* Posts by MachDiamond

3315 posts • joined 10 Aug 2012

Gloom-dwelling subterranean robots battle for million-dollar DARPA prize

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Meanwhile, in real caves.

Whatever The Luggage can't get around, it will attack and eat so we regain the battlebots aspect we were missing in all of this.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Meanwhile, in real caves.

"wouldn't get to 100 metres in the vast majority of real caves'

It might do better in a subway or Chernobyl. It's another case of horses for courses. Different designs will be useful for different missions.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: I love this stuff

"I remember the urban challenge."

The one at the disused military base? I covered that as a photojournalist. I think that area hasn't been mowed down yet. It would be a good place to create test courses for autonomous cars to be certified on rather than public streets.

US senators warn China's Digital Yuan could compromise Olympic athletes

MachDiamond Silver badge

Ye ol' blockchain

I expect that the digital Chinese currency will have built in tracking. The government will know who has what and where it's been. Physical cash can be nice and anonymous, but digital money is surveillance squared. Everybody will be instantly trackable everywhere they go. If you don't have a phone, you won't be able to have money. Even little kids will need phones or their grandparents can't give them money for ice cream, candy and all of the things the parents would rather they didn't have. Every small trader will be tracked and taxes helpfully deducted by automatic payment.

In the '80s, satellite comms showed promise – soon it'll be a viable means to punt internet services at anyone anywhere

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: That 80s satellite "latency" was not due to the satellite

"The world was analogue back then, live and immediate. Double hop satellite feeds were often needed"

I remember working as part of the press uplink crew for Disneyland's 35th anniversary. We had up to 8 hops for some round trips. Really stupendous mileage for those signals.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Bandwidth

"I've just run a test and got 207Mbps down, 37Mbps up (and 24ms latency, which is nice). I've seen speeds up to 350Mbps down, and 60Mbps up, but not both at the same time."

It sounds like you are getting a huge chunk of the available bandwidth and only sharing with tens of other people. Multiply the users by 100 and figure that up to 5% will be saturating their connection with gaming and others watching 2 Netflix streams in their home. In California where there are lots of Starlink beta testers, the speeds are much lower.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Can't wait...

"lots of people have lots of "certificates" but are no better for it."

Yep, that's me. I have loads of certificates. I'm just really good at passing tests. I got them so I could get hired to do the tiny bit of the puzzle that I do but I'm not the person that could do the whole thing even if the paper hanging on the wall says I'm qualified. I don't know squat about RADAR (and know that I don't know), but I have a RADAR endorsement on my radio license. I got my amateur extra certification on my first sitting (passed all three test levels). I'm hopeless for most things, but I can set up high altitude balloon experiment telemetry which is what I got the cert for.

The other reason for getting the certs is I got to go to classes for a week instead of working and skived off most of those to play tourist if they were in a good area. I read the books and materials and regurgitated it back on a test form and passed. The company then gave me a pay rise for being more valuable, silly wabbits.

MachDiamond Silver badge

It doesn't add up

The Common Sense Skeptic did a good breakdown of Starlink on YouTube. Elon is talking about 42,000 sats with a 3% (so far) failure rate and a 5yr lifespan. They think they can get the cost of the satellites down to $250,000ea, but they could cost as much as $500,000. Launching 60 at a time puts the launch cost at a bit over $1,000,000ea ($50-$60mil for the rocket plus payload integration and overhead). After you finish with all of the arithmetic, the claim of it being economic is hard to believe. With all other things Elon, there has to be more government aspects. Maybe he can charge navies huge sums of money for at sea services when the satellites will hardly be in use. The same for big shipping companies that want to track their ships and crews and cargos.

Some of the numbers that are presented in the video might need changing but I don't see changes that would lead to Starlink making sense. In the US, there is a whole bunch of dark fiber that was put in by companies planning on being data toll bridges. That might have worked until engineers figured out how to cram even more data down each fiber and the investments didn't pay off. Just like the railroad, there are long stretches adjacent to major highways that could easily be connected up to extremely high speed internet that are nothing but undeveloped land right now. It's just going to take a few companies to take the plunge and build those new communities/company towns.

