* Posts by markp 1

200 publicly visible posts • joined 5 Dec 2009


Britain's on the brink of a small-scale nuclear reactor revolution

markp 1

Re: Wasn't Fukushima a "fail-safe" design?

"permanently, before the incident" is not "in a panic after the tsunami"... a controlled, legally ordered shutdown including the cooling-off period...

markp 1

Re: Underground

I'm still sort of skeptical about the validity of that rating, as that's a logarithmic measure-of-magnitude scale, and it just doesn't seem to qualify for some of the tickboxes...

I mean, it didn't send a plume of vapourised reactor contents floating several thousand miles across a large part of the northern hemisphere for one thing. The water pollution is actually fairly slight, and although it's been measured and tracked with ease, that's because radiation detectors are very sensitive devices on the whole. No-one on the site died during the initial incident, no-one received such large doses that they died within a matter of days if not hours, and they didn't have to immediately forcibly bus the entire local population out of the area for fear of them succumbing to radiation sickness before the year was out.

We saw this drama unfolding over a matter of days after all... no actual release of solid nuclear material or fuel occurred, only irradiated cooling water and maybe a few gaseous decay products. The evacuations are mainly on a just-in-case basis. All the melted fuel is solidified somewhere in the ground underneath the plant, so it doesn't need a janky concrete cube to be hastily thrown up around it.

The plant isn't even necessarily unsalvageable, though hopefully they won't be fool enough to try... (he says, having a funny feeling he saw a news story about the second reactor having been put back into service already).

Some byproducts did escape, some people have had significant but not immediately lethal or crippling exposure - the effects of which will take time to show - and there has been significant local disruption as a civil protection measure. But it's not on a "hundreds if not thousands of deaths and immediate ruin of an area the size of Greater London which might last for millennia" scale.

markp 1

Re: Underground

That's a matter for the statisticians, I think. I can't remember if there were any reports of direct casualties, but there's a lot of staff who have almost certainly received much higher doses than was originally admitted to. Including most likely the firefighters, even those in the helicopters. That's something that takes a long time to show in the population.

Of course, the tsunami itself was far more deadly, so it's a matter of comparitive harm I suppose.

Even so, like Grenfell, it could easily, and should have been much safer than it actually was. Both of them have a thread of "how could anyone so bloody stupid have been put in charge of something so crucial and fundamental?". Let's hope no-one's put polyethylene cladding on a reactor yet.

....also, I guess the judgement sort of hinges on whether you want to get into a discussion of how many people you have to move from within a roughly 30-mile hemispherical exclusion zone on a long-term basis before that is equal to one life lost in terms of stress and disruption to people's lives. Given that it's Japan, I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear of at least a half dozen suicides that could be directly linked to being evac'd from the Fukushima area.

markp 1

Re: Underground

Oh come on, you KNOW you're just tempting fate with a statement like that.

markp 1

Re: Placed underground you say ?

Including an A380 flown into it in a full on vertical dive, only just slow enough to avoid total structural breakup before impact?

markp 1

Re: Underground

(Now in comparison, most smaller reactor designs can be considered inherently safe simply because of the small amount of material they contain - for one thing, not enough to make a bomb from, so there's a limit to how much havoc can be caused... these things tend to scale up exponentially, and indeed that's why they're not really as efficient in terms of ground area per megawatt.

But if they're also more modern designs internally like fluidised/pebble bed, thorium, the aforementioned molten salt, etc, then that adds an extra layer of protection that would also help a larger model, if only the people building the large models were at all bothered about building anything other than the same old shit that we know to be inherently dangerous...)

markp 1

Re: Underground

Not really, no. There was only the one method of generating backup power, no emergency batteries, no protected hardline to bring a minimal amount of power in from the grid to run the pumps, and no passive method of circulating cooling water to keep built-up decay heat from melting the fuel if all the power went out. Not even a small auxiliary turbine that could use steam produced by that selfsame heat to directly turn a mechanical pump, turbocharger style.

And even if you consider "has external diesel generators" as a suitable failsafe, then the design may have been fine but its placement was absolutely boneheaded. Fuel tanks on top of the gensets instead of the other way round, no snorkels on the air intakes, etc. Despite it being at sea level, in a particularly earthquake-vulnerable area of a country more or less directly over a continental faultline and often beset with tsunamis.

Add to that seemingly no proper contingency plan for preventing fuel meltdown in the case of total water circulation failure (which could have happened for various other reasons anyway), e.g. physically separating the core somehow to prevent central heat buildup, or connecting external pumps, and a parent company whose main approach to dose monitoring and site safety was "write down any old shit, and if that doesn't work, run away", and you have something that only really avoided taking the #1 spot ahead of Chernobyl by luck rather than judgement.

Not to mention the weird choice of where to put the longer-term waste storage pools (right at the top of the building, where water needs a lot of energy to be pumped to and anything that leaks will piss all over the lower levels) and the lack of suitable hydrogen venting should they also start to cook off... and no proper secondary containment for the molten core and waste water should there actually be a meltdown (would, say, a protective pool of cold water built underneath and never normally used for anything not have been worth a little extra time and money to install? with enough spare capacity to hold whatever falls out of the reactor, and able to rapidly cool the individual blobs of the former core as it leaked out of the primary flask? Or at least some extra layers of concrete foundation, textured such to break up the material that might fall through? Anything that would have prevented it settling into a big ol' solidified puddle of radioactive awfulness, and stopped the reactor water leaching away into the soil?)

markp 1

You can already get that with tonic and a blacklight, though.

markp 1

Re: no, still NIMBYish

That makes me wonder actually... there are plenty of metals that are solid way above salt's melting point (otherwise containing it would be difficult), so isn't there any way to produce a practical system for turning its energy into electricity? The stuff must still convect after all, and I bet there are pumps somewhere within the system.

markp 1

Re: no, still NIMBYish

"Moltex" sounds like something a James Bond villain would use...

markp 1

Re: Heat engines

Bit of a problem on a day like today, though ... if there's one thing I *don't* want right now, it's extra heat.

But I might want to use some electricity to run an air conditioner (or would if I had one)

markp 1

Re: Heat engines

Where does propane-expanded polyethylene come on that graph?

markp 1

15MW as stated above is still enough to cover the baseload of about 15,000 homes, or the typical absolute peak of about 1,500... and that's a surprisingly large area, if you're not supplying a forest of high-rises.

Land Rover's return: Last orders and leather seats for Defender nerds

markp 1

Re: Madness...

Well, there apparently exists a motorcycle jacket version of the same... or at least, a prototype was shown off. Thing is it's normally not those parts that take the most damage...

Anyway, I've long been in favour of external airbags on vehicles, actually. Detects an impending high speed impact with an object of sufficient size and triggers the bags in sequence from the ground level upwards, to make sure they're scooped up off their feet instead of being slammed to the floor even harder. Ultimately coming to rest on the bonnet as the uppermost bag deflates.

The bags being covered in a sticky and brightly coloured substance that means they need a little help to be removed from the front of the vehicle (so they don't then just get hurled up the road), and it also leaves a stain for a few weeks that screams "I'm an idiot who blunders out into traffic". Might even see if it's possible to texture the outside of the bag so it actually prints that.

Alternatively you can take the actively hostile route and forgo the sticky stuff, and sequence the bags so that after the initial scooping starts, the others wait just that split second longer before all firing at once, catapulting the errant passenger of foot gracefully through the air at roughly 30mph faster than the vehicle itself was travelling. With points being scored for, e.g, embedding them spreadeagled halfway up the back of a lorry or double decker bus, rather like a cartoon character that's fallen off a cliff. Which might encourage people to start paying attention before leaving the (relative) safety of the pavement.

