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* Posts by Starace

48 posts • joined 16 Jun 2007

Is this photo PROOF a Windows 7 Start Menu is coming back?

Starace

Re: LOL

What they also need to understand is that it's not just the Start menu, or the desktop, or the Metro bit, it's all those little subtle things they messed around with that just get in the way of the user.

Under the skin is a very good operating system and things like the Task Manager tease with what could have been.

But some of the changes are just stupid - why (for example) did the Wifi management get removed in 8.1? It makes life difficult and there's no obvious reason for it! Needing to drop back to the command line or drilling into the adapter settings just to change a password is a real backwards step and completely illogical. And there must be twenty similar things I hit daily.

I'm not anti Windows 8 - I'm using it right now to type this and even have a touchscreen for the full Metro experience - but it does feel that design got in the way of the engineering and that the design side went for shiny over usability.

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Sinclair's ZX Spectrum to LIVE AGAIN!

Starace

Re: Promise the world

I wonder if they've actually bothered to pay for the design rights to make their replica, or if they're just ploughing ahead regardless? Anyone know?

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Boffins claim battery BREAKTHROUGH – with rhubarb-like molecule

Starace
Boffin

Re: Thermal stores would help too

"Storing the energy as heat is no use if you want the energy to run an air conditioner/fan in the summer."

There are also existing systems (some very large scale) which use cheap overnight energy to chill/freeze a storage tank to provide building cooling.

Assuming the power is available at the right price and there is room for the thermal store it seems like a very simple and obvious way to provide a cooling system.

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4 Brits cuffed after shutdown of internet drug shop Silk Road

Starace
Flame

He should have converted his $80m to cash...

...then buried it in barrels in the desert. Nothing could have gone wrong with that plan.

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Highway from HELL: Volcano tears through 35km of crust in WEEKS

Starace

Liquid hot magma

For some reason I automatically read that with a Dr Evil voice.

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Trust me, I'm a computer: Watson takes on health care challenge

Starace
Boffin

If you're treating someone called Aeschylus you might find that one useful!

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RAF Eurofighter Typhoons 'beaten by Pakistani F-16s'

Starace
Alert

Update to the article?

Just waiting for Lewis to update the article to acknowledge this is all based on a false report, or better just withdraw the whole thing and replace with a note explaining why.

The giveaway - even if he hadn't checked the dates/attendees - was that pretty much every quote on the original source was obviously bollocks to anyone with even a small clue about the subject.

There are quite a few people who already consider these articles to be a joke and this one in particular really isn't helping the reputation of the author.

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Crash grounds RAF Eurofighters - for Battle of Britain Day!

Starace
Flame

And the point is?

Excuse me for being cynical but wasn't this just an excuse to push out the same old anti-Typhoon stuff again?

Given the fault was (apparently) in the seat, which is a variation on a part used on a wide range of jets there isn't actually much which is related to the aircraft itself, and certainly not enough to justify another 2 page rehash of old arguments.

If (for example) this had occurred on the late, over-budget and under-performing F-35 - which is just as likely given the common component - would we have seen the same outpouring?

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Lotus offers to end e-car silent running

Starace
Alert

Old news

I can remember Lotus announcing exactly the same technology a few years back, around 2000/2001 if I remember correctly.

Even the intended application was the same.

I was interested at the time as I'd completed development of pretty much exactly the same thing a year earlier.

The problem for Lotus is that they probably aren't able to bring much to the table product wise, everything hardware and software wise about this is well known and openly available, and as a result all the usual OEMs would be perfectly able to churn out their own versions without Lotus seeing any benefit. Indeed it's already happened as this really isn't new stuff.

Still, good to see they aren't turning down an opportunity for a press release.

0
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Itchy City wants scratch-window cash

Starace
Alert

Maybe I'm missing something?

If you've got, say, an N95 (as they show) or any other similar phone that can run this application, you've probably also got a browser so can just use their free web site? Can't see that the interface would be very different, and you save a quid.

Or if just doing a search there's always Google Maps which seems OK for finding places to go. No reviews on there, but then again Itchy seems a bit light on them too.

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Apple's AppStore closes in on $500m in software sales

Starace
Alert

Bad headline

The headline implies the AppStore is approaching sales of $500m *now*, when the reality is that at the current rate that will take 18 months. Which is a bit different!

The sales aren't bad but they're not exactly stunning - a dollar a day from the installed users isn't really that much. Especially as I doubt this rate is going to be sustained.

This isn't like music retail where people buy libraries of stuff, and lots of new material arrives all the time that people want. With applications I would suspect there's an initial spike and then people have everything they need - after all, how many types of applications can you think of that you'd want? And how many of those do you want on a phone? And how many of those need to be separate apps? And how many could be implemented via the browser instead of as actual 'applications'?

I'm sure a few apps will become must haves and every iPhone buyer will have them, but the user base isn't (and will never be) big enough to make really serious money.

I'm sure some people will make money from this, but I'm still waiting to be convinced that the iPod/iTunes model will work in this arena; both parts of the product are very different.

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MoD in £1.75m rush order for SAS backpack radars

Starace
Happy

MSTAR?

Don't we already have a man portable radar system? Not the newest of things, but still not too shabby.

On paper it might weigh twice as much, but that includes the whole kit. Including the terminal for display & control.

It also has the advantage of being a proper field tested bit of MIL-Spec equipment, Blighter on the other hand looks a bit fragile e.g. connectors that you'll snap off, and a not very robust tripod. And an MSTAR will work in extreme temperatures & conditions that would kill a 'rugged' laptop.

Then there's compatibility - standard equipment interfaces, and it runs on the standard radio batteries (or even a pack of AA's) rather than some unique to type lithium job.

I also believe the radar detection and target identification is rather effective too. Certainly you can identify someone just from them standing and breathing.