MachDiamond Silver badge

The high frequency traders put their DC's within a few blocks of the trading center DC's. They can't take the risk of the dish overheating, latency going up, bandwidth crashing or random weirdness when they are chasing 1/100% margins.

Richard Branson uses two planes to make 170km round trip

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Bring back Concorde - much more impressive.

"I don't think many airlines want to buy a high-price plane that you can only fly over water."

Concorde would have been more useful if it could do LA to Tokyo or Australia to South Africa or any Aussie route. It's was great for very long flights, but it didn't have the legs to do many of them. If stopping is required for fuel, the advantage of super sonic flight drops off very quickly.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Papa Elon

"Bezos is the outlier. New Shepard hasn't flown manned yet. This is still testing. Fine if you want to take the risk - but it's not the well understood craft either SS2 or Crew Dragon are."

SS2 has been constantly changed to figure out control issues so SRB's flight wasn't exactly on a well understood craft. SpaceX nearly lost the first crewed version of Dragon due to heat shield deficiencies. New Shepard has made 15 successful flights. I'm sure they are making incremental changes each time. I expect that the reason Jeff is willing to go is those changes are down to very minor issues at this point.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Papa Elon

"On the other hand, he's only had a few launches so far. Crew Dragon is still in the test phase. Even insofar as no space vehicle is ever truly out of testing."

And the first one came ever so close to breaching the heat shield on reentry.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Space Cadets

"*slightly* higher? "

Yes, considering how much more 'higher' there is.

MachDiamond Silver badge

"Virgin came in to fund the further development of the concept and get non-prototypes built, tested and certified for passengers. "

Burt was already onto Stratolaunch when SS1 was winding up. Virgin/SRB approached Mr. Rutan to get involved and license the technology for a commercial venture. I don't recall plans for Scaled to take it any further on their own. Notice that SS1 was immediately retired after the winning XPrize flight and donated to the Smithsonian where it's displayed today. Mike, Brian and Pete all said SS1 was a handful to fly.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Miserable and small minded

Different companies and SRB/Virgin are figureheads. Just because it says "Virgin" on the banner, it doesn't mean the same entities are involved. VG was funded for a long time via a Middle East Sovereign wealth fund. At this point, SRB has very little skin in the game, but plays the part of spokesman.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Miserable and small minded

"AIUI, Virgin have been ready for a while and where just waiting for the FAA licence and permits to come through."

Not really. Both craft have had serious damage. White Knight has had major structural problems due to its design and age. Unity still has control anomalies to work out. The primary concern of the FAA is risk to the uninvolved public. Working out of Spaceport America in the middle of nowhere means F-all people on the ground.

Blue Origin has been the tortoise in this race. Slow and steady. They don't delete items on their test card to meet deadlines. It helps that the major investor has very deep pockets and they can take that approach. I've been very impressed with the New Shepard flights. Very smooth and stable. I was there when the first Space Ship Two broke up in the air and crashed killing the co-pilot and injuring the pilot. A person I know was at the test site when 3 other people were killed when a test nitrous tank for SS2 exploded. Rocket engineering is dealing with lots of potential energy and needs a lot of respect.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Miserable and small minded

"However, it's payback time.

His former Mrs is busily dispersing her take from the divorce and Jeff has sent $200 million along to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum which is a fantastic organization. I expect that he'll make plenty of contributions later in life. His kids are certainly well provided for. He'd be daft to unload all of his stock in Amazon and then find he needs a couple of more pallets of cash for BO.

NASA did a S-ton of research in the 50's and 60's on rocketry but has since relied on the commercial sector, for the most part, to make improvements to launch vehicles. I see that as prudent and proper. The government primes the pump with the pure research and the private sector takes it from there. Blue Origin is doing just that while Virgin Galactic has been constructing a trackless roller coaster for the elite.

