June 29, 2010

"That's What Test Drivers Are For."


Well, it amused me to no end...

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June 27, 2010

F1 UPDATE!: European Grand Prix @ Valencia 2010

We've never seen a race where one event so completely dominated the results, but that's the only way to interpret what happened today.  But what happened?  And why was it so influential?  THIS is your F1 UPDATE! for the 2010 Grand Prix of Europe @ Valencia!

*MARK WEBBER AND THE TERRIBLE HORRIBLE NO GOOD VERY BAD DAY:  It's hard to imagine that any day in a F1 driver's work life could be considered bad, per se.  After all, they're F1 drivers.  Their job is to take one of the most technologically advanced race cars out on a track and go very fast with it... and get paid great honking stacks of money to do it.  It's dangerous, of course, but the cars are very safe and the drivers are very, very skilled.  What a F1 driver might call a "bad day at work" would be a day in the giggle factory for most of us.  "Oh dear, I had an awful day at work today, I only got my car to go 170mph instead of 180 and finished last in the grand prix.  May I eat some more caviar and champagne off the small of your back, Giselle, or would you prefer to peel me grapes and feed them to me?"  Terrible.

And yet, describing Mark Webber's day as "bad" isn't going far enough.  Starting from second on the grid, with his teammate just ahead of him, Webber looked to be in good shape for a high points-paying finish.  When the lights went out his start didn't seem too awful.  However, starting on the dirty side of the track, he wound up getting passed by cars that managed to slide onto the clean side before he could.  By the end of the first lap, he had dropped all the way to 9th.  His retreat ended at that point, but 8th place Sebastian Buemi proved remarkably tough to pass.  After seven laps of frustration, the crew on the pit wall changed his race strategy on the fly and brought him in for his mandatory tire change.  He returned to the race in 19th, but in the interesting position of having everybody in front of him still needing to make a stop.  All he needed to do was go quickly, not let the drivers ahead of him get too far afield, and when they made their stops, he'd leapfrog back up the standings.  His tires may not be as fresh as theirs, but a driver of his ability could work around that.  Two laps later, he had closed up on the Lotus of Heikki Kovaleinninninnie, and while it was a race for position, it was clear that the Finn had no chance of holding Webber behind for very long.  As they came down the back straight towards Turn 12, the Red Bull was in good position to pass under braking.

And then it all went terribly wrong.


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June 26, 2010

F1 Quals: Europe @ Valencia 2010

Red Bull and McLaren are the only teams to have claimed the top spot in qualifying this season, and in the first two practice sessions, neither showed much in the way of continuing that streak.  Will this be the first race this year where one of those two worthies aren't on pole?  Let's look at the provisional grid for Sunday's Grand Prix of Europe, Valencia style:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:38.324 1:38.015 1:37.587
2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:38.549 1:38.041 1:37.662
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.697 1:38.158 1:37.969
4 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:38.472 1:38.179 1:38.075
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:38.657 1:38.046 1:38.127
6 Robert Kubica Renault 1:38.132 1:38.062 1:38.137
7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:38.360 1:38.399 1:38.210
8 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:38.843 1:38.523 1:38.428
9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:38.449 1:38.326 1:38.428
10 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:39.004 1:38.552 1:38.523
11 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:39.096 1:38.586
12 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:38.752 1:38.627
13 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:39.021 1:38.851
14 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:38.969 1:38.884
15 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:38.994 1:39.234
16 Pete Rose
BK Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.003 1:39.264
17 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:39.128 1:39.458
18 Kamui Kobayashi BK Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.343

19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:40.658

20 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Cosworth 1:40.882

21 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:42.086

22 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:42.140

23 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:42.600

24 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:42.851

Nope.  Vettel came up off the mat and slugged his way to his first pole in a while, much to the annoyance of his teammate, Mark Webber.  There appears to have been a huge wedge driven between their relationship; they completely ignored each other in the time just after the session and during interviews.  It used to be that they would shake each other's hand, joke around, that sort of thing.  That could prove telling later in the season.

The surprise of the session has to be the performance of Williams.  They got both of their cars into Q3 for the first time this year, and last year's winner here, Rubens Barrichello, was outqualified by his substantially less experienced teammate.  Nice job, guys. 

For a while there, Robert Kubica looked as if he would be the one to punt the traditional to the curb.  Alas, it was not to be, as the oomph of the big teams came out late in Q3.  Still, for a minute there... ah well, so it goes.

Most amusing to me was the struggles of one Slappy Schumacher.  He only just managed to get out of Q1, and as can be seen above, didn't accomplish the task in Q2, finishing quite low in the session.  His teammate, Nico Rosberg, also failed to make it out of Q2, making one wonder if Mercedes has "lost the plot" all of a sudden.  One could argue that they never actually had the plot, but that's for another day. 

Force India hasn't lost the plot, but they have lost the spending war.  As the other big teams have made huge improvements (blown rear wings, moving their exhausts, etc etc etc), FI hasn't been able to spend the cash to do the same.  The result, of course, is that they're no longer likely to make it to Q3.  Darn shame, that.
And in the battle of the cripples, Lotus continues their dominance.  Please note that all the new teams would have made the race under next year's 107% rule, by a couple of seconds to boot.  So much for that.

Race tomorrow on Fox, meaning I won't be watching it until 11am Pond Central time... F1U! will be sometime thereafter.  See ya then!

