My first flight gaming love was, like that of many youngsters, something very arcade-y. Namely: Rogue Squadron. Recently, I decided to return to my arcadey roots and pick up Ace Combat 7, the latest entry in a series that I had last played on the Playstation 2.
To repeat, this is an Arcade Flight Game (TM). Your plane carries over one hundred missiles, and you’ll have targets for all of them. If you’re expecting realism, go look up some DCS reviews.
Ace Combat 7 is set in the fun Namco-created world called “Strangereal” which was probably made by someone cutting an existing world map into pieces and then playing around with them. All the country names are fake and any resemblance to actual countries is
purely coincidental by design. So we don’t have to argue about how many planes some country really has. Oh, and everybody gets to mix types, because engaging a flight of Tu-160s escorted by Mirage 2000-5s is awesome. You also have a big tree of unlockable aircraft and parts to buy with points earned from missions. Those missions are graded, of course.
The missions themselves are a pretty solid grab bag of types, though the escort ones are a hot mess. Par for the course, really: escort missions are always made of suck. Missions where you have lots of targets to destroy are a good time, as expected. There are also a few missions where you have to work on your target identification. You won’t know whether a target is hostile or not until you get close enough for positive identification. Shades of Vietnam there. And of course, there are ‘boss fights’ with either giant enemies with lots of sub-components or fancy plot armor. Again, nothing too fancy or out of the ordinary.
Overall, Ace Combat 7 is an excellent entry in a field that doesn’t have a lot of recent games. If you like lobbing lots of missiles at things, give this one a try. It’s loads of fun.
Parvusimperator is on vacation this week, and I’m on vacation next week, so expect a lighter WWWR than usual.
The promised USPSA match video isn’t done yet. I only recorded three of the six stages, so I have some further prep work to do for the ones missing video.
- A 60mm mortar for infantry and special forces – Every squad a mortar squad. Parvusimperator had some fun working up 40mm grenadier loadouts last week, but he might have an article on that, so I won’t spoil it.
- Statistics on ATGM use in the Syrian war
- E-2D Hawkeye manages to clip a pair of Super Hornets during a bolter and hit two more with debris, and still divert elsewhere for a safe landing – Built Grumman tough.
- Russia’s aircraft industry in crisis – They haven’t been selling very much on either the civilian or military markets lately.
- Japan officially selects F-35B to operate from its helicopter-carrying destroyers – I thought it was already official, truth be told.
- America needs a Dead Hand – +1 for correct use of ‘comprises’ in the introductory paragraph, but -1 for reaching a bad conclusion. Nuclear apocalypse was avoided several times during the Cold War because individual people with control over the systems didn’t launch when the automated systems were telling them to. I kinda prefer it that way. If it comes down to it, I’d rather lose a nuclear war than destroy humanity.
- Russian Navy evolving before our very eyes – Headline picture: a 500-ton corvette, and say it with me now, armed better than an LCS.
- Germany backs out of 2% NATO promise – Now, where’s that Polandball comic…
- Hackers find tons of vulnerabilities in F-15 systems – Granted, they got physical access, which makes it easier. Still, I’d love to have their job. “What do you do?” “Oh, I break into fighter jet computers with the blessing of the US government.”
Science and Technology
- Amazon’s facial recognition technology can smell your fear – Or at least recognize it to a high degree of confidence in a picture of your face.
- The universal law that aims time’s arrow – Quanta Magazine story. Have your coffee first.
- Astronomers observe a pair-instability supernova – Super-massive stars explode with enough energy to make gamma rays which in turn make particle-antiparticle pairs which annihilate the entire star.
- Random space fun fact: if you packed them as tightly as possible, you could fit every star in the Milky Way inside the orbit of Neptune with room to spare.
- Deep reinforcement learning is not an AI panacea – You heard it here before you heard it at Wired, although I phrase it in terms of when self-driving cars in their final form will be a reality. (Refresher: at least a few decades and one major AI paradigm shift away.)
- Usable renewable energy means hydroelectric or nuclear – Right now, nuclear power costs as much as solar or wind… ignoring storage for solar/wind demand shifting. See also: heat waves in Texas with minimal wind causing power shortages exactly when you’d want more power.
- Homeostasis, parasites, and antidepressants – Of course it’s a Slate Star Codex article.
- Europa Clipper is a go – That’s the Wikipedia page on the mission, but it was approved this week and is now on the way into detailed design. The ‘clipper’ name comes from how it’ll orbit Jupiter, making Europa flybys, both to reduce its exposure to the near-Jupiter high-radiation bands, and to give it more time to transmit data back to Earth in between flybys.
- The beginning of the end for Nest – Convert your account to a Google account, and lose all your Nest home automation hub features! A friendly reminder from your Soapbox contributors: don’t buy any home automation thing you can’t self-host.
