* Posts by StampedChipmunk

39 publicly visible posts • joined 4 Jun 2010

Getting metal hunks into orbit used to cost a bomb. Then SpaceX's Falcon 9 landed


STS comparison

If I remember rightly the main cost incurred in refurbishing the Shuttle was the checking and replacing of the re-entry tiles as they never lasted as long as anyone expected and the slightest failure would prove catastrophic to the vehicle (see STS-107 Columbia - though the damage to the tiles was caused in orbit).

Oh, and there were a lot of them. Over 20,000.

I recall only the OMS and the Main engines needed to removed, stripped and refurbished.The OMS rockets were built in modules and could be replaced quickly.

Rocketdyne built 45 RS-25 engines and only had one in mission failure throughout the lifetime of the shuttle. Considering they were gimbal-mounted and throttleable that's astounding. Anyway even with the full fleet of four orbiters full built, there would be 33 engines either being refurbished, in the test phase or certified ready-to-fly.

If it wasn't for those tiles, the shuttle turn-around could probably been much faster. But it's not really fair to say components being reusable isn't effective, or safe, or cheap. As Killing_Time says, there's plenty of data around on the RS-25 project - 405 individual engine missions to be exact.

The main things that killed the shuttle as a resuable space truck was that its hand-gnawingly expensive to get humans into space, meaning that each shuttle launch was $500m+, and that the complete system simply didn't go high enough, or carry enough payload, to make the economics work.

Falcon 9, however, can heft a payload to much the same altitude as the Shuttle did, and bring the vast majority of its lifting ability back to earth safely for refurbishment. The 9 engines on Stage 1 are largely identical to the single engine on Stage 2 so the entire system uses one engine design (Shuttle had two, Apollo had four). A lot of the control hardware is off-the-shelf gear running open source software. All of this brings down the cost-per-launch and the cost-per-kilo to launch.

Dragon support launches for the ISS cost Nasa $133m each under a fixed price contract. Falcon 9 launches are currently $69.2m. If SpaceX can reuse large parts of that first stage, perhaps $30m a launch is achieveable - that is extraordinarily cheap.

If Bezos gets his New Shepherd to the same level, competition will drive the commercial unmanned prices down. If the Falcon Heavy can shift twice the payload to twice the height that 9 can, that'll drive the prices down. if the Dragon Crew capsule gets approval that puts SpaceX in commercial competition with RKK “Energiya” (Soyuz) which will bring the manned launch prices down.

This is the start of something great.

Bosch, you suck! Dyson says VW pal cheated in vacuum cleaner tests


Re: "Brit vacuum-cleaner maker Dyson"

Er... not quite. Dyson wanted to expand the factory in Malmesbury (which employed lots of local people bolting the things together) into the derelict school site opposite, in order to turn their main building entirely over to R&D and administration but keep manufacturing local.

The local council turned them down because they wanted a Sainsbury's supermarket there instead.

After a couple of years of to-ing and fro-ing, the council made up their mind, said "No factory, thanks" and Dyson made the call to move manufacturing overseas, pointing out that the benefits of having the factory on their doorstep are lost whether the factory is five miles away or five thousand. Add in the cost saving moving it over seas and, well, sod it.

Thing is they were happy to invest in the local economy, and in Britain, but the local councilors scuppered the plan, and cost quite a few jobs in the process.

Oh, and Sainsbury's weren't interested in building a supermarket in Malmesbury anyway, so the land was sold for housing. Eventually Malmesbury got a decent supermarket in the form of a Waitrose that was then built in one of the stupidest and unsympathetic locations possible ruining a decent view of some of the town's 1,000 year old walls and water meadows.

Source - I was working for Lucent at the time at their location on the outskirts of Malmesbury, now also shut and turned into housing. Presumably with really awesome internet connections and a monstrous UPS...

Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned


Where would the interview be held?

Point a. In the Ecuadorean Embassy? Can't imagine they'd be too keen about having a load of Swedish rozzers come and visit.

Point b. How about the nearest Regus then? Oh, hang on, if the albino dingbat steps a foot outside the embassy, the British rozzers will have him for skipping bail.

Ok then, how about we set up a Swedish court in the UK solely for the chance to charge the little twerp? Where exactly? In the Embassy? I can't see that happening (c.f. point a. above).

Ok then, we'll set it up someplace else.

Erm.. no, (c.f. point b. above)

Assange, like him or loathe him (and personally I think he's a narcissist with a dangerous amount of influential friends), is in a pickle of entirely his own making. He's consistently flouted laws and given a big f-you to social convention across a wide range of states and countries, while evangelising about freedom of speech and encouraging people to spill national secrets. He then rides on the glory of these damaging revelations while letting the misled leakers suffer the consequences of their actions without a shred of remorse or regret (c.f. Bradley Manning). That arrogance has now led him to his current situation - cornered. Where everybody can quietly forget about him. Good.

Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy


Doesn't matter about Sweden...

It no longer matters about Sweden, or whether or not he'll be deported to the US or whether there's a case the actually be answered in Sweden OR in the US.

The moment he broke his bail restrictions and fled to the Ecuadorean embassy, he broke British Law. There is no doubt about this, no questions raised about he said/she said, no questionable documents, he broke British Law.

The moment he steps outside the embassy, Plod will (hopefully) bang him up so that he can face those charges. Then it's up to Sweden and the US to demand extradition from Britain through the usual channels, and they would have to make their cases to the British and (dependant on appeals) European courts.

But St. Julian will first have to answer charges of skipping bail here in the UK. There may even be a civil suit or two from the people who fronted his bail money to consider as well...

Sit back down, Julian Assange™, you're not going anywhere just yet


Am I missing something here?