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June 25, 2010

F1 Practice: Europe @ Valencia 2010

I dunno folks, I just dun.  Other than Felipe Massa bringing out a red flag by spinning and stalling, there just wasn't much to talk about during Friday's 2nd Practice at Valencia.  Oh, sure, there was a little incident right at the very end when Slappy Schumacher slowed down to crawling speed without looking in his mirrors, causing Lewis Hamilton to have to take immediate evasive action or end up perching his McLaren on top of the Mercedes, but even that ended up as a non-event.  Hamilton did the old "what the hell?" gesture with his right hand, Slappy apologized afterwards, and all is right with the world.

Except that HWMNBN ended up on the top of the timesheets.  Great for the promoters, good for the people of Valencia, annoying for everybody else.  Well, perhaps we'll have more interesting things to speak about after quals in the morning...

...otherwise it's gonna be a looooooong weekend, and not in a good way.

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June 23, 2010

Red Hot F1 Rules Changes!

Hold on to your seats, boys and girls, because it can't get more exciting than this!  The FIA has made some changes to both the Sporting and the Technical Regulations for the 2011 F1 season, and everything is going to be thrown into a cocked hat!

Okay, no, not really, but there's some important stuff in there.

First off, and least important of the bunch, the FIA World Council has granted Dutch-born Chinese-registered driver Ho-Pin Tung a provisional Super License, based on his career resume.  Now, I've seen Ho-Pin Tung race a few times and to be brutally honest, we may just have the second coming of Fast Yuji Ide here.  I can't imagine any team wanting to take a shot at him, but stranger things have happened before... like Yuji Ide.  Anyway, the granting of a Super License to someone who hasn't technically qualified for one isn't unheard of; you may remember I mentioned last season that that was probably how Slappy Schumacher would be allowed to take over Felipe Massa's seat.

In response to Lewis Hamilton's qualifying session at Canada, where he did Q3 on so little fuel that he had to push the car back to the pit lane, the rules now state that a car has to be driven back to the pits.  What happens if the car has a breakdown after quals?  Who knows?  The rules don't say.

The minimum chassis weight has been increased from 620kg to 640kg.  I haven't heard any reason for this, but I assume it has something to do with the jumbo-sized fuel bladder needed for a no-refueling race.  That's nothing but a guess though, so don't take it as gospel, fact, or even anything even slightly informed.

After Slappy Schumacher's little tete-a-tete with HWMNBN in the last corner at Monaco, where he passed under Safety Car conditions, the FIA decided to clarify the rules.  To whit, now it is explicitly verboten to do what Slappy did, as opposed to the way it was written previously which allowed for "differing interpretations" of the rules.

Now on to the big stuff.  We knew that Bridgestone was no longer going to be the tire provider for F1 next year, but nobody knew who'd be taking their place.  I personally was rooting for Hoosier Tires, if only because I'd love to hear some of the drivers try to pronounce "hoosier", but it was not to be.  Instead, the FIA went with the safe choice of Pirelli.  Don't get me wrong: calling them "safe" isn't a knock.  Pirelli has been making racing tires for decades and that experience has got to serve them in good stead.  Maybe the FIA got free copies of the Pirelli Calendar?

The FIA has also decided to do away with the "F-Duct" system for next year.  Eh, no big loss in my book, though it was a clever idea.  They've also brought around a whole new set of rules for "movable bodywork," meaning the adjustable front wings that we've had for a couple of seasons.  I'll let the FIA press release explain it:

From 2011, adjustable bodywork may be activated by the driver at any time prior to the start of the race and, for the sole purpose of improving overtaking opportunities during the race, after the driver has completed two laps. The driver may only activate the adjustable bodywork in the race when he has been notified via the control electronics that it is enabled. It will only be enabled if the driver is less than one second behind another at any of the pre-determined positions around each circuit. The system will be disabled the first time the driver uses the brakes after the system has been activated. The FIA may, after consulting all the competitors, adjust the time proximity in order to ensure the purpose of the adjustable bodywork is met.

Who the what now?

In plain english, after the second lap of the race a driver can use moving wingthingies when he's closing in on another car.  It can be used until the driver hits the brakes, at which point it's disabled until the FIA's electronic sensors reenable it.  Basically, it's another attempt to make passing easier... kinda like KERS, except this time it's only the trailing car that can use it.

Unless the leading car is also close behind another car of course, but we won't get into that right now.  My head hurts enough as it is.

Finally, in response to Ferrari president Luca di Montezemelo's incessant bitching about the backmarkers being a hazard to all the fast cars (which is his way of saying "my drivers can't figure out how to pass them"), the FIA has decided to reinstitute the fabled 107% Rule.  Now, many of my readers are looking puzzled right now, while some old hands at the F1 Circus (Pete, Flotsky) are probably high-fiving their cats.  Grab a cup of coffee and I'll explain.

Once upon a time, there were lots of teams trying to race in F1.  In fact, there were so many that invariably there weren't enough spaces on the grid for them.  So, the F1 nabobs created a "pre-qualifying" round where the teams would have to qualify to qualify.  To do so, a driver would have to set a time within 107% of the fastest lap.  In other words, if the fastest lap was turned in at 1 minute, 40 seconds (or 100 seconds), if you couldn't do at least a 1:47 you weren't even allowed to race.  This made it quite possible to have only one car in a team make the race, or (very rarely) have a star not be able to make it for one reason or another.  With much of the detritus cleared away, you'd then go off and qualify with whomever was left... and if there were more than 26 cars, the 27th and below were booted.

So now, even though we've got less than a full grid of 26 cars, if a HRT (say) can't get within 107% of the fastest lap in Q1, they won't be allowed to race... except for certain circumstances.  Y'see, the FIA reserves final judgement in this matter, so if they want to, they can allow a car in if it showed speed in one of the three practice sessions.  So stop annoying your cat. 

