BlackBerry RIM – another nail in the coffin

According to AINonline, RIM has announced a 40% employee layoff, and the closing of the corporate flight department.

In an effort to control recent losses totaling as much as $995 million, BlackBerry is closing its corporate flight department and selling off its fleet. Earlier this year, the company sold two Dassault Falcons and has plans to sell a Bombardier Global Express. "In light of the company’s current business condition, the company has decided to sell that aircraft [the Global Express] along with the two legacy aircraft [the Falcons] and will no longer own any airplanes," the company said in a statement. It is also planning to lay off about 4,500 employees

RIM’s flagship BlackBerry product was hit hard by the iPhone.  Other manufacturers were too, but they were able to rally and update their product line to compete.  RIM has arguably done that for the most part with their latest Z10 phone, but it seems too late to recapture waning business interest in the product line.  They also re-engineered their BES (mobile device management) software to allow it to manage non-RIM devices.  They have a good reputation in that area, and so that product may help their bottom line.  The trouble is, business has basically given up on RIM solutions and has looked elsewhere.  Can they recapture their market at this point?  It’s doubtful.

Cal Worthington – Rest in peace

CalWorthingtonCal Worthington died yesterday at 92yrs old.  He is pictured here with his “dog spot”.  For those too young to remember, he did a long series of TV ads for his Ford car dealerships, usually featuring some unusual animal as his “dog spot”.  These ads were classic ‘70s TV material, and we used to get a smile and used to wonder what the next “dog” would be.  Cal, you will be missed!

Shotgunning Beer – Cold Beer

Miller Lite recently introduced a new “Punch Top Can”

This can features an air-hole to make pouring smoother and reduce “glugging”.  Ok, laudable goal, though I personally never found this to be a major problem.

MillerLitePunchTop.jpg

One thing that people have jumped on is the ability to “shotgun” the beer easier.  For those who are not “in the know” on “shotgunning”, this refers to tilting your head back, opening your throat and pouring the entire can down into your stomach.  This is especially popular at frat parties.

Now, call me a square, but I have never really understood this side of beer drinking.  If you want to get drunk, this is NOT a very efficient way to go about it.  Drink something with a higher alcohol content, and you’ll get drunk quicker without bloating your stomach and having to make trips to the bathroom every 5 minutes.  After all, as they say “you never really OWN beer, you just rent it for a while”.

Clearly, flavor has absolutely nothing to do with this style of beer drinking, as your taste buds barely touch the beer, so who cares what it tastes like.  This brings me to cold beer.  The colder the beer, the less you taste it.  So people who like REALLY icy cold beer aren’t getting much flavor.  This leads me to suspect that they just don’t really like the taste of beer.  In informal polls I have taken of various males throughout the years, it seems that a LOT of men don’t really like beer, but drink it because it’s the thing to do.  This, I suspect is one big driving factor behind icy cold beer.

Oh sure, you are going to tell me that you LOVE the taste of beer and that it’s just SO much more refreshing when it’s icy cold.  OK, I get that a cold drink on a hot day is nice.  Still, if you don’t like the taste when it’s not cold, then really, you don’t like beer.  Sorry to rain on your parade.  Also, if this blog entry makes you angry… ask yourself why!  It’s a beverage. Not your mother. Get over it.

Of course, since I’m British – COOL beer is (IMHO) the way to go.  You get to taste the beer (if that’s your thing).  Personally?  Give me a nice scotch or bourbon, thank you.

Weird old tip

image

Hmm – perhaps that “weird old tip” is EAT LESS and EXERCISE, ya think?  These ads just kill me, do they think that by saying they have a “weird tip” or “clever trick” that people will really think “oh wow, I just have to know what that is”

Drones and privacy–will you allow it, or shoot them down?

There’s quite a bit of talk these days about drones, or unmanned aircraft (UAS).  These have several problems, when you get right down to it.

  1. Noise pollution – it’s annoying enough when Sherrif’s helicopters fly overhead and loiter for awhile, but while a UAS would probably be quieter, it’s still not silent.
  2. Safety – If one of these malfunctions or the remote pilot makes a mistake, they can crash, doing damage to persons and property
  3. Privacy – are you comfortable having cameras over your home or business, watching you and recording what you are doing?  If you are, perhaps Russia would be a better place for you to live.

I am mainly concerned about #3, though the first two certainly are things to think about.  As time go by we (as a nation) are slowly giving up our privacy by allowing our lives to become more public (we post personal stuff on Facebook or Twitter and then wonder how stalkers know about us for example).  Todays youth has grown up with this pervasive social network and doesn’t even give a thought to how their personal privacy is compromised by participating.  It seems it’s only us old farts who grew up before this became prevalent who look at it and say “wow, that’s not good, nope, I’m not doing that”.

Unmanned drones are another thing that is starting to take off (ok, sorry, couldn’t resist that).  If we sit idly by and allow this to happen, then there will be no concept of privacy, even in your own back yard.

One town in Colorado has a proposal drafted by resident Phillip Steel to do something about this, in a very American manner.  According to Steel, “We do not want drones in town.  They fly in town, they get shot down”.  Excellent!