The Swedes can't interview him in London because, er... he's in the Ecuadorean embassy which, to all intents and purposes, is a little chunk of Ecuador. If Assange doesn't want to speak to the Swedes (and the fact that he fled Sweden when they asked him to talk to them implies that he doesn't) then they can't force him to speak to them, at the very least the Ecuadoreans will simply deny any Swedes access to their embassy or their house guest.

Assange won't leave the Embassy because the moment he steps outside he will be, quite rightly, arrested for breaching the UK bail conditions. I'm sure some of the Liberal numpties who put up his bail would also like to have him in civil court to attempt to get some of their money back so expect some civil supoenas to be processed immediately as well.

British police can't go in and get him, unless they order the closing of the Ecuadorean embassy, which they're not going to do, but they also can't just let the little twat walk out of the country, so have to maintain a vigil for the moment the white-haired muppet leaves the Embassy's 'protection' while enduring the continued presence of their fugitive on Russia Today! Fancy letting someone who shows that much respect to your country's laws, reputation and society waltz off to the rainforest - Nope, neither does any home secretary.

So it's nothing to do with lazy Swedes, or incompetent Met police, but everything to do with a self-righteous, self-important asshole who thinks that laws do not apply to him, and a country that is pissed off with the western world seeing an opportunity to willy-wave on the global stage versus the rest of the world (less the Guardian readership) saying 'No, you are NOT going to get away with this. This kind of behaviour is an attack on the very bedrock on which our societies are built'.

I suspect this will go on for a long time, and may well require a change of government in Ecuador to resolve the matter.

BitTorrent not to blame for movie revenues, says economist


Content is the key

The other week I turned 40 and my glorious missus booked out a screen at our local Cineworld as a surprise (lots of friends were there, all lovely). The film we saw was Back to the Future - now *gasp* nearly 30 years old. It was played off blu-ray through the digital projector.

It looked glorious. It sounded brilliant. We'd all seen it before but we still cheered when Biff got punched, when Marty played guitar and we all whooped at "1.21 Jigowatts!"

But here's the thing - it's a great movie. It's great on the TV, it's great on the ipad, but it's freakin' awesome on the big screen with thundering sound.

Most current movies aren't. Being fair to Marvel their films do tend to concentrate on the plot and characters more than most, but it still a bloke in tights thumping another bloke in tights. The only difference from film to film is the colour of the tights.

It seems as though the creativity has been leached out of the majority of cinema production. Where producers are confident to go with less mainstream (currently superhero) productions and provide a decent budget good films are still made - Ron Howard's Rush and Skyfall, for example. High quality scripts backed up with fine technique, but these aren't the blockbusters we all crammed into the Odeon to see when we were younger. Where's this generation's Indiana Jones? or ET? or Gremlins, or Explorers, or Goonies?

Mark Kermode once ranted that every blockbuster makes money through tie-ins and advertising and DVDs and box office, so why not make a good one? Back to the Future went through hundreds of rewrites before the script was deemed okay to shoot, and even then it went through dozens of iterations, including swapping out the lead actor!

Now things are lazy, people don't seem to bother.

So why should I bother to pay £7.50 to be disappointed?

Waiting gamer slams no-show show: E3 – was that it?


All the Next gen games are ... average IMO

Is it just me or are the current glut of games more about tech projects than, you know, games?

I have recently bought Wolfenstein: The New Order and Watch Dogs. Guess which one plays better? Wolfenstein. Guess which one has more innovation? Wolfenstein. Guess which one (seriously now) is the more grown up? Wolfenstein.

Watch Dogs is GTA V with half the ambition, 100th of the cast list, poor visuals, some seriously dodgy car physics and one new innovation that, admittedly, is incorporated everywhere and well. Wolfenstein is an FPS blaster with carefully integrated stealth and cover play to the core game mechanic of ferocious blasting, it has a better script, is actually extremely grown up for a game that mechanised Nazi dogs in it (especially in the way it handles sex), better voice acting, better use of (excellent) music and much better location and character design/animation.

Wolfenstein takes an aging genre, one that has been abused over the past few years, and shakes it up a bit, polishes the core mechanics, seamlessly adds a handful of new features, shamelessly bringing back the great bits we all loved from the past, and applies a decent, well produced story with a distinct production design. On the surface it's a retro-blastathon, but it's much more than that.

Watch Dogs takes a single interesting mechanic, and reduces it to a single button press, then throws it into an open world sandbox where most of the stuff you can do, you don't want to. Who thought it was a good idea to put "Augmented Reality Games" into a video game which, by its very nature isn't real? Why would I want to play poker in a video game where I can nick money from any character on the street with a button press and an ATM. Why is my character such a noble person when I've just made him happily gun down a few hundred pedestrians on a ferry?

So why is Watch Dogs the poster child for the next gen? Because it's an impressive technical achivement to get all of these different systems to work together effectively and well.

But Wolfenstein is the better game.

Ads bandog berates Virgin Media in BSkyB broadband bumf bust-up


BSkyB = RyanAir of Telcos

Amazon buys Comixology for content crossover capers


Comixology way better than Kindle... in some ways

Comixology allows for High def files, noticably better visual quality than Kindle does.

Kindle, however, is a bit easier to find known titles. Comixology is easier if you are a real comics geek (for example, some comics are issued by an imprint of a publisher, such as TopCow/Impact), but if you don't know this, you're adrift. Also some of the catagorisation is a bit muddled, and in some cases issues are completely missing! Often books are listed as being 'Vol 2' but the same title, which means your library gets a bit messy.

However since buying a couple of Kindle comic books, my Amazon recommendations list has become absolutely screwed, totally overloaded with comic books, most of which I have no interest in reading. It seems Amazon thinks all comic books are the same... *sigh* And I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm missing out on some regular books...

