March 09, 2011

Yet Even Still More F1 News 'n' Notes

We're now two days into the final preseason test at Barcalounger, Spain, and we've got some information coming out. 

First off, HRT has finally named the driver for the second seat.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Vitantonio Liuzzi completes the field for the 2011 season, teaming up with Narain Kittylitter.  Of course last season he drove for Force India so this is certainly a step down for Liuzzi, but then again, he's still driving in F1.  That's gotta count for something, right?

Next, we're going to stick with HRT as they've announced that they'll be debuting their new chassis on Friday.  Prior to this, they've been running last year's car to get tire data on the new Pirellis.  You may remember that they were the last team to bring out their car for the 2010 season as well.  Last year's hold-up was financial, and it's likely that money is the problem this time around as well.  I'm beginning to wonder if they'll even finish the season at this rate... but then, I said the same thing last year.

Good news from Japan, as Suzuka was confirmed for the 2012 season, ending speculation as to whether it would be dropped from the calendar after the track's current deal expired this year.  While the Great Suzuka Boat Races would be missed, I think the track would be missed even more if it was gone.  It's probably my third-favorite course on the calendar, behind Spa-Francopants and Silverstone, and Japan has a rich history in F1.  I'm glad it's sticking around, is what I'm saying.

Of course, one can't really judge anything from pre-season testing, but evidence is building that Red Bull is still the fastest car out there, followed by Ferrari.  After that, things get muddled, but one thing that's becoming clear is that both Mercedes and McLaren are in serious trouble, at least as the first race of the year goes.  Mercedes has been trending almost a second per lap slower than the leaders, while McLaren has had problems with both pace and reliability.  After today's test session ended, Lewis Hamilton was interviewed by reporters. "Do I believe I have a car to win the world championship at the moment? I don't. No," said Hamilton.  "But that doesn't mean it won't become a world championship-winning car."  Where everybody else were turning in 100-lap runs, McLaren had two major malfunctions that limited Hamilton to just over 50 laps today.  Teammate Jenson Button was equally pessimistic.  "I will be surprised if we can match the Red Bull or Ferrari when we get to Melbourne, that’s a big ask considering the mileage we’ve had compared to them and the pace from the last test. It’s going to be tricky but never say never.

Finally, in an e-mail to Ph.Duck regarding the upcoming Grand Prix of India, I mentioned that I'd seen a line drawing of the circuit's layout.  It looked pretty decent, but I had no idea if there were to be any elevation change involved.  Ph.Duck, who is going to India for two weeks on Friday, then went searching the interwebs for more information on the new JayPee circuit.  What he found was much, much better than a simple map.

Sure it's a promotional piece, and therefore open to speculation as to just how much of it is truth and how much fiction, but it at least seems promising.  Gotta love the elephants.

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March 07, 2011

Rock / Robot (ducks) Rock / Rock / Robot (ducks) Rock

The great reveal of the secret from a few days ago.  When I saw these, I knew they had to join The Flock.  Some things are too good not to own.  Even better, I hear tell that they're going to be appearing over at Quacked Panes sometime in the near future, too!

Oh, the title of this post?

Only Daft Punk could make a song with only two words sound so darn cool...

And yes, that is my dead video card glowing ominously in the background...

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March 06, 2011

Rio Rainbow Gate! ep09

I'll admit to a general reluctance to recap this episode of Rio Rainbow Gate!.  Let's face it, there's pretty much no way to describe the series as good, and after last week I feared what the production team would bring us.  Our heroine defeated by the forces of evil, her Gates gone, and only two remaining that aren't in the clutches of Cartia?  What idiot would bring themselves anywhere within range of Rio?  Even this production staff couldn't come up with a way to pull that one off.  So what could RRG! bring us this week that would be exciting?  Go ahead, try and figure something out, I'll wait. 


Yeah, exactly.  Which explains my reluctance to watch this episode.  It appears even the production staff had problems with it as well, as RRG! ep09 had some technical difficulties that delayed it a day.  Still, I've come this far, I can't exactly quit now.  Y'all can thank me later.

