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Passport Database Outage Leaves Thousands Stranded

AJWM Re:Here's the problem... (128 comments)

Or worse, they're running SQLServer on Sun boxes...

11 hours ago
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Favorite "Go!" Phrase?

AJWM Let's light this candle! (701 comments)

Although actually the "let's" wasn't part of Alan Shepard's original phrase. (In a similar vein, "Get those scientists away from that rocket and shoot it!".)

Another favorite: "Let's roll!"

Least favorite (or most hated): "Let's do this". Talk about hackneyed and overused phrases.

about two weeks ago
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Favorite "Go!" Phrase?

AJWM Re:Misquote in #1 (701 comments)

In the Apollo program -- at least, with Saturn V launches -- it's "Ignition sequence start" at T-7 seconds. Those F-5 engines had a complicated ignition sequence which took several seconds just to get the dang things lit. (The pre-burners which turned the propellant turbopumps had to be lit first, and the RP-1 propellant (essentially kerosene) was also used as the hydraulic fluid for gimballing the outboard engines, so had to be pressurized.)

With the Shuttle they started main engines a couple of seconds before T-0 to give them time to come up to power and ensure that they were running properly before igniting the SRBs. Once the solids were lit everything was along for the ride until burn-out (or explosion, as with Challenger).

about two weeks ago
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NASA Approves Production of Most Powerful Rocket Ever

AJWM Re:I dont see a problem here (146 comments)

I would much rather them use existing tried tech and incrementally advance them rather than try a radical new design.

Except that they're not. Those solid boosters? They're "based on" Shuttle SRBs, not identical to them. Several segments longer, meaning higher internal pressures, different burn characteristics, etc. If you don't think that's going to take extra years of testing, there are several bridges I'd be happy to sell you.

Ditto for any other technologies that they're basing stuff on rather than reusing identically.

The SLS isn't also known as the "Senate Launch System" for nothing. NASA's role should be to try radical new designs, not serve as a conduit for senators to shovel pork to their constituents.

about a month ago
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New Class of Stars Are Totally Metal, Says Astrophysicist

AJWM Re:Star? (119 comments)

Yep. Carbon, nitrogen, oxygen .. all metals. To an astrophysicist, we're not made of meat, we're made of metal.

(Okay, there's a fair bit of hydrogen in our mix, too.)

about a month ago
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Brownsville SpaceX Space Port Faces More Regulatory Hurdles

AJWM Re:Texas has regulations? (78 comments)

Cuba.

A launch from Florida (in an easterly direction) doesn't look like it might be an attack on Cuba; a launch from south Texas does (or could). The political and technical situations are a bit different today.

Also, spreading the pork around to multiple states/congressional districts. Texas got the facility in Houston.

Oh, and what open water is to the west of Brownsville? ;-)

about 2 months ago
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Updating the Integrated Space Plan

AJWM Re:Sorry, but this is silly (65 comments)

As the saying goes, no (battle) plan survives contact with the enemy. That doesn't mean such a plan has no use whatsoever.

An 'Integrated America Plan' or an 'Integrated Computing Plan' would of course be ludicrous in hindsight. (Just as is the original Integrated Space Plan). But such plans have the power to inspire people. To make people think "hey, I see a better option over here". To encourage people to make it so. To dream things that never were and say "why not?"

Sure, if we had cheap access to space there'd be a lot more people making their own plans and going out and doing it. Maybe this plan will help inspire the next generation's Gary Hudson, Elon Musk or a non-fictional Delos D. Harriman.

(Disclaimer: I've probably still got a small stack of the original ISP poster in my basement. My ex used to sell them through her (long defunct) Space Pioneers business.)

about 2 months ago
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What qualifications should the 'driver' of a fully autonomous car need?

AJWM Depends whether it has manual override. (301 comments)

If it's truly autonomous, with no manual override (or the override can be locked out and proved to be locked out) then why have any restrictions at all? Of course then the rider is really a passenger, not a driver.

If the car has a way to let the passenger take manual control and override the autopilot, then the passenger has become a driver and should be properly licensed.

While I don't discuss the licensing issues, my book The Reticuli Deception (set about 100 years from now) has several scenes involving both completely autonomous (sole occupant darkens the windows and takes a nap) and not (driver overrides the computer to deliberately cause a collision with the guy tailing someone, then escapes by having arranged for a rental car to drive itself to the next block and be waiting for him). (That's only a minor spoiler, most of the book takes place off-Earth. Caveat, it's a sequel to The Chara Talisman, which come to think of it has one scene with an autonomous taxi.) </blatantplug>

about 2 months ago
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Electric Stimulation Could Help You Control Your Dreams

AJWM Re:40 hz of current? (138 comments)

>40 hz of current?

