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Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

oneiros27 Astronomy & physics need IT support (156 comments)

I work as a programmer & sysadmin supporting a solar physics archive. Although most scientists these days have to learn how to program to some degree (to be able to analyze their data), there's still a large number of IT people who work in these fields -- as programmers, sysadmins, DBAs, etc.

So, if you're in the Tucson, AZ; Menlo Park, CA; Princeton, NJ; or Seattle, WA area, keep an eye on the LSST hiring page.

There are likely to be other projects out there hiring, but I don't know what their various situations are. (I just know that LSST was soliciting at the last American Astronomical Society meeting). You can also look to universities, especially if you have kids (as future tuition benefits for dependants can be quite significant).

I know a hell of a lot more about astronomy & solar physics than I do before I started this job. I'm by no means an expert in the field, but my work does help the scientists do their research and improve our knowledge of the field.

3 hours ago
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New Global Plan Would Crack Down On Corporate Tax Avoidance

oneiros27 People have AMT (316 comments)

Corporations can do whatever they can to show no profit, and therefore, no taxes.

If rich people were to try to make enough charitable contributions or whatever other deductions to drop their taxes to zero, they'd still get hit with the Alternative Minimum Tax. (those with a low enough income can still get away with this)

Why don't we have an AMT for companies? A sort of 'if you're making over a billion dollars in gross receipts, you still have to pay the U.S. 10%' or simply 'then these deductions aren't allowable' ... you could have things in there like :

  • Money spent on lobbying
  • Money spent on advertising
  • Salary costs over ~5x minimum wage (calculated per person ... so no hiring a bunch of minimum wage people to offset the CEO's pay)

Obviously, lobbyists and legislators will hate the first one. Newspapers & TV stations will hate the second one.

2 days ago
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To prepare for a coronal mass ejection, I ...

oneiros27 Verify servers, maybe switch to low graphics. (151 comments)

Typically, I check on all of my servers to ensure data's flowing. If they're not, I look to how we can fix it or route around any problems.

If I was more worried about the storms, I'd make sure that our development servers were configured to take load from the main production ones, and that we switched off superflous graphics on the websites. With our upgrades after the last Venus Transit, I'm not worried.

But then again, I'm responsible for web & database servers at the Solar Data Analysis Center, so I'm actually worried about trying to make sure that that scientists and public can get to the data as quickly as possible and we don't go down from the load.

5 days ago
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Top EU Court: Libraries Can Digitize Books Without Publishers' Permission

oneiros27 Not all libraries let you check out books (102 comments)

You can't check out a book from the Library of Congress. There are plenty of other 'non-circulating' books at most public libraries (eg, they won't let you take home volumes from an encyclopedia, textbooks when a teacher has asked that they be put 'on reserve').

What this does is allow libraries & archives to do a few things:

  • Keep backups of their holdings.
  • Reduce risk in letting patrons look at the mateirals (as they don't touch the originals)
  • Reduce long-term costs. (keep the physical books at 'off-site storage' (ie, warehouses in less expensive areas), and not have to worry about how fast it'd take to access them if they're requested).
  • Free up space for other purposes (meeting rooms, computers, etc.) while still having access to the whole collection.
  • Free up librarians. (many archives have 'closed stacks' where you request a book, and a librarian goes down to get it for you ... this means they don't have to do that).

That being said, there are some drawbacks -- if the physical books are being placed into deep storage, they're not getting inspected, so should something go wrong (eg, mold start to develop), it may progress further before someone notices.