MachDiamond Silver badge

NASA's purpose is to do science in space. They don't provide payload services.

MachDiamond Silver badge

"Of course he's happy to profit too."

The big question is where is the profit in sending people to Mars?

MachDiamond Silver badge

"His Elon-ness was actually at the site watching yesterdays flight apparently."

I believe he was spotted in court trying to prize himself out of an $8bn hit to his net worth.

Focus on the camera, mobile devs: 48MP shooters about to become the sweet spot

MachDiamond Silver badge

Horses for Courses

The number of pixels on a sensor is just one metric. Quality of the lens will often be a bigger determiner of image quality. A very good quality lens can cost a large chuck of money, but it's senseless to have a a dense sensor and put a cheap plastic lens in front of it smeared with fingerprints and pocket fluff.

For video, it can be more advantageous to have fewer but much larger pixels. More bit depth/dynamic range can lead to far better contrast. A sensor with highly accurate color rendition might be more important to an advertising photographer making images for clients that have agonized for days over the exact shade of color for their product(s).

Phones are dead useful for documenting things and quick snaps when on holiday. If your photos are going to be important, it's better to have a proper camera whose primary design criteria was to be a camera. My photo customers don't give a rodent's backside about how many pixels my camera can capture. They just want great photos that are fit for purpose. It might mean I do need to rent a medium format camera with a 100mp sensor and a set of exceptionally fine lenses for the week. Usually, my aging Canon 5DmkII with a 21mp sensor is more than adequate when coupled to a top of the line lens, using well crafted light and operated by me with loads of experience. Far more important is that I have redundant sets of gear so if something goes bing, I can quickly grab my backup and keep working. If I wind up doing more video work, the camera I have in mind has fewer pixels than my 5D but is still a "4k" camera. The pixels are larger and the video files look great. I also won't need the 28-core MacPro to edit the clips. I'd need to install a dedicated circuit in the house to run that beast.

Jackie 'You have no authority here' Weaver: We need more 50-somethings in UK tech

MachDiamond Silver badge

Too close to the best by date

I work for myself, but I keep an eye on the job market and put in an application from time to time if I see a position that might be a good fit. What I typically find is big tanks full of ageism. Do these companies think that an older worker isn't going to be around for very long? Younger workers tend to hop jobs more often as they don't have kids to support or a home with a mortgage. They may also not have older family members that they want to remain close to so they can be looked after. The downside with an older worker is they won't take abuse as readily. I know I won't. The upside is that I have made or seen or contemplated any number of mistakes already that I'm not going to repeat. I also don't take as much personally which means I don't blow up at colleagues, customers or vendors. I just solve the problem and move on.

With my qualifications and experience, I should be getting at least a polite rejection letter, but HR departments don't even bother these days. Some years ago I did get an invitation to interview about 6 months after I sent in an application. I replied that they must be joking, I was long past wanting that job.

I agree with several posters that often times it can be up or out. I may or may not want a management post. It would depend on the job and the company. I may be perfectly happy keeping the same job with a pay rate that keeps up with inflation. I might also be more than willing to take a lesser job than my qualifications would point to if it was interesting work. That can be the case for people looking to switch industries.

After 15 years and $500m, the US Navy decides it doesn't need shipboard railguns after all

MachDiamond Silver badge


A rail gun round isn't going to be steerable. Changing the direction of a round going that fast would be incredibly hard. To even try means building a system into the projectile that can take the acceleration and the EM field, and still survive. The best they can hope for is the ability to nudge the round a bit just before it hits a target if it has slowed down enough.

