Textron Aviation – new logo

Now that Beechcraft, Cessna and Hawker are firmly part of the Textron Aviation family, Textron has a new logo, and a new motto; “Gaining altitude together”

In the 1920s, Cessna and Beach worked together as the Travel Air Manufacturing Company in Wichita, KS.  The third partner that time was Stearman.  10 years later, the companies split again.  It will be interesting to see how this new trio does under the Textron umbrella.

OneDrive – less than helpful? Something went wrong

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Really Microsoft? Something went wrong.  I suppose it would be way too much trouble to say WHAT went wrong, or give any other diagnostic information at all.  Talk about inane!

So I went to the Service status link, and it shows OneDrive up and running.  OK, but not in MY case.  So I try another login I have and it works fine.  Apparently only the documents and files I have under THIS account are (I hope temporarily) unavailable.  Good job I didn’t have business critical data in there.

Solar Freakin’ Roadways

Scott and Julie Brusaw came up with a really novel idea. They designed hexagonal tiles that can be installed in parking lots, driveways, roadways and highways.  They call these Solar Roadways. 

These glass tiles contain solar cells, LED lights, and other circuitry.  If you haven’t seen the video, watch it now!  It’s actually kinda funny in addition to being interesting.  In part because of the fun aspect, this video has gone viral.  Another reason could be because of it’s eco-centric message.  Anything eco-centric is wildly popular these days.

I do think that the representations of road signage they have in their “artist concept” pictures (such as the one to the left) are a bit much. 

 

They have LEDs built into the panels but there are only a handful, scattered across the panel (see below, right).  In order to do high-res images such as depicted above, you’d need a LOT more lights (pixels).LEDs

But, I totally get it – artist concepts aren’t reality, they are just concepts.  I think fundamentally this is a very interesting idea.  One of the “features” of these hexagonal glass tiles is that you can replace an individual tile seamlessly.  This would be really great as repairing asphalt is a lot less than seamless, and is a temporary fix at best.  Potholes in asphalt are common and annoying.  It seems that this technology would solve that problem too.

Even if they never made it to freeways, deploying them to driveways, parking lots and residential roads would really give some great benefits.  They claim that in the winter, the roadway is heated.  This is not to make it warm but to keep the surface temperature just high enough that falling snow would melt as it hits.  It certainly would be nice not to have to shovel snow, or plow roads!

Check out this TED talk – it shows the history of the idea and where they are going with it.

Parking lot   Snow melt

New Canadian Anti-Spam Law

I’m guessing you have received some emails out of the blue like I have saying that due to Canada’s new anti-spam law, you need to click on a link or whatever and verify that it’s OK for the company who emailed you to continue to do so.  This is probably valid, for now, but I can see virus/malware criminals taking advantage of this to give you a nice link to click on to infect your system.  So beware!

What is the new anti-spam law?  According to the Toronto Star, the new law requires businesses emailing Canadians to have “express consent” to do so, rather than “implied consent” (such as having done business with the person at some point in the distant past).  Express consent means that the recipient must be told what will be sent to them and why and must specifically “opt in” to allow it to happen.  This law goes into effect July 1 2014.

This is causing a lot of worry with Canadian businesses because the penalties are not trivial; $1 million per violation for an individual and $10 million per violation for a business.  There are concerns that one slipup is going to cost a lot of money.  In reality, it’s more likely that warnings will be issued, at least initially.  There is also a three year transition period so if a business already has “implied consent”, they should make efforts to get “express consent”, but don’t have to worry for 3 years.

This seems like a really good idea to me. If other countries had similar laws, it might put quite a dent in spam.

Toll roads – no more cash “tolling”

Beginning May 2014, the local toll roads no longer accept cash.  Drivers can either have a FasTrack transponder, or sign up for an ExpressAccount.  One-time visitors can use the toll roads but must visit the website within 48 hours to pay.

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What’s so inane about that you ask?  In the months prior to this event, TheTollRoads was advertising “Cash tolling ends in X days”.  Tolling.  A toll is a fee that you pay.  Toll as a verb is what a bell does when you ring it.  You cannot just add “ing” to the end of a noun and “create” a verb.  An easy test (if you are too lazy to use a dictionary) is to try adding “ing” to a synonym (word that means the same).  Toll is a fee.  So, does it make any sense to say “Cash feeing ends in X days”?  Hmm… seems awkward, doesn’t it?  The toll levied is also the price for passage, so let’s try that: “Cash pricing ends in X days”.  Nope, that doesn’t work either, does it?

