Sunday, August 14, 2022

Fusion news: We have ignition.

Ladies and gentlemen; ignition has been achieved.

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) recorded the first case of ignition on August 8, 2021, the results of which have now been published in three peer-reviewed papers....

Ignition is a fusion reaction that produces enough energy to keep itself lit, according to the press release. This is not a self-sustaining reaction, where it keeps going as long as you keep adding fuel, but baby steps.

Bussard ramjets, baby! Dream big!

You can subscribe to a car now.

Yes friends, in the neverending parade of stupid ideas coming out of California, another new one stands out: electric car subscription.

In January a California startup named Autonomy began "stocking up on EVs from pretty much every company that makes them," reports Bloomberg (including Tesla, Ford, and Polestar). Their plan? Collect a $5,900 "start fee," then charge $490 to $690 a month for an electric vehicle subscription with up to 1,000 miles of driving (but with no maintenance or registration fees):

To me, $690 a month US sounds like a car payment on a Ford F-150. But these guys want to call it a "subscription" model. Presumably because it is a recurring, never-ending income stream.

That could be why auto executives are pushing to round up that sweet, sweet software revenue in smaller chunks. BMW, to much outcry, is selling an $18-a-month subscription for heated seats in the UK, and General Motors turned its OnStar voice navigation into a $1,500 "mandatory" subscription on every new Buick, GMC and Cadillac Escalade. Even without a la carte add-ons, one of the major forces propping up prices for used EVs is, ironically, their ability to update remotely — the same technology carmakers are using to nickel-and-dime drivers with subscription services.

I will tell you what. Being an ancient Boomer, having learned to drive on a Ford Pinto with a stick, most of the eeelectronic shit in cars these days is a pain in the ass.

I love digital engine control, that is a huge leap forward in technology. I'm a fan of the 10-speed electronic shift transmissions, those are great. ABS brakes, also great. But, and this is a big but, I still like my 5-speed stick-shift and basic tech old 2001 Dodge Ram 1500. It is an appropriate use of technology. Electronic engine control, ABS, both awesome. Stick shift, also awesome because I get to choose when it shifts. It doesn't decide when it is good and ready, which makes me crazy with automatics. There is a time during cornering when the power should come on, and they are always late. Always. Maybe I want to downshift as I slow for a corner or on a hill, that doesn't happen either. Maddening.

As to the rest of it, we've had power windows, heat and air conditioning in cars since the 1950s. It does not need to be electronically controlled by a CPU bigger than a 1990s mainframe on a CANBUS network as big as ARPANET. Seriously. If you want audio, stick an amplifier in there and plug in your cell-phone. You want a big screen, hang an I-Pad on the dash.

Maybe car-makes should stick to making CARS and leave the whole consumer-electronics universe to the people who do that. Outrageous notion I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Justice is served: the axe falls at DC Comics

Harley QuinnDoom Patrol, and Titans [and Batwoman] are all up next on the chopping block and cancellation is apparently imminent. They will join the never started Wonder Twins on the DCEU scrapheap.

That is not all. Another high profile show is also about to be made to walk the plank while it is still in development. Greg Berlanti's Green Lantern.

The show was in the process of casting with Jeremy Irvine locked as Alan Scott back in June. Alan Scott became one of the few DC superheroes to come out as gay in 2012, before it was fashionable.

The one-trick-pony has never been a crowd favorite, and now the dismal audience response to "yet another superhero is gay/trans/gay-trans-furry" is being seen as a real live problem, not a symptom of gay-o-phobia in America. Because they're going to go stony frigging broke, for sure.

Contrary to the article, coming out as gay became fashionable in the comics in 1992. Immediately crashing and burning with the audience also became the done thing immediately after. Northstar came out as gay in Alpha Flight #106. I remember that. I have a copy of Alpha Flight #106. The book lasted until #130 in 1994 when it was cancelled. I do not have a copy of that one. I had stopped buying comics by then. Because they were boring. So very boring. Oh, my ghod.

Fast forward to now, and the Woke has taken over Hollyweird completely, leaving guys like David Zaslav bailing water out of the sinking ship as hard and fast as they can. He's looking at projects like the Netflix series Teen Titans and he's seeing that nobody is watching it. Remember that Netflix just did the same thing, cut a ton of Woke projects. I can tell you why nobody is watching, because the writing is gawd-awful. Make you cringe awful.