Anyway, reading comixology titles on my Xperia Tablet is an absolute joy... hope amazon don't go and stuff it up now...

Inside Steve Ballmer’s fondleslab rear-guard action


Peak Power PC?

IMO the growth in Tablets is simply because the chips that power our PCs have stagnated and there isn't the driver to upgrade the PC anymore.

Example I have a desktop gaming machine - an Intel Core 2 Quad with 8Gb of RAM. The only upgrade it's received in years is a new graphics card to get me access to DX11. It is now five years old and runs everything absolutely fine (Win7).

Thing is I don't need to change the machine. It's not like Photoshop won't run on it, I can play the latest games at pretty much full whack, MS Office, Email everything all fine.

I bought a tablet to play some games on, watch some TV on and read some books on. I had the budget to buy one because I didn't need to change the PC every four years to keep up with the latest software demands. It's a gimmick, a gizmo, something fun to play around with, but it is highly unlikely to ever replace my desktop machines.

Why? Primarily the interface. Touch is not a decent interface for the same reason it hasn't taken over the world before (it has been around since the 50s after all) - YOU HAVE TO BLOCK PART OF THE DISPLAY TO INTERACT WITH IT. Your thumb has to press the virtual button on the screen, thereby obscuring that button as you do so. This means that, by definition, touch interfaces must be simpler than mouse-based versions.

I'm hugely impressed by some of the interfaces employed by a great many apps, and UI nightmares such as Photoshop could do well to learn the lessons of the hidden interfaces you see on a great many apps - but that does not mean they are a decent substitute.

The fact that a great many Bluetooth or clip-on keyboards are now available for tablets implies there is a consumer demand for IO techniques that do not use up visual real estate.

Then there is the size - 10" is about as big a size the tablet market can take. I run a macbook through a 27" monitor. My Windows desktop runs three 24" monitors. I don't see the 24" tablet being a sales champion, do you?

Tablets are excellent for the consumption of media and for portability with limited production tools. They have, quite rightly, killed off the tiny laptop and netbook. I suspect the Ultrabook market will probably succumb in the future too. They excel at portability and, with the application of a well designed app or two, can be a superb business or office tool - for example customer surveys.

But the creation of that app, the development of the graphics, the testing of the design, the writing of the code, and the employment of the server that hosts the data collected will all be done by desktop-based machines.

I see tablets as being the 21st century dumb terminal - great for getting access to centrally held information. The desktop PC will be around for a long while yet... trouble is there is no need to buy a new one...

Desperate MS flaunts UNDEAD SPLAT TALLY to pep Xbox One fans



Last generation I waited a while then bought a PS3 which I ran for about a year and sold on simply due to the lack of decent games for it (The last game I bought was the first Uncharted and that was the start of the second generation of games for the console which has seen a steady increase in quality ever since). I'd had enough at that point and moved to the Xbox Elite which came with all the things the Xbox should have come with when released (Hard disk, HDMI etc) which I have used ever since and been very happy with.

My wife has no interest in gaming, so my Xbox lives in the office alongside the PC. There will never be a console in our lounge.

At a stroke the XBox One has lost a sale. I've been gaming all my life, I started with an Atari FFS, I tend to run one console at a time and I have always had a personal computer in addition (Amstrad, Amiga, Windows PC). All the 'centre of the home' stuff is of no interest. If I could use it as a PVR, possibly, and I presume it'll still media centre extend as before, but it would be better for me if it could just access my NAS boxes (where my recorded TV and DVD collection is stored) directly rather than requiring me to have a Windows PC switched on and doing nothing.

My biggest problem is with having a mandatory Kinect connection. I don't want a camera that can be activated remotely in my house. I don't want an always-on console so my mother can call me on Skype any time she fancies. I want to be able to swear and curse in my own house without the fear of being 'blacklisted' by Microsoft and lose access (which I pay for) to some games. I'm not going to use the Kinect, my office isn't big enough to dance around in and, any way, I'm not a twelve year old girl. I don't play online that much and, if I did, I'd be using my headset as the racket from the speakers would be annoying to anyone else in the house.

If I could use my headset, that is. I'm annoyed that none of my existing peripherals will work with the Xbox One, and there is no option of an adaptor being available. Apparently wired peripherals will work, but MS have had a policy of shifting all their 360 peripherals to wireless for years now - stupid case in point being the Wireless Wheel which had a power supply and a connection the pedal box but was wireless to the Xbox... Basically Microsoft are saying they will support only the oldest peripherals for our last generation box, which is weird. I do get the 'new console, new controllers' paradigm - it is as old as the hills - but typically you can use the previous gen controllers at the start of a new hardware lifecycle until the new controllers with their whizzy new features eventually make an upgrade essential. The Xbox controller could be used on the 360 via USB. Hell my 360 Elite still has the memory card slots fitted (remember them?). The PS1 controller could be used on the PS2. The Dual Shock 2 could be used on the PS3 (with a cable), but this time MS have chosen to prevent this from happening. I'd probably pay £30 quid-odd for an adaptor to use with my wheel to play Forza 5 with for example...

Microsoft seem to have spent their time making the case for upgrading to an XB1 as difficult as possible for existing users. For me, I'm not convinced ... yet. Typically these machines go through one or two evolutions over their lifetime and, historically, the Xbox evolutions have been to add stuff that should have been there from the start (Hard disc, DVD playback software, HDMI output etc). Playstation tend to have the specs pretty well sorted from the off and just make adjustments to reduce the production and sale prices.

However the PS4 launch titles are mostly ... absent at the moment. DriveClub, the next NaughtyDog release, and GT, for example, are all months away and there is nothing outside of the multiplatform releases (Assassin's Creed 4, NFS etc) at the moment.

If someone said I had to buy a new console today, I'd have the PS4. TBH I'm going to sit and wait before buying. I suspect in ten months time both offerings will be mature and easier to weigh up.

