Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Slack, Netflix, Pinterest crash and you can't blame the leap second

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Amazon Web Services (AWS), which provides the backbone Netflix, Slack, Pinterest and thousands of other websites and services, appeared to suffer widespread outage Tuesday.

Slack, Asana, Netflix, Pinterest, and many other apps and websites that rely on AWS were suddenly unresponsive Tuesday evening. Newly-launched Beats 1 radio was also reportedly down more than 40 minutes

The status dashboard for AWS, which reports service disruptions, was among the sites that were unavailable during the disruption. Amazon later acknowledged the "connectivity issues," citing an "external Internet provider," on its status dashboard but said AWS services are "not affected." Read more...

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This is Why the Titan Rocket's Launch with a "Bwoop!"

The Saturn V launches are the probably the most iconic launches of the Apollo era, a 363-foot rocket riding on a pillar of flames. But the Gemini launches were, in many ways, far more beautiful. The sleek Titan II missile launched the streamlined spacecraft into orbit on a clear flame. It also made a “bwooping” sound at the moment just before liftoff, a uniquely strange sound.

Shepard's Freedom 7 Launch

NASA

The US Army’s Redstone rockets that launched Al Shepard and Gus Grissom on the first two suborbital Mercury missions were distant descendants of the Nazi V-2 rocket. As such, it shared a number of similarities with the former offensive weapon, including its use of kerosene (RP-1) as the fuel and liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.

Beginning with John Glenn’s 1962 flight, NASA switched to the Atlas missile as the launch vehicle. These US Air Force-built rockets used the V-2 as a jumping off point but were marked by some signification changes including a thinner skin that demanded the whole structure be pressurized with nitrogen to keep from collapsing under its own weight.

Because the Atlas had its fair share of problems in its early life (it had a 51 percent success rate when Glenn rode one into orbit), the Air Force started working on a backup missile called Titan. Built by the Martin Company, Titan I was the first incarnation that didn’t stray too far from the Atlas. It was a two-stage rocket powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen.

With Titan II came some changes.

Gemini 5's Titan II Launch

NASA

The Titan II debuted hypergolic propellants, a kind of fuel and oxidizer combination that ignites on contact. There’s no need for an ignition source to get hypergols burning. They are also storable substances. The liquid oxygen used in the Titan I had to be loaded in just before launch. The Titan II used Aerozine 50, a 1:1 mixture of hydrazine and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine as the field and dinitrogen tetroxide as the oxidizer. This was a significant benefit since the Titan II was designed to be stored and launched from an underground missile silo on a moment’s notice.

In the early 1960s, the Titan II was converted into a space launch vehicle by man-rating certain critical systems. This version also used Aerozine 50 as the fuel but made a slight change in oxidizer, opting instead for nitrogen tetroxide. It was this civilian version that launched twelve Gemini missions, ten of which were manned, between 1965 and 1966. And each launch had one feature that made the rocket stand apart from its predecessors: the Titan II made a distinctive “bwooping” sound the second before the rocket lifted off the ground. And the cause was something called a start cartridge.

When a rocket is sitting on the launch pad, the fuel and oxidizer tanks in its first stage, the stage that fires first to get it off the ground, sit on top of the rocket engine. In the case of the Titan II, the oxidizer feeding system used a single duct to connect the tank to the combustion chambers of the two engines while two outlets fed fuel into the combustion chamber at the same time. When they mixed, they ignited, generating thrust to get off the ground.

The Titan II Launching from a Missile Silo

USAF

The fuel and oxidizer didn’t flow into the combustion chamber on their own own. Both needed a little help from turbopumps; two of these drove the propellants to the combustion chambers at the right flow rates and pressures. But those turbopumps also needed a bit of a helping hand from a starter cartridge.

The start cartridge in the Titan II was powered by solid propellant. It produced hot gases that were directed under high pressure to an inlet nozzle, the force of which got the turbine spinning quickly. This turbine drove the fuel and oxidizer pumps that in turn delivered propellants into to the combustion chamber where they ignited on contact, sending the rocket off the Earth.It burned for just one second, but it was enough to get the fuel and oxidizer flowing. Once the rocket got flying, the exhaust gases were directed such that they drove the turbo pump assembly to keep the fuel and oxidizer flowing.

The use of a start cartridge wasn’t limited to rockets using hypergols. The Saturn V, which used kerosene and liquid oxygen, also used a start cartridge to get the fuel and oxidizer flowing into the combustion chamber of the first stage F-1 engines. But only in the Titan II did the start cartridge make a distinctive “bwooping” sound when the start cartridge fired.

Source: techbastard.com; Apollo Lunar Surface Journal; "Titan II: A History of a Cold War Missile Program" by David K. Stumpf.

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Is this the Aircraft of the Future?

French aviation research company Onera released an image this week of the group’s idea for a new, mid-size, mid-haul aircraft. The plane is designed to carry about 180 passengers about 3000 nautical miles (comparable to a 737-900 today) and 20% more fuel efficient than an A320. And it is unlike anything flying in commercial service today. The NOVA  – NextGen Onera Versatile Aircraft – concept is aimed for operation around 2030, assuming lots and lots of other things fall in to place.

The NextGen Onera Versatile Aircraft (NOVA) aircraft rendering

The design of the aircraft is different from modern commercial aircraft in just about every way possible. The fuselage cross-section is a ovoid rather than a circle and the nose is “raised” relative to the body. The wingtips point down rather than up and the engines – which are both heavier and more efficient than today’s models – are mounted at the tail rather than under the wings. And the engines are “semi-embedded” in the fuselage which allows for higher efficiency, though also plenty of challenges with the boundary layer air ingested alongside the aircraft.

