Monday, March 10, 2008

Posted with Mozilla Hypnoweasel

I don't install a lot of new software for my computer. I have happily run Office 97 on my last few computers, and still am. I recently upgraded to someone else's cast-off copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002. I usually ignore messages telling me to upgrade Adobe Acrobat or Flash. I grudgingly accept Windows security updates, dreading the day that one breaks something for my legacy software. But recently I decided to install a completely useless Firefox add-on. I don't know what came over me.

The add-on program is called Firesomething and all it does is change the displayed name of my web browser. That's it. A new name every time I open a browser window. It even reports that name to sites I visit, messing up everyone's user statistics, I suppose. For example, right now instead of saying Mozilla Firefox at the top of the window, my title bar reads Mozilla Spacegiraffe. It's customizable, so I can augment the list of high-performance prefixes and ensure my favourite amusing animals are in the suffix list. (I could redo it with names of animals in the first list and types of water bodies in the second, but I'd rather not go back to Weasel Inlet, even figuratively).

I love it. It makes me laugh every time I look at the title bar, and it's even a little bit useful because if I have multiple windows open I can remember that Penultimatecougar was weather and Seamoth was bus schedules.

I usually avoid blogging about my computer, because there are enough computer geek blogs out there, but I just had to report this. Why? Because the very first time I ran it, the program came up named Turbootter. And a Turbo Otter is a beautiful, hardworking airplane, AND was 4A in the crossword in En Route this month.

And in answer to the question someone asked in an old comment, without leaving an e-mail address, I asked an Airbus pilot and this is his answer: "Asymmetrical thrust for crosswind control in the air? It's certainly possible (there's nothing that would prevent it), but it wouldn't be a good idea." I don't use that technique, personally.

Also I'm in YZF this week. Anyone around?


James said...

YZF? Brrr. If you had a mac, your browser would be Mozilla Hypnowheel.

Blake said...

Sweeet... Now I know if you've visted my self because of your unique user agents. :)

Astroprof said...

Thanks for letting us know about this! I first ran the thing, and now I have Mozilla Suncrab. Cool. The Sun is a star, and the constellation Cancer is a crab. Quite astronomical. ;)

Blake said...

Err.. that was supposed to say "site"..

It's monday!

Tina said...

I have used differential thrust to compensate for a crosswind. I used to fly a Twin Comanche out of a reasonably short strip with a constant crosswind, and I always carried just a tiny bit of extra power on the upwind engine to compensate for it.

nec Timide said...

Blake, here I was thinking you were one of the ultra-wired uber-geeks who checked user agent creds at the door ;-)

Anonymous said...

Blogger Tina said... "I have used differential thrust to compensate for a crosswind."

What's the advantage? AT first glance it seems a little like steering an airplane with differential brakes when there's a perfectly good steerable nosewheel available.

What am I missing?

Yannick said...

If you want a story about assymetric thrust in an Airbus there is the DHL A300 hit by missile in Baghdad a few years ago (assume that's what may have prompted the conversation with the Airbus pilot in the first place ?)
The advantage was saving the life of the crew. Granted, quite an extreme situation !
A good report on the event :

Brad Jackson said...

Aviatrix: kudos on your very fine blog :-)

Tina, and others: use of asymmetric thrust to counter a crosswind component during takeoff has the advantage that it works like a counter-crosswind, helping to keep the aircraft not only parallel to the centerline, but over it too; with a stiff crosswind and no asymmetric thrust, crabwise drift (and tire scrubbing) will begin as soon as lift begins to develop and the tires' coefficients of friction reduce, while the engine thrust and resulting lateral yaw moment remain fairly constant and don't depend on firm contact with the runway.

There are some potential downsides, though.

First is the possibility of losing the upwind engine (presumed to be developing the most thrust) during takeoff, which will result in higher-than-usual yaw moments since not only is the remaining engine creating a lateral thrust moment, but the crosswind is 'helping' it. A takeoff using asymmetric thrust with a left crosswind is therefore especially risky (assuming non-counter-rotating engines, like the Twin Comanche that was referenced), since the yaw resulting from loss of the critical engine will be amplified by the weathervaning effect; loss of directional control might not be preventable, as the yaw would be of greater extent and faster than usual.

The second is that most light twins use 100% power for takeoff, so it's not actually a question of 'carrying a bit of extra power' on the downwind engine, it's really a question of using less power on the upwind engine while using 100% on the downwind engine. Results: truer tracking, yes -- but also a longer takeoff roll, increased yawing moment in EFATO scenario, reduced climb performance in any scenario.

I suppose it depends on your level of risk tolerance. I don't accept intersection departures, no matter what I'm flying, because I don't know how I'd explain landing 1000' from the airport after an engine failure, having given up a thousand feet of runway before I started the takeoff roll -- but there are plenty of people who find that risk acceptable. Asymmetric thrust for directional control may have advantages in certain unusual circumstances (missile strikes, for example), but for normal circumstances, it's not within my comfort zone. Just my $0.02...