One of the premises of magneforming is that the material is smacked into the form so fast that it can't deflect. An example that is used to explain the process is taking a long metal bar, putting the end against a concrete wall and trying to push it through. The bar will bend. Launch that same bar at a high velocity and you have a "long bar penetrator" that will pound its way to the other side with very little bending. A rail gun round will direct its energy in the direction of travel and won't be able to spread out and dissipate that energy over a very wide area before it's passed through something. With firearms it's often called knock down power. Small high velocity rounds will often pass right through the target where a bigger round going slower (same total kinetic energy) will knock the target down and do far more damage. How often is it more optimum to put a bunch of holes into the side of something over stoving the whole thing in?

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: It’s not 15 years

"Making a rail gun isn't really rocket science"

True, it's a large dose of engineering and material science. For an old battleship to run out of 16 rounds and propellent, something will have been reduced to a fine powdery substance downrange. A power supply for a rail gun is going to be substantial for even a slow rate of fire. The charges for a naval gun come in discreet bundles while a nuclear reactor tends to be a single item on a ship. If the reactor goes off line or anything in the electrical chain is Tango Uniform, that's it for the rail gun.

10 shots and a rail gun equipped ship may need to peal off and race towards a tender for heavy maintenance.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: A cunning plan

The Cold War between the US and USSR was essentially won by outspending the other side. The US is still paying for playing that game with "normal" budgets elevated way beyond what's needed to provide for defense.

Richard Branson plans to trump Jeff Bezos by 9 days in billionaires' space race

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: To quote a well known phrase...

"That's interesting, I hadn't seen anything about that. Do you have links? (Not citation-needed, but gimme-the-reading-material :)"

I don't have a source(s) I can name without them getting in trouble. I don't think that it's a massive secret, just not reported on very much.

The flight that ended in the copilot being killed had the Nylon fuel grain and used Helium along with the Nitrous to moderate the burn. It was a pilot error and what I see as a poor flight card as being the cause. The accident report says much the same.

Mike Melville may have a published statement about the roughness of the motor on the SS1 flights. I seem to recall him talking about that. Brian Binnie as well. Brian's book as he originally wrote it was rather critical of the program. I'm not sure how it compares with the one that has been released. You will notice that after the X-Prize win, SS1 never flew again and it now hanging up at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. There's a replica housed at the Mojave Airport close to the Rotary Rocket whose test pilot was also a very crazy Brian Binnie.

MachDiamond Silver badge

"Beardie hangs out on private island tax free with his money but was happy for UK gov to pay when 8,000 Virgin Atlantic staff were furloughed."

I heard a rumor that as a UK tax expat, he can only visit the UK for no more than 72 hours at a go. Not sure if that's true, but it's a good story. Living tax free isn't possible anywhere. His island isn't sovereign so he has to pay somebody and there are other expenses that will add up to more than just paying "tax" in some other location. I expect that it's less than what the US or UK government would extract.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Its really not a race

"Bezos and Branson are amateurs,"

Both of them are in management and seem to not be making themselves a royal PIA by dictating to engineering what to do like contestant number three. Blue Origin is top notch. They don't talk a lot and spend time getting it as correct as possible rather than just firing stuff up and seeing if it explodes. Bezos is a huge checkbook and reminds me of DD Harriman from "The Man Who Sold the Moon". He's a space nut and wants to spend his money to pay somebody to build a rocket he can ride on. Branson is an Ad and Marketing guy along with a fundraiser. His investment in the parent of Virgin Galactic is sleight at this point. He's dumped a bunch of stock which should be telling. Virgin Orbit isn't novel. It's yet another carrier plane with rocket from the Mojave Air and Space Port. White Knights 1 & 2, Star Gazer/Pegasus, Stratolaunch (Birdzilla), and Virgin Orbit. Down the road at the North Gate of Edwards AFB, there's a B-52 with the mount for carrying the X-15. Must be someting in the desert soil, mon.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Third base

"Elon should leave a converted starship booster space station up in orbit and simply call it third base'

The problem is the booster doesn't go into orbit. To get it there will take a bunch more fuel and more parasitic weight in attitude jets to maintain position.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Is it just me...