Just in case you are curious, the toll roads (133, 241 and 261) were built with loans that can only be paid back by tolls.  For the fiscal year 2013, operating revenues were $129.4 million representing 56,173,061 transactions.  As of December 2013, the outstanding bond debt was $2.3 billion.  Just doing some basic math shows that (not including interest), the principal will take 17.8 years to repay at current usage levels (2031).  Interest will push this out several more years, and the debt is now due in 2053, but with no pre-payment penalty.  It will be interesting to see if the toll collection system is dismantled (as one would hope) when the loans are paid.  Government does have a nasty habit of keeping revenue collection going even when it’s no longer needed, and they are simply making a profit with it.

Google Glass application: helper for Pilots in the cockpit

I’ve seen some fairly inane apps to leverage the Google Glass head-mounted display system.  A lot of them strike me as a solution looking for a problem.  Here’s one that seems like a really good one though; Aviation information (checklists, approach info, runway layouts, etc). 

The great thing about this is that the pilot can access this information without having to take their eyes away from the outside world.  This can be critical for avoiding things like collisions on the runway, or even mid-air.  When you are in “cruise mode”, you can afford to look down and do other things for a bit, as it’s a fairly low-event part of the flight.  Arrival and departure times are anything but!  There’s lots to look at, lots to do, and lots of information you need handy.

Here’s a video demonstration by Adventia European college of Aeronautics.  Ok, so it’s not thrill-a-minute footage, but a good flight isn’t supposed to be a hair-raising event!

Customs and Border Patrol – going a little overboard

Customs and Border Protection agents have been operating well within U.S. borders in recent years. Department of Homeland Security photo.

One would normally think of Customs and Border patrol protecting… well… our borders!  These days though they must be bored because they are stopping private pilots, searching their planes and passengers, and generally causing a lot of inconvenience and hassle.  The interesting part is that they don’t appear to have jurisdiction to DO that.  The FAA has the authority to stop a private pilot and do a “ramp check” to make sure the airplane paperwork is all in order, and so forth.  CBP has authority IF there is probable cause for naughtiness.  They do NOT have authorization to “help” the FAA by stopping pilots in the first place.  This is yet another case of a government department flexing their Homeland Security muscle and overstepping their bounds.

AOPA has a good article on this, and they are following this issue closely, lobbying congress and trying to put pressure on the CBP to just knock it off.

Charlie Victor Romeo – crash recorder dramatizations of Pilot & crew’s last words

In 1999 a novel play was created dramatizing the last minutes of airplane flights which resulted in a crash.  This has now been re-imagined as a 3D movie.  I’m not sure why you would want 3D for this, as it’s not exactly a lush cinematic event, but perhaps it helps sell DVDs.  As a pilot myself, there is a particular fascination reviewing the events and things that were said in the cockpit prior to a disaster.  We like to hope that WE wouldn’t have made the key decisions which lead to a bad result, but in the heat of the moment, would we or not?

Charlie Victor Romeo Theatrical Poster

The movie is called “Charlie Victor Romeo” because CVT is the industry acronym for the famous “black box”, or “Cockpit Voice Recorder” – the source for the dialog re-enacted by the actors.

This has also been used as material for “Cockpit Resource Management” training which airline pilots must periodically undergo.  But even to a lay person who doesn’t necessarily understand all of the pilot jargon, it’s still a morbidly fascinating look at what happened and why.

This is now in the Netflix database, but it not available for streaming at the date of this writing.  The film is currently screening in New York and Los Angeles.

This is probably not a movie for everybody, but if you find it hard to look away from a train wreck, or car crash on the freeway, this might be right up your alley!

Here is an official trailer:

3D printer uses metal – prints a working gun!

Ok, so the fact that they chose to print a gun as opposed to some other useful tool is probably mainly for shock effect and media appeal.  Still, the fact that these guys are able to print high-tolerance metal parts is amazing!  Click Here for the article.

3D printers are becoming more commonplace, but most of them use plastic as a medium and create output using layers of melted plastic (stereo lithography). Below is a MakerBot 3d printer.

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This cool gadget can be yours for a paltry $2,899! 

As you might expect, a device that produces metal parts is a LOT more expensive.  Services like Solid Concepts can be very useful, giving you the ability to print on much more expensive gear, using more exotic materials for one-off manufacturing, prototyping, or even replacing impossible to procure parts on an existing machine!  These folks actually have a firearm manufacturing license, so if you have a gun with a broken but impossible to find part, they can probably make it for you quite easily.

 

Links to my other stuff

One reader suggested that I post links to Facebook, LinkedIn and so forth.  So, I created a “links” widget on the right hand side (scroll way down).  This has links to other sites on the web that I have something to do with.  Enjoy!