Sure, at a frequency of 30 mA for about 0.5 volt-hours.

about 3 months ago
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Mathematical Model Suggests That Human Consciousness Is Noncomputable

AJWM False assumption? (426 comments)

Who says memory retrieval is non-lossy? It's an organic process, of course it's lossy. Our brains just make shit up to fill in the gaps.

The stuff we retrieve frequently is slightly less lossy because it gets refreshed (somewhat) when we remember it (sort of remembering that we remembered it).

And our brains are very good at making shit up to fill in the gaps, almost too good.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Practical Alternatives To Systemd?

AJWM Condemned. (533 comments)

As the legendary Henry Spencer said, "Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly."

Clearly the folks behind systemd do not understand Unix.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Practical Alternatives To Systemd?

AJWM Re:Accept, don't fight, systemd (533 comments)

If there are things you don't like about systemd, you should write up coherent bug reports or feature requests,

That doesn't work if it's the whole design philosophy you don't like. Whatever happened to the Unix philosophy that tools should do one thing, and do it well, and be easy to integrate with (not assimilate, borg-like) other components?

Me, I'll keep SysV init. How often do you need to reboot a unix or linux box anyway?

about 3 months ago
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Programming Language Diversity On the Rise

AJWM Re:A good sign (177 comments)

+1 nostalgia if I had the mod points. Heck, there was a time (about 3 decades back) when I was being paid to teach APL (or APL, as properly rendered).

Mind, the bit-arrays used in ElasticSearch filtering strike me as a very APL-like idiom. You never know when something you learned back when will prove useful again.

about 3 months ago
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One-a-Day-Compiles: Good Enough For Government Work In 1983

AJWM Re:Huh? (230 comments)

PCs were surprisingly common in 1983. Consider the Apple II and various CP/M machines had been around for quite a few years at that point.

Sure, they were still struggling to gain entrance to big businesses which were bastions of the mainframe (although more like with 3270 type terminals than card decks by that point), but small businesses loved them. Businesses were buying Apple II's as "Visicalc machines" in huge numbers, let alone the number of Wordstar boxes out there. Sure, it would be another few years before everyone and his dog had one, but by 1983 there were plenty around.

about 3 months ago
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Toyota Describes Combustion Engine That Generates Electricity Directly

AJWM Re:Efficiency? (234 comments)

what happens when you have a very long incline for miles, such as found on I-84, I-76, I-80, I-70, etc. and your batteries run down? Granted most of it isn't steep, but very long distances.

Even the long stretches on say I-70 going up to the Eisenhower Tunnel or Vail Pass aren't more than a couple of miles ... and you get an equivalent downhill to recharge those batteries on the other side.

(As for speed, I once had the turbo control cable snap on my (relatively new at the time) Daytona Turbo-Z while climbing from Silverthorne up to the tunnel. 2.2 L just doesn't do a heck of a lot without a turbo assist, especially at altitude. Fortunately traffic was light. BTW, max speed limit in the mountains is usually 65mph.)

about 3 months ago
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The 3D Economy — What Happens When Everyone Prints Their Own Shoes?

AJWM Beer. (400 comments)

People can (and some do) brew their own beer too, or buy from local microbreweries.

But I don't see Coors or Anheuser-Busch going out of business anytime soon.

about 4 months ago
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The Tech Industry Is Getting Ridiculous

AJWM Re:Secret Service? (102 comments)

Come now, Ian Fleming wrote a documentary on it, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

about 4 months ago
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Flying Snake Mysteries Revealed

AJWM At least they're not (very) venomous. (78 comments)

[...] As he spoke, Carson noticed a slim green ribbon ripple out of the jungle canopy ahead. It glided toward them and settled on Gupta's shoulder. A jade ribbon snake.
Carson reached over and flicked it to the ground, then stomped on its head, hard.
Gupta flinched, then looked down. "A flying snake is only mildly toxic to humans, there was no need to do that."
"Flying snakes on Earth, perhaps," said Carson. "This is a jade, its venom compares to that of a krait or a taipan."
Gupta paled. "That deadly?"
"Only if you let them bite you. Come on."
Gupta looked up at the branches above them, then down at the body of the snake. He brought his heel down hard on its already flattened head.
Carson looked at him, an eyebrow raised.
"Just making sure," Gupta said.

-- The Chara Talisman, 2011.

about 6 months ago

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