Oh dear, tl:dr :(

Assange flick The Fifth Estate branded 'WORST FILM OF THE YEAR'


problem was the subject matter

The film was reviewed as ok, just a little dull.

The problem is that it set Assange up as a hero, some kind of modern day information-based Robin Hood fighting the black-hats for the good of all mankind. Whereas, in my opinion at least, he's a dislikeable, arrogant a$$hole who feels that laws and rules of society are optional.

Oh, and a bail-jumper, too - let's not forget that.

Point of order - it wasn't "the worst film of the year", it just is the worst financial flop of the year. Good movies sometimes fail to make their budget back, crap films often make squillions - the film industry kinda sucks like that...

Here's what YOU WON'T be able to do with your PlayStation 4


Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited already exist

... as anyone with a Sony mobile device can tell you. They're not bad, streaming quality is good, Video Unlimited suffers from not having as big a selection as, say, Netflix. Prices are similar to Apple, so you can definitely buy cheaper elsewhere.

However I'm surprised PS4 isn't coming with PS4 equivalent versions of the Sony Mobile apps - Album/PlayMemories, Movies and Walkman ... somehow I suspect it will.

On my Xperia I can have local music/video playing in the appropriate app, or I can tap Devices and select my home DLNA server and stream content form my NAS box. Provided the stream source is in a format the Sony app understands (which can cause frustration) it just starts playing it. I fail to see why Sony wouldn't include this functionality in the PS4. If the PS4 is willing to be my DLNA server, so much the better.

Also what's to stop Netflix from writing a PS4 Netflix program downloadable from PSN? Nothing AFAIK.

Sony smart TVs have tight integration between the Xperia apps and their own software, allowing me to throw content playing on my Xperia to the TV. I don't see any reason why Sony wouldn't put the same technology into the PS4 to offer Xperia users who don't have a Sony TV similar functionality - ultimately they'd love you to have Sony everything so why wouldn't they gear the equipment to do that.

Lack of USB connectivity and a small HD are annoying. HDMI has been the standard video/audio connector for ten years or so I have no problem with that decision. There's any number of adaptors to break and HDMI stream out into DVI and AC3 (for example), both of which can be converted to analogue if you really need them to be run through your SCART plug - good luck with the resolutions though.

No backwards compatibility with existing kit is irritating for previous fans. New adopters won't care.

As for the 300Mb patch - have you used an Xbox 360 recently. Every time I turn it on the bleeding thing seems to be downloading an update. Some are tiny, some are huge. Most seem to add more Sky content to my homepage urging me to pay Rupert Murdoch for his substandard football service and nothing else.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra: The quad-core 2.2GHz MEGA SCREEN PHONDLESLAB


Re: Whip it out in a bar and all your friends are certain to go: “Oooh...”

Comes with an SBH-20 clip on stereo headset as I understand it. I have one with my Xperia Z and it's decent bit of kit which, using Sony NFC tech, is a doddle to set up.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Our new top Android ten-incher


Re: Non cell tablet

Sorry I may have misled you - when I said non-cell I meant that it didn't have a SIM card and cellphone antenna fitted. You can buy one ready to connect to your favourite mobile phone network, but the pairing process was so painless (on my Xperia phone) I'm not feeling like I'm missing something now.

AFAIK all three models run Snapdragon processors - not enough for a PS3 game.

However PS3 controllers can link to the tablet easily, which is interesting...


Re: Yet another tallscreen Android tablet?

It's 1980x1200 pixels so it's an HD Widescreen. Works fine in portrait mode, just like really big smartphone. The couple of magazines I've opened on it look fine, no distortion or layout issues. Nook and Kindle apps just switch to single page instead of two. I've noticed no issues and films look excellent, especially BD rips and play using every inch of the display. I have to say Pinball Arcade is utterly brilliant in portrait mode...

Thumb Up

Sony now producing the stuff they've promised for years

I bought a Tablet Z two weeks ago because I had a bit of spare cash and fancied not turning on the Mac whenever I just wanted to look something up. I have to say this is a superb piece of kit. Everyone who has seen it has gone 'wow', especially about how thin and light it is.

I have an Xperia S smartphone from 2011 and I fired up the Tablet Z "Xperia Link" app, scanned the QR code the tab displayed with the phone and the pair of them connected themselves via bluetooth, shared everything they needed to share and now my 16Gb non-cell tablet can connect to the internet using the phone's signal with one click of a screen widget - wow. It took probably a minute to set up and my mum could have done it...

Finally on Sony and their software - My Xperia S phone announced to me last week that there was an update waiting for it. "Really?" I thought, clicked the button and let it do it's thing expecting just a new walkman app or something. Nope - Hello Jellybean! That's right, a full OS upgrade (and attendant Sony software updates too) for a phone just a shade over two years old.

Sony did produce some crap for a long time - I should know: I've had Ericsson/SE/Sony phones exclusively for over ten years now. However the Xperia S was the first Iphone beating Android phone IMO and to have it still being supported is brilliant - especially as the Xperia Z Phone is just too big for me. The Xperia Z tablet is absolutely stunning in build quality and performance and I'm enjoying exploring what I can do with it...

Facebook slurped phone numbers says Norton


No new

I noticed this about two years ago. If you install the Facebook app on your smartphone it slurps your phone number and adds it to the 'contact information' on the facebook site - along with anything else you have in your phone - email etc.

All you can do to stop it is block your contact information from being shared with anyone else in the privacy settings. Facebook still have access to it on their servers. AFAIK there is no way to stop the app from slurping your number.

In the recent update it now wants the ability to phone premium rate numbers on your device. I'm waiting for the first rogue dialer smartphone app to be seen in the wild. FB are FCKS...