(I'm having to dodge what feels like an ever-increasing number of oblivious roadway invaders these days)

markp 1

Re: Madness...

This looks suddenly very benign in light of more recent events...

markp 1

I wonder what the sensible minimum power and torque requirements are to push a Landie along at emissions-test speeds? Or at a pace suitable for modern traffic, and to grind it over a mountain with the transfer in 4L?

Pretty certain it came for a fairly long time with at least some options under 100hp, maybe even under 80, which means EG they could have made a deal with Nissan and popped in the 1.2L, 3cyl lumpette from the Micra (like wot I dart around in), in either sucky-sucky or supercharged form... one making roughly 80 and the other roughly 100 bhp (it's only a low pressure, part time charger, mostly aimed at improving the lower-midrange torque so you don't need to rev it as hard...) - and amongst the most efficient and cleanest engines for their power output.

Not something I bought the car for, only found out after the fact even (it was a rushed 2nd hand insurance-money purchase), but it was neat to find out.

Or if more oomph was needed there's a 4-cyl and maybe even 5/6-cyl versions, which scale pretty much linearly (...though the larger, and more recent smaller versions use a turbo instead, the concept and effect is much the same). Do you really want to chuck a Defender along with more than 200bhp for anything other than showing-off reasons?

The largest of which, in blown form, I'd be astonished to find chucking out more than 200g/km (as the small one rates 99...) under test, even with the tested model weighing twice that of my piddly hatchback. The acceleration tends to be gentle and the cruising speeds both moderate and sustained.

It would have had a particularly marked effect if they kept the same general gearing for road use and just adapted the low range reduction to suit, because I'm pretty sure the car's somewhat weird ratio selection is specifically aimed at good test results, as the EU even specifies what gear they expect the tester to prefer for each section...

It wouldn't have caused any issue in mounting, there'd have been tons of space left under the bonnet afterwards, even with a straight or vee six...

Probably would have had a hard time selling the traditional landie buyers on the idea, however. Large capacity and lots of grunt seems to be the order of play, even though gearing down and letting the low-friction, low-reciprocating mass, optimised-airflow petrol burning hairdryer rev in its happiest range would still do the business just fine and be about as economic if not moreso. It'd just sound a bit off (...though considering its capacity and cylinder count it does actually make an encouraging howl when thrashed)

And really you're not going to impress anyone with your tints, dropped suspension, bodykit, black laquered alloys... and a "1.6 DiG-T" badge on the back... :D it's all about the 4.2 V8 or DT5 instead.

Ditto - at the time - converting it for electric drive, even though it would have been absolutely perfect for it, especially with a carefully lightened frame, and maybe copious solar panels on all those lovely flat surfaces... Nowadays it might have got a bit more kudos. And the tech is incrementally better.

It's mostly image that sold the last of those old soldiers after all. Except for a few hardcore types, I can't see it having really been for utility, let alone performance. And that means they would have had serious trouble adapting the frame, bodywork, etc both for improved aerodynamics and crash safety. Probably cost an absolute fortune to build, too.

Jaguar Land Rover ropes in Gorillaz to help it lure 5,000 'electronic wizards'

markp 1

Slightly annoyed that it's iOS and Android only, as I already need to do a serious cleanout on my phone because the apps that are in there are overloading the available storage space... installing the 100+ updates that have built up aren't an immediate option right now, let alone something entirely new... and it's a slightly more capable model than - hopefully - most teenagers have.

Though there are always those whose parents get them the latest and best of everything... :)

A web version would have been nice... or Windows 10 appstore compatible, for the cheapie WX tablet I got recently. Hopefully it is at least droid tablet compatible (rather than demanding to be installed on a phone as certain apps do) so I can borrow one to give the test a go.

(I may or may not be on the lookout for a job of that description, is the thing - that and I live within much easier reach of two of their larger factories than I do my current place of work...)

markp 1

Re: Intended to fire up

They might have had a chance if Albarn and co hadn't decided to drop the cartoons on an increasingly regular basis. I liked them more when the kayfabe was still in place. All the IRL appearances kind of expose the reality of it being the pet project of a couple of 40somethings who were cool in the early-mid 90s and then started to have trouble staying relevant in their own right.... but didn't just retire to a life of Leisure on a pile of cash (or cheesemaking and poetry) like the other bandmembers.

But then maybe they're not entirely after the 18-year-old vote, but the upper end of the ABC1s. People who have had a little experience in the work environment and know there's more to making electronics work than just putting Mindstorms together or buying RPi hats.

markp 1

Re: surely JLR are not on 'message'?

Johnny Ive is, unfortunately, one of ours, isn't he?

markp 1

Re: Intended to fire up

Well, if he's a Brummie lad, that's simply a case of paying respect to your local legends...

markp 1

Re: Um... OK

They're in a middle of an apprentice-recruiting binge at the moment, so it's unlikely they WANT old and experienced.

I'm interested, but wondering if at 35 and a history mostly in IT services and AV I might already be too creaky and have too much knowledge under the belt.

markp 1

Re: Not quite 5000

Wait, does this mean... Tata is outsourcing jobs... TO THE UK?


Silent, spacious and... well, insipid: Citroën's electric C-Zero car

markp 1

Re: 180Nm of torque – that translates to 65bhp and 133 lb/ft in old money


tl;dr - guys, if you're going to offer such a heavy car to the market - a good 150 to 200kg heavier than the petrol version - it needs stronger motors, and I don't mean ones with meaningless torque figures that only apply over a very limited speed range and only when compared against traditional cars with the same gearing. In REAL WORLD terms, this one struggles to come even close to the performance of the base 1-litre, which handles the 0-100 sprint in between 12 and 14.5 seconds depending on trim level... despite having barely half the peak torque output (!) and almost exactly the same bhp. 16 is a bit yesteryear, and pushing against the limits of what I'd call acceptable for everyday use; my old VW took 20, and that felt terribly slow at times... what's one that sits between that and my current "adequate" TDi going to feel like? And that's without considering what appears to be the electric equivalent of automatic transmission lag off the line - which is one of the reasons there even exists a petrol version that needs 14.5 seconds, because it's the auto and thus doesn't get the benefit of pre-revving and dumping the clutch for a faster start...

If electrics are going to be sold on the basis of being nippier, having instantaneous lung-collapsing acceleration and the like, it'd be nice if it was... yknow... true. Something with a 16-second 0-100k sprint time isn't cutting that mustard with me. That's the performance of an economy-tuned 1.2 litre supermini (or lower-end diesel, possibly not even a turbo one) of 10 to 25 years ago...


... aaaaaaaand there now follows an orphaned section where I tried working out the power and such before realising I was putting it in the wrong place. This is largely due to the small edit window and me having not pre-planned this alarmingly sprawling essay. The information may still be of use, it just didn't find a home up above.

Also I've just noticed that I misread the torque rpm as 2000 instead of "2490" somehow. Thus a quick correction to all posted figures, rounding that off to "2500" (which makes bugger all realworld difference).

Max torque speed at 10km/h per 1000 is thus 25km/h, or approx 15-16mph. Thus more disappointing still vs it kicking in at 10mph for the ICEs... we can only hope it rises in a fairly shallow curve from 0, or is indeed flat.

Power produced at that speed is therefore a rather healthier 63bhp, very nearly its entire peak power - which may well, therefore, hit at 65bhp plateau no later than 3000rpm (the brilliance of modern digital controllers, eh...).

