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User Plea Means EISA Support Not Removed From Linux

Ford Prefect Re: Which is fair (189 comments)

Hello, Arthur.

about a week ago
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Radio Shack Reported To Be Ready for Bankruptcy Filing

Ford Prefect Re:Sad to hear (314 comments)

Probably useless for most people reading this, but my favourite-ever electronics store must be the utterly one-off R. F. Potts in Derby, UK. The shop is absolutely tiny, but chock-full of stuff both new and old - with incredibly helpful and knowledgeable staff. Weird, obscure component is buggered, and you need a new one? Hand it over, and they'll find a replacement from the wall of drawers behind the counter - then charge you something like 20p for it. They also have a wide range of old computer parts and random reclaimed mechanisms from things - one of their front windows is always filled with inspiration for stuff to build.

It's probably Derby's engineering heritage that allows it to keep going - with Rolls Royce aero engines and Bombardier trains based nearby, there must be plenty of engineers mucking around with stuff in their spare time...

I only wish they'd open a branch in Seattle, where I live now! A trip to a Radio Shack a few years ago for components was most disappointing.

about two weeks ago
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3D Cameras Are About To Go Mainstream

Ford Prefect Re:Do not want (141 comments)

Wouldn't that make an awesome app, building *real* 3d scenes, and making the models available for export in a variety of formats and with direct-links for popular functions (editing apps, export to popular 3d printing services, etc)?

Look into photogrammetry software like the cloud-based 123D Catch and the defiantly offline Agisoft PhotoScan - they'll turn loads of conventional photos into arbitrary 3D models. The former is probably closest to your request!

I've been playing around with the latter software recently - the required photography is pretty difficult to master, but it's a rather useful tool. Here's a geometry-only render of a statue I scanned as an example - there's a full texture map for the model as well, but this is showing off the frankly implausible levels of geometrical detail you can get from a physical object. (Excuse the noisy crevices - I was shooting hand-held at ~9am in the middle of winter on a cloudy day...) It's terrible at shiny objects (reflections confuse the hell out of it) and system requirements are pretty steep - it'll eat however many CPU and GPU cores you throw at it, and the more memory the better - but the results are well worth it.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Software For Image Organization?

Ford Prefect Re:There's only one image organizing program (259 comments)

Adobe for reasons only known to itself absolutely refuses to support case-sensitive file systems for Mac OS X.

I've heard of various other software breaking when used with case-sensitive filesystems on OS X - not making an excuse for that software, but what is the benefit of running with such a filesystem anyway? I'm genuinely interested.

(I've been running with the default case-preserving, case-insensitive filesystems for a decade or more, and not hit any problems.)

about a month and a half ago
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Attack of the One-Letter Programming Languages

Ford Prefect Re:Four Lettered Languages (127 comments)

I think most people would agree PHP is a four-letter word.

about 2 months ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

Ford Prefect Re:With a RTG, it couldn't have got to the comet. (523 comments)

The SNAP-9A used in the Transit 5B-2 navigation satellite launched in 1963 weighed 12.3 kg and produced 25 watts of power. That looks about like a perfect fit for Philae, and I'm sure more efficient thermocouplers are available today that could further reduce the weight.

They could also have made Rosetta much larger, and possibly have got to its destination much faster, by launching on a Saturn V rather than an Ariane 5.

(Unfortunately, the jumbo-sized booster was unavailable - as was the RTG.)

about 2 months ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

Ford Prefect Re:I'm quite surprised it wasn't (523 comments)

Like the GP, I was also surprised to hear that a probe so far from Earth was solar powered, I wouldn't have thought there was enough light that far out even without the shadows. Sure it's an assumption but it's not baseless, previous deep space probes such as Cassini, pioneer, and voyager are all nuclear powered.

NASA's Juno probe, currently en route to Jupiter, is also solar powered.

RTGs are great, but availability is limited.

about 2 months ago
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The Strangeness of the Mars One Project

Ford Prefect Re:The Truman Show (246 comments)

By the time "the launch window" comes around you could easily have them (and hell, us as well, the viewing public) convinced that they are onboard a genuine Mars mission rocket heading into space... much easier to achieve - and cheaper and safer - if it's all in a studio.

Been done already (albeit with a flight to a peculiarly non-weightless 'low Earth orbit' rather than a mission to Mars) with the 2005 television series Space Cadets.

about 3 months ago
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Raspberry Pi A+ Details Leaked

Ford Prefect Re:A great family of products (141 comments)

For my own use, I was thinking of turning mine into an airplay-compatible receiver (I found that there is software for for that) and built it together with (wifi dongle and a little amp) into a very old radio cabinet. Nice to put in the kitchen.

If your radio is still in semi-working condition, it might be possible to inject the audio signal from the Pi into the radio's existing amplifier. I almost certainly broke all kinds of audio design rules, but in my instance it sounds brilliant. I (briefly) got it working as an Airplay receiver, but for nearly two years it's been doing sterling stuff as a time-delayed BBC Radio 4 device.