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June 22, 2010

Wolverine Followup

About a month ago, I wrote about the world's only freshwater paddlewheel carriers, the USS Wolverine and her sister ship the USS Sable.  A couple of days ago the Official First Friend of The Pond, Vaucaunson's Duck, sent me an e-mail, wondering if I'd seen the video?

Video?  Of the Wolverine?  Baby!  Turns out it was from a Pathé newsreel, which you can see here.  "Yankee ingenuity" indeed.  But that got me wondering... is there any more video of the Wolverine or the Sable out there that I didn't find the first time?

Turns out, the answer would be "yes!"

Avengers and Hellcats in that clip, a wave-off and a barrier crash, too.  The wave-off gives you a sense of just how small the two IX carriers really were; the Avenger looks like it won't fit on the deck, let alone land safely.

From that clip, I wandered around a bit, and found a link on another video to a blog devoted entirely to the paddlewheel carriers, aptly titled The Paddle Wheel Aircraft Carriers.  It hasn't been updated in about a year, but boy, do I wish I had found it when I was doing my earlier post.  Particularly because of this post which has a link to another video.

The internet... is there anything it can't do?

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June 21, 2010

F1 on TV: Europe 2010

Yes, that's right, we're coming up to the Grand Prix of Europe.  The title of the race was created as a way to get two Grands Prix into one country without confusing the two.  Perhaps not oddly, for quite some time the Grand Prix of Europe was in Germany... unsurprisingly, since the biggest star in the sport at the time was Slappy Schumacher.  The title moved across the continent to Spain after HWMNBN became the cock of the walk, which is where we find it now, in Valencia!  Let's look at the track map...

Back in 2008 when the layout was first used, we had such hopes for this circuit.  It was a new street circuit, and those always prove interesting, right?  Yes, well, not so much... it turned out to be another Hermann Tilke snoozefest.  Unless, of course, you count the death of a bird as excitement.  In 2009, we had such hopes for the circuit, what with the new aero rules and all.  Yes, well, not so much.  It turned out that the Tilke ooze had stuck, and we got nothing but red-hot pit stop action.

So we should be expecting more of the same for 2010, right?  Well, normally I'd say yes, but I have a little secret.  You see, Duck U Vice President of Operations "The Screwdriver" was in Valencia one week ago, and he went on a little souvenir hunt for yours truly.  He got to see the barriers being put in place around the "twisty bits" complex, which he found highly interesting, and his intent was to bring back a poster for me.  He didn't get it however, as it was raining the entire time and the poster would have turned to soggy paper.

So we know that it's not impossible that we could get rain, and as we sit here on Monday the F1 website says it'll be foggy at racetime.  Other weather-related websites are suggesting that it'll be clear and hot, but we'll go with F1's legendarily accurate (*snort*) weather forecasting for now.  Because that's about the only way we'll got a non-snoozer of a race in Valencia.

Oh, it's not a bad layout, all things considered.  It looks like it should be a winner, and visually it has its moments, like the bridge between Turns 9 and 10, but in reality?  It's a dog.  It's very wide for a street circuit, which should provide a lot of passing opportunities, but there just aren't many.  In some ways, it's very much like Canada's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, in that it's a high-speed layout (a high-speed street circuit?) with lots of very low-speed turns.  The difference, of course, is that Canada doesn't have a technical section, whereas the "twisty bits" in Valencia definitely qualifies. 

Bridgestone is sending the Supersoft and Medium compound tires along, just like Canada, and we all know how well that turned out.  A big difference, though, will be the surface of the track.  Where Canada was brand-new, Valencia has a well-used (though not by F1 cars), somewhat rough, asphalt.  Combined with the higher air temperatures, that should make it easier for the tires to come up to a useful grip level.  To counteract that, however, you get the oil and other crap dumped on the road by everyday traffic.  Call it a wash, at least to start the weekend.

TV coverage of that weekend begins with SPEED's live broadcast of Friday's Second Practice, from 7a to 840a.  Saturday brings us plausibly live coverage of Quals, from 7a to 830a.

Sunday, we'll see the 2010 Grand Prix of Europe from Valencia, Spain, on your local Fox affiliate, from 11a to 1p Central Pond time.  That's about 4 hours worth of tape delay... aren't we lucky?  To make matters better, Legendary Announce Team chief honcho, The Varsha, will not be participating in this weekend's activities, as he'll be anchoring SPEED's coverage of one of the Barrett-Jackson collector car auctions.

Of course, the F1U! team will be all over this race like a cheap suit... don't miss a syllable of it!

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June 19, 2010

A Bad Day In Duckford, One Year Later

One year ago today, a series of severe thunderstorms rolled through the Duckford area, knocking down trees and electrical power all over the city.  The third storm of the day dumped four inches of rain the space of about an hour, a deluge that caused flooding in low-lying areas (and some high-lying areas, too, come to think of it).

It also caused this:

In case you can't tell what's going on in that video, that's taken from a police cruiser's dashboard camera, and it's filming water flowing unimpeded underneath a set of railroad tracks that had had its roadbed washed away.  Twenty minutes after that video was shot, a Canadian National train pulling 110 cars, including 70 tanker cars full of ethanol, rolled over that crossing.  Eyewitnesses reported that the train was actually bouncing up and down as the track deflected under its weight.  12 cars derailed and exploded.