"SpaceX is using Kerosene and Oxygen, none of which can be called green."

Starship is Methane/Lox.

Masten Space Systems rockets Xombie, Xoie and Brutus were Lox/IPA.

Lox/H2 is sort of green, but separating the H2 isn't and generating the Lox takes energy that won't be 100% "green"

I don't see any rocket having green cred anytime soon. The energy density required doesn't lend itself to that sort of thing.

Point to point rocket travel isn't viable. The idea has been around for over a century and airplanes are faster and more reliable. It may take more air time in a plane, but ground time for a rocket can be many times longer. Need to move people and supplies, a C-5 or C-17 is cheaper, safer, more versatile and faster.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: A 'Thank You' - Reclaiming the word

"Are we allowed to sing Nellie the Elephant again without fear of censure?"

I hope not. Any controversy is icing on the cake when belting out an off key rendition. Of any Toy Dolls song for that matter.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: To quote a well known phrase...

"They aren't going anywhere near high enough to be bothered by orbital debris."

I don't know about that. There are a whole bunch of dead Starlink satellites and more all of the time. Who knows when they'll deorbit on their own and the plan is to have better than 12,000 of them flying.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: To quote a well known phrase...

"That being said, personally I find the Virgin craft to be the much cooler vehicle, even if it doesn't go quite as high."

Looks can kill and probably will. White Knight 2 is worn out. They've had major structural issues and SS2 has as well. The thinking early on was that SS1 could be scaled up to carry enough passengers to make it something that could generate enough revenue. It turns out that the hybrid rocket motor isn't infinitely scalable. In addition to that, instead of developing the motor first and building the craft around it, they just assumed that they'd iron out the issues they were having and end up with something that would fit in the space allocated. Wellllllllll. It turns out there are better fuels than HTPB rubber but they require more plumbing and it takes away a couple of passenger seats to fit the extra. In addition, that extra stuff adds weight. One problem with using HTPB is towards the end of the burn, it runs very rough. Too rough for delicate meat sacks so they have to leave some gas in the can by shutting down sooner than first planned.

Rockets have been around for decades now and Blue Origins boring design is due to converging design choices that have been show over and over to work. There are some really clever features of New Shepard. The ring fin braking design with the speed flaps on the booster that are covered for the UP trip by the capsule is a clever way to minimize mechanics while still having a very effective method to slow the booster and keep it oriented bottom side down.

I've been impressed by Blue Origin's test flights. They have been very smooth and have gone like clockwork as the vehicle has matured. As a rocket engineer (lapsed), I know what to look for which is why I bash Elon's Starship as such a mess. I can't detect every issue from watching videos, but the ones I can are fundamental and should have been addressed very early instead of showing up again and again. I've got a few quid in the kitty right now and I'm tempted to rent a really long lens and camp out on South Padre Island for the booster test flight. I'll get one of those silver fire suits I can put over bomb squad armor and use my second best camera.

MachDiamond Silver badge

"Can I have some of the tax payers money, despite not paying any myself?"

You are thinking of Elon Musk.

Blue Origin and the Virgins are primarily funded by private investment. Government money has been for services rendered.

This always-on culture we're in is awful. How do we stop it? Oh, sorry, hold on – just had another notification

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Pull the plug Scotty .. the M5 is out of a job

"Go to your deputy at the commons and tell them to do their job and legiferate against it."