- Supply chain attacks on open-source projects continue – It’s hard to sneak a backdoor into a popular open-source project. It’s easy to slip a backdoor into a tiny, unnoticed dependency of many open-source projects.
Hong Kong Protests
Still just me, keeping the lights on. (Parvusimperator contributes stories here, too, of course.)
I’m trying something new and writing the post on Tuesday night rather than Wednesday morning. Less hurried. [Update from Tuesday night: actually, I wrote the post on Monday night because I got confused.]
In next week’s roundup, I should have another USPSA match video. As an added bonus, I should be running a few stages which I designed.
- An awesome paper on imaging infrared missile seekers and flare effectiveness against the same – By the power of simulation software, the paper’s author shows why flares aren’t super-useful against modern IR missiles—then gives one counterexample.
- US Army to deploy network authentication dongles – Tokens is the official word, but I prefer ‘dongle’ for hardware access control.
- Answers to questions posed to the Czech Army about its IFV requirements list – We posted the requirements list earlier this summer, along with a translation of the line items. This time, it’s pre-translated, and contains not merely requirements but justifications.
- In pictures: Inside USS Wasp‘s armories
- Here’s the new Big Army qualification for individual weapons – Easter egg: take a look at the sample soldier names on page 197.
- Iran jamming GPS – To nobody’s great surprise. Remember: your phone’s GPS antenna receives 500 times more power from the Andromeda Galaxy than it does from a GPS satellite. Jamming is not hard.
- USNI article argues for overhauling CVN-68 into an experimental carrier platform – Waste not, want not, I guess. The article is paywalled, but it’s an interesting idea.
- Touchscreen controls contributed to the McCain collision – Back to physical throttles it is. Also, the bridge diagram feels wrong, because sci-fi has trained me to expect the CO and XO to sit in the middle.
- The Pacific maritime democracies should cooperate on the Coast Guard front
- On the Naval War College’s homebrew wargame – Pretty much a review. The critique is that the game is not sufficiently rooted in the real world.
- In a rare well-argued article, Loren Thompson thinks threats to aircraft carriers are overblown
- Marines to further fatten squad – Three fireteams of four, plus a squad leader, assistant squad leader, and squad systems operator, for 15. Of course, the AAV can fit 21, so there’s still room for growth. Three six-man maneuver elements subdivided into two fireteams, plus the three-man command element, fits the bill perfectly, and the fighting elements also pack neatly into three Bradleys! (This is a bad idea.)
- Four ways to fix Royal Navy training – Notwithstanding that I wasn’t aware it was broken, the most interesting item is that doctrine should be short, because nobody reads long things.
- America should view China as a hostile, revolutionary power – Given the modern geopolitical stage, it’s a shame I caught the Russia bug rather than the China or Japan bug. I find the latter more and more fascinating as the years go by.
- Navy considering more advanced Burkes – That’s (more advanced) (Burkes), not (more) (advanced Burkes).
- Type 001A now undergoing sea trials
- It took the F-35 a long time to turn the corner, but this one left the factory in Fort Worth at 8 a.m., arrived at Hill AFB in Utah at 10 a.m., and went on a combat training mission at 3 p.m. – Impressive.
- The Turkish Defense Industry Product Catalogue – All of the headline items are vaporware, of course. Did you know Turkey has a 5th-generation fighter project? Neither did I!
- Marine JLTV hits IOC – I was about to ask why it was taking so long, but evidently, this is a year ahead of schedule.
- Big Army awards a laser weapon system contract
- That explosion in Russia? Nuclear thermal cruise missile
- Ars Technica story on the above
Science and Technology
- AMD’s latest server chip outperforms two Intel chips at the same price point – That is, one AMD processor is worth two Intel processors, and each Intel processor costs the same as the AMD chip.
- Used Cisco hardware is no longer a valuable commodity – It used to be that the license to use Cisco software followed the hardware. Now, licenses are tied to the original buyer. To make things worth, Cisco is updating its older hardware to follow the same model, so if you bought used Cisco stuff, it could just stop working.
- A history of Python
- Trust nothing – By means of deepfakes, Bill Hader turns into Tom Cruise and Seth Rogen as he does impersonations thereof.
- Have $3 million? You could buy this modest Silicon Valley family home, or… Tumblr – Buy the house. (I believe Tumblr last sold in 2013. At that time, it went for $1.1 billion. Bit of a write-down there.)
- Blue Origin’s protest of the USAF launch services contract process is now a formal protest – I mean, I think they’re pretty obviously right. The space launch industry five years from now is going to look nothing like the space launch industry today. Why would you ever lock yourself in for that much time?
- New York Times correction of the week – “An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the law that protects hate speech on the internet. The First Amendment, not Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, protects it.”
