Science And Technology Links 4/6/17


Oscar Gordon

A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget.

Related Post Roulette

75 Responses

  1. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Quiet morning on the links, huh? I’ll chime in and say I appreciate the effort.

    Also, tangentially related to the first item

    The Air Force conducted a major test of the F-35 program when it conducted a deployment demonstration from Edwards Air Force Base in California to Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho in February and March 2016. This was the service’s first attempt to use an updated version of the ALIS?—?the ground-based computer system that is supposed to diagnose mechanical problems, order and track replacement parts, and guide maintenance crews through repairs.

    Whenever a squadron deploys, it must establish an ALIS hub wherever the F-35 is deployed. Crews set up an ALIS Standard Operating Unit (SOU), which consists of several cases of computer equipment. Technicians will use these to set up a small mainframe which must then be plugged into the world-wide ALIS network.

    It took several days for the crews to get ALIS working on the local base network. After extensive troubleshooting, IT personnel figured out they had to change several settings on Internet Explorer so ALIS users could log into the system. This included lowering security settings, which DOT&E noted with commendable understatement was “an action that may not be compatible with required cybersecurity and network protection standards.”

    (em added)Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Basing things on IE? Your problem is obvious!Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        This strikes me as being vaguely related to the age of the people in charge of advising the people in charge of approving the purchase order.

        The Colonels advising the Generals at this point know Linux as this crazy OS that only eggheads can use and we can’t expect Airmen Basic fresh out of boot to sit down at a computer and know how to use Linux but… yeah, they’re down with Windows.

        When we get Colonels who grew up in the post-Redhat era to start having enough stroke to be able to tell the General “New distros of Linux are different. They’re really user-friendly now”, we might be able to do a real and serious (and perhaps even cheap?) upgrade to military tech.

        (Sometimes I wonder how much money Microsoft lost due to Windows 8 when it comes to military contracts…)Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          It’s not like the military has any idea how to use Linux.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I’ve got a bud who recently went on IRR. Before that, he worked on the floor of a Space Operations Squadron.

            I’ll ask him if he ever encountered that. (Normally, he gives rants on how much he hated working with windows and how glad he is to not have to anymore.)Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              Be interesting to hear if the USAF is still maintaining it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                They sure as hell didn’t use it in the F-35 program.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                F-35 is a case study in how not to do military equipment.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                The F-16 was so badly unstable that, during its first high-speed taxi run, it oscillated so badly that it actually left the ground.

                It’s now being used as the Superior Legacy System We Never Should Have Stopped Buying in articles like the one by this turd, who’s gleefully reposting some forced-out general’s backstabbing of his former colleagues.

                ps the description: “”First, the roll control was too sensitive, too much roll rate as a function of stick force. Second, the exhaust nozzle control for the prototype was wired incorrectly. You had to be on the ground for the nozzle to be wide open, so as soon as you took the weight off the wheels, the nozzle closed and essentially doubled the thrust at idle.”

                So, um, the prototype for this Superior Legacy System was built so badly wrong that it was basically uncontrollable.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Related: the success of the F-16 is largely due to avionics that (eventually) took care of all the fiddling details so quickly that the pilots had no idea it was happening.

                I imagine the first few prototypes were exciting birds, before that got that figured out.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      PS thanks for the appreciation.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      I figure that what happened was the people who wrote ALIS were mandated by the customer to use off-the-shelf software as a cost-savings measure.

      And, at the time, the off-the-shelf software was IE 8.

      The only backwards compatibility between IE 8 and IE 11 is the ability to parse basic HTML, so any hacks that made ALIS work on IE 8 are not available to IE 11…unless, as described, you turn all the security features off.

      And they’re not allowed to rewrite ALIS to work with IE 11 because “you already BOUGHT that software, we’re not gonna give you MORE MONEY to go BUY IT AGAIN”. And they’re not allowed to use an entirely different system because “off the shelf saves money, MAKE IT WORK.”Report

      • This company I used to work at used a bug tracking system with an HTML front end that only worked on IE. Well, only on some versions of IE. Well, only on very specific patch levels of some versions of IE. Really, not “gotta have these patches”, but “gotta have these patches but not those, because those fix bugs it depends on”.

        Eventually, someone I worked with spent two days writing a dead simple HTML frontend that had no polish at all but worked on any browser without crashing or freezing.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        At least the consensus remains, IE sucks.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If you’re looking for tea leaves to read for 2018, here are some.