All major UK ISPs prepping network-level porn 'n' violence filters


Talk Talk's Homesafe provided by Huwaei...

Oooo I feel safer already </sarcasm>

Readers, we need you... for LOHAN ignition failsafe brainwaves


Re: Parachute cord and springs?

Didn't the cage always get hung up on the pole at the last minute? Mousetrap kinda sucked.


Parachute cord and springs?

I initially thought of using the parachute as the trigger, but at high altitude it may not open, so I came up with this idea that uses gravity as a trigger instead:

1) Take a length of parachute cord and make a double figure of eight shape, making sure the cord doesn't pass through itself and that the continuing lengths of cord 'depart' from roughly the middle of the 8.

2) Fit a small rubber band over each loop of the eight to secure them in place. These bands should not be tight, so use very small bands at low tension.

3) Now create a metal plunger wired to the launch battery + and fit it to a powerful spring. The face of the plunger should be smooth and flat, but should also be larger in diameter than our figure 8 cord is long.

4) Fit the plunger and spring into a casing that will see the plunger in contact with a copper stop plate at rest (but still under considerable tension from the spring). Connect the copper stop plate to the + launcher circuit. This is our trigger mechanism. The casing should be open and unencumbered at the bottom, so either the stop plate is mounted separately on the truss or it is fixed to the spring casing at the top only.

5) Fit the trigger mechanism to the Truss on the centre line. On the outer left strut, directly in line with where the plunger and stop plate meet should be a strong cable anchor.

6) Tie the uppermost free end of the figure 8 cord to this Anchor.

7) Tie the other free end of the figure 8 cord to the bottom of a small weight. This weight is held in a cage mounted on the right strut in line with where the plunger and stop plate meet. This cage is open at the bottom so the weight falls out easily, but has a small hole in the top. A cone shape would be ideal in a closely mated cone-shaped cage...

8) Tie the top of the weight to another length of parachute cord which is attached to the balloon tether directly - that is above the parachute mounting. This cord should be shielded from atmospheric buffeting, so running it through a drinking straw attached to the balloon tether would protect it.

9) Place the figure 8 of cord between the plunger and the stop plate so that it prevents the two plates touching. It should stay in place through the force of the plunger trapping it against the stop plate.

Note: Before launch, cut the two elastic bands to make doubly sure the figure 8 cord will 'zip' out of position.

The method of operation is pretty simple.

a) The Balloon bursts

b) Tension is released from the balloon tether and the cable holding the weight in its cage

c) Weight falls free from cage and pulls figure 8 loop from between plunger and stop plate

d) Plunger and Stop plate meet and launch circuit connection is made

e) LOHAN launches

f) Weight fall stopped by anchor.

The only issue I can see is the 'yanking' factor that may be applied by the weight being arrested in its fall by the anchor cable pulling LOHAN off course. This could be alleviated by use of pulleys or a really long anchor cable ensuring that the weight remains in free fall until LOHAN has launched successfully. However don't be tempted to add all that extra anchor cable between the plunger and stop plate because the more cable between the two, the longer it will take to close the circuit. Perhaps coiling the anchor cable up inside a small parcel of tissue paper attached to the truss would be the way to go....

LOHAN must suck juice while mounted on rigid rod - but HOW?


Contact transferplates may still work...

I promise I'm not a contact plate junkie but...

In your closeup diagram of the Lohan mounting interface, the Aluminium plate from the truss is shown very close to the top of Lohan's fuselage.

So build into the surface of Lohan, just behind the rear-most Teflon guide, two copper contact patches. Then run two electrical tracks down the Aluminium plate which would terminate in, you've guessed it, spring loaded contacts. These contacts would then hang below the aluminium plate, and rest atop the contact patches on Lohan's fuselage.

The springs should be of a very low resistance, so Lohan can rock about and keep free of the ice on her rod, so don't think of these springs doing any stabilisation of the plane, they are merely there to keep the contacts touching.

Anyway at launch the toasty warm motor fires and Lohan streaks away, pulling her smooth contact patches away from the spring loaded contacts like a tablecloth out from under a plate. The truss-mounted contacts then either fall away under gravity or simply dangle from their power wire which is still soldered to the aluminium plate.

This system doesn't actually need to be attached to the aluminium plate as wires would be used to supply the current to the spring contacts, so the contact patches could easily be mounted elsewhere on the fuselage - the top of the guidance loops, for example. The trick would be to find a place on the Truss that is sufficiently close to Lohan's fuselage for short, weak springs to maintain contact, and that won't foul any 'trailing' fuselage, that is bodywork to the rear (motor end) of the contact patches that will pass the spring contacts when the motor fires...

LOHAN fans drawn to magnetic coupling


Why not use the blast plate for the power connection

I may be missing something but why not use the blast plate for the power transfer?

Instead of it being one piece of aluminium, why not have it split electrically in two (perhaps a chunky circuit board with two big pads) and then have two spring loaded copper pads (use biro springs) in the rear of LOHAN that then transfer the power to the heater (with the whole thing being held in the rear of the plane, which makes for easier wiring).

So long as Lohan remains in contact with the blast plate, the power should be transferred. The only difficulty I can see is if Lohan slides away from the blast plate during her ascent, but this would also affect the performance of the rocket motor so may have already been solved... In fact the contact pads may actually help protect Lohan from any lateral buffetting she may receive during the ascent...


Slash A THIRD off Surface RT price or it's toast, Microsoft told


Where are they?

I'm thinking of getting a tablet, I'm quite interested in the Surface pro, but where the fudge can I get my hands on one? Try it. Poke it a bit. Pull the stupid port covers off and have a fiddle. Find out my hands don't fit on the thing. HMV have a range of tablets to play with. Every phone store on every high street in the country has iPads coming out their wazoo, so why the fornication should I pay MS over-the-odds for a device I don't even know if I like yet. I can't even visualise how big the thing is.