- This Pennsylvania homeowner is delighted to hear that PA lawmakers are considering eliminating the school property tax – Leaving aside the tremendous affront to property rights that property taxes represent, they also just don’t work very well in PA. In a jurisdiction with property taxes, rising property values are bad for older homeowners. So, at least in Allegheny County, we’re still using appraisals from 2010 or so. Under that regime, however, schools don’t benefit from rising property values, so to increase their revenues, school districts raise tax rates. If we were ever to re-appraise houses at their current values, there would be a tax rebellion. Better just to get rid of the property tax altogether.
- The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust will cease to be 20 years after the last of 11 semi-random people dies – Why? Because ETFs are structurally a little unusual. SPY is a unit investment trust, which has to have a termination date. I have no idea why it’s tied to people as opposed to a simple date, though.
- Hoover once ran a very poorly considered promotion: buy 100 quid of vacuum, get free transatlantic tickets – I am reminded of the Equifax settlement fund, which offered free credit monitoring for three years or $125 cash, and whose managers were shocked, simply shocked, that people were opting for the cash rather than the credit monitoring.
- Canadians annoyed at the though of Americans buying Canadian drugs… – … because Canada is in the middle of a drug shortage. Hmm. Government-dictated low prices and shortages? What an unusual combination that has never before happened in the annals of human history!
Hong Kong Protests
Book Review Review: Secular Cycles
SlateStarCodex reviewed Secular Cycles. Best quote: “I wish I could find commentary by other academics and historians on Secular Cycles, or on Turchin’s work more generally. I feel like somebody should either be angrily debunking this, or else throwing the authors a ticker-tape parade for having solved history.”
As is ever the case for SSC reviews, it goes into great depth and does some analysis of the key claim: that human history follows tide-like cycles. Calamity kills a lot of people, the survivors rebuild and grow rich, the rich society stagnates, stagnation leads to calamity. This seems reasonable to me. Certainly, it looks like it applies to Europe up until the postwar years. Belle Epoque, war then war again, recovery. (Or possibly continued inter-cycle stagnation?)
There’s some question over whether it applies today. A later book by the same author(s?) says yes, but I say you need some qualifiers. First, the calamity cycle only works for a society without outside inputs, as Mr. Alexander notes, and there are very few of those nowadays. None, if you’re asking about those of interest on the world stage. Second, the nation-state is no longer the unit of interest. We operate on the scale of civilizations now: the West and so forth. Third, the calamities aren’t as bad. The potential calamities are a lot worse, but the ones that actually happened are milder. The World Wars killed 15% of Germans, maybe. As a percentage of Europeans, the Black Plague killed a lot more. Fourth, we’re no longer operating in a Malthusian frame. We can skim along the top of the cycle for a lot longer before things fall apart, and they’re more likely to fall apart for ideological reasons than they are because of lack of food.
Anyway, SSC is going to review the author’s (s’?) next book, which makes the pro-cycle argument for the modern age. Maybe I’ll read both myself, rather than relying on someone else to read them for me.
Another Wednesday, another What We’re Reading post.
Come October or November, once the season for outdoor tasks and hobbies is closed, I’m going to run a wintertime Rule the Waves 2 AAR here, with some room for decision points guided by reader voting. I would start sooner, but I’m not optimistic about my ability to maintain a regular schedule for anything more than this post until I have less on my plate.
Hong Kong Protests
- Airbus and Boeing may pull out of the Canadian fighter competition – They say it’s rigged for the F-35. “Designation number must begin with a 3 and sum to 8.” More seriously, though, if you want to buy a stealthy fighter, the F-35 is pretty much your only option.
- F-35 gets ground collision avoidance software – I bet that’s going to make pilots mad, up until it saves a few lives.
- Aggressor squadron at Nellis gets some F-35s – For many years, we practiced beating up on minor power airplanes. Now it’s time to get back on the great power competition train.
- Continuing the F-35-heavy theme, one F-35B waits to land on USS Wasp while another readies for takeoff
- The Navy has an LCS attack strategy, which… – …I’ll let this meme do the talking for me.
- US minesweeper fleet tragically neglected – We’re hardly the only power to forget that mines exist, though. Everyone has fewer minesweepers than they should.
- Another $55.5 million for Boeing to fix KC-46 boom problems – Someone probably keeps leaving sandwiches inside.
- The last time we saw economic warfare on this scale was prior to WW2
- Kilos off the English coast? – Everything old is new again. Speaking of things called ‘Kilo’, is regular commenter Kilo Sierra out there? Haven’t seen him on Discord in a while.
- On resupplying Marine forward airfields with automated shipping – I think. I only skimmed the article.
