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PC Magazine Editor Throws in the Towel on Vista

adeyadey Re:Just a skin (816 comments)

Funniest. Post. Ever...

more than 7 years ago

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On Cassini

adeyadey adeyadey writes  |  more than 10 years ago

(From comment on "Titans Alien Thunder")

This is going to be a fascinating event - however I do have some questions.. The total mission cost is around $4 billion - is this good value for money? For example look at New Horizons, a Jupier/Pluto/KBO mission with a total projected cost of $600 million. I also wonder, given the scale of the mission, if a RTG should have been put on board Huygens so that it could stay longer and observe the Titan environment over a longer time? (Yes I know it could only relay data when Cassini passes by, but that could still be useful..) Listening to thunderstorms is all well and good, and adding a mic is worth doing because its a cheap thing to do in sucha system, but what about a lander that spends more time there looking at the chemistry of Titan?

I think that the smaller, cheaper missions return much better scientific return for the money. For instance, most of the function of the proposed $10 billion JIMO mission could be done by a cheaper Europa-only orbiter that would cost less than $1 billion. (See: http://www.spacedaily.com/news/hubble-04p.html ) Also take a look at the SMART-1 ESA mission - less than $100 million for a complete mission featuring many new technologies.

For example the camera on the $4 billion Cassini mission is only 1 megapixel - if we had a larger number of smaller, cheaper missions, would we be there now with a much better imaging system. Cassini had a much delayed launch, so the design was outdated by the time of its launch in 1997. The same mission launched on a later window could have used ion propulsion (SEP/RTG combo) saving weight (1/2 the 4 tons Cassini weight is fuel)

The same thing could happen with JIMO - if NASA spend $10 billion on that, they could forego many other missions, such as a New Horizons II mission, which would give us a chance to look at Uranus (not always a good word to say on Slashdot) with modern instruments, as well as Jupiter & some more KBO's..

Also think about Hubble - is it worth spending $2 billion on a robot to repair the aging telescope, when the same money could buy better new space telescopes.. (see link above)

I dont want to belittle the work of the scientist working on Cassini - it will be a fascinating mission, I just wonder if we could get more return by rejigging the beurocracy.. The X-Prize, New Horizons and SMART-1 prove that more smaller & competitive missions return much more bang-per-buck..

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Electric cars & alternative power..

adeyadey adeyadey writes  |  more than 10 years ago

This article appeared on BBC news that set me thinking again about the case for electric cars. Even with current technology, the worlds best selling electric car, the Gem, runs at a cost of about 0.25p/mile - compared to 30p/mile for a typical petrol car.

The technology just needs a bit of a push to get the milage between charges up, and volume manufacture costs down. My own idea is that batteries be "leased" from garages, so that you drive into a garage and swap for a fully charged one instantly, for some sort of fee. No new technology needed for that, just some basic mechanics. That really sorts out the biggest drawback for electric cars - lack of range.

But electricity comes from fossil fuels you say? The UK has enough offshore wind-power to generate all our energy needs several times over - just use spare unused off-peak power to charge our cars up - that helps solve one of the major objections to wind-power - variability. New wind-power farms can supply electricity at £0.03/kw/hour - pretty cheap. (British Wind Energy Association page)

I will also add that I think the turbines are objects of beauty that do not detract from the landscape (especially compared to coal/gas/oil plants) - and that most of the "environmental" objections come from wealthy NIMBY land-owners..

Once people get off the treadmill of buying new petrol cars and realise how cheap electric cars can be, volumes go up and the prices will drop..

It also makes sense to stop pouring money at such a rate into unstable middle-eastern coutries - would there *really* have been this war in Iraq if not for oil (think of the long term for that answer)? Money spent on wind-power & new electric cars will generate local employment and wealth. Those oil reserves should be kept for future generations for things that are much harder to make, such as plastics, airplane fuel, and so on.

Ok most of this is old news in a way - but it all makes sense - doesnt it?

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Re: The latest outlook vulnerability..

adeyadey adeyadey writes  |  more than 10 years ago

..but I think even up to XP the Outlook view-pane is on by default - and it displays every message in glorious full rich text/html/virus-buffer-overflow format!

If you look at the technical steps that the average novice is expected to take to protect themselves from attack.. Its just a joke! I just want to recieve messages in basic text format - maybe with the odd clickable link. I dont want bitmaps, animations, movies, music..

I have a thing about bloatware too - ok sure, make features available as extras, but otherwise keep the basic setup small, fast and simple. (see my www pages for my code..) Small, lean apps have less vulnerabilities too. You know at one time, Windows 3.1 was distributed on 6 floppies - add an extra floppy or 2 for Win32s, thats the complete basic 32 bit Windows API! The reason why MSDOS caught on originally was that it was actually fast and lean, at least in version 2.0-3.0..

Even Linux suffers in this regard these days..

