Dawn Of The Dead (Cockpits)

Looking around for a sale this Black Friday?  Or still looking for a parking space?  The ads are full of mini-helicopters, and some empty cars… just like the Afghani skies, and test courses in Silicon Valley respectively.  It’s not Black Drone-day, it’s now drone-era.

Lost in all the handwaving and whining about “drones” (or UAVs, UCAVs, or what have you*) is one simple fact: geeks know they’ve been here all along, ever since we called them “R/C planes” (or cars or helicopters or what have you).  How do I know?  Full disclosure: 45I’m not just a geek, I did some consulting on a “drone” project, though it was general work and would apply to a manned plane.

These are shelves in a hobby shop.  Like most such shops in the developed US, you can pick up an R/C plane for 200-400 bucks.  Some people have that in their pocket right now.  Some lucky kid in your town has such a plane, and maybe a bunch of kids. Continue reading

Light The Min(eral)-Oila

In my area, gas prices bumped in time for Thanksgiving, often the busiest 24 driving hours of the year, hmmm.  Now Ford announces their recalls, on top of Jeep’s ongoing quagmire.

2013 Ford Escapes (1.6L 4-cylinder) may crack a cylinder head- bad enough.  But oil may leak onto hot parts; this has already lit up 13 cars.  The affected vehicles recalled are about 160,000, US and Canada.  On top of that, some 2013 Escapes had a preexisting fix- leaking fuel lines in the engine bay.  Quite bad to begin with.  Ford’s now announcing repaired lines may leak again, in a different way.  Double whammy.

You’re a huge hypocrite if you complain about a Tesla fire, but ignore the 15+ gallon bomb under your passengers’ butts.  Then add a gallon of oil, transmission and power steering fluid, A/C fluid that’s toxic when burnt, carbon-based hoses and seals everywhere, etc.

I’m thankful I chose a 21st-century vehicle.

Burbling Atlan… tic

14519991And there you go.  EV enthusiasts Terry Hershner and pilion Chelsea Liggatt crossed the US yesterday night:

They got stuck in a highway backup, shorted a plastic connector, and blew a tire… vibration from the bum tire had loosened a fastener, requiring an electric motor swapout.  Due to delays, Terry actually took longer to cross the nation than last summer, no record unfortunately.  Still, it’s faster than I would have done.  Considering the major bike modifications are basically handcrafted or hand-integrated, I would have hesitated to try without a sag wagon, as the current recordholders had along.  Congrats Terry.

Goo Gee Phone Home

If it looks like I’m picking on Google, it’s because they keep screwing it up.  Google is now selling your site visits- your real world site visits.

Previously, Google was fined in court for hacking Safari’s “do not track” option… to track.  Now, Google is selling advertizers “conversions”– instances where eyeballs get mobile ads, then proceed to a brick-and-mortar store.  Google knows via cellphone tracking.  Unannounced cellphone tracking, for profit; if you’ve loaded Google’s app on an iPhone and have GPS/cellular/WiFi location turned on, Google considers that consent.  If you have an Android phone, they don’t even bother asking, since data reporting is baked into the OS.

It is easiest for Google to conduct this passive location tracking on Android users, since Google has embedded location tracking into the software. Once Android users opt in to location services, Google starts collecting their location data as continuously as technologically possible.

What happened to “Don’t Be Evil?”  Oh right- their Safari fine was effectively a business lunch.

Legwork Without Legs Working

Speaking of complex integration and high-stakes project execution, Playstation 4 data is in, such as defect rates- not happy holidays in some households.  It ain’t a gadget, folks.  The 8th console generation is a big deal, in gaming- a big business.  Sony/Microsoft didn’t have the luxury of time- Black Friday’s coming.  Apparently testing, quality control, or both took the hit.  And these are big issues, as these aren’t single-function gadgets.  Haven’t been for generations.

Neither complex electronics nor CubeSats are devices in its literal sense- one mechanism, one function.  That means extensive testing, in extensive situations and environments, and cross-testing too.  And here the consequences are low; returning a product or not hearing from a student CubeSat are inconveniences in the grand scheme.  Serious voltages and human riders on public highways (meaning human bystanders), on the other hand, means rigor during development and field testing.  Agility figured that one out, when Jeep and Ford didn’t.

Sony will tighten up their supplier lines and assembly procedures, just like Microsoft dropped a billion dollars on XBox 360 issues.  A fair number of CubeSats flown will fail, due to design gaps, part defects, poor soldering technique, etc. not uncovered by prelaunch testing.  And electrical systems will pop if you don’t do the legwork everyone else does.  Onward.

Empire Strikes Too (or рах рах бластофф!!!)

Some people aren’t convinced miniaturized satellites (“microspace“) have a mega-future.  Folks, Tuesday’s record of 29 small spacecraft launched on a converted Minuteman missile has already been broken.  Today, 32 mini-, micro-, and nanosatellites were launched on a converted ex-Soviet missile.  And they aren’t just schoolkids and classified government projects this time: four imaging satellites, and radio gear, were flown for commercial companies:

Dubaisat-2 will take Google-style pictures of Earth, for disaster monitoring and commercial sale (e. g., to Google).  A minisatellite, the builders (United Arab Emirates and a Korean contractor) got it down to “only” ~300 kg despite 1m resolution and electric thrusters.

STSat-3 (Science and Technology Satellite-3) is the KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) infrared mission.  It will observe both Earth and space in IR.

Secondary payloads on the converted R-36M (“Dnepr”) include:

SkySat-1, Skybox Imaging’s try for Google-style imaging.  Another minisatellite, it’s 100 kg.

UNISat-5, University of Rome space debris monitor- 28 kg.  It also carries cubes, below…

AprizeSat 7 and 8 will send UHF messages for field users (ships/trucks) for pay- 12 kg.

And then come the microsatellites: Continue reading