Wednesday, October 1, 2014

F22 Raptor finally goes to war

They sent a couple of F22's into Syria the other night to bomb some big building in the boonies of Syria.  Aviation Week has before and after reconnaissance photos.  Shows a multi story flat roof building, surrounded by a paved parking lot and outside the parking lot, a really stout fence.  No cars in the parking lot, not even painted lines.  The after photo shows a whacking big hole in the roof and piles of debris all over the parking lot.  Hole in one.  You can see where ISIS has shoveled paths thru the debris to get vehicles in and out. 
   Of course you gotta wonder why Aviation Week gives such nice coverage to a fairly plain vanilla ground attack mission.  An old F-4 Phantom could have done this one.  F22 is the super expensive, super secret air-to-air fighter that got so expensive that defense secretary Gates canceled production after getting billed for only 187 aircraft.  Final price was $130 million per airplane, which is a helova lotta money for a single seat fighter. 
  F22 is stealthy, hard to see on radar.  To get stealthy, all ordinance and fuel is carried internally so it won't give a radar return.  F22 had cute little missile bays, just big enough to take a Slammer air-to-air missile.  To do the Syrian building, the F22's used 1000 pound, JDAM smart bombs.  Those certainly won't fit in a missile bay barely large enough for a 4 inch diameter missile.  1000 pounders are better than a foot in diameter.  Aviation Week didn't say how they hung the 1000 pounders on the aircraft, presumable on non stealthy under wing rails. 

Win 8.1 does network nicely

It's not much of a network, just my router, Trusty Desktop (XP) and Flatbeast (skinny new laptop Win8.1).  For just powering it up, Flatbeast found the wireless router, and got logged in.  I actually had to go down to the router and push a magic router button that told it "new authorized member on wireless, let him in."   Windows 8.1 supports a brand new networking concept call a HomeGroup, but XP does not.  Win 8.1 also supports the older networking concept of Work Groups.  By concept, we mean a protocol for saying hello, asking if anyone is home, and sharing files and printers.  Workgroups have names, and all computers with the same work group name are allowed to play.  Windows (all flavors) ships with it's Workgroup named WORKGROUP.  Once connected, the files on the distant computer show up in "Network"  looking just like files on the local drive.  You can open them, move them around, and delete them.   Win 8.1 is better at doing Workgroup than XP was.  XP was picky about linking up, and often failed to find computers on the local area network.  8.1 is better. 
  On XP "share" meant mark a file or folder as visible over the network.  Explorer allowed you to share files on a one by one, or a folder by folder basis.  If you never shared any files the distant computer would not see any files.
  On 8.1 the verb share means something else.  When M$ invents something new they ought to give it a new name, just to avoid confusion.  PITA.  On 8.1 you don't get to share file by file, you can turn on sharing for the whole machine or nothing.  Click on Control Panel.  Click on Network and Sharing Center.  Click on Advanced Sharing Options.  Turn on the obvious things like Network Discovery and file and printer sharing.  Click on save changes, and all your files become visible to distant computers. 
   The only people with access to my home  network are family and friends and I don't have any files I need to conceal from anyone, so  exposing every file on my harddrive to the local area network doesn't bother me.  Your Mileage My Vary.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Is it murder, terrorism, or "workplace violence" ?

This has come up in the Oklahoma beheading case.  The TV newsies  argue back and forth between "terrorism" and "workplace violence". 
Me, I'd rather call it murder in the first degree.  Murder is a well established crime, it's been a crime since Moses brought down the Ten Commandments, and that was a long time ago.  The newer trendier crimes are vague, not well established, and subject to endless bickering by lawyers.  Worse, they are thought crimes, depending upon the state of mind of the perp.  I don't like thought crimes, men ought to be free to think anything they like, just so long as they keep their thoughts to them selves.  Plus, proving thoughts in court is touchy, the perp merely denies thinking wrong thoughts. 
  Plus, terrorism is a political thought crime.  One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.  Convict the perp of terrorism and bunches of unpleasant people will say that his cause was righteous, and he is a martyr to the cause.  Convict the perp of first degree murder and it is harder to generate sympathy  for him.  And the penalties for murder are still quite drastic.  Judge Neopolitano was on Fox a few minutes ago saying that under Oklahoma law, a conviction for murder is straight forward and quite possible, conviction for either "workplace violence" or "terrorism" is problematical .  So let's go for murder. 
   The "workplace violence" just seems pretty wishy washy for cutting off a worker's head.  Let's go with murder.