It might be better to be more proactive with you employer. Discuss their communication policies with them. If they require you are always reachable, tell them that's fine and then ask what the on-call compensation plan is for that. It's it overtime, a bigger percentage at bonus time or days off in lieu. Put them on their back foot while at the same time not coming straight out and telling them to get stuffed. If you get back "ahhh, err, mmmmm, it's expected that you are open to this to show you are a team player, blah blay". Oh, ok, so the base salary is £xxxx and we can estimate xx% of out of office needs <insert insane calculation>, so that means £xxx,xxx annual salary plus PTO, matching funds, profit sharing, vehicle support, etc, right? Maybe they come back with them just paying you that base salary with no after-hours requirements. I would certainly not be put off by getting 3x compensation for the extra effort. At some point it just isn't worth it, but that's where you spend time looking for a better fit while fleecing the company you are with. I work for myself now, and I'm more than happy to provide rush service, weekend appointments, etc, but at a premium to my regular rates. I don't answer the phone or email late at night though. Extra money is great, but I like to get my beauty rest (I need all I can get).

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Just don't work for free

"When working for small companies, I have been a lot more flexible, but that is because there is a lot more give and take."

That's one of the perks of working with a small company. There's some risk about stability and budgets aren't as open ended, but hours can be flexible and often times it's possible to put in extra hours and get them refunded in days off. That can be great if you have kids. I might also mean getting an extra day off on one end of a bank holiday which can let you avoid the worst of the traffic if you have plans to be elsewhere.

MachDiamond Silver badge

"I have a proper, grown up professional contract which means that I have no set working hours; I just have to get the job done. "

I work like that as well when I can. It doesn't mean that I'll take calls or respond to email outside of normal hours. I get the most done when I can turn the ringer off and spend the required amount of time concentrating on the work. Every interruption can mean 10 minutes or more of lost time "reacquiring the target". If I can get into a zen flow, I can get a whole bunch of work done at one sitting. When I get to a natural stopping point, I'll come up for air. Sometimes that's 20 minutes, sometimes a couple of hours.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Not office hours? No contact

"But I understand it, it's in case your phone is lost or stolen and they want to be sure they can wipe any company data off it, not just about removing access to accounts."

That's not a bad idea, but it also means that the company needs to provide the device. Mobile software isn't often of very high quality and there could be collateral damage if the company does a remote wipe. I wouldn't want to risk my personal phone being bricked or operationally damaged in some way.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Not office hours? No contact

"Proving you're good at your job is more likely to keep you around."

It never hurts to be diplomatic and say no in many more words. "I could have you those figures, but it will take a few hours to pull them and put them in a format that's easy to understand at a glance. Will you authorize the overtime?" If you are salaried, work late and get the next day off in compensation if you can do that. Missing a child's birthday party might not be worth more than overtime or a day off.

If it hurts or costs money for the boss to order up special services, they may limit their requests to only the times where it's an emergency. If they are being called out on the mat for something and higher ups need to see data right away, being asked to work OT isn't unreasonable. Train your boss to make it worth your time to be a "team player". If the next Monday is a bank holiday, perhaps you can be allowed to be missing on Friday as well and can get on jump traffic leaving town. 4 hours of work for 8 hours of PTO works for me.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Not office hours? No contact

" I hate training people but I've spent a hell of a lot of time getting people to stand up for themselves."

You have to stand up for yourself and set boundaries so you aren't abused as an employee, but you also have to stand up for yourself if you are asked to do something that will fail. The reason could be that it violates the laws of physics, but it could also mean there isn't enough time to do the work properly. The employee may also not have access to the tools and materials they need or have the training. We get trained to say "yes" all of the time since "no" is a negative concept. What's doesn't seem to be taught is that "no" can be a positive if it means that finding an alternative is more likely to lead to the desired results.

I work for myself and participate in groups of people that do the same sort of work. Countless times I see people insist that one has to be available at all hours and never hesitate to answer a call. I don't see it that way. I don't want clients calling me late at night and expecting I will pick up. I also want them to understand that if I am working with them, I'm not going to interrupt their job or meeting to take a call. It's important that they learn to leave me a message so I know what they need ahead of time and I will get back to them during normal hours or as soon as I have an opening. One of the things I do is use ringtones to code my calls. I will excuse myself if my mom rings up. She is older and her calling could be very important. My sisters never call so if one does, it might mean an issue with mom. Friends mostly have custom rings and clients have two ring tones; one for the best ones and another for the rest (I don't tell them this). The bog standard default ring usually means a telemarketer, but I'll look at the caller ID if I'm not doing something else.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Not office hours? No contact

"leaving the boss without the figures he didn't ask for in a timely manner, then you get labelled as a shirker and will be head of the queue when the axe is wielded. "

Bring that up at the exit interview when you leave for a new job.