This accident, which occurred about a half-mile from Pond Central claimed the life of one motorist, injured a few others, and forced the evacuation of around 600 homes.  If Pond Central had been much closer to the accident site, I would have been evac'd, too.

One year later, the site of the accident is much improved.  The roadbed for the crossing has been strengthened, the pavement for the street replaced and relaid, and much of the terrain was replanted with grass.  The local fire department now trains with a few of the derailed cars, practicing for the next big fire and hoping it never comes.

But many of the trees near the derailment site still show signs of having being burned by the blaze.  And just off the tracks is a small cross, in memory of the woman who was killed in the incident, Zolia Tellez.  I drive by the site once or twice a day, and imagine what it must have been like... and count myself lucky that I wasn't there when it happened.  I could have been, and on a normal Friday I would have missed the incident by only an hour or so.

The NTSB is still investigating the accident, and their report isn't expected for another six months or so.  A rash of train crashes, including one bad one in Washington DC a few days after the one here in Duckford, has 10 NTSB train specialists working 16 cases.  The EPA has found traces of ethanol byproducts in the local drinking water, but far below any amounts that they declare to be dangerous.  The massive fish die-off that occurred a month or so after the accident in a nearby river is still completely unexplained.  And every now and again, a train comes through on the new rails.

One year later.

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June 18, 2010

That One Game

Civ 5 is scheduled to come out in the Fall, and any self-respecting strategy gamer has already written off any productivity they may have had.  The release of new screenshots for the game has done nothing to alleviate that.

Oh, baby...
Any of us who have spent too much time playing for "just one more turn", no matter if it was Civ, MOO, SimCity, whatever, have That One Game.  That One Game is the one where everything that happened led to an amazing climax... maybe it was a tense struggle against overwhelming odds, or an incredible occurrence.  Maybe it was just a well-played blowout, who knows?  But oh, it was memorable... it became That One Game.

Mine was in Civ 3, a huge map and continents.  I was playing the English, started on what I wound up calling Australia: big island, green at the coasts but arid desert in the center... and practically no resources to speak of.  After a while I learned sailing and found, just off to the west, a very big continent filled with all the luxuries and resources a civ could need.  I also found the remains of another civ... three razed cities in the worst starting locations I've ever seen (after the game ended, I discovered it was the French.  Ces't la Guerre.).  Other than the home of the French, though, what I saw looked ripe for the picking... until I found what killed Napoleon.  The Zulus... and they weren't happy I was there, declaring war on me and quickly overwhelming the exploring archer I had sent over.  I put them out of my mind, as I had a tech lead on them, and vowed to revisit Africa soon.

Some long while later, I packed up two musketmen, a settler and a worker and sent them off to found a home base on Africa.  Once I got there, though, I found that the Zulus had expanded, taking most of the good territory.  So instead of colonization, I decided to make life hell for Shaka.  I dumped the musketmen and worker off on what appeared to be the only road between northern and southern Africa, fortified one of them, and had the worker build a fortress.  The other musketman began tearing up the any roads I could find around the fortress.  Within a few turns, Shaka had had enough... and the Impi began to move.  I brought the raider back to the fortress and waited.  And waited.  Eventually, I got a cannon over to the fortress as well.

Just in time, as it turned out.  Not one, but two Stacks of Doom converged on my little fortress, one from the north, one from the west... each of them composed of nothing but Impi.  Wincing, I immediately gave the fortress the name "Rorke's Drift" and crossed my fingers.  By the end of the first SOD's defeat, one of my musketmen had been promoted from "regular" to "veteran," and the other was about to.  Both were damaged, however, and the second stack was even larger than the first.

They held the line.  One of them died, and the other had one hit point left, but they held the line.  From there, the conquest of Africa was easy... almost everything Shaka had, he had thrown at Rorke's Drift, and most of them had died (some retreated). 

I left that one musketman and the cannon stationed at Rorke's Drift for the rest of the game, even after I could have promoted them to other, better things.  They remained untouched, even through the later nuclear war against the Germans.  At the end of the little fracas that they started, the three cities closest to Rorke's Drift had been turned to radioactive rubbish, along with a few others on my side, but any German city over the size of 5 took an missile. But there they stayed.

And when the spaceship to Alpha Centauri finally arrived at its destination, I knew I had just finished playing That One Game.  From then on, I have never neglected building fortifications, and I have always had a lone outpost somewhere far away from the main action... in honor of the musketmen of Rorke's Drift.

So, what's YOUR "That One Game"?

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June 16, 2010

Tech Assistance Needed, Save Squishy!

Okay, here's the story.  As you may remember, my boss went on maternity leave about a year-and-a-half ago after giving birth to a ridiculously cute baby girl, whom I call "Squishy."  Squishy's mom is an inveterate record-keeper, and has diligently chronicled Squishy's life via the art of digital photography, amassing a huge amount of pictures in the process.

Last night, their main computer coughed up a hairball and died.  The husband of my boss has some skill with computers, so he ran some BIOS checks on the system and everything reported that the hard drive and grabbed its chest and died.  Of course, this hard drive is the one that has the gazillions of Squishy photos on it, photos that they cannot replace (they have some saved in other places, but just a mere fraction of the total).  Here's the thing: the HD gave no indication there was a problem, no weird sounds, nothing.  It just stopped functioning.  A two-hour call to tech support caused nothing but frustration, of course... frustration and a deep, deep desire to cause an immense amount of physical harm to the techie on the other end of the telephone.

