Monthly Archives: April 2008

Apple Buys PA Semi, the fab-less designers of efficient PowerPCs…

I read two articles
Is Apple going back to Power PC? (
Here’s some better analysis of reasoning (

about this aquisition. The second article scans better, IMHO. And it wasn’t Intel who foisted the 640K limit on the Winderz world, it was Mr. Gates himself, who famously said, “640K, who could use more than that?”. Considering Vista needs about 1 gig to boot and 2 gig to get out of its own way… it IS true the 8086 had a segmented memory architecture, not so nice.
The 68000 had a better architecture than the 8086 and Intel put their best effort into what they modestly called “Operation Crush” to sieze the market with a known-to-be-second-best product. Sound familiar? No wonder they get along with Microsoft so well. But from the personal computer builder’s perspective, Intel was there with software, support, chipsets, etc, when Moto had an engineer’s dream architecture and not much for developers. If you’re in business to make a profit, you could be excused for thinking Intel’s processor might have legs on the Moto item, particularly since Intel was used to supplying the CPU market and Moto’s 68xx were nice but aimed as much at “hobbists” (according to their own literature) as commercial applications. Moto also had process problems at first, so you couldn’t buy a chip, because the chips didn’t meet their advertized electrical interface specs- board level products were available, with the 68000 surrounded by bi-directional buffers :^). Or you could buy from Hitachi (!) I’ve been told that the first 68000s in silicon valley said “Motorola” on the package but “Hitachi” on the die…
The 68000 and powerPC are great designs, and the n86 started as a kludge and has only improved with experience BUT there is a tsunami of cash pushing the PC market place and while the PowerPC is theoretically better, that cash, competition from AMD, blah blah blah, have made the Intel cpus the most powerful. Not pretty, but great big meathooks you can hang massive computing tasks on. Hell, they’re so good, they make Windows look like a going proposition! Every unix-box vendor choose the 68000 to start with, and people looked down on the BSD-86 efforts as unclean. Well, surprise, you CAN polish a turd, and Linux running on generic PCs is the proof of it. Macs build around Intel processors work just great, and so do water-cooled Porsches and VWs. Lets not make technical appeal in the past into a hair-shirt of virtue that somehow offsets lower prices and higher perforance. All this will pass anyway, and you can’t take it with you.

Discoveries in the land o’ compulsive research…

So I brought two wrapped presents within the cost and content guidelines to my local ( IPMS chapter, the Silicon Valley Scale Modelers, for the Christmas Gift Exchange. When all the shouting and after-game trading were done, I went home with a Tamiya 1994 Ford Mustang GT Convertible able and the Minicraft boxing of the Hasegawa 1/72 Grumman F11F-1 Tiger. Nice. My son Benjamin encouraged me on the Mustang, and I might not have chosen a curb-side Mustang kit, but one car and one airplane was just about right. I also had a challenge- at the end of the exchange someone proposed a “90 day wonder” contest for the kits acquired that day, at the March meeting. 90 days to build ’em, or not. Put up or shut up. Sounded good to me.

Seems to me that there are at least two kinds of model builders- those who dig the thing and want something the right shape, but aren’t as much into into making replicas of a particular, real, item at a particular point in time, and those who want to make a replica of a particular example of the general item, perhaps down to an exact date and time of day. Very often the obsessive particularist will get the whole story on the item they are modeling- where the real one was made, how it got where it went to, who used it and what happened to them. Photographs and memoirs are poured over to identify fiddly bits which might be one way or might be another. People building replicas of things they or their friends owned, used or served on or with are usually in this camp, but not always.

Whereas, the item-but-not-a-specific-replica modeler might immerse themselves in the whys and wherefores and the whole story (Dearborn and San Jose both build Mustangs in the 1960s, and each used their own series of-/family of- colors for body primers…) but instead of building the image of <whatever> at 10:30am, the second Monday in July, 1971, they build the one they want, (a metallic purple Mustang with a green interior) or something generally representative, “this is yellow because I found a can of yellow paint under the sink…”

As a gross (!) generalization, ship and airplane modelers tend to build replicas of specific, real, prototypes (as do many model railroaders, from whom we get the adjective, “Prototypical”), captured at a specific place and time. Many ship modelers can tell you not only how the specific ship in the class they modeled differs from others, but also which re-fits the model is between or after (This is how the Cutty Sark appeared on her fifth voyage, returning from Asia, after rounding Cape Horn… this is how the Tyrrell P-34 six wheeler appeared at Monaco in 1976… this is how the 617 squadron Lancasters appeared in March, 1944… etc.)