    I’m not totally sure how useful these are, given that only 31% of the folks in Colorado Springs voted and, especially, given that Tuesday was a huge snowstorm (a bunch of businesses closed, and my boss even sent out an email saying, paraphrased, “days like this are one of the reasons why we give you guys vacation days… stay safe, etc”).

    The takeaway is that people are now joking that Boulder has moved to Colorado Springs.

    A window into 2018? An outlier? What are your priors?Report

  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Here’s an interesting idea.

    Right now, current wind turbines in offshore installations each have their own electrical generator mounted directly to the turbine (through a gearbox, obviously). The generated power then flows along cables to a central station where it is combined and conditioned for the grid.

    This idea removes the generator set from each turbine and replaces it with a seawater pump. The pumps move seawater under pressure to a central generating station and that is where it is turned into power. Hydraulic networks can balance out load variations easier than electrical systems can (or, perhaps, more cheaply, not sure).Report

    • Avatar Joe Sal says:

      With the setup they have now there is just the losses of the gearing, generator and electrical conduit.

      A pressurized water setup will have the losses of a pump mechanism, a fluid salt water network and a generator plus gearing at pump or generator.

      I would want to see some efficiencies at intended scale before betting on that one.

      (thanks for writing these links, good stuff)Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        You also have conditioning losses.Report

        • Avatar Joe Sal says:

          I was parsing that to the generator equipment, but we could break it out if it would be better represented.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          Getting well out of my comfort zone here — a systems guy has to know when it’s time to go talk to a real expert — but the specialized generators that have been going into new turbines for the last 5-6 years produce clean-enough properly-synchronized power to plug straight into the grid with little loss in efficiency (only a small portion of the total power has to go through conventional conditioning).Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            A proposal like this has to identify some kind of hazard or weakness of the current design that this hopes to overcome. The paper is 167 pages long, I’m sure there is an explanation of such in there, I just haven’t had time to dig into it.Report

        • That’s what happens when your waves get all frizzy?Report

  4. Avatar gregiank says:

    Not related to Sci or Tech, but Don Rickles has died at 90. Hockey pucks around the world say RIP.Report

  5. Avatar Stillwater says:

    50 Tomahawk missiles fired into Syria. Holy fishing moly.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      That’ll ruin your day.

      I wonder how good Syrian missile defense is?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Apparently the strike was limited to a military base. So at least it didn’t ruin too many Syrian citizens’ day.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Are we in a bubble again? I’m not sure that I know anybody personally who was in favor of this particular policy. Like, even online.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Here’s a guess: Trump’s approvals go up as a result of this strike.

            Oh, and one very prominent person is in favor of exactly this policy (taking out airbases). In fact, she advocated for it just today. HRC.Report

            • Avatar Autolukos says:

              Only safe prediction to make at the moment.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Eh, I’m iffy on whether he’ll get anything distinguishable from noise. Public taste for Middle Eastern adventurism is already really low (“bombing terrorists” is great, but people don’t want actual boots on the ground or any sign it’s going to become something serious that could turn into another slog like Iraq), low overall approval for Trump means skepticism as to the wisdom and effectiveness of any proposed plan is ‘baked into the cake’, and the fact that people seem pretty sick of Syria anyways.

                He might get a blip for doing something at all, maybe a larger one of Russia saber rattles back enough to push back on “So friendly with Russia” but….I suspect it’ll be down the memory hole by next weekend, and out of the polls.

                Just too much downward momentum for what is, in the end, just another bombing run in Syria. After several days of hemming and hawing. (And as Jaybird notes — nobody really wants to be involved in Syria anyways)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                On the supposition his approvals go up would it be reasonable to conclude that at least those people are in favor of military engagement with Syria?Report

              • Avatar Autolukos says:

                Not sure who “those people” are in this sentence; thus far this is wildly popular with Trump-skeptical Twitter conservatives, which I would expect to be echoed among real people, and I assume the ever-present pro-action part of popular opinion will assert itself. He isn’t going to hit W post-9/11 numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it at least got him over 50% approval.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The term “those people” refers to the people who bump his approvals up in light of this air strike. Nothin nefarious. Just highlighting the subject of the discussion: people who want military engagement in Syria.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Thanks for the reminder Hillz of the policies of yours so many libs and lefties really didn’t like about you. We hadn’t forgotten.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                One difference is that I don’t Hillary woulda done what Trump just did: act unilaterally without either legal basis or political cover from allies. The end result, of course, isn’t any different but the politics is. The problem Trump now has is that he’s not only reversing course on his earlier isolationist policies, but he’s alienated so many allies who might have otherwise been willing to follow thru on this … well … pretty reflexive reaction to an event which previously wasn’t within the Trump-policy worldview.