Not that Blighter is a bad bit of equipment. It's just that it looks like you get what you pay for, and it isn't a complete package or necessarily up to a full-on field deployment.

Probably OK as a network of 'cheap' sensors on a perimeter though, and given how things are in Afghanistan I guess that's how they'll be used rather than the way an MSTAR is usually deployed.

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Bonce-antenna education downloads foreseen in 30 years

Starace
Dead Vulture

An alternative option

I have to admit that my second thought on reading this (the first one was 'he's an idiot') was an actual practical implementation of a teaching tool based on a wireless related technology.

This would take the form of a unit, into which the head of an appropriate yoof^H^H^H^Hstudent would be inserted, and subjected to a pre-determined number of minutes of 'education' during which their brain would absorb what could be described as knowledge, in that it would be a learning experience and quite likely have a lifelong impact.

The resemblance of the educational unit to a microwave with the door removed and the interlocks bypassed would be purely a coincidence.

I'm not sure the student would be in a position to appreciate it, but depending on the selection criteria for the educational establishment offering this pioneering learning method, it's quite possible the wider community would find it highly attractive.

In time I would anticipate the application of this learning method being extended to a wider range of students - for example the latest series of Big Brother is likely to contain many people who would be ideal candidates for further education services utilising this technique.

<- Allegations that the appearance of the vulture is a result of this learning technique are false. It's merely a coincidence.

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Brain-plug weapons could provide war crime immunity

Starace

'tis bollocks

A typical poorly reasoned law student argument.

Method of control doesn't really provide a defence - you'd be hard pushed to prove that the design of the controls made you do something. And if you could prove it, 'brain control' would be no different to a poorly designed control panel.

I suspect that the method of interface doesn't actually matter - brain->finger->weapon isn't significantly different to brain-> weapon.

In both cases you could end up reacting too quickly, and cause a bad outcome.

And insufficient buffer between thought & action has always been a problem in all areas of human activity.

In any case I suspect anything designed with this interface concept would be built to require an explicit trigger (i.e. a deliberate thought rather than subconscious) which negates the defence.

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As for holding engineers liable - if you build a tool, you may well find yourself liable if it does something unintended but if it works as intended ultimately liability lies with the user.

Any object can be used for bad purposes - hammer, knife, car, biro(!) - and you don't hold the person who designed it liable when this happens.

Even the majority of 'military' objects can be used for defensive as well as offensive roles - and it gets even more complicated when you consider 'lesser of two evils' type arguments. It's a bit more difficult to argue when it comes to things like nuclear armed ICBMs - though even these can be said to have a 'good' purpose if used purely for deterrent.

So it's the end user who holds the can, not the engineer. Unless of course the engineer made a cockup!

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Shoebox man-tracker radar flies in nimble drone

Starace
Alert

So...

If it's built by a US company then it's good, but if it's a UK product it's pork? What a shocking conclusion! </sarcasm>

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The antenna dimensions and design make it pretty obvious that the resolution isn't going to be great - I suspect the 35cm number is very much an optimal figure and probably at minimum operating altitude.

The lack of on-board processing is another reason it's so small and light - with this type of system you're constrained by the size of the antenna you can install, the weight of the antenna array & back-end signal conversion hardware, and the sheer amount of processing grunt it takes to convert the radar data into imagery particularly in real-time. Obviously computers get smaller & lighter constantly for a given amount of performance, but it still wouldn't be trivial to make an ultra compact platform. Though at least with the toy antenna they don't actually have much data to worry about.

Adding MTI and using it to steer a camera is trivial once the data is processed so I don't dispute this could be possible and useful. But obviously that requires real-time on-board processing of the radar data, and a radar actually capable of identifying smaller targets...

But anyway... the main point of the article seems to be to imply that the US product is great and wonderful, and that UK products are (as usual!) a waste of time. Not only is this line getting a bit boring, but it also shows a complete misunderstanding of the differing capabilities of the platforms.

If you had any knowledge of the SAR systems you'd recognise the difference between a large airliner hosted system (eg. SOSTAR or Nimrod), a full-sized drone based system (e.g. Watchkeeper) and a micro-sized system (eg. nanoSAR). While each is useful you can't argue that one could replace another as they have very different capabilities in terms of range, scan area and resolution. This means they'll do different tasks in the field and while the large systems can do the job of the small ones it doesn't work the same way in reverse.

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It's also worth considering that if you spend cash on US hardware the money is gone, never to be seen again, whereas if you spend it in the UK most of it is quickly recovered via taxes on companies, workers, materials etc., which makes the bill not quite so bad. The Treasury makes the 'benefits' system work on this basis and I imagine they have similar thoughts when it comes to defence procurement. I would guess other factors like increased employment of skilled workers, possible export opportunities and maybe even buying the best system for the job also come into it.

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Finally, for future reference you'll probably find that a border surveillance system (eg. Eye o' Sauron) will work on a completely different principle as it would be about classic target detection & location rather than generating imagery. Such systems can detect you just from the motion of breathing, but they'll only flag range & bearing rather than producing one of those nice SAR images. There may be a degree of target categorisation too (e.g tracked vehicle, large vehicle, large breathing animal, small breathing animal) but that would depend on what was on the back end - generally a man with some headphones....

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Phorm launches data pimping fight back

Starace
Stop

Spin

If the answers given by BT in the following link are anything to go by, they either don't understand the system or they'll play games with semantics to hide the reality:

http://www.beta.bt.com/bta/forums/thread.jspa?threadID=2612&start=0&tstart=0

If I understand correctly, they argue that data doesn't go to Phorm but is retained in the BT network, which gives them a neat getout from privacy claims.