It is a week after the events of last episode.  Rio lost her not-so-epic battle against her turncoat half-sister Rina, losing her Gates in the process.  It also appears that one of the stipulations from an earlier Gate battle were still in effect, so The Owner has lost his Casino Island to the grasping claws of the evil Cartia.  She let him keep Sky Resort, but he's lost his mooring rights to the Island.  No mooring, no resupply, no guests, no business, no money.  Well, at least he managed to set the thing down in the ocean, where it floats quite nicely.  Evil Cartia has also fired everybody who used to work for The Owner.  Oddly, nobody blames Rio for this turn of events, but The Owner.  To be fair, it was pretty stupid to agree to such stakes.  But then, this IS RRG!.  You've gotta expect such things.  When the Usual Suspects confronts him, he's strangely silent.  Another of those remarkable coincidences sends the clumsy Anya sprawling, and...

...his head comes off?  Seems he's been getting so much crepe from the Usual Suspects that he made Linda take his place.  But where is he?  And, if the Usual Suspects have lost their jobs, why are they still wearing their casino outfits?  Couldn't they afford off-duty clothing?  Heck, we know Ella and Illa have regular clothes, we saw them wearing such things back in ep01...

...I guess the production team had a budget to work with back then.  Well, RRG! is hardly the first show to blow their wardrobe budget on ep01, then have to struggle on for the rest of the run with nobody changing outfits.  It's only been recently that we've seen characters actually wearing different clothing every day, after all.  But I digress... where in the world is The Owner?

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March 04, 2011

The Littlest Aircraft Carriers

In the 100 years that navies have taken airplanes to sea, there have been some truly creative methods employed to get an organic aircraft capability onto ships.  Barges towed behind destroyers.  Launching platforms on the turrets of battleships.  Explosive catapults on the bows of merchant ships.  Submarines with floatplanes.  Merchantmen with a rudimentary flight deck laid over their cargo areas.  The list could go on forever, but none of them were really a success.

During the Allied invasion of Sicily, there was a need for artillery spotting airplanes.  The usual plane used, the L-4 Grasshopper (better known in civilian use as the famous Piper Cub), didn't have the range to actually fly to Sicily from Allied bases, and aircraft carriers decks were too valuable to ferry them there.  Having them transported in a knocked-down state was possible, but it was time-consuming to have to put them back together.  Knowing all this, a US Army pilot named Captain Brenton Devol, suggested a solution: put a flight deck on a LST.  And lo, was the tiniest aircraft carrier created.

LST-386 was fitted with a flight deck made of timber and pierced metal runway mats.  It measured 216 feet long by 12 feet wide, and it took just over 36 hours to build.  It could carry four Grasshoppers, plus its normal load of cargo and troops in her tank deck. 

Sign #14 that pilots are insane.
The conversion was so successful that five or six other LSTs were fitted with their own flight decks.  As time went on, the design was refined to allow nine Grasshoppers to be carried.  Four of them, shown above, were carried on minuscule ramps, while the other five were on a platform just ahead of the bridge.  The LST would go as fast as she could into the wind, usually winding up with a 20kt breeze to aid the L-4s into the air.  The lightweight plane would fairly skip into the sky with that amount of help.  Accidents were not unheard of, but all in all the LSTCV was a successful and useful design.

However, these LST conversions could not be considered true aircraft carriers.  There was no provision for recovering the L-4s after launch; the planes would have to land behind friendly lines after takeoff.  Considering the short-field capabilities of the Piper Cub, one could imagine a scenario where the LST would steam backwards while a white-knuckled pilot tried to land on the narrow pitching deck.  It could work, but it seems unlikely.

But out in the Pacific theatre, something different was invented... something that was allowed a LST to become a true aircraft carrier.  This something was called the Brodie Device.


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March 02, 2011


The alarm went off at its usual time this morning, and after dragging myself out of bed and doing the usual things one does after one wakes up, I pressed the power button on my computer (Chiyo-chan).  Settling into my computer chair, I watched "I'm booting up" stuff go by on the monitor... until the Windows splash screen popped up, and I saw this:

Well, crap.  That's a dead graphics card, sure as god made little green martians.  Obviously, I was going to have to remove that dying card (nearly five years old)... but while I installed the card in the first place, I've never removed a graphics card.  I didn't know what I was going to have to do... just yank it out and plug the monitor into the onboard graphics adapter?  Remove the drivers?  Boil water and tear bedsheets? 