                Keep your head on a swivel with this guy. He comes at you from unexpected directions!Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                This is why if Putin did make some sort of deal with Trump, Putin’s the sucker, because anyone who makes a deal with Trump winds up screwed.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      I suspect that, despite the lack of competence in either the WH or the State department, that the Russian’s are not overly concerned. Playing with chemical weapons draws undue attention, so letting Uncle Sam smack someone’s hands for doing it is perfectly fine by them.

      It reinforces who Assad’s friends are, doesn’t it? It also reminds Assad not to play with the big boy toys because that makes the world give a crap, if briefly, over Syria. Which is not so good for Russian interests.

      So I don’t suspect much beyond this. Trump lacks the popularity to get involved in Syria — the public appears in no mood for another Middle Eastern adventure. Russian interests weren’t significantly harmed (possibly even advanced) so I suspect this will be a return to the pre-chemical weapons status quo.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        CNN reports a Tillerson statement that Russia, being the guarantor of 2013 policy to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons, is either complicit in Assad’s chemical weapons attack or incompetent. I think that escalates things beyond a quick return to the status quo.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      I guess that’s what you get a war for its birthday – another war.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    What the hell?

    Here’s a link to a tweet that has a video of news coverage of this that will have your jaw on the floor.

    What the hell?Report

    • Avatar Autolukos says:

      Did you mean to link something surprising?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I feel like I’ve switched timelines again.

        I mean, this is the timeline where we’ve screwed up everything we’ve touched in the Middle East, right?

        It’s like a series of trolley problems where we’re sold on pulling the lever to kill one person instead of letting five die but every time we pull the lever the trolley blows up and kills dozens in a marketplace.

        And we’re quoting Leonard Cohen to describe how pretty the freakin’ missles are?

        What the hell?Report

        • Avatar Autolukos says:

          You remember the Bush administration, right? Cable news loves their missile launches.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            You ask if I remember the Bush administration.

            I do.

            I find myself aghast at the huge number of people in positions of influence (many of which are older than I am) who seem to have no freaking recollection of anything pertaining to the Bush administration.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Brian Williams WTF x 1000. Really there aren’t enough Picard and Riker facepalm memes to cover that.

          People who thought Trump would keep us out of mucking around in the ME were and are suckers. Someone has to fall for Nigerian prince e-mail scams I guess it’s them.

          Was this the MSM being all liberal?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            If only the DNC hadn’t rigged things against Bernie…Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Whatever you say Kimmi.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Hey, he’s the only one who had a shot at winning the presidency who might *NOT* have started launching missiles on the 100th anniversary of WWI.Report

              • Jill Stein too.

                Well, not at people other than vaccine makers.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Rand Paul is screaming something about how we shouldn’t have done anything because the US was not attacked.

                Clinton is explaining how this is totally what she would have suggested.

                The pro-Trump people in my feed are screaming about how Trump has betrayed them.

                The pro-Hillary people in my feed are talking about how they don’t agree with Trump about this or that or the other but when it comes to Humanitarian Intervention, we need to support the Commander-in-Chief.

                This is nuts.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                The pro-Trump peeps on my feed have been very quiet about politics for the last couple months.

                I don’t have any strong pro Hillary peeps so that is just my bubble.Report

              • Rand Paul is screaming something about how we shouldn’t have done anything because the US was not attacked.

                The right answer for the wrong reason. We shouldn’t do anything military because all we can do is make things worse. (Or no better, anyway.) . The only thing we ca do that’s a net positive is give refugees a sane and safe place to live.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                That’s… weird.

                It’s mostly pro-Clinton peeps in my social network, and pretty much everyone is like, “WTF? This is a bad idea.”

                I mean, precipitous policy reversals and bizarre, clumsy communications aside, this is the sort of thing you get when you vote for a candidate that’s part of the “mainstream” on national security, but we’ve always understood that it goes into the list of “cons”, not the list of “pros”.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Where have all the good Arch Duke’s gone? Really isn’t a proper homage to WW1 without one.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Gaddafi was a Colonel. What title does Assad claim?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                He is an actual medical doctor.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                What happened to “do no harm?”
                It looks like red lines actually mean something to trump.Report

    • And he’s going to be fine. It’s not like he misremembered whether he came under fire or was just terrified about the threat of it,Report