The argument could be said to be accurate given the relevant server is located in the ISP datacentre and therefore 'within' the network, but the reality is that a 3rd party box is sat on the network looking at the raw data with no guarantees of what will be done with it, and ultimately forwarding a processed subset of that data to external servers.

And the optout system still isn't clearly controlled - if they haven't worked out how to implement it yet it's hard to have any faith it could ever work.

Looks like BT have convinced themselves they're in the right and any customer protests will just be ignored.

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Lightsaber voted top movie weapon

Starace
Happy

Re:Wot, no phased-plasma rifle in the forty watt range?

'Hey, just what you see, pal.'

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Personally I'd go for Ol' Painless. Who cares that the recoil would push you over, or you couldn't carry the batteries or enough ammo. In the world of film such things aren't a problem!

Or failing that I'd go for the M56 Smartgun. Or the M41-A at a stretch.

If you'd chosen any of the top 10 options short of the Deathstar you'd soon be learning that the ability to deliver large amounts of hot lead in a short time provides certain advantages!

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Remembering the Commodore SX-64

Starace
Thumb Up

Got one!

I've got one of these stored away somewhere, apparently one of the first few built to production standard.

Big heavy piece of equipment, especially with the size of the PSU at the back (the whole back end is a cast heatsink for the PSU) and the solidly built case (steel (!!) chassis, aluminium shell), but the feature set was OK at the time - I seem to remember MIDI was included? And the keyboard wasn't too bad, one advantage of all that space. Though you did have to squint at the display, so not that good ergonomically.

Talking of which, it's a very nice monitor, I believe based on some sort of portable Sony unit that was built-in in it's entirety. Very fine dot pitch tube (seemed to be a Trinitron?) so quite capable of displaying readable text even with the limited size available. And if you crack the case open you can drive audio + PAL Y/C video straight into the display cable, so it can work as a TV too if you've got a tuner. Later in its life I used mine as a TV for a couple of years...

Alongside some of the 'portable' PCs that came out in a similar style I'd say the SX compared favourably. I used some of the Compaq attempts and usually thought that the engineering was nowhere near as good, though I will admit Compaq put more thought into weight reduction and the specs were better!

In any case, when it was new(-ish) I thought it was quite impressive; compared to other home computers available at the time it seemed well equipped and the novelty factor of it being 'portable' was a bonus - certainly made my CPC seem a little tame. Plus I was *much* younger so more easily impressed.

I'll have to go digging for my example, though I think last time I checked the CPU had failed. :-(

Maybe it's time to gut it and put something more modern inside, the monitor will work just as well and it's big enough for almost anything to fit!

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USB Missile Launcher gets integrated spyscope webcam

Starace
Happy

Thoughts

A better idea would be some clever software to control the thing.

Ideally you'd be able to enter a floor plan, then select a target on it. The software would then steer/angle the launcher to suit, or just tell you the shot wasn't possible. The launcher would then lob the missiles in a nice arc onto the target.

The main reason for this is most offices don't allow direct line of fire. And it's a little more difficult to block/trace a shot coming in from above.

Another option would be to separate the camera & launcher. Put the camera up high with something to steer it, use it to designate a target, and the launcher is automatically adjusted to hit the target. Relatively simple stuff if you can mark out the position & height of the two bits of the system, especially if you add a range-finder onto the camera to get a proper target location...

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Office update disables MS files

Starace
Thumb Down

@Steven Hewittt

I would suggest this could be a major issue, it just depends if your business consists purely of chucking out new stuff all the time or if you have to occasionally go back to the archive to either support or update something you did a few years before. Or if you just value the knowledge that has been accumulated over the years.

And it really isn't difficult to manage 'security' by validating the file contents as you go. It just takes some extra thought in the implementation; unfortunately it frequently appears that most people don't go through any 'what if' cycle in their code design but they just bang out the first thing that works with a properly formatted file and leave it at that.

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Lets say, for example, that 10 years ago I generated some documentation for a product/project. I followed all the rules and stored it away in the retrieval system along with all the drawings, code etc. etc. Any paper copies that existed may have been archived, but have probably just had the signature sheet scanned and stored (in the retrieval system) and have been shredded to save on storage.

Then the customer returns, wanting an update to their system and/or a replacement for the hardware someone flew into the ground.

I go back to the system, and pull all the files. I can still read and use the dxf, vhdl, C and other files are still fine. But for some reason I can't get at any of the documentation, even though it was saved in Word, and I'm trying to import it back into the latest flavour of Word... (replace Word with old/new software of your choice, this is just an example)

Obviously you could argue that it's worth storing documents in plain text, or in multiple formats, but then you end up with all kinds of formatting and layout problems, missing content (e.g. diagrams) and other glitches. Plus they aren't the document that was signed off. Or you could scan the document and store it all as TIFs, only downsides being you can't edit the document any more and the storage requirements are usually bigger.

(Obviously anything *really* special will be supported by the original machines for the service life of the program: it's not a problem using special files when you still have the original gear they were created on 20 years before!)

I've had to do this sort of thing a few times and while updating the documents to the latest template can be a pain, at least I can read them, usually without having to dig out some obsolete hardware and a few old install disks from around the place.

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The other issue to consider is that depending on how update cycles are managed you might find you've gone from horribly obsolete to the latest flavour in a couple of weeks. Imagine how f*cked you'd be if documents you created a couple of months previously on your old system were suddenly unreadable.

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So in the real world formats becoming obsolete, especially in a relatively short time can be a problem. Obviously it can be managed but that is something that potentially takes a lot of thought.

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N95 struggles to find itself

Starace
Thumb Down

Question

Question - do you get the tracking feature back if you by the navigation upgrade? Anyone know? From what I can see the tracking feature is just 'gone'.

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Looking at some of the other comments I wonder what some people are on?!

