that's investigation-speak for "why didn't these pilots know what they were doing?"

Yup.

On the other hand the aircraft could (and should) have noted the pitots were blocked and the fact that it was in full manual command mode should have been flashing in inch-high red lettering on the glass cockpit displays.

It wasn't just the pilots being complacent. Airbus could have done more to warn of corner cases instead of adopting the philosophy of "that will never happen" - similar to the ones they did of "pilots will never try _that_", where 'that' was something every pilot did in a new aircraft to ensure it was safe, or a low speed, low altitude, full fuel+pax flypast over an airshow with a forest at the end of the runway...

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Alan Brown
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Re: Waste Of Time

"So had they paid extra for real-time tracking they'd have a far better idea where the plane was when it ran out of fuel (still leaving a reasonably big search area)."

A far better idea than you might think. When fuel runs out, the ram-air-turbine drops out of its hideyhole to power the electronics. MH370 was transmitting a ping as it hit the water.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Waste Of Time

"the main lesson is actually understanding that planes will from time-to-time ditch in the sea and hence perhaps it might be beneficial to implement systems that make locating the remains in 6000m of water after a few months of immersion a little easier..."

These lessons have been heeded, however most aircraft are flying with the black boxes that were fitted when they rolled out of the factory. Type approval takes time and retrofitting even to the "at risk" aircraft takes even longer.

Bear in mind that MH370 _could_ have been phoning its location home constantly, but Malaysian Airlines switched that option off to save money. One of the changes that's already taken place is that virtually all airlines flying over water now have that satcom feature enabled regardless of cost (and inmarsat reduced the charges for this facility). That may not prevent a recurrance but at least it'll vastly reduce the SAR area if it happens again.

Malaysian Airlines itself was in deep trouble well before both crashes. Dispirited workforce, massive layoffs, a major fire caused by a cigarette - in maintenance areas where smoking is prohibited, etc. This event (as with virtually all crashes) didn't happen in isolation and as usual the blame can usually be attributed to management decisions long before people died.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Waste Of Time

"obsessed with recovering wreckage and bodies"

The primary objective is recovering the black boxes to find out WHAT happened and ensure there are no repeats. That's _how_ aviation safety has improved so much over the decades.

My money is on an oxygen-fed fire in the cockpit or forward avionics bay, causing the crew to switch everything off (standard procedure for a fire) and divert to the long-runway military field which it flew directly over. After diversion they were probably overcome by smoke/anoxia and once the plane hit its waypoint it just kept flying "straight and level", buffeted around by upper atmosphere winds.

The slow climb to 40,000+ feet and rapid descent to ~23,000 indicates an uncontrolled aircraft - "deadmans corner" means that once a plane gets high enough it can't go fast enough to avoid stalling and when the stall happens it will lose a _lot_ of altitude before the wings can regain lift. A pilot would never deliberately fly into this zone because there's a major risk of pulling the wings off before recovery.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Waste Of Time - satellites

"when a Russian submarine goes underwater a UK and US submarine go down at the same time"

The difference being that the subs are watched continuously and play a constant cat-and-mouse tracking game. It helps that they're not moving at 600 knots.

NRO satellites have high resolution but they have to be told where to look. Osama Bin Laden could have been sunbathing naked in a field, waving at the satellites, but unless they knew which field, they'd never see him.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Waste Of Time

"why would anyone monitor the arse of the earth / the middle of nowhere just because?"

because it's on the approach to Diego Garcia and the 'muricans are notoriously paranoid about what goes near there.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Waste Of Time

"But no, no country wants to let on what they can see of their neighbours. "

Jindalee is well known to be able to see aircraft landing at Changi.

The problem is that it costs so much to run that it's only run for a couple of days a week. If the Australians had been given a heads up early enough they'd have been able to track it fairly well.

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Oh dear, Vodafone: Sales dip in UK

Alan Brown
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Re: Vodafone Ireland is just too bloody expensive.

Not just UK, ireland or the EU

There are lots of moans about shity customer and technical service on the other side of the world too (Australia and NZ customers are mightily peeved....)

Portrait of a multinational service company imploding?