MS should have simply released it to all general retailers with an RRP. If it's a well built as people say, they will be picking up sales from people (like me) who don't want an iPad. If it doesn't sell, the retailers will knock the price down and it'll pick up.

A tablet is an expensive luxury. I don't need a fancy eReader or portable video device, or touch toy. I need something that will run full fat programs, can interface with all the other computer gear in the house and at work and in an always on, highly mobile form factor . The Surface appears to be able to do all of this but, right now, no sale

LOHAN seeks failsafe for explosive climax

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Gravity removes pin

Why not have the pin held in place against a stop by the upward lift of the balloon? Run a fine cable from the base of the balloon to the firing pin in a loose hole. The pin is prevented from being pulled out the top by a stop on the underside that is larger than the hole in which it sits, and prevented from falling out the bottom by tension on the line to balloon. When the balloon goes pop, the tension on the restraining cable is released and the pin is pulled back to earth by gravity.

It may be necessary to springload the pin to ensure that it is ejected when the tension is released, but the principle is the same... Modern monofilament fishing line should be enough to take the load.

Shoreditch's sparkle smokescreen leaves BBC journo 'tech-struck'


BBC Tech News reporting is lamentable

... anyone seen a report by Rory Cellan-Jones? He was in Shoreditch a few weeks ago on radio 4 going on a one day programming course. He built a website. He was then heard reporting quite breathlessly that he was proud that his website contained HTML, CSS and some Java apps. Wow, well done...

Now, reporting on the rise of programming awareness in non-coding environments is a good story (his course partners were all marketeers trying to understand the workload that goes into building a website) and there's a good tech story there - but Rory, as usual, bypassed it through apparent ignorance about the subject.

Compare anything by Rory with reports from the Beeb's science correspondent David Shukman, or medical correspondent, Fergus Walsh, or defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt. Since Tomorrow's World died a death, the BBC hasn't bothered with science or tech news at all...

LOHAN starts to feel the barometric pressure


Edge 705?

How about a Garmin Edge 705. It has a GPS, a bariometric altimeter and is sealed in a waterproof & dustproof case.

Has a two way USB port on the back and has a set of open APIs available so sites can download and make use of the device's data (though I don't know any more than that). It also is an ANT+ device which the latest generation of Smartphone can communicate over, so that's another possible avenue to explore.

I can vouch for its toughness and reliability as well as its accuracy and long battery life. It also doesn't weight very much and could be easily mounted to the truss...

Dad sues Apple for pushing cash-draining 'free' games at kids

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Pay-to-Play is nothing new, it's now just less obvious

Games have been used as a tool to get money out of your wallet for years - Pinball with the 'buy in' option, Arcade games with the '1 more life for 1 credit' option and the well-known mechanics of fruit machines and quiz machines. Ultimately all of these things are there to get a much money out of you for the entertainment of playing them.

Sames true with these bait apps, but it's much sneakier as the purchase is effectively invisible. Instead of your wallet rapidly becoming empty of coins, in-game purchases are just a button click and *ping* extra smurfberries are credited. Some games have in-game monetary systems that are false - think of it like playing poker with matchsticks as counters. Other games have monetary systems that are real money. How can you tell which is which? A nine year old will have a hell of a time differentiating between the two, so I can't really blame her.

Can't blame the parent that much either. The same confusion/ignorance mentioned above applies plus the obvious fact that they didn't know about the setting to turn off in app purchases (I didn't - is there such a thing for Android?).

Can't blame Apple too much as well, I mean they have provided a way to disable this kind of thing, even if it isn't well known. And if people want to play micropayment games, why not let them - especially if you can claim 30% or each transaction... That's capitalism, after all.

I do think that Apple/Google need to be clearer about what these apps demand at the app store level. The information for most apps is the bare minimum, so I think they should have an agreed upon system of icons/warnings to explain that this Pony game will demand micropayments, or that purchase of Smurfberries is required to play.

That's what I'd expect to see at the resolution of this case, I doubt any damages will be paid, but a code of conduct may be enforced...

Game CEO steps down


Re: "we are hopeful that a going concern sale of the business is achievable."

Noticed this weekend that the smaller Game store in Swindon has "relocated" to the other Game store (less than 50 metres away) which has been in existence for as long as I've lived in Swin (9 years now).

TalkTalk is yet again the most griped about telco in Blighty


You get what you pay for

Talk Talk provide a connection between your house and their ISP. That's it. When everything works they are fine - not stellar, but fine.

However if anything goes wrong (which it seems to do quite regularly) their first line support are nothing but dreadful. Second line, however seem to get the job done quite efficiently, but it is such a battle to get through to them.

They have most of middle England sewn up and those puppies complain if they are getting poor service. If TT invest in their 1st line support and get them up to the level of the 2nd Line, I suspect they'd see a lot of their complaints drop. But involves spending money, and I doubt TT can really be bothered in investment...

I've just moved from O2 to BT. I had no quibbles with O2, though I did get annoyed that they didn't support their Wireless Box as a router, only as a modem. When my Wireless Box II stopped routing, O2 didn't want to know.

I've now had BT infinity for a month and the install was painless, the speeds are excellent and once you've spent a day or so figuring out how to turn a lot of the HomeHub's BT bollocks off (FON, for example), it all seems good ATM.

Game files for administration


Same bunch in charge??

I don't understand this. Are they turning the company around and then buying it back? How does that work? Do this mean the current creditors get shafted and the same monkeys stay in charge of the business?

Considering that Game group, as the largest Game software retail firm in the country, couldn't get supplied by major game publishers such as EA and Ubisoft, why do they think this sticking plaster effort will change anything - isn't it a case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss"?