Some people don't understand what the feature is - I've lost count of the number of times I've seen the 'press 0' comment. All I can say is RTFM.

The full nav doesn't seem to be a replacement - on foot turn by turn voice commands aren't much use!

And how exactly is Google Maps (great as it is) any use if you're somewhere where you can't get at your bundled data access? Say, for example, roaming in Europe? Do you seriously want to pay all that money for data? At least the Nokia Maps lets you pre-cache the countries you want to use so it doesn't need network access. In the UK I don't have a problem with Google Maps, certainly now the GPS works with it, but if (for example) I'm wandering around Frankfurt it's not the kind of thing I'd activate.

Personally I think this decision is dubious by Nokia - it's an advertised feature, it's documented in the manual, and it hasn't been 'improved or upgraded', but deleted, just to make people pay money for something they already had. Can't even make the 'safety' claim stick as the user is just as easily distracted by other features of the phone.

Ultimately this is about a manufacturer making a decision to cripple an advertised, documented and working feature of a product post sale, with the only apparent explanation being they want to increase subscription revenues for an optional service. And surely this is wrong?! After all, where does it end?

Nokia better put this back in the next firmware, as they seem to have upset a fair proportion of their customers.

Personally I'm sticking with older firmware (which works adequately) until this settles down a little.

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Supersonic stealth jumpjet rolls off production line

Starace
Boffin

Re: Woah! No brakes!

Just to point out the flaw in this comment:

The only problem with the concept of the rapid deceleration (whether like this, or Topgun style using the airbrake) to attempt to cause the following aircraft to overshoot so you can shoot them in the arse is that it's a fundamentally flawed idea.

Any fast jet pilot will tell you that if someone tried that kind of thing, all they're doing is making themselves an easier to target to hit. And in a combat situation you'll probably point this out to them in the most direct manner possible.

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Starace
Happy

Alternatives

Couple of points:

Why buy E2s? If the Seakings are than much of a problem, then the Searchwater AEW system could probably be moved to something else (Merlin?) without huge problems as it's a pallet mount - the helicopters aren't particularly customised. And the radar is certainly OK given it's basically common to the current Nimrod setup. But one of the nice points about using the existing helicopters is that they can be tasked to AEW *or* the equipment can be quickly removed and they can be used in a conventional role - try doing that with a Sentry. Plus they can be deployed to smaller ships, used in conditions that don't allow fixed wing aircraft to operate etc. etc.

Naval Typhoon variant wouldn't be huge effort - main constraint to date has been no-one wanting them. More robust landing gear and extra corrosion proofing is quite simple. As is the landing sensor suite. Arrestor hook is already fitted on the existing aircraft. So technically it could happen, though I would guess failure of F35 program needs to happen first.

As I understand it the new carriers are designed to allow catapult retrofit so Plan B may still happen!

Personally I still think that for the role it carries out, a design refresh/update of the Harrier would have been a better plan - take something known to work, incorporate the material and manufacturing advances of recent years, fit more modern avionics and an updated cockpit suite, and see how it goes. Better than the hacked bastard child that is the F35B, and likely much cheaper too.

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Validus backers banking on swing to DC

Starace
Alert

WTF?

I guess they mean something along the lines of having a shared PSU, instead of lots of separate ones in each system. For what it's worth.

Though there isn't 40% worth of efficiency to be had there. Especially as you'll still need DC-DC converters as the distribution is likely to be 48V.

Doubt you use anything much above 48V as it starts getting dodgy and parts aren't so easy to get; can't imagine anything beyond 120V at a stretch. And of course this means you need big thick cables to handle the current (obviously current goes up compared to 230V/415V AC), which aren't cheap especially with the cost of copper at the moment.

Also might be an issue getting DC from a power plant (or any other form of generator) as the output tends to be... AC! So you'd still have the loss from conversion, plus higher transmission loss.

The bit I really laugh at though is this "it said it has developed a technology that takes the AC power provided by utilities and converts it into DC". So, something new and radical then, like rectifier diodes? Or a switchmode PSU? Or one of the other types of AC/DC converter Can't think of anything new they could have developed.

Personally I smell a company built to spend VC cash, but with no actual engineering content. If they were for real they might not have such fundamentally flawed ideas.

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US surgeon snaps patient's tattooed todger

Starace
Alert

Maybe a stupid question

If the guy was in for a gallbladder op, I assume probably keyhole, and given where the liver is located, what the hell was the surgeon doing down there anyway? Did he get confused between bladders?*

I too admit that I also initially read the headline as meaning something other than camera related, possibly indicating the result an LN spillage.

(*though I can accept the explanation is that someone probably put a catheter in and pointed out the tattoo during pre-op)

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Greenpeace slams next-gen consoles

Starace
Flame

Oi! Greenpeace!

...shut it, or we'll send the French 'round again!

Typical campaigners, concentrating on unimportant issues while ignoring the things that might actually work. So much easier to be a puritanical neo-Luddite and just try to stop other people having anything enjoyable in their lives.

If you're really that bothered about environmental impacts, go euthanise yourself and reduce your personal impact down to zero.

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Qinetiq wins Watchkeeper drone test contract

Starace
Stop

Re:Dodgy Photograph and the article itself...

The reason for the 'dodgy photograph', and why the statement 'smaller off-the-shelf Hermes 450s from Israel' isn't exactly accurate is that Watchkeeper is actually based on a reworking of the Elbit Hermes 450 platform (the WK450).

Hence the quick Photoshop job. And why getting a couple of 450's early is good training.

I suspect the whole Welsh testing thing doesn't really involve much money, it's more likely about the suitability of the location for testing UAVS (e.g. the terrain) rather than anything else. I doubt much actual work will happen there, or many local jobs are involved.