RD180 Rocket Engines

RD180 is the engine that powers the United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas V heavy lift booster rocket.  One little problem has emerged lately, the RD180 is made in Russia.  Just how a Russian built engine became the main engine of an American booster is a little hard to tell, now.  Tracks are being covered even as I write this.  At a guess, the Russians were low bidders, and someone decided that they were a reliable supplier. 
  Anyhow, after the late unpleasantness in Ukraine,  the Americans started huffing and puffing about "sanctions" and the Russians retaliated by threatening to cut off the supply of RD180 engines.  Which would put the Atlas V and ULA out of business.
   So, ULA is talking about having Blue Origin, a secretive Seattle based rocket company, started by Jeff Bezos the zillionaire, design and build an RD180 replacement engine right in Seattle.  Dubbed BE-4, the engine would burn compressed natural gas and LOX and produce  550,000 pounds of thrust.  Blue Origin has been doing some design work on BE-4 using in house (Jeff Bezos) funding.  ULA has signed a deal to provide more funding.  Target date for first flight is 2018, four years from now. 
   We have a stockpile of Russian built RD180 engines good for two years.  I guess they are hoping that the Russians will sell us another couple of years worth of engines.  Or, that with a LOT of more money the BE-4 could be rushed into production.
  Or, we could drop ULA and Atlas V and use the Space-X Falcon 9 booster rocket which has roughly the same performance as Atlas V.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Navigating Windows 8.1

Two ways to make the Desktop easier to navigate.
First put up some Really Useful Icons.  Namely Control Panel, Your files, Network, and My Computer (well M$ now calls it This PC) .  Once up you can tweak, look at your files, look at system files, and look on the LAN with  just one mouse click on the Desktop.   

 Next clear off the Desktop clutter.  New computers come with all sorts of "helpful" applications cluttering your desktop.  You have never heard of most of 'em, but you hate put them in the recycle bin 'cause you never know when you might want them.  Create a new folder to hold them.  I named the new folder "Craplets" and put it on the desk top.  One day, when I have the time, I will research the craplets and decide if I want to run them or uninstall them (zap them).  But in the mean time they are off my desktop. 

How to?  
1. Right Click on a blank portion of your Desktop  (Shades of M$-DOS, typing magic words to the prompt).  The Personalization Screen appears.
2. On the Personalization Screen left side, Click on Change Desktop Icons.  The Desktop Icon Settings window appears.
3.  Check all five boxes, Computer,User's Files, Network,, Recycle Bin, and Control Panel. Then click "Apply". 
4. To make the icons stay put, uncheck "Allow Themes to Change Desktop Icons.

Once done, you find most of the useful functions of the late, lamented "Start Button" are now available on your Desktop.  I found Win 8.1 less user hostile after doing this. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Congressional authorization to whack ISIS

Does Obama need it?  Or does the 10 year old Authorization for the Used of Military Force (AUMF) that George Bush obtained to overthrow Saddam Hussein  cover zapping ISIS in 2014.  Who knows?  Call in the lawyers and let them quibble. 
  Let's get real about the issue here.   Obama is commander in chief, the armed forces will do what he orders them to.  So Obama can order up air strikes, or anything else, and it will happen. 
   On the other hand,  any president with two brain cells firing, wants to go to war, or something less than war, with Congressional, political and media support.  Obama has already gotten funding for the anti ISIS effort into the "continuing resolution" a stop gap bill to fund the entire US government at least thru the new year.  That's not too shabby for Obama.  That will keep the bombs falling for a while. 
   If Obama isn't very serious about ISIS, and will settle for a few fireworks shows, no ground troops, that's probably all he needs.   If he actually wants to zap ISIS into the next dimension, he probably wants to have a brand new  AUMF that specifically names ISIS as the enemy. 
   To my way of thinking, there are only two reasons for NOT going to Congress for a new AUMF.  One, Obama fears that Congress would vote it down, making him look weaker than he already looks.  Two, Obama isn't really serious about ISIS, and doesn't actually plan on serious operations to wipe them out.  Take your pick.

Gold Plating hikes costs on KC-46

The KC-46 program is supposed to produce new jet tankers to replace the Eisenhower era KC-135 tankers that are still in service with the Air Force.  It's a reasonable program to have, tankers get a LOT of use, and everything has a service life.  The KC-135's have been flying, hard, for 60 years, and there comes a time when a new aircraft is indicated. 
   The idea was to buy Boeing 767 airliners, remove the seats, and install fuel tanks and a refueling boom.  Take advantage of the well proven, reliable Boeing design, hundreds of which are still flying passengers today. 
   The Air Force couldn't resist the urge to gold plate.  USAF has been into gold plating since I was in the service and that was a long time ago.  USAF insisted on rewiring the entire plane.  The new wiring scheme called for double and triple redundancy on a lot of circuits, and shielding and separation to prevent electrical crosstalk in the wire bundles.  Boeing has built 6 aircraft and now, finally, the Air Force inspectors noticed that some of  the new wiring wasn't up to spec.  The commercial 767 had about 70 MILES of wire in it.  The Air Force added another 50 MILES of wire. 
  The commercial 767 flies just fine, has been flying just fine for 20 years with the standard wiring system.  There was no need to change anything.  The Air Force insisted upon messing up a good thing, and it has bought them a 3 month program slippage.  Good work USAF.  My tax money at work.