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Alternative power again..

adeyadey adeyadey writes  |  more than 10 years ago Well alternative power comes up again, so I thought I would re-edit & post this journo entry, lots of interesting refs, comments welcome!

...snip... I am not saying that Solar tiling would always be the *only* source of power - but that if houses did have solar tiling we would save a huge amount of power. Top that up with Wind power, Tidal power, Hydro-electric, then make sure houses use energy saving lightbulbs, are well insulated, etc, and you can have a national energy system wihich needs little or no coal/oil/nuclear.. This is not some sort fantasy - it is already starting to happen. Maybe we shouldnt cover the countryside, but what about the deserts of the world ?

....

Zero annual electricity bills for these guys - the tiles make as much electricity as they take from the grid. (ok with gas heating). Check also This link, This link , This link or This link

I scheme I recall quoted a break-even time of about 5 years - ie, even at todays prices, the houses will pay for the extra cost of solar tiling on the roofs in 5 years in terms of electricity savings - I will have to dig that link out again..

>People are scratching their heads and saying hang on, what do you *do* with plutonium that is going to be radioactive for centuries, and has to be guarded in case some terrorist digs it up to make a dirty bomb..

The solution is well known and widely used: you get your plutonium and you mix it with regular fissible U235 to make a combustible called MOX. Then you feed MOX into nuclear reactors for energy production. The plutonium is degraded into shorter-life elements (mostly Americanium 241) which are less toxic and need to be stored for a few years instead of a few millenia. That's what the French and other Europeans are doing since the 80s. Big bonus: You can also use plutonium coming from disarmed nuclear warheard.

You would not be suprised to learn that Greenpeace do not agree with that. The technique you describe sounds good in theory, but in practice reprocessing still generates unacceptable levels radioactive pollution and waste that is still very difficult to deal in practice. BNFL have had particular problems with liquid waste products that are very expensive to handle and dispose of safely - its the practical details that are the problem. Furthermore you have not talked about the price of nuclear. The UK (and many other countries) has squandered truely huge amounts of money on nuclear, now, it appears, with no positive end result - they are going to be left with a collection of reactor sites that are going to be very expensive to decommission and clean up. If they had invested just a fraction of that money on renewables, we would be burning a heck of a lot less coal/oil/gas now. There are actually parts of the world (ie Chernobyl) that are too radioactive to live, thanks to mistakes/miscalculations made by the nuclear power industry..

And the point is - why bother with nuclear, why take the risk? It is becoming very apparent that alternatives really can deliver cheap electricity, without the same level of pollution and waste. Furthermore, costs of solar cells will drop as volumes increase. Case in point - look at the monitor you are (probably) looking at now - if it is TFT - and think how much the price has decreased in the last few years as manufacturing techniques have improved and volumes increased.. Push the production volumes up, and have every house in the country use solar tiling..

As for your wind power argument, wind turbines are useful if noisy, but again, we are talking a few megawatts here, not the gigawatts that are currently produced by thermal plants. Wind power can not scale a thousand-fold.

Not true - the UK is setting a target of getting 20% of its power from re-newables by 2020, and a lot of that will be wind-power. There are soon to be huge offsiore wind farms in construction.. And they are not noisy, nor do they upset wildlife - same site documents the evidence.

Like with so many things, it pays to actually step back, forget your politics for a while, and take a pragmatic view of the science.. Ok, I will get off by soap box now.. :-)

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"Mars Direct" goes in front of the senate..

adeyadey adeyadey writes  |  about 11 years ago

Robert Zubrin, advocate of a manned "Mars Direct" mission, has presented his arguments to the senate.

All the assembled Senators asked for autographed copies of "The Case for Mars," and Senator Brownback (R-KS), chairman of the Space Subcommittee within the Commerce Committee, talked to Zubrin for some time after the hearing, and expressed a desire to hear more about Mars Direct in further hearings that could be held within his subcommittee in the near future.

Following the hearing, Zubrin traveled across town and met with a representative of the Executive branch who is currently engaged in a focused deliberation on determining a new direction for the US space program. The Executive branch representative had seen Zubrin's Senate testimony that morning over the TV, and was very impressed, keeping the Mars Society president in his office for over an hour, asking many questions, and finally taking eight copies of "The Case for Mars" to distribute among very high ranking personnel within the Bush administration.

Speculation is mounting that Bush will announce a new Space goal directive, on the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers flight this December. Could this be a Moon/Mars mission, and the end of stagnation of the US space program?

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Building a portable video edit suite..

adeyadey adeyadey writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Heres a question for you..

I would like to build a reasonably priced portable video edit suite, perhaps using components from my existing desktop. The current system has a DVD-R, 80 Gb HD, Firewire card, Adobe Premiere. I want to be able to multiboot Win98se, Win2000NT, Linux. The options I can see are:

1) Rebuild my exisiting desktop system into a micro-atx case, with its existing DVD-R & 80 Gb hd, buy a new LCD, lightest I can find. Not true portable, luggable in a suitcase. (Weight??)