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Fear not, humanity – Saint Elon has finished part two of his world-saving 'master plan'

Alan Brown
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Re: Reaching

"the cost of the panels is dropping through the floor as mass-production gears up"

A large chunk of that price drop is because manufacturers are not paying attention to the incredible amount of pollution they're generating.

There's a major environmental disaster unfolding very slowly around solar PV factories in china which makes the coal pollution look minor by comparison. Cleanup may take decades and there's a very real danger of hundreds of millions of people having their water supply polluted to undrinkability.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Reaching

Space-based solar is unlikely to ever be practical (there's also the issue of what happens if the downlink beam is deflected.)

Nuclear (specifically LFTR) has several 10,000s years of readily available fuel and the cycle should produce less than 1% of the waste current reactors do.

Bear in mind that on top of that, 60-plus% of mined uranium is discarded before it ever hits the inside of a current technology reactor and the process to refine what does yet used happens to be incredibly energy intensive - to the point where the actual numbers are regarded by the USA as a State Secret.

Water-moderated/cooled nuclear tech is like a Neucomen steam engine - proof of concept but incredibly inefficient and wasteful compared to a Watt engine or steam turbine (LFTR thorium cycle)

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Tesla's Model S autonomous mode may have saved a life

Alan Brown
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Re: PR stunt

"If glare from oncoming headlights was blinding, then legally you must slow down to the point where your visual acuity matches that of your response time, and braking distance of your vehicle. "

And meantime whilst you're slowing down there's a window for a black cow to wander onto the road in front of you.

Not theoretical. A couple of friends died this way.

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Microsoft to rip up P2P Skype, killing native Mac, Linux apps

Alan Brown
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Re: All you conversations

"No, both Viber and WeChat REQUIRE your phone number."

They require _a_ working phone number. Not necessarily the number of the equipment it's running on.

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An anniversary to remember: The world's only air-to-air nuke was fired on 19 July, 1957

Alan Brown
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Re: its hard to find anyone who has died from radiation, anywhere in the world.

> Second, you might remember a little event called Three Mile Island ? The one that started the whole "nukular is BAAAD" craze ? There again, Google is your friend.

TMI emitted a small amount of radioactive steam. The bigger problem there was the public panic.

That said, water-moderated nuclear plants are a spectacularly bad idea, despite being several hundred thousand times safer than coal(*). Molten salts are the logical way forward, in large part because they mean there's no radioactive water/steam to contend with when things go wrong.

(*) http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html

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Alan Brown
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Re: just goes to show how little ...

"I would also like to point out the rise in cancer rate amongst the population of the WHOLE WORLD since the US and USSR started exploding nukes left, right and centre in the 1950's."

The greater cause of that is that more people are living long enough to GET cancer since the 1950s, thanks to antibiotics and vaccines.

Radiation doesn't generally cause much in the way of cancers as cells tend to be killed rather than mutated. Chemical and localised heat exposure is a far more serious issue - cancer rates are highest around pollution hotspots (love canal, B2 assembly workers, Minimata Bay, chinese solar PV manufacturing areas, coal ash slurry environs, etc), not radiation ones.

With regard to Chebalinsk it's worth noting that bomb-grade Plutonium isn't particularly radioactive, but it's a potent chemical poison/carcinogen. The USA has its own nuclear waste sites (Hanford).

Whilst everyone wibbles on about Chernobyl it's worth noting that the world's COAL burning power plants emit more radium and other radioactives each _year_ than several chernobyls but noone get sup in arms about that. Then there's the fun factoid of how radioactive the average smoker's lungs are.

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Alan Brown
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Re: just goes to show how little ...

"its hard to find anyone who has died from radiation, anywhere in the world."

That's because they're dead.

That said, you're right, they're uncommon. The Lucky Dragon crew being one group and the Chernobyl firefighters being another (most survived. What killed them in the end was being treated as pariahs and being denied decent medical care)

A significant number of Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims died from exposure to the gamma burst, taking hours/days to do so but beyond that point most survived.