I'd actually be interested in seeing the full text of the decision, to see if there are limits as to how many digital copies can be viewed at once -- if a teacher puts a book 'on reserve', and the library scans it ... can 4 students view it simultaneously if the library only owns 3 copies?

about a week ago
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X-Class Solar Flare Coming Friday

oneiros27 Re:spaceweather.com (145 comments)

Yep ... but we get to argue for why we need new hardware when they can't keep up with the load. And many of 'em are intended for 'public outreach', so they justify their continued funding by how many people look at their website, not just how much data they serve, or how many people cite their systems in peer-reviewed papers. (ISWA and iSolSearch may be exceptions to this)

There have been other times that were much worse, such as when a slashdot 'editor' (I use that term loosely) decided to add a comment for people to use one of the movie maker CGIs and set the defaults higher so as to use maximum bandwidth. (and it gave you a slideshow of JPGs, so not nearly as effecient as SDO's premade quicktimes ... and it was back when our network was only on a 100Mbps uplink)

(and I'm listed as a backup sysadmin for one of the systems I linked to ... however, NASA decided I'm not a sysadmin (and kicked me off of the useful mailing lists), in an attempt to get the number of people w/ sysadmin credentials down. (as many scientists were listed as sysadmins, so they could administer their own desktops))

about a week ago
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X-Class Solar Flare Coming Friday

oneiros27 Predicted propogation ... (145 comments)

If you want a picture / movie that's actually based on this event's data ... use iSWA.

Select the 'ISEP' tab, and then choose one that mentions 'CME WSA' and looks like a swirl. (there are three of 'em ... pressure, velocity and density ... although I think something went wrong in their pipeline, as the pressure and density ones are *really* glitching out ... I don't know if that's one they generate every 15 mins, though)

You'll notice that even though the center of the cloud is expected to go ahead of the earth, they're predicting it'll be wide enough that we'll still get hit by it.

(disclaimer : I work for the Solar Data Analysis Center at GSFC)

about a week ago
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X-Class Solar Flare Coming Friday

oneiros27 Re:spaceweather.com (145 comments)

Bah ... it's mostly static content. The sites that get hammered on these sorts of things are:

... etc. The various 'latest images' pages for SDO, SOHO, STEREO, etc. won't be as interesting as the imagers that are that tight in have already seen the good stuff (for that flare; there might be more from that same active region; you can track that at Solar Monitor or iSolSearch)... there *might* be something from this CME still to come in the HI1 and HI2 instruments from STEREO, though.

You might also want to check The Sun Today, which tends to have good explanations of what's happened, and they have a few movies for this event.

(disclaimer : I work at the Solar Data Analysis Center, and have worked on some of the sites that I've mentioned, and know the sysadmins for all but one of 'em)

about a week ago
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X-Class Solar Flare Coming Friday

oneiros27 Too late for the flare -- the *CME* comes Friday (145 comments)

Flares are bursts of energy, so they travel at the speed of light -- there's no real early warning for 'em, as by the time you see it, it's here. (there might be a slight warning before you hit the peak of the flare, but we're talking seconds, not days).

The CME is what's coming on Friday ... Coronal *Mass* Ejection ... ie, it's more than just an electro-magnetic pulse ... it actually has mass associated with it.

You might also get some SEP (solar energetic particles) before the main sort of 'cloud' from the CME arrives -- those can be worse for the people in space, as they arrive minutes to hours after the flare, and they'll just go through things in space (eg, spacecraft, space stations, etc.).

disclaimer : I'm not a solar physicist, but I'm a programmer/sysadmin supporting the Solar Data Analysis Center at GSFC.

about a week ago
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When Scientists Give Up

oneiros27 Intellectual Property Tax! (347 comments)

Your comments got me thinking -- if people want to treat 'intellectual property' as 'property', then shouldn't it be subject to property taxes?

Of course, the problem with both of our ideas is that the companies would do exactly what they've been doing with their logos -- spin off a company in another country, give the IP to that company, and then rent the use of the IP back to the original company. (thereby reducing the profits of the main company, reducing their tax burden ... and the spin-off is in a low tax country, so it's almost pure profit over there).

about a week ago
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Apple Announces Smartwatch, Bigger iPhones, Mobile Payments

oneiros27 Tight pants (730 comments)

Have you seen what people are wearing these days?