2) Buy cheap toshiba (550 UK pounds) and take DVD-R/80Gb HD & build/buy a external box for them, connect via USB-2 or Firewire. (Can then be used with both desktop or laptop)

3) Buy portable to do the lot (1200 UK pounds) including DVD-R, 60 Gb hd, Firewire i/f etc.

Anyone got any thoughts/experience on those options? If I went for option 2, anyone got experience of hooking desktop drives to a laptop in that way? Is it best to use Firewire or USB2? Remember this is video editing..

Or option 1 - What is the smallest/lightest case I can get? I'd rather avoid option 3 - laptops with DVD-Rs are very pricey at the moment.

On a related topic - I have loads of 1 hour films on Mini-DV (good quality - shot with 3ccd cam, etc) I would like to backup onto DVD at very high quality - 1 hour per DVD. Is that good enough not to show visible artifacts if the material is converted back to DV-AVI and reedited later? What is the best MPEG-2 encoder? Or, if it doesnt need to play on a standard stand-alone DV player, should I look at MPEG-4 at 1-hour per DVD?

Thoughts anyone?

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Alternative power..

adeyadey adeyadey writes  |  more than 11 years ago

I will start adding what I think are the more interesting posts to my journal. This one on alternative power..

.. I just showed you that by covering half my roof with the best solar cells available on the market, I cannot even cover my own electricity needs. What do you suggest, covering the countryside with panels?

I am not saying that Solar tiling would always be the *only* source of power - but that if houses did have solar tiling we would save a huge amount of power. Top that up with Wind power, Tidal power, Hydro-electric, then make sure houses use energy saving lightbulbs, are well insulated, etc, and you can have a national energy system wihich needs little or no coal/oil/nuclear.. This is not some sort fantasy - it is already starting to happen. Maybe we shouldnt cover the countryside, but what about the deserts of the world ?

>Such projects are up and running around Europe now, and pay back for themselves in a few years, even comparing to cheap "dig it up and burn" electricity.

Where, pray tell? Publications to defend your assertions?

Plenty, just Google "solar roof tiles estate"

Zero annual electricity bills for these guys - the tiles make as much electricity as they take from the grid. (ok with gas heating). Check also This link, This link , This link or This link

I scheme I recall quoted a break-even time of about 5 years - ie, even at todays prices, the houses will pay for the extra cost of solar tiling on the roofs in 5 years in terms of electricity savings - I will have to dig that link out again..

>People are scratching their heads and saying "hang on, what do you *do* with plutonium that is going to be radioactive for centuries, and has to be guarded in case some terrorist digs it up to make a dirty bomb.."

The solution is well known and widely used: you get your plutonium and you mix it with regular fissible U235 to make a combustible called MOX. Then you feed MOX into nuclear reactors for energy production. The plutonium is degraded into shorter-life elements (mostly Americanium 241) which are less toxic and need to be stored for a few years instead of a few millenia. That's what the French and other Europeans are doing since the 80s. Big bonus: You can also use plutonium coming from disarmed nuclear warheard.

You would not be suprised to learn that Greenpeace do not agree with that. The technique you describe sounds good in theory, but in practice reprocessing still generates unacceptable levels radioactive pollution and waste that is still very difficult to deal in practice. BNFL have had particular problems with liquid waste products that are very expensive to handle and dispose of safely - its the practical details that are the problem. Furthermore you have not talked about the price of nuclear. The UK (and many other countries) has squandered truely huge amounts of money on nuclear, now, it appears, with no positive end result - they are going to be left with a collection of reactor sites that are going to be very expensive to decommission and clean up. If they had invested just a fraction of that money on renewables, we would be burning a heck of a lot less coal/oil/gas now. There are actually parts of the world (ie Chernobyl) that are too radioactive to live, thanks to mistakes/miscalculations made by the nuclear power industry..

And the point is - why bother with nuclear, why take the risk? It is becoming very apparent that alternatives really can deliver cheap electricity, without the same level of pollution and waste. Furthermore, costs of solar cells will drop as volumes increase. Case in point - look at the monitor you are (probably) looking at now - if it is TFT - and think how much the price has decreased in the last few years as manufacturing techniques have improved and volumes increased.. Push the production volumes up, and have every house in the country use solar tiling..

As for your wind power argument, wind turbines are useful if noisy, but again, we are talking a few megawatts here, not the gigawatts that are currently produced by thermal plants. Wind power can not scale a thousand-fold.

Not true - the UK is setting a target of getting 20% of its power from re-newables by 2020, and a lot of that will be wind-power. There are soon to be huge offsiore wind farms in construction.. And they are not noisy, nor do they upset wildlife - same site documents the evidence.

Like with so many things, it pays to actually step back, forget your politics for a while, and take a pragmatic view of the science.. Ok, I will get off by soap box now.. :-)

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