When my boss came in to the Duck U Bookstore today, she told me of the situation.  A quick phone call to her husband convinced me that the HD wasn't actually dead (merely pining for the fjords).  I suggested that they take it out of the computer, put it into an external enclosure, hook it up to one of their other computers and see what happens.  If it doesn't show up, then they know that the offending drive is dead enough that they'd need to take it somewhere to recover the pictures.  If it did show up, then they know that the problem may not be the drive, but the computer itself... and they'd be able to copy the drive to the laptop.

I just got a call from them.  They did put it into an enclosure, and sure enough, it appeared... well, actually, two drives appeared, at which point I slapped my forehead: of course two drives appeared, it was the boot drive from the dead system!  What they were seeing was the C drive and the drive partition where the recovery stuff was kept... which is where the unexpected problem has reared its ugly head.

Y'see, when they look at what was the C drive, there's only a few folders visible, and they don't have anything in them... at least, that's what the laptop is reporting.  What I think is happening, and please correct me if you think I'm wrong, is that the drive isn't showing anything because the copy of Windows that's on it obviously isn't booting, and thus the file system on the drive isn't functional (I may have the technical details wrong, but that's the net result).  Further, the laptop is XP and the version of Windows on the drive is Vista, which probably causes problems too.

They're copying the drive to the laptop, and I've suggested that they go to their other desktop system (which they retired), rip out that hard drive, and plug the problem drive into it.  If everything goes well, the stars align, and a choir of angelic ducks quack out paeans to the heavens, it'll boot up.  At worst, they'll be in the same boat they're in now.

The tech question I have for you, the myriad readers of The Pond, is there some way to access the data from the problem drive if dropping it into a different computer system doesn't work?  If the data was replaceable, I'd just suggest they find Windows on it, delete it, and see if that turns it into a normally-read drive, but I'm just WAGging there, and the chance that it'll turn the drive into a brick seems not insignificant.  Can they pull the data off without the "boot Windows" running?

Another related question: is there some way to boot a laptop from an external hard drive that has Windows on it, sort of a half-arsed version of dual-booting?  If they can do that, then they can save the pics to a different external drive, or burn them to DVD, or something.

Let's brainstorm, my friends.  Hopefully they'll be monitoring this thread, if not tonight then tomorrow, so they'll be able to provide specific details (what folders are showing up, for example) that I don't have, but in the meantime, let me hear your best suggestions.

You wouldn't want to disappoint Squishy, would you?  How could you disappoint that face?

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June 15, 2010

Random F1 Picture

Yes, there's a car under there.


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June 13, 2010

F1 UPDATE!: Canada 2010 (UPDATED)

We here at F1U! would love to tell you exactly what occurred during today's race, we really would.  It seemed like an exciting one, full of strategy and tense calls by drivers and the guys on the pit wall.  Unfortunately, I'm honestly not sure we'll be able to.  You see, today's Grand Prix of Canada was on Fox and while they had SPEED's Legendary Announce Team providing commentary, it wasn't their normal coverage... but we're getting ahead of ourselves.  THIS is your F1U! for the Canadian Grand Prix!

*...AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSORS:  We think we counted eight commercial breaks during the actual race portion of today's broadcast.  As this was a remarkably quick contest (only around 90 minutes, give or take), we missed out on a substantial portion of the actual contest while we were watching ads for deodorant.  For example, the Lotus of Jarno Trulli retired at some point with flaming brake discs... literally.  We never saw it, as it occurred during a commercial break.  The relentless (and apparently inviolate) network schedule also saw us head to a break just as HWMNBN was trying to pass someone for position.  Appalling.  Just as appalling was the Legendary Announce Team's coverage on the day, though this is somewhat more understandable.  You see, one of the main reasons we love the L.A.T.'s race call on SPEED is that they automatically assume that the viewer has, at the very least, a grasp of the basics of Formula 1.  This allows them to work in more detailed and intelligent conversation on the nuances of the sport.  Unfortunately, when the races are on Fox, they must assume the complete opposite, that the people tuning in have little to no idea of what actually goes on during a F1 race.  As a result, they "dumb down" their call, having to spend time explaining, for example, why the T-camera on each car is a different color... or, for that matter, what a T-camera is!  They also spent time explaining why there's so much red in the grandstands, the rivalry between Ferrari and McLaren (and why it mattered to the sport), and most tellingly, the difference between a F1 car and your average NASCAR vehicle.  All of this makes perfect sense, as Fox is the home of NASCAR and most of the people who'd be watching are fans of that form of motor racing.  But when they have to spend five minutes explaining how the race is actually started, you know that it's going to be a long day for the knowledgeable fan.  As we here at F1U! use the comments of the L.A.T. to identify the key moments of each race, not having the smart banter around made this something of a frustrating day.

*TIRE RACE:  Which is a bloody shame, because if there was a race that needed the sort of in-depth, expert comments that the L.A.T. provides during their SPEED coverage, it was this one.  More than any other contest this season, the Grand Prix of Canada was a race of tire strategies.  During the Quals writeup we here at F1U! said that it looked like McLaren and Lewis Hamilton were going to be in trouble, since they were on the soft tires and the Red Bulls were on the hard.  As the softs were only very slightly quicker and much less durable than the hard rubber, we expected the Red Bull duo to hang with the McLaren until the faster tire fell apart, then jauntily head off into the sunset.  Except, it didn't happen that way.  Hamilton won, with his teammate Jenson Button right behind (for the second consecutive race, no less), and Ferrari's HWMNBN was third.  Neither Red Bull was ever really a contender, but we couldn't tell you why that any of those cars finished where they did.  Except for one thing: the tires today were crap.  It all came down to the tires, and because the L.A.T. had to explain to the viewers why there were so many people servicing the cars during a pit stop, they couldn't explain the nuances of what was actually occurring, both on track and on the pit wall.