This is so they can check what time it is without having to attempt to extract their new, larger phone out of the pocket of their skinny jeans, and then try to put it back in again.

Where it'd actually be cool is if it had a 'lack of proximity warning' ... eg, an alert of 'hey, you left your phone' when the two get out or range of each other. Not that it would justify the price (or switching to an iPhone), but it'd be kinda cool, as I just realized I left my phone in my car.

about two weeks ago
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New HTML Picture Element To Make Future Web Faster

oneiros27 It's the 1990s all over again. (161 comments)

Back in the days of HTML, they decided that it was awful that the people using dial-up had to wait so long for images to load ... so they came up with the 'lowsrc' attribute to the IMG element:

<img lowsrc='...' src='...' ...>

Or, you could could go with the 2000s route, and use CSS's media queries so that you don't try to push large images down to small-screen devices.

Wouldn't it make more sense to just use a known attribute or method rather than trying to come up with yet another solution every few years?

about two weeks ago
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How the Ancient Egyptians (Should Have) Built the Pyramids

oneiros27 If you like damaged blocks ... (202 comments)

Their 'rolling' method is going to damage the corners of the blocks, and the surface of the path it rolls on.

Now, it's possible that the blocks were finished on site, and so they could use this trick to move the blocks from the quary to the worksite ... but it shouldn't be used to move finished blocks into their final location.

(and then you've got to roll all of the logs back to the quary ... assuming they're strong enough to survive this process ... which probably isn't as much work as what's needed for moving the stones, but it cuts into your energy savings ... as does transporting larger stones so you can finish them once they're at the worksite)

about three weeks ago
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Is Dong Nguyen Trolling Gamers With "Swing Copters"?

oneiros27 Who decides what's 'blatant' ? (113 comments)

. If Apple and Google want to make things friendlier out there for developers, they might consider stricter enforcement policies for the blatant rip-offs filling their digital storefronts.

It took a lawsuit for Atari to kill KC Munchkin ... and even then they only won on appeal : http://www.mathpirate.net/log/...

If KC Munchkin was a rip-off of Pac Man, then every first person shooter is a rip-off of Wolf 3D. (which might've been a rip-off of Space Simulation).

Don't get me wrong -- there needs to be something done about people making crappy games and tricking people into buying it (eg, The War Z), but once in a while, someone makes a *better* game that's similar to something that already exists (eg, Arkanoid vs. Break Out).

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Do You Wish You'd Known Starting Out As a Programmer?

oneiros27 'nothing to do with [your] job' (548 comments)

I've worked places where 1/2 the time was spent doing the 'other duties as assigned' ... and some of 'em really sucked. (paperwork ... ick)

Think about it -- an undergrad degree is about you willing to spend 4 potentially productive years to get a sheet of paper. (and in my case, that's all it was ... as they neglected to flag in their computer system that I had graduated, so 7 years later, when I needed a transcript, I had to spend many months and threaten to sue to get them to mark me as having graduated).

If you want to do only the things that you enjoy doing ... start your own business, and be successful enough that you can hire someone to do the stuff you don't want to do. And that doesn't require having a degree. The degree is just so that you have a sheet of paper from some group vouching that you have some minimal set of skills to be a productive employee.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Do You Wish You'd Known Starting Out As a Programmer?

oneiros27 'weed out' classes (548 comments)

I wasn't a comp-sci major, so I don't know how common they are in that field ... but in engineering, you typically have a freshman class that's referred to as the 'weed-out' class.

It's not supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be damned hard, so they can see who's got the fortitude to stick with it.

Not all of life is going to be a cakewalk -- there are going to be times when you really have to knuckle down and study, and it's often better to get it over with early on than spend 3 years towards the degree and then find out that you can't cut it.

about a month ago
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Your Phone Can Be Snooped On Using Its Gyroscope

oneiros27 not the battery door (96 comments)

Mine's got a wireless charging pad in it.