Which actually is fairly astonishing (and makes you wonder just how bad the launch lag actually is, because a car which can maintain an average of at least 64/1.12 = 57hp/tonne from 25km/h on its way to 100km/h shouldn't be too sluggish at all... hell, that's better than what my DCi makes at its 2000rpm, 200Nm (= 56bhp) maximum and ~1080kg weight (= 52bhp/tonne, though that IS at about 11mph and it does eventually pull to 86bhp)) and really should be more what they're highlighting here. Yknow, "produces maximum rated output from as little as 18mph all the way to 70+mph", something like that, rather than the often rather meaningless torque figure. Still, it kinda fits with the acceleration. (Although it's not an accurate way of doing it, if we consider the petrol one has a PWR of about 75bhp/tonne and streaks to 100km/h in 12 seconds dead, (12.0/57) x 75 is only a hair off the electric's actual time. The leccy should come out a bit faster than that, given that the petrol probably doesn't achieve full power until at least 20-25mph, and will have to change gear at least twice along the way, so I can only presume that initial lag is at least equal to the generally needed rev-up time (seeing as the sprint time is a minimum, measured only from when the wheels start to turn)...

Right, errata over, onwards with further dumpage.


Now, as power is merely force multiplied by velocity - i.e. it's the ability to keep the wheels pushing against the road with the same relative oomph as the car travels faster, which is what torque ultimately provides (and why you accelerate less in higher gears, as the power is delivered as lesser torque/force but at a higher wheel rpm as the multiplication factor reduces ... and also why comparing ICEs to electrics is HARD) - it's possible to work out one from the other, so long as you have all of the necessary arguments. And in this case, even though we don't have the full details of the power curve, we do have the torque at a certain speed, and a reasonable stab at the gearing.

Power in bhp is equal to torque in lb.ft at 5252rpm. Thus, 133lb.ft at 2000rpm is an actually-fairly-respectable 50.6bhp. Producing that much power at 12-13mph isn't too shabby, especially from a 65bhp motor - and unlike an ICE which, unless it has a CVT, will have jumps in its gearing where the power falls back some as rpms drop (and may momentarily cut out altogether), it'll maintain at least that much on its way to its peak. Which is why it'll probably feel fairly thrusty once it does actually get going, even if it lacks a bit initially and at the top end.

However, this does mean that the maximum torque CAN'T be maintained anywhere higher than about 2560rpm (ie, 16mph), and that's if we assume it hits max power at that point, rather than it being the usual gradual slide from one to the other. That's a pretty narrow peak even by internal combustion standards. I mean, it'll still remain fairly strong for a while, even if max power isn't reached until right on the limiter (in this case, representing no more than 26lb.ft shaft output ... though that's still equivalent to holding the old VW in third gear all the way to 80, which is something I actually did a coupla three times on hilly motorways...) it only loses about 8% for every 1000rpm / 10km/h, which means it'll feel like it's being maintained much more continuously than in any given non-CVT ICE, but it does show we shouldn't get too hung up on a figure like that in this setting as it's actually kinda meaningless.

I'd be rather more impressed if they're just fronted up and said that it "produces more than 50bhp from 20km/h right up to 130km/h, with a peak of 65bhp at (1)xx km/h, with a starting thrust (at standard kerb weight) of yyyy Newtons". That'd let us put electrics on a more even playing field with each other, because from now on a motor's raw shaft torque will mean little when not processed with a mind towards its top speed, max rpm and weight. I mean, that's already the case anyway, but most everyday cars have roughly the same weight and starting gear, so it's a more fungible measure... It'll seem unfamiliar at first, but hey, we got used to euro cycle economy ratings, CO2 emissions and 0-100k acceleration stats... I'm sure we can deal.

markp 1

Re: 180Nm of torque – that translates to 65bhp and 133 lb/ft in old money

Actually it doesn't really matter what it makes at the motor... useful torque output in automotive applications hinges entirely on the gearing, because all that matters is what happens at the *wheels*, and the amount of instantaneous force they can apply to the road as a result.

And, we're not being told that here. Though we've got the wheel and tyre size, which helps, there's no mention of the reduction ratio, nor what rpm it achieves its maximum power and/or top speed. (I could probably fish it out of the i-MiEV specs, if Mitsubishi themselves have published them, but life's too damn short)... so we can't see how long you have to wait after starting for max torque to kick in, nor how long until it's making maximum power.

However, there are some assumptions we can make.

1/ It's not going to have as much starting torque as a normal car with the same rating on its engine. Not unless it's able to overboost in the first couple seconds, and the car in question is able to reach 80mph in first gear.

The overboost would emulate the effect of winding-up a small engine before dropping the clutch in order to leverage the additional energy thereby stored in the flywheel, which means that if you first redline the motor and your rpms happen to drop through the max torque point before the clutch fully hooks up a little below it, you are at least momentarily shoving rather more torque through the gearbox input shaft than the rated 133lb.ft. Which is why this trick allows you to do burnouts in an otherwise underpowered car which can't do them if you launch by revving up to max torque rpms and holding the engine there on full throttle as you feather the clutch, or to get a heavy caravan moving on a steep slope even if all the engine is capable of doing once started is holding its speed at said max torque revs (and about 15mph in first, at full throttle).

The "80mph in first" thing is because that's the rated max speed of the car - or more likely 130km/h, probably for a combination of legal and technical factors. It would otherwise be like starting in third for most ICEs, except yer electric motor tends to run up to twice as fast and is less bothered about being held at its max speed. Say 13000rpm instead of 6500 (which makes the other maths easy, here); instead it's somewhere between first and second... (10km/h per 1000rpm, or about 6.2mph).

So, if we're comparing to a similar small petrol-driven car with a 5mph/1000 first, or 8km/h, and the same size drive wheels - 175/55 isn't too out of the ordinary (nor would 145/65 have been, 20 years ago), though we haven't been told the rather crucial rim size - then the electric will only put 80% as much torque to the road at peak thrust in its single gear as the petrol would in first gear - and at a slightly higher speed, should the ICE also get its maximum at 2000... in this case 20km/h instead of 16km/h (12.5 instead of 10mph ... and bear in mind this is being charitable and assuming it revs slightly higher than most electrics which tend to hit 10 to 11k instead). Which isn't entirely unrealistic, depending on what model you look at. Anyway, this means that 133lb.ft becomes a more modest - but still respectable - 106lb.ft equivalent ... this can be contrasted against the real-world 1600cc Astra I once had, which offered slightly greater power output but only 92lb.ft torque, or more closely the hard-charging 1.6 Megane which mustered up a full 100bhp but still only 106lb.ft itself - but did manage to offer up a curve that provided a good 90% of that all the way from 1750 to 5750rpm... (Both of them with approx 8km/h per 1000rpm first gears).

2/ It won't be any faster than an equivalent 49kW / 65bhp car. Possibly slower. And probably on a pat with older 55hp (or less) examples.

Once starting torque is out of the way - and it sounds here like it's maybe slightly lacking for that, at least in the crucial 0 to 10mph zone - the main statistic that makes any odds in terms of Going Fast with a car is POWER. Nothing else. Torque only really matters for ICEs because having a lot of it represents being able to make more useful power at lower rpms, and so it improves driveability because it doesn't bog down and you don't have to thrash it everywhere in low gear to make progress (saying "high torque" is just less of a mouthful than "the engine makes a usable amount of power without you having to rev it hard").

Power, and along with it, weight; power normally dictating, with the aero, the car's top speed - but here it's artificially limited, so all we have to play with is power-to-weight. And this car's power to weight (and indeed, torque to weight) isn't very good... about 58bhp per tonne. Or to put it another way, only a smidgen more than what a 45bhp, 795kg VW Polo from the late 80s would have offered (the 55bhp model would trounce it). The engine in that car actually only offered up 55lb.ft, but at rather lower rpm than an Elise, and it got its max power fairly low down as well. With its lower gearing (= more force at the wheels, at least in first) and lower weight (better acceleration, better cornering even on 145s all round), and an enthusiastic driver at the wheel of the VW, the electric would have trouble keeping the old, "underpowered" petrol off its tail on city streets and country lanes. It might pull away briefly as they headed onto the motorway, but its lead wouldn't last long as its rival eventually sailed by at 85+. And this is the basic 1-litre model, remember.