Certainly it's better to site the testing in Wales than doing the flight testing around Crawley (the design and integration site), or around Leicester (where the things will be built). Both of which are privately owned, and have enough work from various defence contracts from different countries that Watchkeeper is a 'nice to have' program rather than keeping lots of people in otherwise non-existent jobs.

I think we've already had the Watchkeeper cost argument in another comments section. In this case it's definitely the avionics that are taking the cash - the platform is f*ck all. And given it's the avionics that actually provide the capability, and you couldn't fit them in a Predator, it sort of forces the decision. Plus you assume the Predator is actually worth having - I suspect some research would show it's actually too big, too expensive to maintain, and the real capabilities are nowhere near the hype: nothing unusual for most US sourced kit....

I will admit I got a bit lost towards the end of the article, it seemed to degenerate into a general rant about subsidising jobs and 'why not buy American?', and then about BAE. Which sort of diluted the whole point.

Oh, and BTW Lewis, I know you're a Navy bod but it's worth noting that A400M and C-17, while both transport aircraft, have very different roles and can't really be compared. The propellers vs. turbofans are a bit of a clue...

Disclosure: I have nothing whatsoever to do with any of the programs or companies involved in the above. I just know how to do some background research and not randomly rant about pork-barrels and the UK defence industry.

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Microsoft wireless keyboards crypto cracked

Starace

Wireless security?!

You mean people who use wireless keyboards actually expect them to be secure? And some researchers actually thought it was worth pointing out that they aren't?

What you seem to be getting is enough encryption to stop interference between systems, and to stop 'zero effort' snooping by just plugging in another receiver of the same type.

If that isn't enough, use a keyboard with a cable.

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Cannon runs amok, kills nine fleshies

Starace

Inconsistent story

The majority of the reports I've seen suggest a quick burst (15/20) which at 1100 rounds/minute between the barrels would have been over before anyone could have reacted, so unlikely that anyone could have been in a position to even do anything during the incident, whether or not this put their life at risk.

The other version suggests two full (or near full) 250 round magazines were run dry, which would have been a ~30 second incident (not 0.8) in which case it's quite likely someone would have tried to do something.

It sounds like the original automation upgrade was a bit of a bodge, which would account for how bad the incident became (e.g. no proper stops to restrict the field of fire).

But I suspect the initial cause wasn't so much a software issue as a cockup in the repair/rebuild sequence after the previous stoppage, causing a misfire, with a second cockup causing a partial jam in the action so the trigger mech became stuck and the weapon ran until it was dry.

Bad outcome for those involved. But hopefully lessons will be learnt so no-one else gets the same outcome.

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UK fast food peppered with salt

Starace
Stop

Shock!

A pressure group produces research that backs up their point!

Bear in mind the daily recommended maximums are just that - *daily* maximums, i.e. what you can consume every day.

So occasional excursions over the maximum are unlikely to be a problem, as on average you won't have that level of intake. Unless you eat burgers etc. every day, in which case the fat will probably get you before the salt anyway.

And the recommended figures are probably on the conservative side, so the real intake limits are probably higher. And in any case will vary from person to person.

I just wish all these campaign groups would go away. They never get things right, and always push their ideas too far. And none of them seems to like the idea of personal choice.

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Erratic fleshies sabotage, wreck innocent flying robot

Starace
Alert

Genius design

What kind of idiot designs a system where you can complete a control handover without it checking the controls are in a 'safe' configuration first?

Or forgets that *triple* redundancy is a better thing to aim at, rather than having two sets of controls that you can swap between.

After all, this is an expensive bit of kit to lose to operator error, and adding stuff to the control side is likely to be cheap. And much cheaper than paying for whatever the drone crashes on, say a highschool...

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Mobile phones soon to be allowed on aircraft

Starace
Flame

Re:diddle-ding-ding, diddle-ding-ding, etc....

"it won't even be possible to grab the phone from a really bad offender's hand and throw it out of the window"

No problem. The alternatives of a) just breaking the thing or b) helping the owner to store the offending item in a convenient orifice are still available.

Given the restricted space available between the rows of seats it won't be easy shoving the phone up their arse, but given provocation I'd be willing to give it a go.

Or if you know the right people on the aircraft, just take the really effective option and get them to pull the breaker for the onboard phone system for the duration of the flight.

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HPA outlines plans to measure Wi-Fi exposure

Starace
Stop

Likely result...

I would put a large sum of money on the outcome of this research being 'we didn't find anything yet but we need more research to be sure'.

At least that's the way it usually goes. Especially when the negative outcome is obvious from the start.

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Australia to get 1,000 megawatt wind farm

Starace

@ André

Ahh, the old 'paid shills' line. Great way to win an argument. Somehow I suspect someone else has actually been drinking the Koolaid.

If you honestly believe that most windfarms are carefully sited, and the equipment is tuned to suit the site you obviously haven't reviewed the siting on any of the UK farms (mostly sited for financial reasons by the developer, with achieved loadings well below 25%), and you obviously haven't seen the production lines for the turbines, where they come out of the molds all exactly the same...

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Space station barney kicks off in India

Starace

Why not just cut their losses

If this is the way things are going to be, and the ISS is going to turn into an even bigger white elephant with no-one using it or paying for it, why not just cut their losses and de-orbit the thing now.

That way they don't have the rest of the construction costs, they don't have the maintenance costs, and they don't have to maintain the Shuttle fleet either.

Or alternatively they could realise that on a national level, compared to other budget line items the ongoing costs aren't that high, and just get on with using the thing. Exactly what it can be used for isn't really obvious, but I'm sure that can be worked out!

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Legal threat to 'Green nuke' consultation

Starace

'uneconomical without huge subsidies'

Didn't they actually mean wind, solar and all those other wonderful 'renewable' energy sources?