Of course, it's running WebOS, which lets me set up security such that I can require confirmation before an app's allowed to use certain features (eg, GPS), rather than just giving it a blanket 'you're allowed to use GPS whenever you want to'.

The drawback is that I don't have nearly as many apps available to use, being that it's WebOS. (I still blame those horrible Palm Pre commercials with the stoned albino -- why they didn't bother showing that it supported multitasking and copy & paste way before iOS, I have no clue)

about a month ago
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Wheel Damage Adding Up Quickly For Mars Rover Curiosity

oneiros27 Correct material choice (162 comments)

My thought exactly ...

"Oh, no! The item we built is starting to fail after it's had 40 times the planned usage!"

That's not a poor design choice ... that's a *fantastic* problem to be having.

about a month ago
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DARPA Uses Preteen Gamers To Beta Test Tomorrow's Military Software

oneiros27 1992, Toys (84 comments)

Are we just trying to make reference to Robin Williams all week?

This is just yet another sign that the military saw the movie 'Toys' ... as if the whole drone program wasn't an obvious enough sign:

http://kotaku.com/5891256/wtpt...

about a month ago
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Writer: Internet Comments Belong On Personal Blogs, Not News Sites

oneiros27 News websites vs. Aggregators vs. Blogs (299 comments)

disclaimer : I was an admin for fark.com.

The problem as I see it is that news sites started adding the ability for user comments to try to make their websites more 'sticky'. They wanted people to keep coming back ... but the ones that do are the trolls.

Unless you've modeled your whole site around people commenting, and build up a community, you don't tend to get useful comments -- you either get trolls, people advertising 'work at home', or someone with a follow question about the article that no one every responds to. Once in a while you might get some actually useful information from the general public, the 'I was there' accounts and such ... but it's few and far between.

(note, I'm not commenting on how Fark handles things ... most of their measures were implemented after I left, and I only know some of it; my experience comes with managing other websites)

Allowing anonymous posting that immediately gets shown to the public is just plain stupid. It's begging for trolls. At least with accounts you can monitor the new users, as in most cases you either have the throw-away account (which might have been registered months ago, specifically for use later), or the person who's just constantly obnoxious.

If I ever set up another website, I'm going to the model of 'invitations' where you have to know someone already in the community to get an invite -- because then if we get someone being an ass, we can suspend their friends' accounts, too (giving them some external pressure to not be a dick), or prune the whole tree of accounts if that doesn't help.

So, anyway, my basic categories:

  • News websites : people go there for the new, original news.
  • Aggregators : people go there to participate in commentary about other things found on the internet, but the focus isn't on original content (slashdot, digg, etc.)
  • Blogs : personal journals, run by a person or small group, with commentary on whatever they feel like (includes people's facebooks pages, and sites like Jezebel)

There are some successful hybrids out there ... but if you're going to allow comments, you have to know how to handle them ... and I don't want to say too much, because I don't want to give the trolls info on how to bypass some of the more interesting systems I've seen.

about a month ago

Submissions

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Search for Evi Nemeth Continues

oneiros27 oneiros27 writes  |  1 year,26 days

oneiros27 (46144) writes "Although the initial search for Evi Nemeth (and some other people who didn't write Unix books) ended, family and friends of the missing crew are funding a private search effort for the crew. They've managed to get more images from DigitalGlobe of the drift area, but now need help looking through the pictures. If you've got some free time, you might be able to help save some lives."
Link to Original Source
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SpaceVenture : a new "Sierra" style game from the makers of Space Quest

oneiros27 oneiros27 writes  |  more than 2 years ago

oneiros27 (46144) writes "As previously covered a few years ago, sarien.net created a javascript interpreter for old Sierra games. Now, the original creators of Space Quest and the folks responsible for sarien.net are planning a new game, and have already put out some teasers to test browsers and show off the artwork, and show they haven't lost their sense of humor."
Link to Original Source

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