More recently, 2 japanese nuclear workers managed to irradiate themselves about 20 years ago when they took a shortcut and accidentally sent some plutonium critical. They died a few days later. Actual in-the-wild, from-the-leftovers radiation victims are rare though.

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Alan Brown
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"I hope they were planning on this taking place over the oceans, because there would be a lot of highly radioactive debris coming down! "

Bomb grade Plutonium/Uranium isn't particularly radioactive (but it is fairly chemically toxic).

These are small bombs (1500tons of TNT eqwuivalent) so in the event of a detonation/fizzle there's not much leftover and we already know from atmospheric tests what to expect downwind (don't forget that "highly radioactive" == "very short lived")

FWIW, the vast majority of the nukes on both sides were fairly small - this size or smaller. I'm just glad they were never used.

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Alan Brown
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"The big fear we had where I lived wasn't bombers but the ICBM's coming in from the north. The base we lived near was supposedly high on the target list."

There were enough ICBMs on both sides to take out _all_ bases on both sides and drop a few on Podunk Idaho/Siberia just to make a point.

Nuclear brinkmanship was a lose-lose game.

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Handover of US internet control to ICANN officially blocked in Republican policy

Alan Brown
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Re: Contradiction much

"Does someone want to explain what international means to them? Removing sole US control of the root zones makes it international."

Unfortunately, despite the rhetoric, removing the US department of commerce supervision makes it captureable and this is pretty much a SPoF in a lot of areas

The DoC has been admirably hands-off for the last 35 years. It's clear that some groups are itching to try and take control and push their own agendas, so in this case it's best that it stays where it is.

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What will laws on self-driving cars look like? Think black boxes and 'minimum attention'

Alan Brown
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Re: Not going to work because based on logic

" the legislators have got it back to front "

The insurance companies won't though. Legislators will have a hard time arguing with actuaries, or forcing them to take on unacceptable risks.

Expect insurance premiums for manual driving to skyrocket and a presumption that the monkey is at fault in any crash, as the robot(s) will have a nice video evidence collection that the meatsack will have to argue with.

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Alan Brown
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Re: I suspect there is something to be said

"For the two minute jaunt to the shops,"

Why the fuck are you taking a car when you could walk?

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Alan Brown
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Re: I suspect there is something to be said

" A cruise control saves my ankle, but I still need to steer and brake"

My cruise control takes away the need to brake manually - in a 15 year old car design. It also gives a bunch of "headsup" beeps if it thinks there is trouble coming in from the sides or someone pulls out in front at the last instant ont he motorway, before banging on the anchors if needed.

It's more cautious than this particular monkey when it comes to the latter type of event, to the point where braking is fairly uncomfortable if you let it grab the following distance it really wants.

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Alan Brown
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Re: 'Black box' already exists AFAIK

"My 2003 Dodge Ram pickup had one"

If you car has airbags, it has a black box.

This proposed legislation is counterproductive. Handing control back when things are already going pearshaped is the worst thing which can be done.

As for the Tesla case:

1: It was a cruise control, not an automated vehicle - and yes, it needs to scan for higher obstacles.

2: There are unresolved issues

-missing dashcam (the driver recorded all his trips, why would he have not been recording this one?)

-the truck driver's claims of hearing a dvd player are impossible over a running truck engine

-there's no indication of whether a human could have avoided the incident (clotheslining crashes are depressingly common in the USA, which leads to....)

3: It was caused by a truck driver turning across oncoming at-speed traffic which had right of way in any case - which in any sane jurisdiction should lead to charges being filed even if noone got hurt.

Automated vehicles don't need to drive perfectly. They just need to drive consistently and safely at a level better than the average human driver - which is a spectacularly low bar.

Almost all crashes on the road (NOT accidents) are the result of at least 2 sets of serious driving errors. Our road rules are setup such that you can drive quite badly and generally "get away with it" if others are paying attention and road designs take emotional, impatient monkeys into account most of the time.

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UK's climate change dept abolished, but 'smart meters and all our policies strong as ever'

Alan Brown
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Re: Solar panels

"You then run the washing machine or dishwasher when the sun is shining and there are kilowatts of electricity available to you"

Have you quantified how much power you get off a rooftop panel? (Hint: It's not enough to run a washing machine with integral heater, except on the very biggest installations)

WRT NiFe: you've stated why they're not in use: Compared with lead-acid, they're vastly more expensive. There's probably more potential in flow batteries.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Consumer benefits are not falling!