(Actually, when I run the maths ... the Polo had about a 4.5mph/1000 first gear (I had a slightly heavier 90s model that used the same gearbox and wheels/tyres, and that's what it offered), so that's an extra 1.111x increase to its effective torque... so, 55 x 1.111 = 61.1, x 1.25 = 76.4... x (1120/795) = ... wait for it ... 107.6! And that was at around 2600 to 3000rpm, or... 18 to 22km/h. Sound familiar? So even at the point of the C-Zero's strongest acceleration, the old petrol car would pace or even gain on it, especially as you could pre-wind the engine to the ~6500rpm redline and burn the clutch down to 4000, 3000, 2500rpm depending on the slope you were faced with, getting a much sharper launch... It would then probably start to lose out in the midrange, but certainly up to 20, 25mph I'd call it a dead heat)

A crucial thing in this case is where it makes its maximum power... like, what speed it achieves 65bhp (or at least, 60ish...), and how long it holds onto it, if not all the way to max (some EVs do, some don't... and as this one might not have flat torque all the way down to stall speed, it might also lose some of its edge at the top end). The delivery is a lot flatter and more sustained than in an ICE, but it's also going to take longer to get there - except in the rather unlikely situation of it hitting 65bhp at 4000rpm (or about 25mph, similar to an ICE in first gear) and then holding onto it up to at least 10000rpm (100km/h / 62mph). It probably drifts up and peaks, or at least hits the shallow edge of the plateau around 7500-8000 (taking the old Tesla Roadster example as my guide), so until you get to the what would otherwise be considered the top of 2nd gear, you're not going to get full power. Not actually the biggest problem seeing as the manual-geared fossil fuel equivalent (with, in this case, equivalent weight and gearing) will have started out making maybe 30-40bhp at max torque, whizzed up to 65, held it momentarily before backing off a little, breaking delivery, dropping back to maybe 40-45, and building back up to 65 for a bit... then breaking one more time and resuming at perhaps 50bhp on the way towards 100km/h. The electric's potential for instantaneous power at any certain point along the way is maybe lower, but it makes up for it in not needing gearchanges, or having its output drop back down after each one. It all evens out - it's not actually massively fast, but it's more consistent, and that can help make up the average.

We can see this in how it takes about 16 seconds to reach 100km/h. Which is slower by maybe 1.5 seconds vs my old, slightly lighter, slightly more powerful (and indeed, slightly better max wheel-force-per-tonne) Astra. It's not a dreadfully embarassing result for something of its output and bulk, but neither is it magically sparkling. It's resolutely average, given the stats... no big unexpected kick in the back, but no sitting and waiting for it to eventually reach 30 (as was the case with the Berlingo van, which had an epic 9-second 0-50km/h time). Mediocre. Average. Boring. And in fact, in a world where being able to scoot nicely through traffic without always murdering the engine and/or brown trousering it - as well as pulling adroitly onto motorways and fast A-roads - requires something with performance more in the 12-second range, somewhat disappointing. Because they almost certainly could have stuffed a Leaf-esque 66kW (90bhp) lump in there, giving the thing a much more pleasing 80bhp/tonne (closer to an old Polo GT than a 1.0 - or at least a mid noughties TDi), and it wouldn't have even had significantly greater energy consumption ... one just has to assume either they were lumped with what Mitsubishi provided with no opportunity to make changes (the Kei class regs mandate a maximum 50kW / 66bhp power output...), and/or specced it in line with the French road tax system which is based off a mix of engine power and CO2 emissions... even when said emissions are zero. And it makes for rather obvious breakpoints at particular power outputs where the car would otherwise jump up a tax band - hence the proliferation of otherwise strange 54, 65, 74, 79, 86, 92, 106 (etc) bhp/PS outputs which don't even make much sense when converted back to kW. Possibly a mix. A 50kW, Tokyo-law-compliant i-MiEV very slightly detuned to 49kW to notch down one french tax band...

Man. I think I've digressed. Blame it on crashing blood sugar.

Japanese finally produce a ROBOT which isn't DEAD INSIDE

markp 1


Anyone else this looks like the evil mutated cousin of Brian ("or confused.com") off the TV adverts?

One good thing from the Flappy Birds crapp flap: It's a handy 'tech' media rating system

markp 1

The best bit about all this?

Halfway down the page there was, inserted as a call-out into the article text, a flash animated context-word advert for ... "Happy Bird".

And given the way el reg operates, I can't even work out if that's deliberate or just a flappy coincidence.

The SECOND COMING of Virtensys: HPC boffins turn PCIe into in-memory network

markp 1

Am I losing it, or have they put the wrong units on there?

(Well, actually, maybe I am, as I tried to post a version of this earlier, put the wrong password in, and took the "you've cocked that up" screen as meaning it had successfully posted. Ahem.)

Right, I'm not exactly an expert in the field of shared, server level memory-based storage, but... have they been writing microseconds where they meant to put nanoseconds? 33us is ... 30kHz. I'm pretty certain that's a cycle time that even the olden-days Big Iron engineers would look at and say "What, seriously? Are you using super-high-rpm drum memory or something?". It's slower even than the average random-seek access time of a typical hard disc, by a factor of about three. Even 2.5us is sort of C64 slow, at 400kHz.

Now, 30MHz I might believe, as it's an appreciable fraction of how fast PCIe actually signals, even if it's overall a bit on the sluggish side in modern terms ... gotta allow time for the signals to move along the wires after all. About what you might have expected from the early PC-66 SDRAM standard. And 400MHz is probably between acceptable and very good for this sort of application, given that we're still occasionally throwing away hoary old laptops with DDR-400 chips in that various other departments (at my workplace) finally can't tolerate using any more, and have plenty of desktops with DDR2-800 in daily use, and is right at the upper end of what you can achieve for roundtrip latency between two separate machines in the same rack (if you take propagation speed in copper cable as being a little over 50% of C, then that's a 20cm path between the two points being measured...).

I suppose the question is, what sort of distance are we talking between the two devices? Obviously, if they're 200 metres apart then you can forget everything I just said :D

Yes! New company smartphones! ... But I don't WANT one

markp 1

Yeah, I'm feeling this.

I'm in a similar pickle right now ... I really like my HTC Desire S as an overall package, and the things driving me to upgrade are, for once, external factors. Rather than doing it for the techno-joy of gaining new features or shoving a terrible operating system for the promise of a better one, or grabbing the best ad-hoc replacement I can because the previous phone was broken/stolen, it's more the matter of replacing something that's good, but a bit worn out and no longer able to entirely cut the mustard. Like an old laptop once it's been upgraded to the hilt, or an otherwise perfectly good car which has failed its MOT and can't be economically repaired.

The screen's cracked (but I can deal with that, and would have had it replaced by now if I couldn't), the casing is all scratched and worn and bruised (battlescars, m'boy!), the battery is shot (that's a £10 replacement, really), the mSD card is a bit pokey (I could still double its size if I wanted, and take a more rigorous approach to spring cleaning)... but moreover the OS is out of date and can't be upgraded, which means I can't connect through authenticated proxy servers and is even starting to affect app compatibility, the CPU isn't quite strong enough to deal with 2014's multitasking requirements (it was fine in 2011), and the internal RAM and Flash is horridly overloaded. All of those things in combination spell "may as well replace it".