*DRIVER OF THE RACE:  Lewis Hamilton was supposedly on the wrong tires, with a car slower than the Red Bull.  Yet, somehow, he made it work and won his second race in a row.  In fact, upon reflection, it wasn't even really a contest... you never got the feeling that he wasn't in control of the outcome at any time during the day.  What more can you ask for?

*TEAM OF THE RACE:  McLaren, surely.  Their second 1-2 finish in a row, they've moved to the tops of both Championships, and their cars were bullet-proof while Red Bull's Seb Vettel had "an issue" that was, it seems, nearly terminal.  Again.  Good job, boys.

*MOVE OF THE RACE:  Not to sound like a broken record, but this one goes to Lewis Hamilton.  On Lap 15, he was in third, trailing close behind leader Sebastian Buemi (yes, really) who had yet to make his first pitstop and Ferrari's HWMNBN.  Coming down the run into the Champion's Wall chicane, he got a tow behind the Ferrari and broke to the outside while HWMNBN moved inside to close that option off... which is what Hamilton wanted him to think he was going to do.  By faking the Ferrari out, he skipped from the tow of the Ferrari directly into the slipstream of the leading Toro Rosso.  As the McLaren began to ease ahead, we began to become concerned as it looked like he was going to just run the slower Toro Rosso over.  Just as Hamilton needed to decide whether to evade or go for the chicane, Buemi went straight on into the pit lane, opening the way for the McLaren driver to make the pass cleanly... a pass that, it turned out, was actually for the lead.  Very nicely done, but we can't help but wonder if he had gotten information from the team that Buemi was going to pit.

*MOOOOOOO-OOOVE OF THE RACE:  Usually we here at F1U! prefer to give this award for bad driving to one specific event; a driver being distracted by something shiny and wiping out half the field, for example, or a pit stop where the car drives off before everybody is done working and dragging the rear jackman halfway down the pitlane.  Today, however, we're going against our preferences and instead giving the award based on an entire body of work.  Slappy Schumacher, as the announcers are wont to tell us every time his car is on screen, has more wins than anybody else in F1 history (and his win total is more than the number of starts that 12 drivers in the field had... combined) and is a seven-time World Driving Champion.  While it's fair to wonder just how many of those victories would have been taken away from him if Ayrton Senna had survived that terrible weekend in Imola, there's no question that Slappy is on the short list of the greatest F1 drivers of all time.  None of that mitigates the performance he put in during today's Canadian Grand Prix.  He didn't just look slow out there on track, but dangerous as well.  He was involved in the usual Turn 1 hijinks, losing an endplate in the process.  He later bulldozed Robert Kubica off the road while "defending his position" at Turn 5, sending them both off on some agricultural racing.  Late in the race, he moved aside to allow the faster Felipe Massa pass him going into the final chicane, then dodged back into the racing line at the last moment, crunching the Ferrari's nose in the process.  It's poetic justice that he was passed on the last lap by the two Force Indias, dropping him out of the points, and with any luck he'll be penalized for dangerous driving in the post-race review.  None of this is new, of course; he was always aggressive-on-the-verge-of-dangerous, but when he was with Ferrari he could get away with it because he was Der Schumi.  Now?  Not so much.  It couldn't happen to a better guy.

UPDATE 641pm: Slappy wasn't even given a... er... slap on the wrist.  No penalties.  Felipe Massa, on the other hand, was given a 20sec penalty for speeding in the pit lane after Slappy broke his nose.  This didn't affect his final position, so it's pointless.  Robert Kubica was given a reprimand for his action involving Adrian Sutil (see below), and NKOTT got the same for causing an accident with Rubens Barrichello on the start.



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June 12, 2010

F1 Quals: Canada 2010


Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.889 1:15.528 1:15.105
2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:16.423 1:15.692 1:15.373
3 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:16.129 1:15.556 1:15.420
4 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:16.171 1:15.597 1:15.435
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.371 1:15.742 1:15.520
6 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:17.086 1:16.171 1:15.648
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:16.673 1:16.314 1:15.688
8 Robert Kubica Renault 1:16.370 1:15.682 1:15.715
9 Adrian F'n Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:16.495 1:16.295 1:15.881
10 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:16.350 1:16.001 1:16.071
11 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:16.880 1:16.434
12 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:16.770 1:16.438
13 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:16.598 1:16.492
14 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:16.569 1:16.844
15 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:17.356 1:16.928
16 NKOTT STR-Ferrari 1:17.027 1:17.029
17 Pete Rose
BK Sauber-Ferrari 1:17.611 1:17.384
18 Kamui Kobayashi BK Sauber-Ferrari 1:18.019

19 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus-Cosworth 1:18.237

20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:18.698

21 Timo Glockenspiel Virgin-Cosworth 1:18.941

22 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:19.484

23 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:19.675

24 Cowboy Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:27.757

For the first time this season, a Red Bull is not on pole.  It took a last-gasp lap from Lewis Hamilton to kick them out of the first spot on the grid, done on the super-soft tires and with so little fuel on board that Lewis had to literally push the car back to the pits, but they did it.

But then, this is Formula 1 so there just had to be speculation that Hamilton would be penalized for running out of fuel.  Since he did not return to the pits within X amount of time, he was in violation of Article 15.1 in the Sporting Regulations.  In theory, he could have had his fastest time ruled invalid.  Instead, he was reprimanded and given a $10000 fine; chump change in F1 terms.