I haven't bought anything from Game in ages, mainly 'cos their stock is poor and the stores impossible to get into/out of, but I will miss Gamestation. After this I doubt those sentiments will change. At least HMV has expanded its Games section recently...

Game Group shares slide under a penny


Been failing for 15 years +

I used to work for Game ... when I just left Uni so it must have been 1997. They just bought Electronics Boutique and were happily running a fairly large Game store (two floors) and a tiny EB store. They did the same trick several years later with Gamestation which resulted in a stupid number of stores on the high street - in Swindon we have two Games, a Gamestation and a Game concession in Debenhams all with 500m of each other - surely this is insane saturation?

It seemed like Game management had only one plan - to get as many retail outlets as possible, drive any independents out of business and sew up the entire marketplace. But that doesn't work when every store is the same, all you do is increase your costs. If one shop dealt in 2nd hand games for example, then there might be some logic in it, but otherwise....

The online ordering was a mess, the staff poor, the lacklustre assorted tat by the tills, the fact you can't even get into their stores as they are so poorly laid out and, thanks very much I'm off to HMV and/or Amazon.

You could see this coming years and years ago. Rent a single larger store in each town, carry more stock across a wider range of platforms, invest in some staff training and you'll probably be okay. At the very least you'd reduce your overheads by simply having fewer staff and less rent to pay. I'm no MBA, but even I can see your business model is flawed...

As for the second hand stores, all they do is rob money from the game developers and, in an industry where a £20 million product can be judged a flop in a handful of weeks, those of us gamers who give a sh*t about innovation and quality instead of "yet-another-FPS" (Syndicate EA, really?) should always try to buy new copies from their retailer of choice.

Good bye Game, you won't really be missed

Laptop bags: 15-inchers

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Knomo bags too

I have a Knomo Saxby - very expensive, but extremely good, especially now it has stretched out a bit (always the mark of a good product). Though the Laptop pocket isn't especially well padded (I have my beloved Macbook Pro in a protective sleeve inside the case) but it is large and would easily take all 15" laptops slim or not. There are pockets galore, space for documents and small files, pen holders and enough room for all the mice, power cables and usb dodads you could want. Oh and the wax coated canvas material is water resistant and the bag stands up on its own when your laptop is inside it, which can be a real boon. It also offers a tracking service via Knomo.com if you lose it...

If I'm picky I'd say the bag takes a lot of stretching out before it's really useful, I would have preferred a bit more stretchy bag space for the assorted powercables I carry with me and the price is really very high for a bag, even if the quality is excellent.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Android smartphone

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X10 getting better all the time

The X10 was my sixth SE phone, but has proven to be the best yet.

When It first came out (I got mine the day of release) the software was ... ... woolly to say the least. The camera was sluggish, the OS interaction could be slow and things like the keyboard could be more than a bit sleepy. The worst part was the appalling battery life, even with everything off you'd be lucky to get 8 hours.

Ditching the O2 build and the hugely improved SE PC Companion software made updating to Android 2.0 a doddle, an upgrade that brought on a massive improvement in battery life, but when 2.1 was installed I felt the X10 was finally unleashed. Battery will now do three days on standby, a day and a half with moderate use. I've yet to find an app on the Market that doesn't work on the thing. Chuck the Dragon Flext9 keyboard on it and the interface is awesome.

If I didn't have another year to run on my contract, I'd be changing the X10 for the Arc. Having played around with it SE have taken everything that was eventually great on the X10 and brought it over to the Arc, but adding really worthwhile features - HDMI out, 720p video and improvements in screen and camera tech.

Regarding the headphone jack placement - The X10 came with a bundled M600 BT Headphone set in the nordic regions (the M600 also added FM Radio capability which the X10 lacks). I bought one after my old BT set met a sticky end and I can heartily recommend this device. It has a standard 3.5mm headphone socket on the top, syncs immediately and delivers really great quality sound. I use it with the half length 'retro' headphones the X10 shipped with and they sound superb. I've also used the M600 with my beloved Sennheiser Pros and can't discern any difference between the Wired and Wireless versions.

Basically if the headphone socket placement is a deal breaker, look into an M600. Then sit back and enjoy your Arc. Me, I'm looking forward to Android 2.2 on my X10 and loving the fact that SE have finally, finally got their act together.

PC World website went titsup on Boxing Day


"... their system was down too..."

It doesn't surprise me that the phone service wasn't working either - in my experience the drongoes are simply looking at the company's website anyway.

I spent a painful month sorting out a washing machine purchase with a DSG competitor a process that began something like this:

Me - The washing machine you sold me doesn't have rinse hold, I want to return it.

Comet - What appears to be the problem with the machine.

Me - erm... it doesn't have rinse hold. I wanted rinse hold. Your website said it had rinse hold. your store said it had rinse hold. It's arrived, I can't access rinse hold, the instructions don't mention rinse hold. i think it doesn't have rinse hold so I want to return it for a machine that has rinse hold.

Comet - Let's have a look

Comet - Aha, here it is, yes it definitely has rinse hold.

Me - says who?

Comet - my computer here.

Me - But, it doesn't.

Comet - everything we have here says it does.

Me - Well [the manufacturer], who I phoned before I phoned you says it doesn't have rinse hold.

Comet - Are you sure? My system says it does have that feature.

Me - what system?

Comet - the intranet.

Me - is it yellow, with a spelling mistake on line two?

Comet - er... yes. how did you know?

Me - You're looking at your website.

Comet - Oh.

Me - I think your database is wrong, and I've been mis-sold this machine. I'd like to return it for a different model and I'd really like to do it without being patronised any further.

Comet - Ah.

Me - Anyone else I can talk to about getting a return?