But the form factor, the sheer usability of the OS, the ruggedness, and the ease of switching battery/card/SIM (and repairing genuinely broken bits) are all just fine by my standards. The camera could be better, but it's not a critical point. And any connectivity problems I've had have always been down to signal strength rather than download speed, so I couldn't give a stuff about 4G / LTE / Wimax or whatever unless they meant I was more able to get a reliable connection, rather than a faster but still patchy one, in places with borderline RF field density.

What I'd really like to do is have something just the same as it was when I bought it, but with refreshed internals. Scads more working memory and system flash, faster dual core CPU, newer OS, and optionally a better camera and more pixels on the screen (and, if it can be arranged, greater touch precision so I can use a really thin-tipped stylus and have at least as much control over the result as I had with my trusty old Palm IIIe). Keep everything else as is.

Seems that the "give me a Desire S with updated circuitry and firmware" scores a big "hahaha no" on the "what manufacturers want to offer the customer" front right now though. Bit of a problem. Every single handset misses the mark in one way or another. It's either too big ... or too primitive / not actually advanced in any measurable way ... or too limited (locked-in battery, no card slot...) ... or has shockingly poor battery life right out of the box ... or is goppingly expensive (I got the DS *free*, on an £18pcm 24-month contract...) ... or uses a horrible OS (I want Android, so I can bring my apps and cloud data with me) ... etc, etc, etc.

What to do, other than buying something with a hopefully small enough PCB and doing a frankenstein job to wedge it in the existing frame?

Liquefied-air silos touted as enormo green 'leccy batteries

markp 1

Re: Did a quick search on this

Well done, you've managed to find sister articles reporting on (or the sources for) the exact same news. What was the point?

Also, air powered cars ... hahahaha.

OK, go find me one, show me exactly how much energy is required to fill it up, and I'll happily drive it for a day and see how far I get on the tank. And how fast it goes.

So far any demonstrated air car has been terribly inefficient, and despite being based on a small lightweight frame (usually a recycled GWiz or Aixam "glider"), has had performance and range that a typical cheap battery-electric would consider embarrassing.

It has the potential to be far simpler, cheaper, more reliable and above all far cleaner than battery storage, if the engineering is absolutely top-notch, but right now it's streets behind. The only reason it's been considered by the national grid is that they're desperate, and buying the necessary battery storage for such a task would be insanely expensive if not impossible.

markp 1

OK, trying to keep this question short and simple...

Can someone tell me why we would go for cooling, compressing and liquefying air using the excess renewable load (presumably some point in the far future where we actually have more renewable generation than we do baseline consumption), to be dealt with and stored at some massive central facility ...

... rather than just using the same energy to produce hydrogen (and increased atmospheric O2) from water?

Sure you don't want a huge store of THAT as a potential target, but... lots of smaller facilities, maybe?

Then run it back through a fuel cell to produce water and electricity as required.

A certain amount - or just whatever exceeded the facility's storage limits - could then be shipped out and sold to run private cars and other things that can be hydrogen-fuelled.

If set up to use sea water, it could even function as a desalination and mineral-production plant.

Another idea: use the excess power to convert atmospheric CO2 back to oxygen and elemental carbon, perhaps locked in some kind of synthetic sugar or starch type compound by the addition of water (and nitrogen to make synthetic proteins?). Sort of like mechanical trees, biting into our carbon footprint even if it's not by dint of further reducing the amount of fossil fuels being burnt.

OK, you don't get to re-use that generated energy later, but if we get to a point where we have enough renewables to seriously NEED a storage facility, maybe the focus will already be switching from "reducing the amount of CO2 we're generating" to "mopping up the CO2 we've already shoved into the air".

markp 1

Re: @proto-robbie

Oh, and also... coal generators break down just the same as anything else. As can the supply. By your standards, that precludes them from being a baseload generator as well.

There are very few seconds out of the year where the air over the whole UK is so still as to preclude wind generation, and very few hours per year between sunup and sundown where the sky is so dark you can't get at least SOME power out of a PV array. Even when it was chucking down with rain under gloomy skies recently the few-kW experimental installation at my workplace was still making 700w. Sure, that's not a great deal even vs its modest maximum, but it's something.

And who says we wouldn't retain a few traditional type power plants, able to be brought into service with a few hours' notice if the energy store was running down and we needed a backup?

markp 1

Re: @proto-robbie

That would have been a good argument 25 years ago, and it's one I've previously made myself ... but since then I've taken the trouble to familiarise myself with the more recent advances in voltage transformation and electrical transmission technology.

Long story short, AC is a good tech for driving synchronous motors, and ramping up power generated from low-voltage alternators to high voltage for long distance transmission, but when you take those two things out of the equation it is itself actually rather wasteful. Hence why very nearly all electrical devices that aren't synch motors or simple heating/lighting filaments internally run on DC.

Back in the day - especially Edison & Tesla's day - converting between LVDC and HVDC was a difficult and wasteful, if not flat-out impossible task, whereas doing so for AC required a lump of magnetised iron with a bunch of wires wrapped around it (and then, if you needed DC back out the other end, a liquid-mercury-and-spark rectifier and some kind of primitive capacitor). Nowadays, we have high power MOSFETs, IGBTs and the like which allow us to convert DC voltages much more easily and efficiently than hooking up a motor and a dynamo on the same shaft, or shedding most of a high supply voltage as heat through a high-ohm resistor.

This page may also be of some interest to you


Happy birthday, Compact Disc

markp 1

Re: And he wrote nine of these?

If you run the maths, that's approximately 140 years' worth of CD-spec audio. Or about 64 terabytes, for MP3s encoded at (rubbish but ISO-standard) rate of 128kbit. Working it back, that's 7783 dual-layer DVDs, or 1323 dual-layer Blu-Rays. Or of course 16 state-of-the-art 4TB 3.5" hard disks. Just about as many as you could fit into a ludicrous home-brew RAID server.

Such a lofty pipe dream they had, fitting that kind of storage into a single 4.75-inch platter in 1982. There probably wasn't that much data of any kind in the entire world.

(Or maybe there was, though? It represents just under 10kb for every person alive today, or maybe as much as 14kb at the time. That's not a great deal. Name, address, phone numbers, basic demographic and biometric detail, a few index numbers to identify close relations and other common associates, and a tiny, grainy photograph...)

I figure, however, I'll easily live to see the day where that's achieved with a spinning-rust hard disk, unless they're abandoned altogether for SSD and the cloud. Optical disc, probably not.

Five amazing computers for under £100

markp 1

yes, of course it is.

I think that was kind of the point, that you missed.

Though it was also stated that each of the chosen items had to have some kind of genuine functionality that would raise them above the level of an expensive toy ... which is currently the bucket I would personally throw your iPad2 into, by the way. I'd still get more done of what I actually need to do by buying the X40 Laptop, should my own one (which was a contemporary rival to it) break down.

And the Psion would still be a better organiser than anything comparable I've personally owned. £100 would be a bit over the top given I've bought Palms brand-new in-between for about that much, but I'd consider maybe £25?

markp 1

X40s worth that little already?

Crikey .. that's the laptop that was the front running alternative to the HP TC4200 I eventually bought instead. Very similar specs on each... but the Thinkpad was still more expensive than the HP even though the latter was a convertible tablet PC, and I was going to be commuting in very cramped circumstances, so it won out.

Very nicely specced pieces of kit for the time - oughta be, given they weren't much less expensive than buying a (*snnrrk*-ptui) Macbook, and mine is still running beautifully (under XP, but allegedly it's got the chops for 7). Granted, I've upgraded the RAM and disk, but that's all, it costs less than £20 to get 2Gb of compatible DDR nowadays and people are pretty much just throwing PATA drives away on ebay.

If you just need a general purpose laptop and only have £100 to spare, you could do a hell of a lot worse.

