Thursday, January 13, 2011

Virgin Has Announced They Still Hate Pencils

Today Virgin announced a partnership with the technology firm CSC to provide increased horsepower for their computer systems.  Virgin, as you may know, has gone in a 180° direction of Adrian Newey and Red Bull and resorted to designing every aspect of their car using CFD, or Computational Fluid Dynamics.

Adrian is famous for sitting at his drawing table with his drafting supplies and sketching out his ideas for F1 cars by hand.  Adrian is also famous for having taken Red Bull to win the Constructors Championship. So maybe he knows a thing or two.  Of course once he's got a fresh set of drawings, a team of skilled engineers put them all into computers and they eventually end up in wind tunnels and potentially on the car.  Sure all Red Bull's drawings end up in computers, but they didn't start out that way, and that's the point.

For Virgin, everything is designed using CFD on a computer and tested in a virtual wind tunnel.  The theory is that this will allow them faster turn around time from design to prototype to production.  There's no question that increasing the number of MIPS* you throw at a problem will speed things up, but it has to make you wonder: is throwing faster computing power at a bad idea going to make it better.  I still adhere to the old adage "garbage in, garbage out".

Last year Virgin finished last in the constructor's cup challenge.  I realize that they were a new team and it takes time to get things up and going.  Truth be told, none of the three new teams managed to score even one point.  But are faster computers what they need?  At this point, I'd say faster computers are simply going to get them bad answers more efficiently than their older systems.  Maybe there's something to the old drafting table and pencil approach.  Maybe there's an intangible benefit that can't be found staring at a monitor, rather one that lives solely on paper.  Perhaps it's the coupling of the free-flowing hand of an artist, an inspired mind, and a simple pencil that produces beautiful and effective machines.  I think I know which side of the fence Adrian would come down on. 

Some might think that the irony here is that I'm a computer geek speaking out against technology.  But that's not really accurate.  I love technology.  I love tools!  Ask my friends, I love tools.  There are few things so beautiful as using the right tool to get a job done, be it a screw driver, chop saw, or the latest IBM zEnterprise system.  It can be elegant, sublime even.  I'm just not convinced they are employing this tool in it's most appropriate manner, that's all.

I hope Virgin is more competitive this year than last.  However, I can't help but think this grasp for better computer systems is more akin to a bad golfer blaming his clubs.  "If I could just get that new driver from Callaway, then I could cure my slice."

*MIPS, Millions of Instructions Per Second (for all you non-geekly challenged people)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

...And On The 11th Year Of The New Millenium...

A half score and one year after HD began to pop up in broadcasting, the most technologically advanced motor sport in the world has announced that the 2011 season will be broadcast in HD.

and the crowd goes wild

Yes, this is really great news.  This shouldn't be.   This should be old news.   We should have seen F1 in HD back in 2005.  Even 2008 would have been OK.  

Yes, 42mbs is blu-ray level.  With all the action it probably should be that high.   The problem here is that they are broadcasting in MPEG2.   We used to refer to him as Bernie H.264.  Well, not anymore.

I know you're saying, "Fred, shut up!  It's HD.  Who cares?"

You care.

Believe me.  You're cable or satellite provider switched over to H.264 for one reason only.  Bandwidth.  They already compress the hell out of their streams and that's with the 50% savings H.264 gives them.  How good do you think that fat-ass MPEG 2 stream is going to look after they make it as small as their other HD channels.

How many providers are simply going to carry the SD feed like before?

How much is F1 going to charge for the rights to rebroadcast a blocky, pixilated, F1 stream.   Alonso's going to look like a Lego figure with two rectangular blocks over his eyes floating around on a larger red rectangle.

OK.  So it probably won't that bad and may actually look awesome.   I just can't help but be disappointed in the F1, the pinnacle of technology, decision to not use technology available since 2003.

I so want to be wrong about this.  Check out the story here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Amelia Island Concours Announces Something Surprisingly Affordable

From the snazzy people at Born Rich comes news about an event we like to call - "Someone you've never heard of is hosting an an annual event you never knew existed, on an island you've never been to but it's got Ferrari 250 GTOs and is surprisingly affordable!"

That pretty much sums it up.

Amelia Island Concours D'Elegance has been doing this for 14 years and at first look seems very highbrow.  They do use a small capital D and an apostrophe after all.  Their event prices range from $20.00 to $300.00 and I'd expect a first ever anniversary event, featuring the Ferrari 250 GTO to be priced toward the higher end.  Not so, my friends, with tickets starting at $45 this may be a great chance to see cars worth upwards of 30 million dollars.

There will, of course, be VIP tickets available that include parking, food, beverages, preferred viewing seating, with commemorative gifts and a signing event.   Peep the deets here.

If You Didn't Like These Guys Before...

You will now. 

I know this is a little old but I just came across it and if it doesn't bring a smile to your face, you need to get out more.

Jenson and Lewis presented with a challenge and you can see the kid start to emerge in them.

Change to HD. play fullscreen, and enjoy.

Odd F1

You guys know I love Alonso but this guy really needs a new publicist.

"Fernando Whiplash, at your service!"

Is it me or has he not just tied someone's daughter to the train tracks because they could not pay the deed on their farm?

Hiatus Shmiatus

Happy New Year dear readers.  I truly wish all 1.7 of you the best for this new year.   As you may have noticed things have been a bit quiet around here and I suspect that will likely be the case every year about this time.   Season ending, holidays happening, and so on.   Fear not, however.   Tim and I have some new ideas for this year to provide both of you readers even more entertainment.

In the hiatus between seasons we'll be turning more toward the geek side with discussions about tech, entertainment, gadgets and the like.

Stay tuned faithful readers, stay tuned.