"But they will probably stop the free energy thing as soon as battery sales go up. "

Things like powerwalls are dubiously economic even if the input power is free. On the other hand if the UK moves to rolling power cuts (as seems increasingly likely) then they'll sell like hotcakes.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Consumer benefits are not falling!

"Maybe if they stopped shutting plants down and run them at peak efficiency."

That works fine until one breaks.

Running at 70% of peak capacity is a good thing. It means that you can afford for a station or 2 to be down for maintenance.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Shockingly Inaccurate

"No-one has a proper smart meter, they don't go live until next month."

In other words everyone who's already been sold a 'smart meter' is going to have to go through the entire exercise again?

Doesn't seem that smart to me....

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Alan Brown
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"What, and risk a fine from the EU?"

The thing about most EU legislation and rules is that they are onply implemented if the national government WANTS to implement them. Blaming them barnpots in Brussels is just a convenient excuse.

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Alan Brown
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"A KW hour at 1 pm is worth more than a KW hour at 1 am."

If you have fast-acting nuke plants (LTFRs can load-follow, which means no need for OGT stations) then unless the actual distribution network is overloaded, that's not necessarily true.

In any case if, you've checked your power bill recently you'll probably notice that "line charges" account for more than half of the bottom line figure (but power charges have not decreased over the days when line charges were rolled into the unit price)

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Alan Brown
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Re: 5 MW?

"Didcot B can produce 1,360MW"

Or put another way, the same as the _peak_ output of 680 2MW windmills (the biggest land-based ones you can get), but more realistically the average output of 1800-2400 of them.

Multiply _that_ out by the number of large power stations around the country and figure where the hell all these windmills are going to be placed.

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Alan Brown
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Re: All for doing away with meter reader

"For this reason alone, I'd be happy for a smart meter."

Why? All that's needed is that the meter be readable from outside the house and that's been the norm for new builds and renovations in Australia/NZ for 50 years.

remote display != smart meter

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Alan Brown
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"They have everything to do with getting rid of meter reading staff & getting the wage bill down"

I haven't seen a meter reader in more than 2 years. They show up occasionally to verify that what I'm giving them is accurate and then disappear again - fewer than 5 visits in 15 years.

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If we can't find a working SCSI cable, the company will close tomorrow

Alan Brown
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Re: SCO

"Ps. the SCSI cables for Sun were expensive indeed."

Only if you bought them with the Sun logo on them. 3rd party ones worked just fine.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Always check the hardware as well as software

"Yes. And before you say this is illegal or the contract unenforceable, we know some good friends high up in the police forces..."

Can they get you out of kidnapping charges?

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Alan Brown
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Re: Always check the hardware as well as software

"If it's a padlock break out the bolt cutters,"

No need - you can break most small cheap locks with a couple of spanners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jJP0CcuJyE

"If it's a key lock built into the case see if it can be jiggled around/forced with a screwdriver"

find ballpoint pen of approximately the right size. Heat the end to soften the plastic and jam it into the lock. Wait till it cools and then turn. Usually works (and works for bike locks too). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0q7Bnp8ZvY

Alternatively - keep a selection of case keys.

It's much easier to invoke the SEP field generator though.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Always check the hardware as well as software

"Took the lid off and nearly died from dust bunny inhilation. "

Careful with that if there are smokers around - nicotine infused dust bunnies can be nasty (they're concentrated enough that it can be absorbed through the skin).

Don't forget to warn the user that "thou shalt not put machines on the floor or (worse) under a desk, as they suck in every bit of airborne dust around them"

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Alan Brown
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Re: AC

"A good bit of armoured 10Base5 with a vampire tap on the end was far more durable"

But there were older networking standards in widespread use before they came along.

My "bit of fun" with network cables relates to cheap 10Base2 terminators with centre pins that would disappear inside the terminator (bad soldering).