(I would definitely recommend against blindly doing this with stuff that's directly mains-powered - I know that a lot of old radios, especially in the USA, did scary things with mains voltages. For a battery-powered transistor radio? Certainly worth a try.)

about 3 months ago
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Space Tourism Isn't Worth Dying For

Ford Prefect Re: Well (594 comments)

I should also point out that the Stratolaunch concept wouldn't have even been conceived had the original White Knight or the White Knight 2 never been developed.

Erm... Pegasus? (Apparently Stratolaunch Systems will be launching the Pegasus II...)

The whole SpaceShip[n] concept is pretty similar to the X-15 anyway.

about 3 months ago
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The Airplane of the Future May Not Have Windows

Ford Prefect Re:Fine, if (286 comments)

I've seen so many incredible things looking out of aircraft windows. One vaguely recent example - a crescent moon during a sunrise causing rapidly changing light on the clouds below. And then there's a wintry Iceland with geothermal power stations venting steam, and ice on Lake Michigan reflecting sunlight in abstract ways...

Not sitting next to a window is awful.
 

about 3 months ago
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Firefox OS Coming To Raspberry Pi

Ford Prefect Re:Low power CPU meet bloated pOS (88 comments)

GREAT IDEA GUYS. Android has been 'coming' for over 2 years now and pretty much nothing changed when BroadCom open sourced ... A SMALL PART of the video driver code ... I hope no one holds their breath on this one ...

They open sourced a small part of the video drivers a few years ago - and more recently released full documentation and drivers for the VideoCore IV 3D whatsits. (I gather this version has all the OpenGL gubbins running on the ARM side rather than doing the message-passing stuff of the previous driver, but you can run Quake III at a decent framerate using these open drivers.)

about 3 months ago
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The Physics of Space Battles

Ford Prefect Re:Manual control (470 comments)

The most unrealistic thing in space operas is the notion that the human crew could do anything in terms of gunnery or navigation better than a computer.

While definitely not using realistic physics in any way, I liked a space battle in one of Iain M. Banks' Culture novels. A horribly beweaponed Culture ship is describing to its human passenger precisely how it is outwitting and annihilating its alien foes, mentioning that there's a particularly good moment coming up - eventually admitting that it's merely running through a slow-motion replay, the real battle having been over in a matter of milliseconds.

about 4 months ago
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Trouble In Branson-Land, As Would-Be Space Tourists Get Antsy Over Delays

Ford Prefect Re:They're not astronauts, they're ballast. (77 comments)

For space tourism flights to the International Space Station, they're regarded as spaceflight participants rather than 'proper' astronauts (or cosmonauts).

Having seen quite how much training fully qualified astronauts and cosmonauts have to go through, I wouldn't be surprised if they become some vaguely protected terms in the not-so-far future...

about 4 months ago
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Northwest Passage Exploration Ship Found

Ford Prefect Re:Who names those ships? (80 comments)

Offensive Unit All Through With This Niceness And Negotiation Stuff is just a friendly neighborhood warship.

I've seen half-serious suggestions that, should Scotland gain independence and create its own navy, all its ships should be named after Culture spacecraft...

about 5 months ago
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NASA Releases Footage of "Flying Saucer" Braking Test, Declares Success

Ford Prefect Re:The Parachute Will Work (55 comments)

The parachute that brought the latest rover to Mars also disintegrated during testing. However NASA proceeded with the design knowing that the atmosphere on Mars is not nearly as dense as it is on Earth.

They got it working in testing after that initial failure - and even that failure provided extremely useful high-speed video of its deployment.

Note the colossal wind tunnel. This latest, flying saucer tested parachute is way larger than that Curiosity parachute - so they've figured out a whole new testing regime. One that helpfully more closely matches conditions in the Martian atmosphere, too.

about 6 months ago

Submissions

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Time-travelling 1970s transistor radio, with WiFi

Ford Prefect Ford Prefect writes  |  about 2 years ago

Ford Prefect writes "If you're British, you'll know what BBC Radio 4 is. And if you grew up with it then moved abroad, timezones are a problem. Especially if you've moved to the eight-hours-out Seattle. So, with a Raspberry Pi and a 1970s Roberts radio, I built a solution. Which, in some space-time continuum-collapsing temporal loop, promptly appeared on Radio 4 itself. Oops! Assembly instructions, source code and pictures included for any expats wishing to build something similar..."
Link to Original Source
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Ford Prefect Ford Prefect writes  |  about 8 years ago

Ford Prefect writes "80,000 votes, and 4000 mods to choose from — but visitors to the popular Mod DB have spoken. So, fresh from the weird and wonderful world of game modifications come the 2006 Players' Choice Awards, complete with cash and hardware prizes from a variety of sponsors. (Disclaimer: I was fifth. So without further ado, I'd like to thank my family, my agent, blah blah blah blah blah...)"

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