The proposal was to sell $25 hunting licenses, and offered a $100 reward to anyone who shot down a drone “known to be owned or operated by the United States Government”.  Wow, how cool is THAT??

The FAA of course (in their traditional role as spoilsports) takes issue with this, stating “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane”.  They claim that they are responsible for airspace and safety and that a damaged aircraft could crash and hurt somebody or damage property (hmm… kinda like my #2 above even without the gunman, but I’m sure they feel THOSE risks are acceptable).

Personally, I think that if everybody took the attitude that Mr. Steel has, that the FAA would find it difficult or impossible to enforce on a large scale, the government would find that they are spending a LOT of money to replace these expensive planes, and the whole thing would fizzle, much to the delight of privacy loving folks everywhere.

Here’s another entertaining alternative, borrowed from WWII.  The Germans had flying bombs which had no pilot and would fly across the channel, run out of Petrol (it’s England, folks), then crash and explode.  They were quite terrifying as weapons because of their random targets and because you could hear them and knew you were safe… until the engine stopped.  Very Hitchcock-esque from a terror standpoint, but I digress.  The allies came up with a good solution.  They’d fly up next to these things, put a wingtip under their wing and then roll their plane.  This caused the bomb to bank, veer off course, and crash in the channel.  Wouldn’t it be fun to do that with a Drone?  Of course I never would do such a terrible thing, and I would never recommend that anybody else do such a terrible and rebellious act, but it’s fun to think about isn’t it?  I bet there are a number of other fun scenarios that don’t involve something as direct as shooting a drone down.  This could be a fun video game!!

Here’s a short article in AVWEB about this amusing Colorado proposal.

Is it worth the time–a great analysis!

Geeks especially have a propensity toward spending time making a task more efficient and less time consuming.  But how many of us have ever analyzed how often that task needs to be performed in order to make the time and effort spent optimizing it worthwhile?  I haven’t, I sheepishly admit.  Fortunately, xkcd.com came to the rescue!

Is It Worth the Time?

Internet Explorer End Of Life (lifecycle) dates

Usually, Microsoft is pretty good about letting you know about the lifecycle dates on their products.  For some reason, Internet Explorer seems to be the exception to that rule.  If you look at Microsoft’s reference document on Internet Software Lifecycles, you’ll see that they list all the Internet Explorer version dates as “Review Note”, and the note says “For support dates for specific Internet Explorer 6 and operating system versions and their service packs, visit the Lifecycle Supported Service Packs site at http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle/#tab2.”

Nowhere that I was able to find on Microsoft’s site do they actually list which version shipped with which O/S.  C’mon guys, why does this have to be made so difficult?

After some digging, I’ll save you the effort if you are interested to know.  NOTE: these reflect the last date and O/S for each version, and the final end of support date.  Deployments for prior versions of Windows will hit end of support prior to these dates.

IE6 – XP – April 8 2014 end of extended support

IE7 – Vista – April 11, 2017 end of extended support

IE 8 – Win 7 – January 14 – 2020 end of extended support

IE 9 – Win 7 – January 14 – 2020 end of extended support

UPDATE 10/21/2013:

IE 10 – included with Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, and available for Windows 7.  It will not be available for Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2 – October 2015 end of support.

IE11 – included with Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2, and available for Windows 7.  It will not be available for Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 – Jan 2023 end of support.

PAL-V ONE–an interesting entry in the flying car realm

PAL-V Europe NV started in 2001 to design a roadable aircraft.  What they came up with is very interesting indeed.  It’s a two-place (two seater) gyroplane which behaves like a souped-up 3 wheel motorcycle on the road (yes, it leans!)

There are always compromises when trying to come up with a machine that works both in the air and on the road.  Historically, companies working in this area emphasize the air, and give you a “roadable” machine which has pretty lousy performance, but gets you from your garage to the airport, and that’s about it.  PAL-V, on the other hand has really worked on the road part of the equation, producing a vehicle which delivers high performance (112mph), has good range, and seems like it would actually be fun to drive.

As far as the airborne side goes, an gyroplane is an interesting approach.  It is a rotary wing craft, but the wing is not powered, it rotates from forward air pressure.  This means you can’t land or take off vertically, but it is a lot simpler and cheaper than a helicopter’s rotor mechanism.  It is quieter than a helicopter as the blades spin much slower, it takes off and lands at low speeds, and can’t stall.  In the event of an engine failure, it can be auto-rotated to a safe landing.  It’s designed to fly below 4,000 feet in uncontrolled VFR (visual flight rules) traffic.  They say it will do 112mph in the air as well as on land!

Roadable high-performance gyroplane

Terrafugia flying car–getting closer to reality!

Terrafugia has been working on some interesting things in the flying-car realm.  I wrote about them a couple of years ago, but now we are getting closer to being able to actually go out and buy one of these.

Driving to flying, and back to driving again

Here’s some interesting inside-the-cockpit footage:

Inside the cockpit

Now, they have announced that they are working on a hybrid-electric VTOL car!  At the moment, it’s at the concept stage, but it certainly would be really cool if they can get it off the ground (er, sorry, I couldn’t resist)

VTOL hybrid gas/electric