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Technical Details of the Disney Monorail

Last Sunday, a tragic monorail crash at Walt Disney World (between the Pink and Purple trains) killed the driver of Purple, Austin Wuennenberg. In the aftermath, Disney closed the monorail system for investigation and there has been a surprising amount of web coverage of the incident from monorail experts and drivers. But one forum post caught my attention. Written by a former monorail driver (sorry, "railie"), the post is educated speculation about what might have happened. It's interesting mainly because the immense technical detail revealed about the monorail system -- including its safety features, and information about what drivers must do in order to override them. Below are a few snippets, after a YouTube slideshow that explains the crash in detail.

The system at Disney is called the MAPO system, or more precisely the Moving Blocklight System (MBS). It consists of a number of transmitters along the beam every 7-10 pylons or so that place RF signals of three different frequencies onto the positive buss bar (power rail), and a corresponding receiver in each train. The trains are wired with a capacitor that shorts the MAPO signals to ground, preventing any signals generated ahead of the train from getting past it. The transmitters are arranged sequentially around the beam- if any given transmitter is putting out frequency #1, then the next one will be emitting frequency #2, and the next one after that will have frequency #3. The one after that will be transmitting frequency #1 again, and the cycle continues all the way around the beam. The upshot of this is that in normal operation, the following distance should be such that there will be three or more transmitters between a given train and the train ahead of him, thus the following train will "see" all three frequencies, and the driver will have a green MBS light on his console.

...there are a number of situations where the MAPO system needs to be turned off, and for that, there's a "MAPO override" button on the console, which allows the driver to do just that. When MAPO override is active, the train is limited to 15 mph, and the driver has to continue to hold the button down to keep the system overridden. Some examples of when the system needs to be overridden are when trains are on any of the spurlines (since they have no MAPO transmitters), or when trains are being switched between beams.

Read the rest for an inside look at the Disney monorail system.

(Via Daring Fireball.)

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Getting Calls From Your Own Phone Number? Don't Answer!
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There’s a new phone scam that could affect you, according to Washington’s KIRO 7 News. In addition to keeping your eyes open for calls that come from area codes like 473 or involve people claiming to be Equifax representatives, you now have to watch out for your own phone number.

Scammers are manipulating your phone’s caller ID to make it look like you’re getting a call from your own phone number, then posing as someone from a wireless carrier like AT&T or Verizon. They tell whoever answers the phone that their account has been flagged for security reasons, then ask for the last four digits of that person’s Social Security number. The FCC has been aware of these scams for at least two years, but they seem to be ramping up once again.

In general, you shouldn’t give out any part of your Social Security number over the phone on an incoming call. If you’re suspicious, you can always call your carrier back using the official customer service phone number on their website or on your bill. But it’s best not to pick up at all. If you receive a call from your own number, don’t answer or press any buttons. Instead, file a complaint with the FCC.

[h/t KIRO 7 News]

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Samsung’s Star Wars Vacuums Offer Everything You Want in a Droid
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Hate housecleaning but love Star Wars? Samsung’s got the solution. In anticipation of December’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the newest film in the Star Wars saga, Samsung has transformed a limited number of its VR7000 POWERbot robot vacuum cleaners into two familiar faces from George Lucas’s legendary space opera: a Stormtrooper and Darth Vader (which comes with Wi-Fi connectivity and a remote control).

In order to create a unique device that would truly thrill Star Wars aficionados, Samsung consulted with fans of the film throughout each stage of the process. The result is a pair of custom-crafted robo-vacuums that fill your home with the sounds of a galaxy far, far away as they clean (when you turn Darth Vader on, for example, you'll hear his iconic breathing).

“We are very pleased to be part of the excitement leading up to the release of The Last Jedi and to be launching our limited edition POWERbot in partnership with Star Wars fans,” B.S. Suh, Samsung’s executive vice president, said in a press statement. “From its industry-leading suction power, slim design, and smart features, to the wonderful character-themed voice feedback and sound effects, we are confident the Star Wars limited edition of the VR7000 will be a big hit.”

Be warned that this kind of power suction doesn’t come cheap: while the Stormtrooper POWERbot will set you back $696, the Darth Vader vacuum retails for $798. Who knew the Dark Side was so sparkling clean?


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