However, this won't be a McLaren walk in the park.  Both Webber and Vettel are on the "hard" compound (actually the medium rubber), which is the tire that the teams universally prefer this weekend.  The softs are a smidge faster, but are dying off after about six or seven laps while the hards are more durable.  Bridgestone is saying that the teams will pretty much have to stop twice for tires this race, that there's no way a car can stretch the tires to last the whole distance.  Of course, there's rain forecast so that might throw everything into a cocked hat, but at the moment I'd have to lean towards the Red Bulls.

A laugh and a shot to the ribs to Slappy Schumacher who couldn't do better than 13th and just as easily could have been a lot farther down than that.  It might not get much better from now on as it sounds like Mercedes has run out of cash for developing the 2010 car.  In F1, if you're standing still, you're falling behind.  Wave bye-bye to Slappy for this year, kids.

A special "yahoo!" goes to the Force India team.  Both cars in the top 10, which might be the first time they've done that (I'm not sure about Spa, last year).  Certainly it's the first time this year!  I knew they were fast.

But today goes to McLaren and Hamilton!  Nicely done, lads.

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June 11, 2010

F1 Practice: Canada 2010

It's no secret that Friday practice sessions aren't really very exciting.  I watch them mostly to get myself refamiliarized with the layout of the circuit and how the cameras are placed, so I'll know where we are at any time during the broadcast ("Ah, there's that Allianz sign with the small tear, this is Turn 5").  But, by the Holy Shifter of St Fangio the Quick, was this a bloody dull practice!  Seb Vettel had the fastest lap, followed by HWMNBN and Nico Rosberg, but McLaren's duo of Hamilton and Button could only manage 9th and 11th, respectively.

The biggest news out of the session was the track itself.  Over the past two years, the organizers resurfaced the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with the result that it's incredibly slippery.  Lewis Hamilton went so far as to say that it was like being on an ice rink.  Of course, part of that is because the track is only used for a few race weekends a year.  The other part is that it's been raining all week in Montreal, and whatever rubber that's been laid down on the surface has been washed away.  The drivers are discovering that you have to allow three laps minimum to get the tires up to racing temperature when at some places, like Monza or Turkey, they're ready before your first lap is done.  The Legendary Announce Team's new voice from the pits, Will Buxton, said that he saw a Toro Rosso come in after five or six laps and the tires still looked brand new. 

Low heat equals low grip.  Low downforce settings on the car (Canada is second only to Monza in the low downforce category) also equals low grip.  Combined with a slippery surface, we saw a lot of cars wobbling all over the place.  And don't think it's going to get any better as the weekend goes on.  We're looking at rain both Saturday and Sunday.  Sweepers, man your brooms, there's gonna be a lot of carbon fiber scattered around the Ile Notre Dame after the race.

Finally, I wanted to show y'all what I was talking about when I mentioned that the cars came awfully close to the Wall of Champions.  How close?

About that close. 

For Montreal, that's a lot of run-off space, by the way.  Most of the circuit is lined with walls, much like Monaco.  There's about a foot of space between the edge of the track to the walls; if someone hits them, you get a ping-ponging effect that almost always guarantees a Safety Car.  In fact, this is the place the Safety Car was invented.

Quals tomorrow afternoon via tape delay, thanks to ARCA and Craftsman Truck Series races.  See you then!

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June 09, 2010

Commit To The Indian!

The Chicago Blackhawks have won Lord Stanley's Cup, for the first time in 49 years!

And they said Chicago teams can't win championships...

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June 07, 2010

F1 on TV: Canada 2010

Yep, that's right: F1 on TV.  You know what that means... it means we're in that four-race stretch where Formula 1 is shown on a major network, but tape-delayed.  Whee.  Except for this week as the F1 Circus has returned to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Ile Notre-Dame, a manmade island in the St Lawrence River, in Montreal.  And this will be an interesting study in F1 racing for more reasons than one.  "Why", you may ask, "is that?"  All will be revealed in due time, Sparky, but first!  It is time for... the track map!

Montreal is what I'd call a "classic track", meaning that it's not a Hermann Tilke "Adventure" circuit ("You are in a maze of little twisty passages, all alike"), and here's where it gets interesting.  You see, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was off the calendar in 2009, meaning that this'll be the first time the new-spec cars will have been here.  Last year, every race was an exciting voyage of discovery as to how the low downforce, slick tire-shod chassis ran on each track.  Of course, this year the teams have a years' worth of experience on most of the circuits, with two exceptions.  One exception is the new layout in South Korea, a Tilke circuit.  The other exception is Montreal.  Exciting!

This circuit is well known as being murder on brakes.  Turn 10 is the true killer here.  You see, F1 brakes are designed to run at ridiculously high temperatures: 1000ºC.  From Turns 1 thru 7, that's not a problem, the carbon brake discs stay right where they're supposed to.  But then comes the run from Turn 7 to the hairpin Turn 10, which is nearly as slow as Monaco's Loews Hairpin.  The catch is that, during that high-speed sprint, the brakes cool dramatically then, when the driver stomps on the "stop in a hurry" pedal, the heat builds up so rapidly that a thin layer of the carbon disc actually melts, or "glazes" the brakes, reducing the stopping efficiency, and of their ability to dissipate heat. That means you have to apply more force to the brakes to slow down, which increases heat buildup, which means more glazing.  Repeat 70 times.  This means that over the length of the race, the brakes get too hot.  This is the only circuit where I've seen a brake disc actually explosively shatter.  The run from Turn 2 to 6 has a similar effect, though reduced, as does the streak from 10 to the Turn 12/13 chicane.