Anyone looking to invest in those, based on making money from selling the resulting generation capacity would run away very quickly indeed if it wasn't for the current subsidies sweetening the deal.

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Mars rovers roving again, for now

Starace

Quality of design

Obviously if dust clearance had been factor in the original design, it would have been sorted.

On another note...

While I find it impressive that the rovers are still functional after all this time, it could well be argued that this is evidence of *bad* design.

If the mission is 60 days, then the devices should be engineered to be reliable for 60 days and no more - obviously there should be some margin to ensure reliability is maintained for the whole mission but that doesn't have to be huge.

That the rovers are still (more or less) functional suggests someone seriously over-engineered them. This is almost as bad as under-engineering them as it adds cost, complexity and (most likely) weight, none of which is a good thing particularly for a space mission.

A properly engineered rover design would have lasted 60 days working perfectly, and disintegrated at dawn on day 61. (paraphrasing Colin Chapman)

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MS, Mitsubishi tout translucent touchscreen concept

Starace

Doesn't look difficult to me...

Isn't this basically going to be like an old OHP LCD panel with a touch panel stuck on each side?

The bezel might be a bit bulky, but nothing particularly problematic.

Fitting the CPU, storage etc. into the bezel could be difficult, but depending on the device they wouldn't have to be huge. And there's always the option of having the processor remote, and connected via a cable or a wireless link.

And the software to drive everything isn't complicated.

A fully working prototype would probably be the work of a couple of weeks.

The only thing is though that this looks like it might not actually be worth doing - I suspect that while it may look cool as a tech demo, there isn't any particularly good argument for something like this - what exactly does it do better than a plain old conventional touch panel? Nothing I can think of, though I can see lots of ways it would be worse.

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Crypto boffins break car cypher

Starace

Re:Even easier

Maybe a simple resistor pack works on cars in some parts of the world, not sure it'd work elsewhere.

Although it's a while since I've looked at them, as I remember it the only accessible cables on most current models were the feeds to the transponder induction coil from the PCM, and the basic power switching and control lines from the ignition switch.

Given these wires, you could get the electrics turned on (i.e. 'Key On, Engine Off') but not much else, unless you managed to get the transponder code into the PCM nothing much more would happen. And a simple resistor pack is unlikely to help with this.

The PCM won't do anything much until the key code is correct, and quite likely some ancillary components will get in the way too e.g. the ignition pack and instrument cluster may also do a code check before the system will work. Given that very little now works directly from the controls, but rather is driven via software in the power or body control modules, it's quite simple to completely cripple the vehicle if a transponder key code isn't provided.

While this sort of brute force attack is relatively interesting, the real world impact is zero. Real criminals will just steal your keys and use them, rather than wasting an hour to try to get data that will take a day or two of processing on a cluster to be useful.

Bear in mind we're talking about very low range transponder modules here so the possible attack range is minimal, probably 50cm max with modified equipment. Remote locking systems have a longer range but are a separate system and being a transmitter in the key (the bit with the battery) rather than a transponder (the small plastic or glass capsule in the key) can't be remotely probed for data.

There are all sort of methods out there for triggering the central locking system, and disabling the alarm system - usually down to poor design e.g. ways to zap the system via accessible wires, or using a firm kick in the right place to bounce relays, or even a false crash signal from the airbag system - but actually *starting* the car is a separate problem and generally much harder (if not impossible) to do without a properly coded key.

As far as I can tell this attack is against the remote locking rolling code system. Apart from (as mentioned) there already being ways of working around this bit, given that the part in the key is only a transmitter you'd need actual physical access to the key to push the button(s) repeatedly to get the source data. Not exactly practical! There's also the small matter of the *rolling code* aspect; unless you get the keys correct *and* manage to synchronise the codes, it won't be much use - even a real key can become useless if the synchronisation drifts too far, until you trigger a resync.

Anyway, it's all nice and good but I suspect more of academic interest rather than a practical concern.

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Tesla electric supercar may be delayed

Starace

How can it take so much effort, or so many people?!

First question has to be about the amount of work it seems to be taking to get a modified Elise to market.

After all, the only significant modifications are going to be to remove the existing engine, transmission, cooling and fuel systems and drop batteries, a charger, a motor and a motor controller in. Everything else is cosmetic tweaks to existing parts. And lets face it, an Elise isn't a particularly complicated car to be begin with...

Ok, it's not a 10 minute job but then again there's nothing new or radical involved. And I'd assume the boys in Norfolk are doing the tricky stuff like the mechanical design and chassis setup.

Crash testing surely can't be too difficult given this basic chassis has already passed as a Lotus, apart from maybe protecting the batteries. Though I'd guess they'd go in the sensible place (replacing the fuel tank) which on an Elise chassis isn't particularly vulnerable being embedded in the centre of the chassis. So surely it can't be too bad. Front impact is probably unchanged, and rear may even be better than standard given the reduced size of the powertrain. Side and rollover probably haven't changed noticeably either as the structure looks to be unaltered. It may even be they could argue read-across from the Elise tests and get a reduce test program...

Durability is more of an issue - the batteries are going to die relatively quickly, and the motor might not last too long. Plus extremes of temperature could be a big problem. Especially for the occupants given how difficult it would be to get a decent heating /cooling solution to work from batteries. But overall there can't be much real 'new' stuff to deal with so surely durability can't be too hard to sort, especially given pre-tested content from reusing the Elise platform, and all the other standard COTS parts any car would use.

The biggest shock though has to be how a company producing a product like this, in low volume, with high bought in content and which hasn't actually shipped anything could possibly employ 250 people?! What are they all doing? Unless it's mostly marketing and legal departments, and only a minority are actually involved with the product.

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Meng cops plea in CHIP-ICE 'ware espionage bust

Starace

BAE

Trying to suggest a multinational defence company, doing the same things as every other other company in the business by trading with multiple nations is somehow the same as pure and simple espionage is a leap too far.