I don't know what gets into the PHB when they do ask for something like the trailing 90 day sales figures at 4:50pm the evening before a 9am presentation they are planning to make. I doubt the meeting was called at 4:45p and if it was, the problem is even higher up as well. Not only did the boss not delegate the work far enough in advance to make sure it was ready, any assistants they have fell down on the job as well. They should look bad.

I have no problem if it takes some overtime to achieve a goal if the project has had good planning from the start. What I don't like last minute slap-dash projects with unrealistic timelines. Some MBA's hold a belief that just by putting things on a calendar, it can be made to happen. Only the good ones know that fighting on the front end for adequate resources and time makes them look much better than trying to put 5l of water in a 1l bottle and falling flat on one's face by accepting what's handed to them when they know it won't happen.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Not office hours? No contact

"Not so bothered about tax, it is what it is. But healthcare."

The US government has never taken up discussions about the cost of healthcare. What they do is talk about health insurance. Related but not equal. Obamacare was and still sort of is a requirement that you have health insurance. What happened is what always happens when the government gets stuck in and that's loads of waste and fraud. Insurance policies that used to be considered "catastrophic" coverage become the norm except the rates are at the level for what would have been average insurance. Lots of money in monthly payments with a very high deductible. You might have to need tens of thousands of medical bills before you pull even with what it costs. This is all ok because the government will pay anybody's insurance premiums if they can't afford them. If your entry into the country was rather informal, no worries, some program will pay for your medical needs, especially in California. Not just in an emergency. Prenatal counseling and services are offered even if birth control products are not.

What hasn't been addressed in the US is the problems with lawyers, lawsuits and the insurance costs to protect the healthcare providers. Juries are happy to award millions in compensation for a 90 year old dying in hospital without being told the person smoked two packs a day, drank at least half a liter of hard alcohol and subsisted on bacon sandwiches. A woman can bring suit for "undue and unjust pain" during childbirth and get a judgement worth millions. They'd be better off asking for much less so it's not worth an appeal, but juries do what they like. The two aspirin you get in hospital costs as much as two bottles at the chemist due to the process in dispensing said aspirin and the insurance to dispense it.

I see the issue in the US as politicians worrying about the symptoms rather than root causes.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Not office hours? No contact

"My work life balance is quite simple. If it's not office hours, and not some agreed and planned well in advance exception, then I'm not available."

It used to be the norm in field service that if you were on-call, you promised to have your pager on and answer calls. There was pay just for being on-call and more pay for doing work. Companies would limit bring in on-call techs so the added payroll wouldn't pile up and labor laws regarding overtime and maximum number of hours worked in given time period weren't violated.

I used to be able to do on call stuff, but I can sleep pretty soundly at times now and even with my phone on it's "MineCraft" volume setting, it might not wake me up quickly enough before it stops ringing. A big pet peeve of mine is people blowing up my phone since I can't always answer immediately. They get one warning to never do that again and just leave a message. So far, it's never been an emergency on my part or the opportunity of making a huge amount of money or a case of really good scotch. If that were the case, I'd give them a pass.

I see too many companies that expect their employees to take their phone with them and return calls when they are on holiday, maternity leave, etc. Not only return calls, but within a short period of time. All for no extra pay. To me, that's a failed business plan. Larger companies need to have overlap so any one person not being available isn't a huge emergency. They also have to plan if several ladies are going to be out on maternity leave around the same time. I've seen that a few times. It gets reported when some moron manager wants to require notification from staff when they are looking to start or add to their family. Small companies need to be agile enough to cover responsibilities when the need arises. Employees need to be keeping journals so the status of what they were working on can be found. It's a good practice all around to keep a work journal. It's bailed me out a couple of times.

