Jet Powered Water Sports

A few years ago now JetLev made waves around the world when they built a jet pack you could wear, powered by a jet ski and massive jets of water capable of propelling someone 10 metres into the air for a world of fun.

Engineering on jet powered personal water sport devices has come quite a way since then, now instead of needing to buy the entire product (jet ski and jet pack), you can just buy the jet pack and attach it to any normal jet ski – reducing the price from over $50,000 to under $10,000!

Now new water jet powered sports devices are starting to hit the market, two I’ve seen recently are by Zapata Racing. The first video below shows the Flyboard, which looks like a set of rigid boots with a jet of water under each one that allowed a lot more freedom and maneuverability than the original jet pack style devices by JetLev.

Recently the next stage of development by Zapata Racing has hit the water and they’ve built a jet ski powered hoverboard, which has a single jet at the back of the wakeboard and it produces some spectacular looking fun!

What will the next invention in this space look like?

Parking Infringement Notice

Today I parked in Macintosh Street in Auchenflower and walked to work. I’ve parked in that street in nearly the same position more than a dozen times in the last few weeks without any issue.

When returning to my car this afternoon, I find that I’ve received a parking infringement notice. Initially I thought it was an actual parking ticket but after reading it later I find out that it is a warning and not an actual penalty notice! Who knew that parking inspectors could issue a warning – amazing!

Brisbane City Council - Parking Infringement Warning Notice

First and foremost, I am totally impressed that the parking officer didn’t take the opportunity to penalise me – clearly I was doing something wrong but instead he/she chose to give me a warning – so impressed.

The offence listed on the ticket says:

Contrary to official traffic sign parking for a period longer than permitted maximum

That didn’t make a lot of sense to me, I’ve never noticed a parking sign in the area.

Wotif head office is located in Milton, not far down from Suncorp Stadium. In a lot of residential streets in the area there are signs up stating that ‘resident permits expected’. From speaking with people at work, I understand those signs have to do with encouraging people to take public transport (included in the ticket price for Suncorp Stadium) to avoid thousands of cars descending into the local area when an event is on.

I assumed I must have been warned for parking in one of those areas, which I thought was completely unreasonable since in a street about 100m long there would have been 10 cars parked on each side of the road – some of which could have belonged to the owners of the associated houses.

To check what might be going on I turned to Google Street View and you won’t believe it, but right beside where I park my car there is a street sign which I presume says maximum parking duration two hours. In the Google Street View photo the top of the sign itself is obscured by branches/leaves of a nearby tree – maybe that is why I didn’t notice it or I could simply be blind.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to drive past the area and check if that sign is still there or what the official parking requirements are for Macintosh Street. Whatever the case, I’m grateful to the parking inspector that they gave me a warning instead of just penalising me given that I was parking, albeit incorrectly, in what is otherwise an empty street not annoying anyone.

Willowbank Winternationals

Willowbank held the Fuchs Winternationals 2014 Thursday 5th June to Sunday 8th June. There was a massive line up of bikes, compacts, cars, funny cars, doorslammers, alcohol and of course top fuel.

I was disappointed that neither Victor Bray or Ben Bray were there on Sunday for the finals but on Saturday Ben was involved in a serious accident, moving seriously fast. Since Ben was in hospital with potentially serious injuries, Victor understandably pulled out of the finals on Sunday despite getting the green light from Ben to race.

According to the Courier Mail, Ben has suffered three fractured vertebrae, six fractured ribs and bruising to his lungs. He also reported shoulder pain to ambulance officers immediately after the crash but I don’t think that really rates compared to the pain of the aforementioned issues. There has been a huge amount of support for Ben, lots of well wishes have been sent to him already and I hope he’ll make a full recovery and be back in his thunderous beast in no time.

Top Fuel

Nathan managed to capture the start for the top fuel final at about 6PM between Damien Harris (right) and Anthony Begley (left). It was an absolutely spectacular run as the sun was down, lights were on and the massive flames from the exhausts were on full display. Damien took t he win in 4.756s at 283.71mph (456.58kph)! I’ve seen top fuel several times now and each and every time I see them – I am in complete awe at the incredible power, launch speed and the noise.

The noise, the noise, the noise, it is something else entirely – you can literally feel the engine beating while idling in the staging area from 30-40m away. If you put your hands on the ground, it is literally shaking from the engine. When they do their burn out to heat up their tires, it takes that noise to a whole new level – completely uncomfortable to hear if you don’t have ear plugs in. When you think it couldn’t get louder, you’re wrong because when they go full tilt when the lights go green – ohh my god – it is so loud, so much pressure and force it is actually hard to describe for those that haven’t witnessed it first hand!

Interesting Top Fuel Facts

In 2009 when Andrew and I attended the Winternationals last, Andrew took a photo of some interesting facts about top fuel on a sign in front of one of the top fuel pits as we stood there watching them rebuild and engine between races. It is a little hard to read the facts in the image, so I’ve written them out below for your enjoyment:

  • A top fuel dragster motor is 500 cubic inch Hemi engine
  • A stock Dodge 426 cubic inch Hemi V8 engine can not produce enough power to drive the dragsters supercharger
  • The redline is actually quite high at 9500rpm
  • Top fuel engines turn approximately 540 revolutions from light to light
  • Including the burnout, the engine must only survive 900 revolutions under load
  • Under full throttle, a top fuel dragster engine consumes 1.5 gallons (8 litres) of nitro methane per second
  • A fully loaded 747 consumes jet fuel at the same rate with 25% less energy being produced
  • With 3000 CFM (cubic feet per minute) of air being rammed in by the supercharger on overdrive, the fuel mixture is compressed into near solid form before ignition
  • Cylinders run on the verge of hydraulic lock at full throttle
  • At the stoichometric 1.7:1 air/fuel mixture for nitro methane, the flame front temperature reaches 7050 degrees F
  • Nitro methane burns yellow
  • The spectacular white flame seen above the stacks at night is raw burning hydrogen, dissociated from the atmospheric water vapour by the searing exhaust gases.
  • Dual magnetos supply 44 amps to each spark plug, which is the output of an arc welder in each cylinder
  • Spark plug electrodes are completely consumed in a pass
  • After way, the engine is dieseling from compression plus the glow of exhaust values at 1400 degrees F
  • Cutting the fuel flow can only shut down the engine
  • If spark momentarily fails early in the run, unburned nitro methane build up in the affected cylinder and then explodes with sufficient force to blow cylinder heads off the block in pieces or split the block in half.
  • In order to exceed 300mph in 4.5s, a dragster must accelerate at an average of over 4G’s
  • In order to reach 200mph well before half track, the launch acceleration approaches 8G’s
  • The bottom line, assuming all the equipment is paid off, the crew work for free and nothing blows up, each run costs an estimated $1000 per second.


Hugo Helped Wotif

Claire, Hugo, Evie and I are sitting down at the table eating dinner when a discussion takes place that goes a little something like:

Hugo: What did you do at work today Dad?
Al: I was trying to fix a website today mate, it was broken.
Hugo: Ohh, okay.

A few minutes lapses.

Hugo: Dad, I know what is wrong with the websites!
Al: Really, what is wrong with them?
Hugo: Did you check that the power is plugged in and turned on?
Al: No, I didn’t think of that – I’ll tell my boss Shaden about it tomorrow.

A few minutes lapses.

Hugo: I’ll write your boss Shaden a letter so she doesn’t forget.

Hugo's letter to Shaden

Later that week I was on the phone to Shaden and I though she’d enjoy getting a glimpse into the mind of a five year old boy, so I scanned and emailed it to her the next day. Shaden thought it was super cute and so did a few of her collegues in Sydney.

I told Shaden that if she wanted to make Hugo’s day, that she should write and post a letter back to Hugo. Hugo loves keeping special little things and I knew that he’d think this was the best thing since sliced bread and it’d go straight to the pool room.

The following week I kept an eye out in the post for a letter from Shaden and it arrived, however instead of a plain old letter – it was a small parcel in a bubble wrapped postage bag which contained:

  • a letter
  • a pair of Wotif sunglasses
  • a small bottle of Wotif SPF30+ sunscreen

Shaden's reply to Hugo's letter

It’s a small thing but I love that Shaden took a couple minutes out of her day to reply to Hugo, he absolutely loved it. What I think might be even more awesome is that she signed it off with “Daddy’s Boss” which I mentioned to Shaden on the phone because that is how Hugo and Evie often refer to Shaden.

As a thank you, I sent Shaden a photo of Hugo sporting his new gear:

Hugo Wearing Wotif Sunglasses

Pretty sure I have one of the most awesome bosses in the world.

Do Yourself A Favour, Use A Password Manager

Back in 2010 I wrote about improving your online personal security, which included some tips and tricks to consider to reduce your risk – one of which was to consider using a password manager.

Password Managers provide an encrypted storage vault to keep all of your username/password combinations for the different websites in a single place. Firstly this is helpful so that you don’t forget the passwords and need to constantly use the password reset functionality that websites provide. However, most importantly – because you’re absolving yourself of the need to remember the passwords, it allows you to use unique, highly complex passwords for every website.

The statistics on password reuse and complexity are frightening. The majority of us use the same very limited set of passwords over and over again on different websites. The passwords used most are things like ‘password’, ‘love’, simple dictionary words or a pattern of numbers like 12345. When hackers go out to attack a website, they can literally walk through passwords like the above using brute force tactics like an unlocked door.

By setting unique, highly complex passwords for each website – firstly your password is infinitely harder to crack but more importantly, if your password does get cracked or a website you use gets hacked and passwords are stolen – the hackers can only get into that one website, not any other websites you might use such as your internet banking.

To clarify, high complexity passwords will be at least 10 characters long, use lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols such as ‘AdD7Dc&@ds*!1_8′.

Why Now?

This month it was announced that a core cryptography library named OpenSSL, used by approximately 2/3 of all websites on the internet that use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), more commonly recognised as HTTPS in your browser address bar, have been vulnerable to undetectable attack for the last two years via an exploit named Heartbleed.

Of course the likelihood that your particular password or private information were compromised as a result of this exploit are quite remote, however it should serve as a stark reminder that despite the fact that industry wide security technology is peer reviewed and heavily scrutinized – the software engineers and cryptographers writing it are still only human and as such, fallible.

What Next?

Go and install a password manager such as LastPass, it is free to use and if you pay a whopping $12/yr – you can install it on every computer, laptop, tablet and phone you own so that you’re never left high and dry without your passwords.

Once installed, your next job is to allow it to import all of your stored account information on your computer. This part of the process is going to scare you, as it will import dozens or in my case hundreds of pieces of account information.

Remember, if the password manager could extract all of your account details, so could a virus, trojan or malware and send it off to some nefarious hacker on the other side of the world. Make sure you allow the tool to delete all of your stored passwords on your computer at the same time, just so that doesn’t happen in the future.

After it has imported all of your stored accounts, in the case of LastPass there is functionality for it to audit or perform a security scan against the account information. This is the next scary part, you thought you were doing an okay job with your passwords – let’s be realistic, you and I both know that we both sucked at it.

Now start going through your most important accounts first and change the passwords that they use to a unique, highly complex passwords. In case you were wondering how to generate strong passwords, LastPass has a password generator within it that you can configure with various options to increase/decrease the complexity of the passwords.

Each time you update the password to a shiny new hard to guess password, your online security is improving, one password at a time!