Finding a dodgy terminator on such a cable isn't the easiest of tasks as what you see tends to be intermittent.

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Alan Brown
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"A 9-pin D connector on a serial mouse has a female connector "

A 9-pin D connector on other types of mouse had a male connector.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Backups underwriters and overpriced household furniture

"How did they cope with things like Christmas, unless they paid someone to come in and perform/check backups ?!"

My system does it over that period, tells me that it's suceeded and sends distress calls if anything goes wrong.

Christmas is easy.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Pournelle's law, well one of them anyway...

You mean "always suspect the connectors"

Especially in cars.

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BOFH: I found a flying Dragonite on a Windows 2003 domain

Alan Brown
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"machine's 'owner' is a connoisseur of beers and guess what I'll be getting paid"

Given the time sunk into it, the payment had better be in palletloads.

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Security gurus get behind wheel of driverless car debate

Alan Brown
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Re: There's no rush...

"The Google approach, limiting them to creeping around at 25mph"

Is a pragmatic approach, given that such vehicles are subject to far lower regulatory barriers than faster vehicles. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neighborhood_Electric_Vehicle

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Alan Brown
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Re: Updates?

" The fly by wire accelerator"

The fly-by-wire accelerator in _my_ car has no haptic feedback motor in it. Nor do any in the Delphi part book.

What kind of car are you driving? and are you sure that you didn't have a mechanically faulty pedal that got changed out?

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Alan Brown
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"Or use them to run people over."

This is a bigger worry for self-driving trucks. Cars tend to take major damage very quickly if they hit something with the mass of a human.

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Alan Brown
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"3. Set the malware to automatically drive all those cars to a specified location"

I'm reminded of this 1990s Toyota advert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS20kOEJ9WY

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Alan Brown
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"My own personal view is that the Manufacturer should be responsible. "

That's a fast way of getting government mandated vendor lock-in on maintenance.

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Dear Tesla, stop calling it autopilot – and drivers are not your guinea pigs

Alan Brown
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"their autopilot has logged only about 130 million miles and they've already had their first fatality"

In a condition where a truck driver turned across oncoming traffic and it's not even known if there was sufficient time for a human to react and avoid it if he was 100% in control.

Also, where the evidence seems to have been tampered with (the driver was known to use a dashcam at all times, yet the dashcam is missing) and the truck driver claims to have _heard_ a portable DVD player over the noise of his own engine from 20 feet away - which is pretty suspect to say the least.

Not to mention your cherrypicking of statistics. You can't compare long-established rates with 1 incident in this milage. GIve it another 3-6 sampling periods and you might be right, but right now there's insufficient data to draw any conclusion.

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Congrats, Linux users – you're finally officially alpha males... on Skype

Alan Brown
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saw it, tried it, uninstalled it

You can only tolerate so many retrograde steps

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Ivory tower drops water bombs on dumpster fire

Alan Brown
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" there's history of dealing with crooks in the whitehouse."

The purpose of a president is not to wield power, but to draw attention away from those who do.

I continually wonder what the fuck they've got planned that they need either type of attentionseeking in the oval office.

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Lily Cole: Profit still looks almost Impossible.com

Alan Brown
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"The site won £200,000 from the Cabinet Office, funnelled via innovation quango Nesta (now a charity, and therefore un-FOI-able). Remarkably, Impossible.com won the funding even though it failed to meet the published criteria."

As a recipient of govt funding it's perfectly FOIable. They'll deny it but an appeal to the ICO for a declaration of coverability is the next step.

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Did mock cop bot trot on fraught tot? Maybe not

Alan Brown
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Re: That bot looks suitably menacing

> In most places, the mall cops can't pack "heat".

And in places that do, mall cops are the perpetrators of a statistically significant amount of murder and other serious crime.

Even in places that don't, mall security is more dangerous to most people(*) than what they're supposed to be protecting them from.

(*) Mall _staff_ in particular.

As for "kid ran into robot" - that wouldn't surprise me. I've seen kids run into the sides of parked cars and stationary pedestrians. Upvote for the comment about 360-cam and I wouldn't be surprised if there is one, which is where the "reviewing data" came from.

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