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: "measure what they deliver"

"...486DX2 was the pinnacle of technology..."

I'd say the Sun Sparc20 might be closer to that pinnacle?

PDP 11/73

London Greenwich station: A reminder of former glories. Like Windows XP

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: How much longer will we have to endure this ?

"a rock-solid Linux implementation that Just Works."

For something like a train schedule display, even XP is overkill. A Raspberry Pi is more than enough to accept and display a new page every 5 minutes or so. A linux master computer would be far more robust and also wouldn't have the same massive hardware requirements for such a simple task. There are a whole S-ton of applications that need very little (by today's standards) horsepower to run. Windows is a horrible choice other than for the droves of people that can write really hideous code that sometimes will run long enough to get a final payment check on the contract.

I really like the modularity of Linux. The downside is it takes more thought and design to take advantage of it. The upside is it will run really really fast on really really cheap hardware.

Bitcoin doomed as a payment system and its novelty will fade, says Federal Reserve Board of Governors member

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: It's the usefulness

It can be very useful for totalitarian regimes. Every "coin" can have the ability to be tracked from point to point. A little pattern analysis and your money gets tagged as criminal one day. The men in the tactical warfare garb will show up to let you know you have a lot of 'splaining to do.

If you read between the lines, it rather obvious that crypto is not as secure as people believe. Nothing will be unless your opsec is flawless. Just ask Dread Pirate Roberts. There have been a couple of raids on tumblers. You want to hope they weren't keeping meticulous records.

Microsoft releases Windows 11 Insider Preview, attempts to defend labyrinth of hardware requirements

MachDiamond Silver badge

None for me, thanks

TPM does nothing for me at all so I really don't care to have it. It may wind up being a huge problem which just makes me want to stay with what I have that works for far longer.

There is so much hardware that is now useless but still works fine. If the developing world could buy those machines second hand and still have them able to be used albeit much more slowly, the world would be a much better place. As it is, all of the functional but deprecated hardware is shipped to third world country's waste heaps where the plastic is burned to recover the metals. How good is that for the planet?

See what's on the slab: Apple reportedly mulls stretching the iPad Pro to 14 and 16 inches

MachDiamond Silver badge

I still find

I find a good quality keyboard very important although a touch screen can be handy. I also find a mouse or Wacom tablet far more useful and easier to use than trying to find the finger that works the best on the screen. There must be something about my left hand that touch screens are dead set against dealing with.

A tablet is a consumption device and I spend more of my time creating so the extent of my tablet use is controlling my drone and as a remote for my camera.

US Supreme Court rules teens cussing out schools on social media is protected speech

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Private schools, however?

"Does that mean that a private school would still be in its rights to kick a student out?'

The opinion makes it clear the court is only commenting on speech outside of a school by a student not otherwise taking part in school activities. I don't think a private school would be any different although they may have a moral code that would allow them to delete a student in certain cases. A student in a religious school that is speaking out against church doctrine will likely be invited to leave. It might be very different if they are abusing a teacher that is "picking on them and being so unfair".

MachDiamond Silver badge

Re: Excellent

"So would you be OK with a teacher swearing in front of a class?"

The opinion was written very narrowly. Schools may not punish students for activities off-campus that are not part of school programs.

It didn't go as far as permitting unruly behavior in a classroom or on campus. That's outside the spirit of the 1st Amendment.

In the US, you could be sacked for "ministering" to your coworkers. There is both Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion, but a company can make a rule that if you are being disruptive and annoying your coworkers, you can be fired after given a warning or three.

Yes it was private and the case should also be used to illustrate that posting things online is akin to making them public regardless of the forum. If she had just vented in the company of a few friends, there would be no issue.


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