Comet - I'll put you through

PC World are a joke though - £17.99 for a memory upgrade NOT including the cost of the memory is hilarious. Ours is next door to Maplin and a Staples both of which undercut them on price and availabilty. PC world is a dying store IMO.

Alan Sugar's 'cockup braindead in call centre clueless' BT row


I agree with you ... to a point.


I agree with you that 90% of customers want a service, not a product. So they buy a broadband service, get a modem (cos they need one), plug it in as explained in the glossy pamphlet and ... away they go.

Great, right? No.

Because customers are canny now, and they shop around for the best deal for their broadband. When their year's contract is up they decide they're going to change to another broadband service, so they receive another modem and glossy CD, follow the instructions and ... away they go again.

If they're lucky. I promise you three cycles of this will cause all sorts of chaos in the average home PC. I've had the distinct pleasure of having to sort out a PC that had BT, Orange, Freeserve and finally BT again attached to it. The easy CDs were full of poorly written code hanging off shockwave graphics and, surprise surprise, completely nonced up Windows' settings, the Hosts file was enormous and it took a fair amount of work to straighten everything out again.

However a simple set of instructions detailing what buttons to push and what data to enter would avoid all of these problems. Most customers will run a mile from this - arrgh! Too scary!, so the Easy CD has its place, but why then make it so difficult for someone who knows what they're doing to find the settings required and bypass the easy CD - I'm looking at you O2 and Orange? Most customers know someone who works as an unpaid technical advisor - usually their son/grandson/son-in-law who can do this, so why so tricky??

Most customers will run a PC for four, five years so will probably change broadband providers two or three times. How's a support line going to be able to unravel the internal mess on their PCs? Why should they? It wasn't their CD necessarily that cocked it up in the first place.

I agree things should be simple - wifi setups on PCs and Mac show that it can be done (Detect, click, enter password, go). I also believe that ADSL setups should be as simple - it only needs a batch file to be run FFS.

Don't get me started on companies that supply ADSL Modem/Routers and then don't support anything but the modem (yes, you again O2), so when the routing table gets f**ked up they refuse to assist. Fine, I could handle that if there was any other form of help for the device, but no - even Thomson, who make the thing, couldn't help because the SW in it was bespoke O2. Twats.

BB providers don't help themselves in many cases...

Our Vulture 1 aircraft begins to take shape

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Tissue Paper + Cellulose dope

Skinning is simple - layer of tissue paper, light cell dope. Repeat several times (four or five at least) then don't smoke near the thing - unless they've made a more safety conscious Cellulose dope as opposed to the vicious stuff I used in my youth which was basically an excuse to get high in my bedroom...

Here's to PARIS

Copyright wally of the week

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Seems a weird request

I'm a bit confused about what Tom wants here: Does he want to copy the piece, change it a bit and slap HIS name on it for submission, or someone else's name for submission to support his organisation's point of view? Weird submission procedure too, must be a very local paper.... for local people.

Either way, as a professional writer myself I'd be wanting my name to be associated with my work and, if the piece had already been published (esp. if I'd been paid for it) that publication would have to agree to its republication (even if for free) before it could be released. At the very least I would I would expect to have my byline and the original publication's name at the bottom of the piece (see El Reg's re-pubbed articles as an example.

I certainly wouldn't let someone take my work, re-write some bits, and then re-publish under their name unless I either didn't own the copy (if I'd written something for a company for example and they agreed to the re-distribution) or unless I got paid (or unless i really liked the dude and his ideals).

Sadly, as many have pointed out, most people wouldn't ask and just plagarise the thing anyway, so props to Tom for at least getting in touch.

Tesla Motors: Elon Musk's divorce won't sink us


I like electrics

I've had the pleasure of having a good poke around a Tesla at the past two Goodwood Festivals of Speed and here's my tupp'ny worth.

The car's a Lotus Elise, very light, very strong and plenty of room for a battery pack. It's also comparable in weight to a small hatchback, about 400kg more than an Elise, but still pretty light.

It has one moving part so it will be significantly more robust than any IC car (I own a 112k mile Audi TDI who's engine is still as good as new. I also own an Elise S1 as a weekend/fun car and it doesn't do many miles - it's 14 years old and done 62k miles). Add in a bonded aluminium chassis and plastic body and I expect Teslas to last at least 20 years or so.

It's way faster than an Elise 0-60 as an Electric motor gives 100% available torque immediately, there's no gearbox so the thing drives like a moped (I know, I asked Kev McCloud who was driving it at the time). Going up the hill in the Supercar display it was right up there with Porsche 911s, Veyrons and Weissmans.

Top speed Vs Battery discharge is always going to be a problem for an all Electric sports car. My Elise S1 has only about 100hp and a top speed of 120, but the fun is had at 60 on a twisty road - I can imagine that the Tesla is a hoot in similar conditions.

Batteries do eventually die over time and discharge cycles - we all know this. I suspect that some form of Battery Replacement scheme will be offered by Tesla - it will be a profit maker for the company. It's about the only replacement part - Audi have thousands to make profits on it makes sense

Personally I'm excited about Electric cars, but the battery technology is not there yet. However Fuel Cell cars, such as the FCX Clarity, are exciting. Available now we should be using some form of small IC engine that just provides electricity to the motor, not driving the wheels. This would mean the thing can use the existing infrastructure, but just sip petrol. Hell, use a small Gas turbine running LPG. The Chevy Volt is a good example of this approach which is much more effective (and efficent) than the Honda Prius approach, which is lazy IMO.

The Tesla is blazing new ground, and we should celebrate that. Hopefully the demand for larger batterieswill drive further development of the tech, or accelerate the productisation of the fuel cell technology.

Now if someone can explain what the hell Audi's regenerative braking on a diesel A4 is about, I'd be much obliged...