Car, military figure and vehicle fans and flying model airplane builders tend to build precise and accurate models in terms of shape but are somewhat more expressive in how they present them- custom paint jobs, their own version of camouflage schemes, a vehicle from the years x-y but painted and marked as if it were from another era. A model hot rod will faithfully replicate a Ford flat head with Holly carburetors and aftermarket heads, and the firewall of the model will be enhanced to look just like the real thing, with a pearlescent blue lacquer finash that represents the builder’s idea of the perfect color… or a flying A-10A Warthog (used in both US-Iraq wars) will fly in a green and tan over light-blue scheme somewhat akin to USAAF and RAF western desert markings from 1942, or a BMW coupe will be converted into a pickup-style two seater, like an El Camino or a Subaru Brat.

Both approaches are scholarly, both require the same craft and skill, but the points are different. Kinda like fiction and non-fiction writing: The products are different even though each can look like the other and both are more similar than different.

So in this case, I came down firmly in both camps. My F11F-1 (long nose) was build in the form the Blue Angels flew them, and my Mustang was build using the colors the factory used for body and interior, but I put saddle brown front and back seats and center console into an otherwise black interior, and used the rest-of-world side-marker lights behind the front wheels AND amber colored turn signals in back, instead of red.

I reproduced the color of the baked epoxy primer on the underside of the Mustang, but I also painted the brake calipers a bright blue to match the more-oir-less correct factory-ish metalis blue I panted on the body.

By contrast, the Tiger wound up with blue wheels and main gear legs. and blue landing gear doors, inside and out, but white in the gear wells because that’s my best reading of the available photos, and a new source, my third F11F book and (sixth reference for this project) agrees. Unfortunately, it also shows that that Martin Baker Mk 5 rocket ejection seat I put together seems never to have been deployed foir any F11… All that lovely detailing and  aren’t applicable. I’m not sure if I’m going to leave it or make another seat for it.

US Navy and Royal Navy Military Model Airplane Colors

Another post that ought to be a page- with more research. Lets start like this and improve then.

A lovely on-line reference is

1) US Navy and US Marines and US Air Force – Today – Tactical fighters and fighter-bombers and electronic warfare planes tend to appear in multiple gray colors- it used to be the Navy was all about Light Gull Gray, 36440 (flat) or 26440 (semi gloss), and the USAF about Ghost Gray Light and Dark, but its bit more mixed up now. The transport planes like C-5, C-17, KC-10, KC-135, C-130, etc, tend to be one or two grays, 36118 Gunship Gray (a darker tone) being very popular for transports. Generally muted national markings, some bright tail or nose art. Some examples:

FA-18E & F, F-15 Air Superiority, (FS595b)

36320 Dark Ghost Gray, – MM Acryl 4761, Polly Scale 505374, Gunze H053, Revell 36374, Humbroil 128, Vallejo 047

36375 Light Ghost Gray, – MM Acryl 4762, Polly Scale 505376, Gunze …., Revell ….Humbroil 127, Vallejo 050, 990

F-15 <darker colors- air-ground low altitude?> FS595b:

36176 Dark Gray, – MM Acryl 4754, Polly Scale 505232, Gunze …., Revell …., Humbroil …., Vallejo ….

36375 Medium Gray, – MM Acryl …., Polly Scale 505330, Gunze …., Revell …., Humbroil …., Vallejo ….

F-16 Three tone, mix of semi-gloss and glossy:

36118 Dark Sea Gray, Flat, – MM Acryl 4752, Polly Scale 414182; 505382, Gunze … Humbroil …., Revell, Tamiya XF24, Vallejo 053, 868

26118 Dark Sea Gray, Satin, – MM Acryl …., Polly Scale …., Gunze … Humbroil 125, Revell, Tamiya …., Vallejo ….

36270 Neutral Gray, Flat, – MM Acryl 4757, Polly Scale 505384, Gunze … Humbroil …., Revell, Tamiya XF24, Vallejo 048, 870

26270 Neutral Gray, Satin, – MM Acryl …., Polly Scale 505258 Gunze … Humbroil 126, Revell, Tamiya …., Vallejo ….

36375 Light Ghost Gray, – MM Acryl 4762, Polly Scale 505376, Gunze …., Revell ….Humbroil 127, Vallejo 050, 990

2) US Navy, 1970s, 36440 Light Gull Gray overall (F-14s, F4s, RF-8s) or on top side with glossy white on the bottom. muted black or gray national markings.