I think it should be pointed out that while BAE as a company may have access to export controlled technologies, you'll find there are a great many restrictions that stop these technologies being sold to other customers, or even transferred within the company.

Usually only those with an absolute need to know within a particular program will have any idea about the technology being used, and it will be made sure it stays this way. This is pretty standard stuff, indeed most defence companies do work for different countries using sensitive data and technology and it's a given that there isn't leakage between programs or people. National programs in particular will also often have restrictions on who can work on them i.e. US citizens for US programs, UK citizens for UK programs, NATO countries only on NATO programs etc. etc. with only very limited exceptions made for those with specific expertise.

Data and technology transfer can happen, but it's tightly controlled and if anything is transferred e.g. stealth technology between US and UK, it'll be because the countries involved have agreed it, not because the contractor thinks it would be a good idea to add some of the things they've learnt.

There are also major penalties in place if things get out without permission. You can have all the secure data withdrawn (major problem), you could be made to pay a penalty (big cost), you could lose the program completely (big problem, big cost), and worst of all you can potentially be blocked from future programs. None of these is theoretical, as they've happened before.

It should also be pointed out that just because BAE are working on various US programs it doesn't mean anyone outside the US even finds out anything - often the US arm may do all the work inhouse, and the parent company may know nothing other than that the program exists and what the financial details are. (Sometimes not even this much, all they know is that a section of the company exists, but all they see is the money coming out, with all details of what the division does, where, for who, hidden from the outside world including the board members)

I have heard that BAE people within the F-35 program, even though fully security cleared etc. etc. have extreme difficulty getting necessary data due to not being US citizens. So I can't really see that technology can get to other countries given how difficult it is to get at anyway at the best of times!

So leaking technology around the world just won't happen.

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ESA backs satellite broadcast to mobile phones

Starace

The big question

Does anyone actually want TV on their phone, or at least, do enough people want it to make it worth doing?

This still looks like a solution is search of a problem.

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US wants trucks mounted with frikkin' laser beams

Starace

Could be an interesting challenge...

Tracking incoming rounds is an easy job, and they tend to be well behaved targets where you can easily predict the future path.

The only problem is actually hitting the thing. With actual counter artillery you can do automatic correction by tracking the incoming and outgoing rounds and making them converge. Not quite so easy with a laser as there's nothing to actually track, you just have to assume the equipment is set up properly and if you tell the equipment to steer the beam in direction x it'll hit something. (OK, you can set the beam to scan & acquire, and look for reflections, but that isn't ideal either, and matt black paint on the rounds could probably stop it working.)

You also have to consider the size of the target. With an ABM laser you're hitting a big fragile target. A mortar or artilliary round or an RPG is much smaller and much more robust.

So you've got to manage to get a high powered laser into an extremely narrow beam, and get it to dwell on a moving target for long enough to cook into pre-detonation, which is going to take a while. Rather them than me.

They also seem to have forgotten the small problem of dealing with cheap artilliary - they can chuck more than one round at you at a time, and they don't have to be far away. How quickly can this thing switch targets if there were (for example) 5 incoming rounds? And they're all only 30 seconds away?

After all, artilliary detection and tracking systems are usually designed to handle huge numbers of targets ('cos there could easily be 100's or 1000's within a given region), with the idea of tracking them back to source so you can send a thankyou gift in return. Actually trying in-flight interception is usually a non-starter, too many targets and not enough time to deal with them for the outcome to be worthwhile.

Personally I'd stick with something that actually does work - either make sure you're not at the receiving end when the rounds arrive, work out where they came from (good old radar track and predict source & target) & quickly send something in return, or go back to the old methods and string up nets and blankets which can be surprisingly good at catching mortars and RPGs without them going off...

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Stealth bombers to get bunker-nobbling weapons

Starace

Bunker busters

I'm interested to know if these things will actually work against newly built facilities, or if the people engineering the bunkers have actually taken into account the kinds of weapons that might be deployed against them, which you assume they would particularly after seeing what happened to other existing designs.

The old WW2 submarine pens were pretty much bomb proof - as I remember it the facilities where construction was finished, and all the parts of the protection were in place were never successfully penetrated even by the largest of the dedicated Tallboy bomb designs. Only those pens that were incomplete and missing the upper protection structures were seriously damaged. The design of the pens took into account the weapons that would be deployed, and countered them. The same is likely to be true today.

Given that the concept (and in some cases the detail) of the various pentrator bomb designs is well known (generally variations on the original gun tube based design), it isn't going to be a huge challenge to produce a bunker design to counter them. And after all, the design challenge isn't going to be too different to that involved in vehicle armour designed to stop penetrating rounds.

I suspect that the right layout of alternating concrete, steel, composites, soil, voids, shaped deflection layers and an anti-spall liner would be adequate to stop one of these things. Even the 'smart' detonator designs could potentially be countered with the right layout. The kinetic energy of the impact will make some damage inevitable, with a big mess on the surface and for some distance underground, but the bunker complex itself could survive with no internal damage.

Even attempting to attack the 'soft' entrance of a facility might not be viable, as it can either be hardened directly, or more likely you could contruct or site the entrance in such a way that a direct attack is impossible as you could ensure that terrain or structures would block the trajectory of any incoming weapons.

Penetrating even thick layers of soil, rock, and mass reinforced concrete is relatively trivial, as is pentrating armour steel. But it's entirely possible to engineer something that would slow, deflect or disrupt a pentrating projectile to such an extent that it becomes ineffective. And when you've got many metres of space to play with to build your bunker roof, it's easy to add all kinds of tricks into the design.

I'm sure these weapons will look the part, will make for some impressive demonstration videos and will be quite capable of erasing an older bunker, but it's quite possible that the newer facilities won't be such soft targets.

