FAA really doesn’t like aviation – sleep apnea testing

I have come to the conclusion the the FAA really doesn’t like aviation and is working on good ways to cripple it, mainly by making it even more expensive than it is today.  With rising fuel prices, maintenance prices, equipment prices, and instruction prices, we really don’t need the FAA “helping” in this way.

Their latest idea is to introduce a rule that pilots with over 40% “body mass index” would be subject to mandatory Sleep Apnea testing.  This testing is not cheap!  This would impact approximately 5,000 pilots.  If this is successful, it’s entirely likely that the scope would be expanded to include more pilots.

It’s all in the name of safety!  Or is it?  According to Aviation Week, The agency also cites National Transportation Safety Board data that shows 34 accidents, including 32 fatal accidents, involved pilots who had sleep apnea. However, sleep apnea was not listed as the cause of those accidents.

Interesting logic the FAA is using.  I’d be willing to wager that most (if not all) of the pilots cited above also had 5 fingers on their left hand.  It seems logical then that the FAA could reasonably propose “preventative surgery” to have one of those fingers removed, thus making the skies safer for all.  I’d also be willing to bet that a large percentage of those pilots drank coffee the very same day that they had their fatal accident.  Perhaps the FAA could ban coffee for pilots (no, wait, that would actually SAVE money, they wouldn’t do that).

So I just have to wonder… what problem are we solving here?  To randomly pick a medical condition which has not been proven to be a contributing factor to any fatal accidents seems irresponsible and foolish at best.  Why does the FAA want to burden pilots with yet another hefty expense just so that they can continue to utilize their hard-earned pilot’s license?  Perhaps my initial conclusion is correct: the FAA really doesn’t like aviation and would like it to go away.

Not only is the FAA proceeding with this questionable program, they are side-stepping rulemaking channels and are classing this as a “process enhancement” which does not require any of the formal rigor that new rulemaking requires (such as evaluating the rule for sanity, asking for comments from industry professionals and pilots themselves, etc).  Why are they doing this? What do they have to gain?

How to find when your HP computer was made and check warranty status with only the serial number

Like most people, I suspect, I’m terrible at remembering “when did I buy that machine” and “is it still under warranty”.  There is no convenient way that I have found to ascertain the manufacture date from just the serial number (though I really wish HP would add that little gem of information to the info they give you with this handy web page).

Here’s what you do: Go to this web page (http://h20565.www2.hp.com/portal/site/hpsc/public/wc/home)

Put your serial number in the top box and press enter:

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Here is what you get in return:

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If you then click on the machine identifier (circled in red), you get this:

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So while they don’t tell you exactly when it was MADE, you can see when you bought it (that’s when the warranty timer starts).  In my case above, that’s Dec 23, 2008!  Hmm… time for a new computer? Winking smile

Got a window and you don’t know what it is? Try Process Explorer! (SysInternals ROCKS)

I have to hand it to the "SysInternals" folks at Microsoft – they sure come up with some great stuff.  I just used this one: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653

I had a spurious windows with no title bar and no chrome (border,minimize,maximize & close box), just a text input box – very suspicious, especially since there have been malware threats that masquerade as IME (see http://threatpost.com/new-trojan-disguised-windows-ime-070610).

So, I ran this tool, dragged it’s "target" (next to the binoculars) onto the suspect window, and it instantly identified it as a child window of that bug-ridden annoyance known as "Adobe Reader".  I right-clicked on the entry, picked "end process" and poof! window is gone.  VERY nice indeed.

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The stock Windows "Resource Monitor" tool (buried in “task manager”, with a link on the "performance" tab to launch it) is a little more refined and gives you similar information, but lacks features like the "target" which you can drag-and-drop on any window to identify it.  Process Explorer also has some other niche tools which you might find handy from time to time.

They have a handy package called the sysinternals “suite” which contains most of the tools (including Process Monitor) all in one 13MB download.

Other utilities worth of note in the package include BgInfo (great for servers), Desktops, and Diskmon.  MoveFile is also handy if you have a pesky file which won’t delete – you can tell it to delete at the next reboot and usually that does the trick.  There is also a windows version of “whois” which unix geeks are probably familiar with.  This lets you quickly see who owns an Internet domain name.  ZoomIt is a nice tool for augmenting presentations, letting you zoom in and draw annotations (you see this used a lot in Microsoft tutorial videos).

1912 eighth grade exam: Could you make it to high school in 1912?

According to the Christian Science Monitor, a circa 1912 eighth-grade exam was donated to a museum in Bullitt County, KY.  They have scanned it and it has been made into an on-line exam that you can take to see how well you would do.  Most people taking this exam average only 57% – it’s hard!!  Our present-day school exams seem very simple and easy in comparison.  IMHO we don’t ask much of kids these days (wouldn’t want to make them feel like losers, or bruise their fragile little self-entitled egos).

CLICK HERE to take the exam yourself!

Inane FAA/Airline rule to be removed – electronic devices

According to the Wall Street Journal: An FAA advisory committee has concluded passengers can safely use hand-held electronic devices, including those connected to onboard Wi-Fi systems, during all portions of flights on nearly all U.S. airliners, according to one of the group’s leaders.

Well, in my humble opinion, it’s about time!  There has been testing, of course, but nobody ever proved that electronic devices can or do cause interference with Jetliner avionics systems.  For years, the quaking “ohhh, you MUST turn off all electronic devices” has been heard, and for no good reason other than paranoia.  I’m very glad that Amazon helped push through some proper analysis on this.  Hopefully, this inane rule will be off the books by the end of the year.

Airlines are also working on providing WiFi access during all flight phases, including below 10,000 feet.  That’ll be fun too!

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.

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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

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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.