Once I got to the Duck U Bookstore, a quick googlesearch turned up diddly.  The question may as well have never been asked before.  So I shot an e-mail to friend GreyDuck, a computer guy of some repute, asking for help (or as I put it, "HALP!!!"), and he responded with flying colors.  A phone call from The Boss's husband also steered me in the right direction... just pull the card out and cross your fingers.

One broken PCIx16 retention clip later, the card was out and I was running on glorious onboard graphics... and I discovered something I had forgotten.  Namely, onboard graphics are crepe on a stick, particularly when mated to a LCD monitor that doesn't run at one of the available resolutions.  I can only just barely run a anime mkv (12 frames a second, maybe?)... which means I need to get a new GPU as soon as I can.

But at least Chiyo-chan works again.  That's the main thing.  So thanks, GreyDuck and Boss's Husband!  Much appreciated, both of you!

UPDATE:  There's this thing that you can do with a computer called "restart."  Perhaps you've heard of it?  It shuts down the computer then gets it running again... including such things like your graphics card drivers that allow you to set the resolution to something that doesn't make your eyes bleed.  It also installs D3DX9, which allows you to actually watch things larger than 1mb in size.  Useful thing, that.  It also means that, unless I suddenly have this burning need to play Fallout 3, I can live without a GPU until I actually have a modicum of funds.  Pity I didn't think about this whole restart thing sooner, my eyes might not have fallen out.

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March 01, 2011

Even Still More F1 News 'n' Notes

We're heading into the fourth and final pre-season test session this weekend... and then the tension starts as we bite our nails (ducks have nails?) waiting for the first race of the year.  Until then though, there's a little bit of news floating around the 'net.

First up, Timo Glockenspiel probably won't be participating in this test session as he's currently in hospital.  The Virgin driver suffered a sudden attack of appendicitis and had that vestigial organ removed in a Swiss hospital yesterday.  He should be released on Wednesday, but to speed his recovery along, he'll likely be sitting out the four-day session.  Jerome D'Ambrosio will be doing all the laps for the team in Timo's absence.  Get well soon, Timo!

Next, it's sounding more and more like the Grand Prix of Bahrain just won't die this year.  Birdy Ecclestone has found a date for the race, and it won't conflict with any of the existing races... sounds great, right?  Well, not so much: it's during the F1 Circus' summer break, in August.  In Bahrain.  A hot country, in the hot season, on a hot surface.  IN THE FRICKIN' DESERT!  Never mind the cars overheating, I'm frightened that the drivers will die in the cockpit.  It's not like there's air conditioning in these cars...

On the news of that bombshell, work has begun in Austin, TX on the new USGP track there.  Earth has been moved for the past couple of weeks, according to the Austin Statesman newspaper/website, and is going on roughly 12 hours a day, six days a week.  More importantly, the promoters have been told to expect a June 2012 race date.  Pretty much what I expected; it only makes sense to have the US race either just before or just after the Canadian GP.  Yes, the teams want to be in the USA, but not enough to make two trips to North America in a season...

Finally, Jackie Stewart has never been one to keep his mouth shut when he thinks there's a problem, and a couple of days ago he said what a lot of us F1 fans have been yowling about for years.  "My belief is that the major reason for the lack of overtaking in modern grand prix racing is down to the modern tracks, nearly all of which have been designed by the same man, the German architect Hermann Tilke," said Stewart.  "Racetracks have changed since my day and thank God for that. Back then a driver who raced for five years had a two in three chance of being killed.  But we have now gone too far the other way. Circuits should not permit liberties to be abused without a penalty that can be instantly recognised by spectators or TV viewers. Safety is one thing; abuse of privilege is another.  Unless circuits are modified, spectators and television viewers might have to live with a lack of overtaking for some time."  Perhaps surprisingly, the chief pilot of Red Bull Airways, Mark Webber, agreed with Stewart.  He then went on to damn with faint praise by saying that Tilke's best track was the Sepang International Raceway in Malaysia... which is kind of like being the smallest miniature giant space hamster. 

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