Though I would recommend keeping fifty quid aside to get a compatible replacement battery if you actually want to go anywhere. My original AND it's replacement are long since dead. Lucky the lappy has basically become a miniature desktop now - my original need for a portable is a couple years in the past, and what portable computing (aka, internet access, routefinding and calculator) I do need anymore is covered by a fairly clunky old semismartphone.

BTW, if the IBM / Lenovo is the same compact, TC4200-rivalling dimensions that I remember it being, you too can perform the "laptop in a letter-size manila envelope" trick that Jobs so smugly performed on revealing the Macbook Air (I've tested it personally... yes, I could mail my laptop in a regular document envelope if I wanted to!). Except IBM/Lenovo and HP/Compaq did it a couple years earlier, and didn't see fit to crow about it in such a childish way.

Firefox 4 beta gets hard on Windows

markp 1

needle nardle noo

hmm. interesting. 1/ i didn't know you COULDN'T already do that (can't the java player intercept the audio before it's sent from the applet to the sound hardware / API / HAL?)... 2/ why bother when I could just fire up Winamp/Macamp and have it run the visualisation studio upon the Wav output?

(Yeah, i know it's just a demo of "hey, we can now do a buttload more things with v4 and http5", but it's a rather odd choice to pick... I mean, heck, I could fire up Cthugha '94 in DOSbox and have it do similar at about the same resolution, minus the 3Dness)

VW to eliminate worst road hazard: drivers

markp 1

so much thought going into this, and simultaneously, so little

Attacking a minor thing said above, then moving on...

"A 60hp car will be screaming at 5000rpm to maintain 70mph" ... in which universe? Up what hill? Against what hurricane force headwind? Never mind that we're probably talking about electrics anyway, where the idea is moot (a higher spin speed is only slightly less efficient as it's rotary and basically frictionless apart from the bearing, vs all the whirling reciprocating parts and massive friction of a piston engine or even rotary ICE).

Slight reality check for you. With reasonable slipstreaming, 25hp is just about sufficient to maintain 70mph. 30hp if your vehicle is a total brick.

45hp, brickular car I owned? Stock gearing, 5000rpm was about 88mph (with an absolute still air/level road max of about 91). I swapped that for one that made 4150rpm at the same speed... downhill. Wasn't *quite* on-cam by that point, needed 4th to get above 85. But it would cruise quite happily all day in top gear at 70, or about 3300rpm, on part throttle. And I can tell you for now, mathematically, that it would have sustained a higher gear - from the manufacturer's torque figures, it had a touch over 29hp available down at 2800rpm, or just about sufficient for a "6th" gear just as high again, on full bore.

(OK, you had to thrash it to get up to speed, 0-60 in 19 seconds at maximum attack, but cruising? Fine, quiet and reasonably refined. Just chuck some kind of supercapacitor electric booster motor on it to make the launches and overtaking a bit more sprightly)

69hp one that followed it would make about 105-110 terminal velocity, and had a motorway cruising gear that hit 70 at *2800* and would pull from it pretty strongly (a little over the max torque, giving all the power the other car ever had at an even lower rpm). Only really suffered a little in that gear when an ignition lead failed and took it down to 3 cylinders (52hp). Come on now...

All the same, I don't really support the ideal for a few reasons:

* Acceleration. Acceleration is good. I have now a car with about 100hp/ton and more torque over about 90% of its rev range than the previous one had at peak (so I can get 60/ton at fairly low rpms). It's a good level of thrust for daily use, I finally don't feel a pressing need to "get something faster" (the 45 was pretty slow, the 69 certainly getting there, an 80 I borrowed was fine most of the time except its delivery was peaky as all hell, and a 130 diesel flicked between "take your head off, uncontrollably" and "nothing"). Particularly as when I've gathered the cojones to max it, it's managed 120+, motor wailing and everyday-tyres probably in danger of delaminating. But it darts through lower speed traffic like some kind of predator.

You wouldn't want the computer or a human driver to use this ability 24/7, as it's both a bit frightening (for the passenger) and uncomfortable. However, for either emergency use, or merging into a congested roadway, it'd be invaluable.

* What would stop manufacturers just making very heavy vehicles with powerful engines to satisfy that regulation... and stuff that could easily be stripped out to lower the weight?

* Towing/loadhauling capacity. Torque isn't everything, as I've tried to beat into the skulls of many a diesel evangelist (well, until Renault came along and offered up 300+ Nm at 2000rpm, which is an awful lot of compensation). You also want torque (roughly = pulling force) x speed - a formula more commonly known as Power, which is just as true at the roadwheels as at the crank.

* 60 is a fairly abitrary figure that I think vastly underestimates what a person can handle if they're actually concentrating ;) - yet in a future environment of electrical/hydrogen generation, charging and motive force, may be too much in a lot of cases, as you'd burn through an awful lot of power if allowed to do so with any regularity.

If limits were raised or abolished in light of autopiloting (let the system choose the most appropriate pace) you may - on a long but uncongested motorway commute, particularly in Germany - be cracking along at a full 60hp, doing your engine/batteries/fuel cell no favours and, in electrical terms, blowing hot to the tune of 45 kilowatts. Or if charged off a domestic supply, 45 units (more than a fiver) per hour... to get all of, what, 100mph?. Cheaper than petrol, maybe; sustainable with current supplies, hell no.

A more satisfactory solution may be to allow quite sharp acceleration or towing slog for short periods (pulling into traffic, overtaking, hillclimbing), perhaps upto the level of 120hp/ton, but limit the continuous/average output to more like 30, which will be sufficient to sustain cruising speeds around 75 (or probably 60 with a caravan).

Your practical average is probably about 3.4kW averaged over a full waking day, whatever that actually comes out to when driving (the car may have to do some complicated statistical fudging to adjust how much oomph is available over the course of a trip), if we assume access to a good 8 hours of charging from a 30amp, 230 volt circuit can be secured every single night. Vs that 60hp-ish (for a typical one-tonne hatchback), that's maybe 35 minutes of maximum attack. Or just about managing a 2-way commute of 40 minutes each way, running up to about 70-75mph on a cruise in the middle. Long and high speed, yes, but not uncommon enough to be discounted at the design and planning stage. Unless you want to, say, go all totalitarian and ban people from working more than 10 miles from where they live.

Also, what of bikes? Because of the weight/aero drag imbalance vs 4-wheel vehicles, 60bhp/ton wouldn't get you that far. I've probably got 40 just with my 125cc learner bike (11hp all-up) once my fat frame and baggage are all aboard, and it's hardly a speed beast. 60mph is a reasonable target most days but not guaranteed. Need to double the output to reliably get past 80, i.e. to keep up or beat the cagers. And good luck fitting any kind of autopilot or even a comms system to 2-wheeled machines that require weight shifting as part of the steering control and tend to barely generate enough (poorly shielded) electricity to run their lights and essential systems...

This whole thing bothers me, same as the speed cameras, same as ISA. Human beings are nowhere near as stupid as a lot of snotty people high up or on these boards like to think. I'd love to see a demo of, say, a couple hundred of these systems working properly in deeply congested but still fast-flowing (above limit most of the time in fact) and fairly safe conditions as I faced on the M6 and M5 this morning, with no radio clashes or interference, sensor faults (such as my own car occasionally suffers, and my wetware compensates for), etc. But the humans on the go there all managed it fine with no incident. We're built for that kind of running-with-the-herd stuff.

Well, ok, apart from that occasional herbert that sits in the outside lane at 68, breezing past the people doing 66 who are considerately keeping out of the way of faster traffic... Perhaps we could promote autopilot systems (that would stick in the middle at 66 and only nip into the outside lane to overtake - at a more acceptable pace - when there was a fairly clear run available unless they chose to override it... which they probably wouldn't).