They have really accurate audience numbers. They know how many people watch those shows, how old they are, male or female, what time of day, what parts people fast-forward past, how many episodes before they watch something else, they know -everything-. And they KNOW the audience, meaning us people out here, hate it. We hate it. We're quitting Netflix in our thousands because we're not fucking well going to pay for it.

The comic book companies know it too. They have very immediate feedback from their sales numbers. They know what moves and what doesn't. Spiderman by Stan Lee and Jim Shooter sells>300,000 copies per issue. Black Panther by Ta Nehisi Coates sells 3,000 copies per issue, and that was only because Marvel forced the distributors to take it if they wanted Spiderman.

But what are they selling? Black Panther. Mr. Coates has had not one but two (2) comic books cancelled out from under him. They hired him AGAIN to author another one which tanked like a Panzer on a frozen lake at spring breakup.

DC Comics: same shit different pile, and worse sales numbers. Even Superman has shit numbers. Because its stupid, and boring.
So long, sweetheart.

Comic book stores devote all their shelf space to POP figures and anime figurines, manga, and back-issues of formerly popular comics. The new comic books, the ones that used to be right at the front, are relegated to the back corner of the store. Two or three copies of popular titles, usually. The days of 200-copy stacks every Wednesday are over, baby.

It very much seems that David Zaslav as president of Warner is going to drop the axe and fire up the diesel logging machine for DC Comics division. Rumors are circulating that he's going to fire them all. Burn it down to the last snowflake and sell the IP.

Oh well. We did warn them. We've been warning them since 1992. Guess they'll have to learn to code.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Newest scary thing: Self-driving TRUCKS!

Yes, your concerns about self-driving cars crashing are now last week's news. The new sweetness? Self-driving 18 wheelers wiping out on the highway at 65mph.

On April 6, an autonomously driven truck fitted with technology by TuSimple TSP -9.59% Holdings Inc. suddenly veered left, cut across the I-10 highway in Tucson, Ariz., and slammed into a cement barricade. The accident, which regulators disclosed to the public in June after TuSimple filed a report on the incident, underscores concerns that the autonomous-trucking company is risking safety on public roads in a rush to deliver driverless trucks to market, according to independent analysts and more than a dozen of the company's former employees. A TuSimple spokesman said safety is a top priority for the company and that nobody was injured in the accident.

What's interesting here is that this truck crashed due to an unforced error that happened at highway speed. The details:

An internal TuSimple report on the mishap, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, said the semi-tractor truck abruptly veered left because a person in the cab hadn't properly rebooted the autonomous driving system before engaging it, causing it to execute an outdated command. The left-turn command was 2 1/2 minutes old—an eternity in autonomous driving—and should have been erased from the system but wasn't, the internal account said.

But researchers at Carnegie Mellon University said it was the autonomous-driving system that turned the wheel and that blaming the entire accident on human error is misleading. Common safeguards would have prevented the crash had they been in place, said the researchers, who have spent decades studying autonomous-driving systems.

For example, a safety driver—a person who sits in the truck to backstop the artificial intelligence—should never be able to engage a self-driving system that isn't properly functioning, they said. The truck also shouldn't respond to commands that are even a couple hundredths of a second old, they said. And the system should never permit an autonomously-driven truck to turn so sharply while traveling at 65 miles an hour.

Also mentioned is something that has bothered me about all the self-driving shit out there, shouldn't the robotic system instantly release the controls to the human driver? If it was me designing the thing, I'd have a -mechanical- system to make the computer control system stop functioning no matter what it is doing. You grab the wheel and the self-drive actuators are physically disengaged, like a standard transmission is disengaged by putting your foot on the clutch.

They don't have that. Like Tesla, everything is drive-by-wire. The computer decides if it will accept driver input, the driver doesn't decide shit. You can turn that wheel all you want, and if the computer doesn't like it, the car will not turn.

Because, according to the thinking of the engineers, the computer is the smart one. The driver is just some schmuck.

This is what the ancient Greeks called hubris. They had a whole goddess to take care of that, her name was Nemesis. She's juuuuust waiting for these guys to put a foot wrong. 

Update: Welcome Small Dead Animals! Thanks for the linkage Kate!