If there's one spot on this circuit that people remember, it's that chicane.  Cars routinely come within a few inches of the outside wall as they come out of it, and the curbs are... um... aggressive.  If you catch too much of the curb on the inside of 12, you get thrown into that wall, which is lovingly emblazoned with the slogan Bienvenue au Québec. 

Because of all the drivers that have left their suspensions here, it's known as the "Wall of Champions." 

We'll find out who'll be the lucky driver to join the list beginning on Friday with LIVE coverage of Practice Session 2 on SPEED from 1pm to 240pm.  We'll get Quals on serious tape delay because of NASCAR stuff on Saturday from 330pm to 5pm, also on SPEED.

The race itself will be LIVE on Sunday from 11am to 1pm, but on your FOX affiliate.  Check your local listings for times in your area, as they do have to option to move it around.  Also, don't expect any pre-race coverage, and next to no post-race stuff either.  For that, keep it here for F1U!  There will be a replay on SPEED on Tuesday, from 11am to 1pm.  (All times Pond Central)

Luckily for all of us, the Legendary Announce Team will be providing their usual sterling analysis for the race.  Don't miss it, it'll be a blast!

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June 05, 2010


For the past few weeks, I've been realizing that I don't have much need to write.  The F1 Update!s are becoming a chore.  Nothing in this season of anime has grabbed me and said "hey, mention me, will ya?"  I couldn't even have a topic for this year's Battle of Midway Day, despite trying for days to come up with something.

Part of it is, I'm sure, just "one of those phases" all bloggers seem to go through (or at least "thinkers" go through; I'm not sure "linkers" even need to use their brains for their blogs).  Part of it is a nascent fear that I'm on the wrong side of Sturgeon's Law.

And part of it is frustration, a particular type of frustration that again every blogger goes through at one time or another.  It's the frustration of seeing a post (or a series of posts) that you've put relatively large amounts of time and effort into... is being ignored completely.  I'm thinking of my episodic series review of Ga-Rei Zero here, but it could apply to just about anything on The Pond (with a couple of exceptions).  Nearly 26000 words and lord knows how many screencaps over 12 posts, at four hours minimum per post, and there's only 30 comments between them... and at least 10 of those are my own. 

At times like those, I just want to chuck the whole darn thing.  In Steven's "Linkers and Thinkers" post, he mentions that he was once frustrated because he was only getting "100 to 150 views" a day.  In 2002.  I look at that now and laugh... and wish I had that many hits in a week.  I see posts over at Twenty Sided that have fewer than 20 comments and the droll message "Isn't that nice," or something to that effect... and I get annoyed, because that many comments would be a huge success here, and he's so blasé about it that he makes jokes about how few there are.

Wonderduck's Pond isn't one of the big hitters like Steven or Shamus, never will be, and I'm fine with that.  I didn't start writing here because I cared if people read it, but because I wanted to write.  But everybody with a comments section wants a little recognition for their efforts; me, you, the blogger who writes about plastic daffodils, everybody.  Maybe the stuff here isn't worth commenting on... again, the fear of being on the wrong side of Sturgeon's Law... or maybe nobody sees it, or maybe nobody gives a rat's asterisk about commenting anymore.  And The Pond's five-year anniversary is coming up...

So what should I do?  What would you do?

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June 03, 2010

June 3, 1942: The Battle Begins

Conventional wisdom says that the Battle of Midway began on June 4th, 1942.  Just as the conventional wisdom that says that the Japanese carriers were five minutes from launching a devastating attack on the US carriers is incorrect, this too is wrong.  The Battle of Midway actually began on June 3rd.  To be sure, all the dramatic parts of the fight occurred the following day, but the two opponents started throwing armament at each other on the third day of June.

Nine B-17s took off from the runways of Midway's Eastern Island around 1230pm on June 3rd.  After a flight of about three hours, they found the transports of the Imperial Japanese Navy's Midway Occupation Force, tasked to effect the actual invasion of the atoll, approximately 500 miles to the west.  The B-17s claimed multiple hits on the lumbering transports, though managed none whatsoever, despite a total absence of CAP and effective antiaircraft fire.

Meanwhile, a thousand miles or more to the northeast of Midway, two light carriers of the IJN (the Ryujo and the Junyo)  launched an attack on Dutch Harbor, Alaska.  12 Zero fighters, 10 Val dive bombers and 10 Kate torpedo bombers (operating in horizontal bombing mode) lifted off from the tiny flight decks in miserable weather.  This attack caused minor damage to oil storage tanks and the local radio station, while some bombs hit the barracks of Ft Mears, killing 25 soldiers.

The attack on the Aleutian Islands has often been called a diversionary assault, intended to draw out the American fleet from Pearl Harbor.  It turns out that that is not the case.  Both the attack on Midway and the attack on the Aleutians were supposed to begin on June 3rd, but the carrier fleet tasked for the Midway part of the attack were delayed by a day by refueling problems.

Late in the night of June 3rd, four PBY flying boats of Patrol Squadron 44 took off from the seaplane base at Midway, headed for the Occupation Force.  Early the next morning, one of them put a torpedo into the bows of the fleet oiler Akebono Maru.  Damage was relatively light, and the ship continued underway with little delay.  This was the only successful torpedo attack by the Americans for the entire battle.

The opening volleys of the most decisive naval victory in history had been fired; the next day would belong to the carriers.

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June 01, 2010

Uh-Huh. Exactly.

So.  Hi.

How are you?

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