One of the things with this is that it won't ever excercise any civil disobedience with ignoring badly- or nimby-set limits (rather than those that are actually for safety... yes, some DO exist, though their efficacy is diluted by the former spoiling people's attitudes to the idea), and will religiously stick to the advised speeds posted on those "Max XXmph" bend warnings. Which are intended for trucks, in the wet, on legal minimum tread. It's 50 round the bends between J1 and J2 of the M5, and again on another just after J2. I can tell you now that a well appointed, yet decade-old passenger car can, in the dry, clear them at twice that. Unneccessary slowdowns, minutes out of your day, time lost off your limited lifespan in the pursuit of "saving lives" that wouldn't have been lost anyway, AHOY.

Final thing: They mention leaving your car in the parking lot, but not needing to wait to get the same one back. What, do germans not go shopping in more than one place and leave the purchased goods in the boot in-between? Decorate the interior with personal trinkets? Keep a map and first aid book in the glovebox? Spare change and tapes/CDs/ipod adaptor in the door pocket? A handy jack & tyre wrench (better than the crappy manufacturer-fit), can of tyre-fix and some high vis jackets in the boot? What if the person before you nicked the spare or used up all the fuel even though you left the last one about half-full as was advised? Etc. The communist ideal is all well and good but unfortunately doesn't account for the human factor - which, when you're designing systems FOR HUMAN USE, IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.

Sorry for the time burn, but, yknow. NNNGH. The stupid, it burns.

'Larry and Sergey's HTML5 balls drained my resources'

markp 1

theorem MC68000/YM2912

oh and my theory is that one of the team's probably been to a retro demoscene convention or something and got feeling all nostalgic.

back in the day it was all about how many rastered balls you could get to fly around the screen simultaneously at smooth, single-vblank speed (i forget if that's 25/30 or 50/60fps) whilst playing some 3-channel hardcore in the background. pretty sure my old atari has been clocked at something close to 200 of those sprites at once, so enough to make up a barely recognisable google logo shouldn't trouble any PC with a 486DX or better and a PCI/AGP/PCI-X graphics card... or lets say a Pentium MMX if it's interpreted code rather than native.

Mine's the one with a squarewave + noise PSG in the pocket and a pair of cheetah joysticks tied together through the sleeve like mittens.

markp 1

cpu sucking? only if you're on a pre-athlon machine, surely

just to add more stats to the pile

4 1/2 year old ultraportable, 800 - 1733mhz speedstepping pentium M, intel 915 graphics.

not breaking a sweat with the ballpit logo.

can't give you exact figures on usage, but I can say it didn't pop out of minimum-speed (ie 800mhz) mode or raise the temperature appreciably (fan didn't click up past its default level) even though i played with them a while, saw what the effect of leaving the mouse still whilst amidst them was, etc

that was with firefox 3.6.something. IE would probably have hung my machine given the performance/cpu-load gulf between them last time I tried to use it...

Sharp claims mobile 3D, HD cam 'first'

markp 1

maybe, maybe not

Well, it is only a prototype, though it might not hurt to pop them a quick email pondering on how close-set the CCDs seem to be. Particularly as the average phone is easily tall enough to cover most people's eyespan when turned landscape-wise. Problem is that the legacy of film cameras leads people to expect the lens to be roughly in the middle third, so they may end up holding it such to block one or both sensors if they're mounted at the extreme ends.

Shouldn't be, for example, too difficult to replace part of the solid PCB with a long ribbon cable so one sensor and the main electronics can be mounted at one end of the case, and the other sensor remote-linked at the other.

On the other hand it may either be that they're taking a reduced strength of effect as the price of compact packaging; plus as they're unlikely to be able to rotate in respect to one another, this is one way of optimising it for the close-range duties that phone cameras are better suited to and mostly used for - otherwise you may get enough of a disparity between the two images that the effect is lost altogether because there isn't ENOUGH overlap with near-field pics. (They may also be mounted with a pre-set non-parallel relative view angle that converges, say, 10ft away, and anything between 10ft and infinity therefore being separated by a certain amount in the OPPOSITE direction).

Don't worry, I'm sure the boffins are sorting it ;)

Very cool idea in any case - can has?

markp 1

more pressing matter

Doesn't this look like they've just taken off one of the heads from the miniature Johnny Five models in Short Circuit 2? Hopefully the laser gun is deactivated, or at least powered down to non-blinding pointer levels.

Apple prices up iPad for UK

markp 1

Holy crap

That's almost as much as I paid for my convertible tablet PC, with similar core CPU/mem/screen specs (but with, yknow, ability to plug in a decent range of USB devices, a keyboard, a relatively open OS (XP! and the ability to install Linux), SD card reader, etc), almost as much battery life, and barely any heavier (though, ok, slightly thinner, but I already have beef with Apple over the importance of that*) back in 2006 ... anyone care to explain how a jumped-up smartphone can possibly cost so much?

* See that laptop of mine? Also fits in a manila envelope. Before the air launched. And after 4 years of use, one criticism that's never come up is "OMG, it's far too thick to carry around comfortably or easily transport".

markp 1

oh, come on. you mean that?

Wow, I hope you were trolling. Let's deconstruct.

Decent multi-touch: on its way. There are several devices with Mtouch already and it'll only be a matter of short time before it trickles down to lappies cheaper than the iPad.

Usable touch screen interface: needfulness is debatable, but XP can already sort-of work with it, and Win7 certainly can.

Decent media graphics card that can decode HD video: well, as it's only going to output to XGA, I put forward the intel 945 card that's in my 4-year-old laptop, which manages 720p-to-XGA admirably. Hopefully most current netbooks have something more advanced.

10-hour battery life: HP'll do you one of those.

Thin and light: Well, as much as it needs to be. And certainly, as light, if not as crazy-thin.

SSD: again, moot point of needfulness, but there's stuff like the EeePC.

If I'm going to be spending serious cash on a pad-like device, I think I'd probably have the touchsmart, because then I'll have a proper, fully flexible laptop AS WELL, in the one device, and know it's going to be good for about five years, rather than being obsolete, out of warranty, dreadfully uncool and possibly unsupported by the manufacturer and peripherals (etc) within two. But I'll bet you can get something of equivalent performance and featureset for less.

Windows apps OF THE SAME TYPE as iPhone/iPad ones are about the same size - there's no special magic that means Apple i-platform programs are automatically a whole lot smaller. They're just rather simplistic. When you add them all together you probably get as big a combined data load as one Windows one that does all those functions at once (let's call it for the sake of argument "Firefox"). I wonder how much of the internal SSD is actually taken up by the (pared-down) OS etc?

Windows needs more because it does more. But XP runs just nicely - with Office and a few other major apps plus a host of freeware ones covering the iP* gamut, and a good few user files - inside of 32gb. Been there, done that, repeatedly. The OS, if you don't install absolutely every needless option, is only about a gig, and that's for what these days is a very refined, powerful and comprehensive system. Swapfile, can get away with about 1-2gb, if you don't have enough RAM to just leave it at 512mb for the few programs that DEMAND it's there even if they don't touch it. Office comes in under half a gigabyte, and that's for a do-anything, full productivity suite. We're not talking your happy crappy bash-a-word thing here; windows apps tend to be larger because they do a lot more. Comparing "Win7 on a 16Gb SSD" is just not a fair comparison - and I'll bet we'll find they offer 2x and 4x size options because people will start running out of room very fast on the base models.