3) US Navy, 1960s, late 1950s. 26440 semi-gloss Light Gull Gray or 16440 glossy Light Gull Gray on topside, glossy white on bottom. Bright color national markings, squadron markings

4) US Navy, Mid 1950s, Korean War, late 1940s. Glossy Sea Blue overall. Grumman airplanes often omitted the Insignia Blue disc and outline on their national markings and just featured white stars and bars against the Sea Blue.

5) US Navy, late-war to VJ day: fighters: F4U, F6F, F4F, F7F (deployed but never in action) overall glossy sea blue OR dark (gull?) gray over white (some shiny white, some flat white) under and sides for anti-submarine patrol.

6) US Navy, 1943-1945, “Three tone” for all combat types, flat sea blue over intermediate blue over non-specular white. Undersides of folding wings which would face up when folded were intermediate blue. Intermediate blue was a lot like the blue-gray which had been the top-side color early in the war… Generally this was the scheme for the Pacific and Operaiton Torch, landings in Italy, etc.

OR anti-submarine patrol colors (Generally meaning Atlantic deep water patrols) dark Gull Gray over whites.

7) US Navy, 1941 to 1943: Blue gray (similar to Intermediate blue from later years) over light gray (similar to 36440 light gull gray). From early 1941 to mid 1942 the national markings included red and white striped rudders, and red spots on the middle of the white stars. The red was eliminated in the Pacific by June, 1942, to prevent confusion with Japanese markings.

8) US Navy, 1940?-1941: Overall light gray- 36440 Light Gull Gray or ANA-6** Light Gray.

9) US Navy Pre-war: Aluminum laquer fuselage, chrome yellow wings.

National markings and squadron markings are more convoluted and its best to follow what your references show. Operation Torch markings included a yellow surrounding ring on the star marking. This was after the red dots were removed/overpainted in the middle of the stars. Red was used briefly as an outline for the star-and-bar when the bars were first added, but was replaced by insignia blue surrounding.

10) The Royal Navy marked all its airplanes for Operation Torch with the correct yellow-surround-blue-circle-white-star USN markings- so Sea Hurricanes and Seafires, in otherwise standard Royal Navy Slate Gray/Sea Gray/Sky or Ocean Gray colors, would carry the US marking instead of UK red/white/blue roundels. The hope was the Vichy French might give US markings a pass but attack if they saw UK markings… it isn’t clear that this worked. Red/White/Blue tail flash on RN planes was retained with the “US” markings, as were squadron and individual aircraft numbers and letters.

Other Bests in the Bay Area – 2008 – Collecting now, alphabetized soon.

A friend is coming in tonight for a week working in San Jose, and it occurs to me to make a list of “best”s in the bay area for Michael and any other visiting fire-persons whom might come out for business or pleasure. This is also prompted by the SF Chronicle’s annual top 100 restaurants list, some of which I’ve been to (and agree are terrific) and some I would have listed that aren’t on the Chron’s list.

Best places to go:

The Exploratorium. The world’s greatest hands-on science museum and (dis)organized meeting of art and science. Whether the awesome majesty of the three guysers, who’s periods are determined by the distance between the pool at the top and the heat source at the bottom, or sheer coolness of the string shooter and spinning discs on a spinning turntable, or the interactive the water vortex, the fog vortex, the giant pinboard or the magnetic properties of eddy currents in the giant bar of copper, never mind the tactile dome ( my advice: wear a swimming outfit under your street clothes…), the Exploratorium is better than words can possibly describe. For kids of all ages, and the cafe food is good enough to just go and eat if you get hungry. The original 11 on a 10 scale.

Muir Woods. Accurately described as a cathedral of trees. Its bigger than any of the European cathederals I’ve visited, and I enjoy it more, nice though they are. Less moral ambiguity, though not none (our park did used to be someone’s home and not so long ago…) There are lobster-shaped cray-fish (big claws) in the creek the runs through the middle, and spotting them and the fish in the creek from the many bridges is one of our family treats when we go. I’ve done the hike up from the Muir Woods creek bed to the top of Mount Tamalpias and its steep and exhilerating and you have your choice of how hard to make it, based on the paths you select and how fast you push it. Bring a gallon of water per person if you plan to go all the way up and all the way down. The trees of the Wood are huge, and yet dynamic- some fall in the wind, some expire of age, new ones grow where the old have departed. Besides fish and the predictable squirrels, we’ve seen deer, moms and babys, from pretty darn close, and it was pretty darn cool!