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Pilots get electronic flight bag

Starace

Re:787 EFB

I'm sure I remember seeing in the aircraft documentation that the 787 portable EFB was actually a hybrid device, with 2 CPUS, 2 sets of memory etc, running both Linux and Windows XP in the same box. The Linux bit was to connect to the aircraft data systems, and the XP part used for driving the display.

This may no longer be accurate as it's been a while since I looked at the documentation, and the systems are changing all the time, but I'm pretty sure it was the case, and given what a strange piece of design it was it was quite memorable. Exactly why it would be this way I'm not sure, probably a way of abstracting the XP bit away from any aircraft systems.

Mechanical standby instruments are always fitted, but sometimes (as in current gen fast jets) can be hidden behind other (movable) readouts to save wasting valuable space - and to be honest if you're in a scenario where you're down to the standbys, you're pretty f**ked anyway, particularly in something like a 787. It takes a ton of failures to knock out *everything* (double databus fail, multiple power bus fail etc.), so anything that takes the cockpit out to that extent would be pretty catastrophic.

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MEPs give rejected bidders on public contracts new rights

Starace

Cure worse than the disease?

That there are bad things going on in procurement is sometimes obvious, but the same tactics are available to all the players.

Surely this Directive is just going to cause endless litigation by the losers, regardless of whether the contract award was fair or not? After all, how easy is it to prove which is the 'best' offer, and what should be taken into account in making the decision?

It seems typical that rather than fix the existing system, new legislation is introduced which makes more money for the lawyers without actually solving the original problem.

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UK Ltd not bovvered by green blether

Starace

Why be bovvered?

Companies will start worry about being 'green' if they see the cost of energy as being too high - obviously you can save money by saving electricity, but often the cost of implementing change is higher than the saving (both in money & energy), and none of the legislation proposed is likely to change that.

And you can't really force up the cost of energy to change behaviour, the market has already increased the cost of energy enormously, but people still use just as much, which gives a hint that additional taxation wouldn't do much either.

Buying energy from 'green suppliers' is pointless - there isn't enough genuine 'green energy' to go around, and carbon offset is at best unproven, so all you're really doing is paying more for the same product that isn't actually green at all.

As for turning equipment off - I can state from both personal and engineering experience that power cycling is a great way to kill equipment. Of all the hardware I've had that's died in the past few months, it's turning it off that finally killed it, usually power supplies that would run fine if left active or on standby, but couldn't restart if shut down completely. Given the relative environmental impact of manufacturing then prematurely scrapping equipment, vs. the impact of leaving it on (esp. if on standby), the balance really has to go towards leaving stuff turned on full time, or on standby, until it's time for scrapping.

Of course most of the green lobby looks for the 'obvious' solution, especially if it fits their world view; whether the obvious solution is the best one is another matter.

Better to improve energy efficiency through the normal equipment replacement cycle, and reduce heating/cooling costs, and turn off excess lighting than to jump on the bandwagon of 'green' energy and turning everything off at night.

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UK MoD reveals Watchkeeper spy-drone numbers

Starace

Yawn

Alex :

You seem to have a slight misunderstanding of real life. You have zero right to any information, as it forms part of a commercial agreement between DPA and the supplier, and their subcontractors. If DPA is happy with it, that's all that matters - and after all, someone at DPA ultimately has to answer for how they spent the budget to their superiors, who answer to Parliament, who answer to YOU. The National Security argument also holds - any detailed cost breakdown will by necessity give more than enough detail to give all sorts of clues about capability, which is protected information.

The exact same situation will apply to ANY commercial agreement - just because (for example) you were a shareholder in Apple it wouldn't give you the right to know anything about the development and manufacturing costs of an iPod, you just have to accept that it costs what it costs, and that the people paying for the iPod to be built (Apple) will get the best deal out of the contracted manufacturer based on their knowledge of the processes involved, and the submitted bid.

As for talking bollox/crap/shit - bit of a harsh judgment given you know absolutely nothing of the source you're questioning. You'll obviously never learn to trust any sources without independent citation, or any facts without sources. This is the Wikipedia disease; sometimes you have to accept that people might actually have some clue of what they're talking about based on their personal experience.

It might be nice to hand out figures - assuming someone had them immediately to hand - but why would they? If they aren't officially released you'd never trust them anyway. And anyone who leaked them would find that a career-limiting move. They might even wake up one morning to a man standing on their doorstep, writ in hand...

And even then, would you have any idea on how to interpret the data? Assuming, for example, that the cost breakdown included xxx antenna modules for the SAR at £xxK each, and the cost breakdown included the cost of the design work (xxx hours at £xx per hour), the raw gold plated alumina substrates, etching the substrates (plus the tooling), machining the substrates, microwave semiconductors, wire-bonding operations to mount the components on the substrates, the test and QA, machining the module casing from aluminum billet, gold-plating the casing, assembling the module, doing a full temperature sweep RF test etc. etc. - unless you have experience in the area how do you know if it's expensive, cheap, or just right? The same goes for all the rest of it.

Of course, whatever you got would never be enough to satisfy a professional cynic - a mind has been made up and nothing can change it. Blah blah waste of money blah blah buy from America blah blah schools/hospitals/poor troops is going to be refrain even if you could prove the kit was half the price, twice as capable, was just what everyone wanted and provided a cure for cancer as a side benefit.

Do I actually give a shit though? Not really, this program has nothing to do with me in any way, I know that I'll end up paying just as much tax however much is wasted on it, I don't care what the ultimate outcome is, or anything else. I just get pissed off when the whole overpriced/buy American/waste of money thing comes around again and again from people who really don't have a clue, and can't even justify it based on past military experience and trying to sell a book.

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