And if we're just talking getting any laptop of any type, without touch, £429 will get you quite a nice one - not "a low end Dell with 1 hour of battery and poor LCD" (it'll have a better LCD than the iPad for a start, and no-one makes a 1 hour laptop) or "an underpowered netbook with little RAM or HDD space" - a £400+ EeePC will have a gig or more of memory and over 100Gb of storage. In fact, this is the sort of range I'm looking in to suggest what my mother buys as a much superior and long-lived replacement to her cramped but otherwise perfectly good EeePC when she retires. I don't know what shops you're buying from, but I suggest you go elsewhere as they're ripping you off badly. £200-250, now that'll buy you some crap, but I don't see the Pad being offered at that price.

And hell, I'm SURE I've seen some kind of finger-touch HP convert-a-tab in PC World for under £500.

Final words.... 1. We're not comparing Tata Nanos to Mercs here. For a start, the iPad is hardly a Tata. The £150 Linutops being sold in my local supermarket better fill that bill. And any kind of PC that could be described as Mercedes-like, e.g. an Alienware gaming rig, would be a very unfair comparison. Instead we're more comparing a top-of-the-range Fiesta, bought on HP, that's missing its back seats and with a welded-shut tailgate being driven on a restricted learner's permit, to a paid-for, unmolested midrange Vectra that only costs slightly more, in a land where much is made of the small car being easier to park, but 99.5% of the parking slots are actually quite large anyway. And there's a fingerprint reader on the Fiesta's passenger door that won't let anyone in that Ford haven't pre-vetted.

2. I don't WANT to be an Apple hater, really. I like the ideas behind their stuff, of making it aesthetically pleasing and easy to use without sacrificing performance, and I'm taken by the possibilities that better use of instant-on, multitouch devices like the Pad open up. But they ARE massively overpriced (make it £200, and we'll talk), and the reality never matches up to the massive hype, particularly once you start finding they're just as full of embarrassing flaws as anything else - but the makers aren't as apt to own up to design or manufacturing oversights, or to fix them, as their rivals.

The internet, as imagined in 1965

markp 1

but did they therefore also predict....


I don't think their fragile 1960s boffin sensibilities could have handled so many prominently waved wangs in close proximity. The free love crowd would probably have liked it though.

markp 1


Looks a lot like my "study" (haha) desk at uni circa 2001, another omnious date. Big ol' tube monitor, everything crammed right to the edge because of it, crappy chair, kerchunk-click zip drive (i think thats what it is, not a punchcard), old parallel-connected Epson 460 printer going mental and churning out 100 pages of garbage again (because I dared access the Zip whilst it was turned on...), etc. And the tissues. I wonder when they were looking through the time window to spot us then.

Er ... except for the evening gown of course.... um... look, i was getting ready for a scuba club cross-dressing (drag queens AND kings) charity pub crawl... alright? OK.

think i need to shut up now *runs*

markp 1

if you have the cash

you can do that already!

will sir be having the near-bezel-less ultrathin large-format full HD wall-to-wall LCD panels, or the matching set of expertly aligned ultra-short-throw projectors installed today? If the latter, will they be concealed in the floor or ceiling?

Ooh, excellent choice sir.

I'd say about £25 grand should cover the average family dining room? plus another thou or two per annum for the running costs?

OK, it's cutting edge, but we ARE, at least, THERE.

markp 1
Thumb Up

just read that online recently

A Logic Called Joe, right?

I think I can probably predict what you were reading when you were linked to it also, but I'll spare your nerdblushes.

markp 1


aah, crap. didn't see this before. ignore my post below :)

baen free library, i remember now.

California's 'Zero Energy House' is actually massive fossil hog

markp 1

about the bikes

One of the big, BIG emissions problems causing those bikes to be a major pollution source is that many of them are dirty, poorly serviced 2-strokes - and those which are 4-stroke are still carburettor based with no catalyser. They're emissions monsters despite not using that much fuel.

My 125cc "starter bike" is a 3rd-world-spec Honda, whose sole nods towards modernity are electronic ignition, 4-stroke cycle and a 5-speed shift. It makes an awful smell if you are in even a mildly enclosed area, particularly when on the choke. Very obvious that it's chucking out more noxious crap than even my (14x larger engined) 5-seat car. Now multiply that engine by a few million, and you've got a problem, and maybe the reason that everyone converting to Tata Nanos in India may cause traffic meltdown, but probably NOT killer smog.

However, I still ride it for eco reasons because, in the grand scheme of things, it's a whole lot more efficient as single-person transport. Like, to the tune of 3x better fuel economy. If I step up to a more powerful, easier-starting PGFI + cat model of the same or slightly higher displacement (125->150, say), then my conscience will be clearer still, as it should be nearly as clean - in terms of emissions as a percentage of total exhaust - as a modern car. Or at least, one of an age that I'd be able to afford for the same price as the bike (eg Euro 2 rather than Euro 4... either are better than just "spew whatever the hell you like into the air"). Whilst also putting out a third or less exhaust anyway (and saving me bags of cash at the pump).

BTW if your 250cc motor is putting out 11hp, you need to get it tuned - that's what my 125 produces. It's just about right for scooting around the city, with the machine's modest kerb weight pegging the PWR about the same as an 80s city car, though the legal max (for learner class) of 14hp would be more comfortable and make it more viable for longer, rural runs also. I'd be quite interested to see how an electric one would perform, as I imagine it'd be like a CVT scooter with less rev lag - after almost a year of riding a geared bike I'm still occasionally stalling starts because of the difficulty of keeping it in the torque band off the line without thrashing it. It'd make things easier as well as cleaner.

The problem would be one of range. For a tank-filling 11 litres of fuel (so, about 10kg), I can go 250 miles, and though the engine itself is a cast-iron lump it's still only maybe 25 kilos including transmission and oil. I can't see, say, 30kg of battery (and a 5kg, sprocketed motor) giving anywhere near that range, even on an efficient 2-wheeler. 300kg in an only 1/3rd as efficient car struggles to get over 100 miles, and I can easily exceed that in a day if there's a lot of things to be done (to & from work, go drop things off at my dad's place, pick up shopping from a couple of different spots, etc). Yes, you could make the battery a structural element, problem is that's not a new idea on bikes - the fuel tank often does similar anyway.

I'd be interested to see that "250cc" electric race bike of yours, see how heavy it was, whether it was still within the same power class as its competition, and crucially how long those races were. I'll bet they weren't enduros. Any electric bikes I've seen offered for sale - at least, at prices that don't cause hysterical laughter - have terrible power outputs AND short range. Like, 2 horsepower, and 25 miles. I'd be late for work and then get stranded coming home. There are some which can do a perfectly acceptable 50-60mph and cover 45+ miles... but they're a touch heavy, still include crank-pedals for human boosting (or crawling home on a flat battery, as you can't exactly wheel it to a filling station and quickly dump in a few litres), and run to many thousands of pounds. That's superbike kind of money. Not going to be affordable by people who are either using it as a net money-saving venture (like myself), or because they simply haven't got enough ready cash to buy a car (like most of the heavily-polluted 3rd world places - they can't even afford modern fossil-powered bikes, for heaven's sake).

Not really hypocrites, you know. Just limited by funds and technology. It will get better, but you have to give these things time. Consider the history of ICEs themselves - they were rubbish for about the first 30-40 years.

markp 1

I'm already living in an almost-eco home then!

Hey - we have an electricity meter which means we're nagged into using relatively little of the grid stuff... and of course, we have a Hydronic heating system (no need for cooling in the UK, past opening the windows of course).

IE, gas fired central heating.

We're allowed to discount the huge amount of methane that sucks over the winter, yes? All we need now are some solar panels, a roof turbine and some generator-equipped exercise bikes to offset the electrical consumption and we're golden. Sucks to be anyone living in flats where gas is not allowed...

What an epic dodge. They must have balls so big that they can't sit down properly to try and get away with something like that.