There are also the fire-hollowed trees on the trail on the ocean side of the creek, a bit above ‘floor’ level. Jean and I have several pictures of Benjamin at various ages in these icons, a small, friendly, forest creature, all our own. Its hard to NOT take a good holiday card picture of yourself and your family here. We probably ought to take the Dipsea trail some time. I strongly recomend going out on one of the two trails into the main “cathedral” canyon and coming back on the other- doesn’t matter which you go which way on. Take the map from the gate and plan to cross the creek at the furthest bridge. If you walk that far and back, it’ll make your day better.

Easy splashing/wading in the Pacific Ocean: Drake’s Beach, north-east of Pt. Reyes. A pretty place, a large beach, rotten rock in the cliffs so don’t stand under them, a public restroom at the parking lot and a gentle slope under the water- Drake’s Beach has it all and in abundance. Because the bay its in faces south, the waves aren’t as vigorious as those on west-facing beaches north or south, and the water seems a tad warmer.

Best hat store. The Hat Store on Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, just before it turns into a 1-way for the last blocks just south of UC Berkeley. We go here when we need to create a costume- buy an excellent hat and build the rest around it. Notable purchases have included a Jester hat, a soft Viking helmet, an Egyptian Pharoh head-dress and several less-formal choices. We always find something to like and take home, and they hold up well.

Best Aquarium store – Albany Aquarium. San Pablo Avenue, between Solano and Albany Bowl. This was where we wound up when UCB Open House day ran out of complementary goldfish… and $150 later we had a heated, filtered, glass, 10 galllon, aquarium with a bunch of attractive fish. Fairliy tough fish. We’ve always gotten good advice here, their fish, snails, plants and frogs are hale and hearty. They don’t over-sell or low-ball prices, but if you want a gold fish in a gold fish bowl (no heat, no filter…) they’ll help you with that too.

Two bits of wisdom I picked up from them/with them:

A) Fish aren’t like hamsters- you don’t have to put them all in a pickle jar and scrub out the tank once a month… Get a cleaner/vaccuum/syphon, learn to use it (There is a non-return valve, you have to ‘pump’ the big tube full and then it’ll syphon, without you having to suck on it) Use a 2-5 gallon bucket or trash-can to collect the wastewater and stuff from in between the rocks.. (Pour it out on the fruit tree in the back yard…)

B) pH balancing is VERY important, and if you can’t master it quickly, invest in a buffer solution that will AUTOMATICALLY balance pH to the right-ish area, follow the directions and sleep easy/. At least for the tetras, guppies, etc, this is just fine. Incoming water after I ‘vaccuum’ is treated with a chlorine/chloramine treatment product so the fish aren’t poisoned, and the pH balance stuff. Works every time.

Best Bowling Alley: Albany Bowl. On San Pablo, between Solano and the strip-mall/bart-station about a mile north. Games are reasonably priced, you can get shoes that fit, pool tables are $10/hr, they have bumpers to block the gutters and do kids birthdays. In short, they do it all. Nice people, nice place to bowl, great family ‘go out’ spot. We usually bowl a couple of games, or more, and then take a pool table for an hour. WAY fun! Someday I’ll get to the black-light miniature golf in the South Bay and I can compare the two.

Child-friendly restraunts:

Chef Chu’s (Los Altos/Palo Alto/Mountian View)

Armadillo Willie’s (all)

Venezia Cafe (University Ave, Berkeley)

Cliff House, Ocean Beach, SF

Caesar – Piedmont Ave, Oakland

Little Shin Shin, Piedmont Ave. Oakland

Becky’s Chinese Food, College Ave, Oakland,

Barney’s (Hamburgers, salads) College Avenue, Piedmont Avenue

Christopher’s Hamburgers

Both Japanese places on the last block of Shatuck, northbound, before University

Sam’s Log Cabin, San Pablo, Albany

Montclair Egg Shop, Medau Place, Oakland

Pizza Pastino’s Park Blvd, Glenview,

Buttercup coffee shop- just south of the Cotton Mill, now home of West Marine and Numi Tea, on the bay side of 880.

Jolie’s Coffee and Gifts- at the street side of the lighthouse anchorage in the Oakland Estuary, near Livingston and also the bridge to Coast Guard Island.

Bowser’s Pizza, Park Avenue, Alameda

<Restaurant in the Lighthouse>, Oakland Estuary, near Livingston and the bridge to Coast Guard Island…

More later,