The ultimate goal is a design which is more efficient to operate, even with the unconventional design and added weight. The angle of the nose, for example, adds lift to the plane overall. This comes at the expense of the view angle from the flight deck but the company says that was considered; it certainly doesn’t appear to be as bad as with Concorde. Many of these design decisions result in a plane which requires more internal structural supports and other weight-adding bits, but Onera believes the additional weight can be offset by aerodynamic and engine efficiency. The fuselage cross section would require additional supports which increase weight. The wingtips pointed down are less efficient, for example, but also exert less stress at the fuselage join point. This would reduce weight rather than increase it.

The aircraft would be a twin-aisle design, which adds to passenger comfort and helps with the aerodynamics. It also means things like the increased weight for the cross-sectional supports would not run as far front to back, helping keep the extra weight requirements lower.

All in all it is definitely a new and different design. The part where it seems the designers haven’t considered costs in their effort makes me think this is quite unlikely to ever fly. But it is quite interesting to look at and the specs put it around those needed to be a suitable replacement to the 757s which will be almost certainly retired by 2030.

The post Is this the Aircraft of the Future? appeared first on Wandering Aramean.

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Leaked Photos of Next-Generation 'iPhone 6s' Show Only Minor Internal Differences

The next-generation iPhone, often referred to as the "iPhone 6s," will likely retain the same exterior design as the iPhone 6, based on purported images of the device's rear shell obtained by 9to5Mac. The report claims the rear shell is identical to the iPhone 6 on the outside, including the same thickness and width, with only minor internal differences.

iPhone 6s 1
The leaked photos of the "iPhone 6s" reveal that the Lightning connector, speakers, microphones, headphone jack, volume rocker, mute button, sleep/wake button, SIM card slot, antenna lines and cutout for the rear-facing camera and LED flash are all identical to the iPhone 6, which is unsurprising given that "S" model iPhones have historically looked almost identical to the iPhone released one year prior.

iPhone 6s 2
While the exterior design on the "iPhone 6s" looks unchanged, the rear shell has a notably different internal mounting structure that suggests a new logic board and other components are incoming. In particular, the next-generation iPhone is rumored to include an A9 processor with 2GB of RAM, Force Touch, 7000 Series aluminum and improved 12-megapixel camera, among other changes.


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What Was the Huge Flash of Light Over the Southeast U.S. Last Night?

Something lit up the sky over a whole swath of the lower Eastern states last night, catching eyes all the way from Florida up through West Virginia. So what are we looking at here? A meteor, perhaps, or a fireball? Nope, it’s actually something a lot stranger.

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Honda took a crazy electric CR-Z to Pikes Peak — and won

The normal CR-Z, a small hybrid coupe, is an unassuming car by almost any definition. (It's fallen a little flat in that regard, considering it's a spiritual successor to both the CR-X and the groundbreaking first-generation Insight.) But then, out of nowhere, Honda goes and swaps out the drivetrain for a high-strung all-electric situation with all-wheel drive and steering. Now you're talking.

The jacked-up CR-Z that Honda threw together competed at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb last weekend, placing first in the Exhibition class with a time of 10:23.829. (For comparison, the fastest time for the entire event was turned in by drifting star Rhys Millen, who won in an all-electric prototype — another Pikes Peak first — with a time of...

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VPNs may not protect your information as well as you think

VPNs (virtual private networks) are a popular choice for sidestepping censorship and geographic restrictions on services like Netflix with more than 20 percent of Europeans using them. However, researchers at the Queen Mary, University of London rece...
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Monday, June 29, 2015

We Wish This Luxury Airship Was Real

Luxury Airship Concept

Luxury Airship Concept

Mac Byers, via Internet Archive

Luxury airships are confined to the dust-bin of history--beautiful, slow-moving machines best remembered for a fiery crash. We are now more than ever in an age of airship revival. Google bought a pair of old Navy airship hangars. An abandoned army dirigible found a second life in the United Kingdom, attracting public funders this past May in the hope that it will work as a powerful cargo hauler. Modern airship designs promise powerful carrying ability and efficiency, but they could also promise us something rare and lost: unimaginable luxury, through tours among the clouds. Here’s one such vision for an airship as premium sky cruise vessel.

Check out the concept video below:

Video of Aether Cruise Experience HD

This concept was designer Mac Byers' final year project for a Transport Design BA at the University of Huddersfield. The craft appears to navigate by changing the angle of rotors mounted on the side, allowing for vertical takeoff and landing. Dining areas look out upon the Earth and sky below through giant windows, and the inside has the mixed feel of a modern office complex and an overpriced but discerning hotel bar. Large bedrooms feature their own sitting areas and the windows extend to right behind the pillows, so passengers can wake up from their falling dreams and find themselves face to face with clouds.

As an alternative to ocean-bound cruise liners, the airship could offer radically different tourist locations, as well as the sheer joy of just living among the clouds. Alas, it appears the design may be as wispy and insubstantial as the fog itself. Byers' design first made the rounds around the Internet in 2013, and his personal site is no more. Archives of it exist in the Wayback Machine, where the dream of luxury airships are nestled safely in a different sort of cloud.

HT [Boats that fly]

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The Delta 747 Attacked by Hail

What happens when you fly a 747 through a hail storm at 500 miles/hour? Very, very bad things. Check out these photos of a Delta 747 on the ground in Korea after just such an experience.

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

Okay, so the radome on the nose is beaten up pretty badly. But it is mostly designed to do that. The wings, on the other hand, are not really supposed to be abused like this.

Instagram Photo

The flight was DL159 on 16 June 2015 from Detroit to Seoul. The aircraft (N664US) has not flown since then and it is rumored it will be scrapped in Seoul rather than repaired to fly out. Delta had already retired a few 744s to the desert and one was recently pulled out of retirement to help get the fleet back to normal.

Also, Yikes!

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