- North Korea not, in fact, serious about disarming – I was hoping this latest Kim was softer than his forebears, but I guess not.
- Aerojet Rocketdyne still thinks it has a shot to supply engines for next-gen ICBMs – Given that it’s currently a Northrop-only competition, and Northrop owns a rocket engine company now, I’m not so sure.
- Deploy or Get Out works – The legacy of Mad Dog Mattis.
- We need way more drydocks – There are backlogs for ordinary maintenance. Battle damage is going to make it even worse. In the early 1900s, naval affairs writers in Britain complained that dreadnoughts didn’t fit existing drydocks, and good old Jackie Fisher rightly said that the infrastructure is for the ships, not vice versa. The British built more drydocks.
- We need a material condition standdown – CDR Salamander says we should slow down our tempo of operations until we can fix all of the rust currently gracing US Navy vessels.
- Russian ammo depot explodes – Prompting evacuations. Are they maybe not telling the whole story? Also, the video is pretty nifty. You can watch the shockwave pretty much all the way from the explosion to the camera.
- A real-time reactive IED jamming backpack – Modern EW is pretty wild.
Science and Technology
- Stupid ways to implement malloc and free in C++ – Some of which, toward the bottom of the post, get into the territory bounded by the saying, “If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.”
- This Medium post covers some of the same ground – As it turns out, custom memory allocators which reserve a large block of memory up front, getting all the system call overhead out of the way, then parcel it out within the confines of the program in which they run are not uncommon in the game development space, where efficiency is king.
- Happy Friendly Dystopia Watch: Ring Doorbells edition – Ring (a fully-owned subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc.) coaches cops on how to ask homeowners with Ring doorbells to voluntarily hand over surveillance footage.
- Serious flaw in KDE’s file explorer – View a directory containing a .desktop file and you’re hosed.
- What does it take to get a Twitter ban? – Direct calls to violence targeting specific people? That’s apparently within Twitter’s rules, as long as you’re targeting conservatives. Call reporter/snowflake Jim Acosta an asshole, however, and that’s a 24-hour ban.
- Secret Service adopts Glock 19 Gen5 – A bit downmarket for the Secret Service, you say? I agreed. Parvusimperator says it makes sense, though: “On USSS (or any other agency) piggybacking on a contract, remember that: If they wanted to do something else, they’d have to hold an RFP, accept bids, conduct testing & evaluation, etc. It would cost millions of dollars. If there’s a preexisting procurement program/contract that they can piggyback on (such as the ICE, CBP, or FBI contracts), then they can just pick it and go.”
- The history of mass murder in the US – Not as gun-heavy as the media would have you believe. It’s more prevalent now, though, because today’s mass murderers are constructing warrior myths in their heads, and plowing a truck into a crowd or burning down an animation studio don’t fit the stories they tell themselves.
- Analyzing NYC’s brief in NYSRPA v. City of New York – The Truth About Guns is, granted, a source likely to find that the case is looking rosy for the natural-rights side, but NYC, having changed the law following a writ of certiorari, is not on particularly solid ground here. If a child steals a toy from his brother, then guiltily gives it back when his mother notices, he’s still going to get in trouble.
- The Moka pot is brilliant – The Moka pot, a stovetop steam pressure coffee maker, does indeed make a brilliant cuppa. It’s my coffee maker of choice for backpacking, given that a three-cup model is compact and lightweight. Bialetti, the inventor and main manufacturer of such pots, is in financial trouble, though, so you might want to get one while you can. I’ve owned a few knockoffs over the years, none of which are as good as the genuine article.
- The Kure Maritime Museum has the most impressive entrance of any I’ve seen – The Central Naval Museum in St. Petersburg remains the most impressive I’ve personally been to.
- The slow death of Hollywood, and the rise of streaming providers – With a bonus note on why Netflix cancels shows early: the best Netflix subscriber from the perspective of Netflix’s financials is one who doesn’t watch anything. So, it’s in their best interests to make a bunch of interesting television, then cancel it after a season or two before the cast starts to demand raises. Of course, this business model requires consumers to have zero memory, and given how mad I still am at Google for killing about 60% of the Google products I use, I don’t think that’s likely.
- Of course, the slow death of Netflix is also maybe already in progress? – I expect that the Fishbreath household will subscribe to two streaming providers: Netflix and Disney+. We’ll, uh, creatively obtain everything else. I bought into the cord-cutting thing because streaming was convenient as much as it was cheap. A bunch of walled gardens, each with their own apps, quirks, and costs? I’m out, thanks.
- WW2 movies are played out, so why not a WW1 movie? – Decent preview.
- Between 1924 and 1976, you had to renew your copyright after 28 years, or it would expire – So, 80% of books published between those two dates are in the public domain. Unfortunately, I expect all the famous ones are not.