Software Engineering Is a Dead-End Career, Says Bloomberg
It's simply not true that middle-aged developers have a hard time finding work due to rampant ageism. If you have advanced skills building high-quality software with technologies that are in demand, your age hardly matters. The smart employers value engineers with years of experience who are more likely to create good products and not make costly mistakes. I've been working for almost 20 years as a professional developer, am now 41 and making the best money of my career developing financial tools for a major investment bank.
Development teams doing high-profile projects that get media attention (as opposed to boring, routine stuff like telecom databases, retail POS terminals, embedded SW for consumer devices, etc) do tend to have more developers who are in their mid-30s or younger. This is generally not because of age bias, it's more likely because younger developers are most familiar with the latest languages and tools. Startups also tend to have young developers since they are more OK with high risk/high reward deals and long hours, and haven't had as much opportunity to get into engineering careers with big companies. Also, after a few decades in the field, many developers eventually get tired of endlessly staring at computer screens and learning new skills every 5-10 years. They move up into management or start new careers. A well-educated, hard-working engineer can easily move into many other less demanding career tracks including finance/investing, marketing, HR, real estate, and non-technical corporate jobs.
Browser Wars Redux: This Time It's the Apps
HTML5 is still a W3C Working Draft standard (see http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/) and is still changing so browser developers are slow to spend effort implementing it. Even after it becomes an official 1.0 standard, some browsers may not implement parts of it for years, so some amount of browser-specific code (and occasional non-availability of some features on some platforms) will always be a fact of life when building Web UIs.
NASA Campaigns For Safer Launch Requirements
Just switching from a fragile tile-covered aircraft strapped to the side of a flaking-foam-covered hydrogen tank to an inherently ballistically stable capsule placed as far from the flaming end of the rocket as possible (i.e., on top of it) will achieve the desired 10x safety factor improvement. NASA has been tied to its delta-winged boondoggle for several decades too long. If they would eliminate the segmented, non-throttleable solid rocket boosters (currently still in the plan thanks to Morton Thiokol's lobbyists) they could improve safety another 10x. And if they want to do all this at minimum cost, they could just buy Soyuz vehicles, the world's safest, most reliable manned space transportation system. Of course, national pride would allow this to happen only sometime after Putin declares his undying love for country music and Harley-Davidsons.
Initial WebGL Support Lands In WebKit
HTML5 canvas has a lot of potential. Once accelerated 3D graphics in the browser is standard, the potential uses and demand for content will be huge: visualizations, innovative interfaces, attention-grabbing content, digital art, games...
But IE doesn't support canvas so any site that relies on it for anything more than trivial rendering will be unusable by almost half of Internet users (current IE browser share: ~40%, according to w3schools). Probably Microsoft sees canvas as a threat to Silverlight so won't work with it until they absolutely have to.
Here's a canvas animation demo I wrote. Looks fine on Firefox, Chrome, Safari, iPhone... barely works on IE using emulated support for the canvas element.
HTML 5 Canvas Experiment Hints At Things To Come
Here's my latest HTML5 canvas demo: http://3.paulhamill.com/html_canvas_animation
Should work fine on recent Firefox, Safari, Chrome, iPhone browsers. Animates with glacial slowness and lower quality on IE since this uses excanvas.js emulation. Non-functional on Konqueror.
More canvas demos: http://www.canvasdemos.com
White House Panel Considers New Paths To Space
The elephant in the room (which doesn't get enough attention) is that the Ares rocket design is fundamentally flawed due to politics taking precedence over engineering. The Ares first stage will be a solid rocket booster which not only is inherently less controllable than a liquid fueled rocket (since it can't be throttled), but also makes the whole vehicle aerodynamically unstable (since it has a smaller diameter than the upper stage). The proposed reusable solid first stage has the same segmented design that caused the Challenger shuttle explosion when inter-segment seals burned through. It may have problems with severe in-flight vibration which cannot be dealt with by throttling engine power, leading to absurd hacks involving giant shock absorbers. Why is this poor up front design being officially pitched by NASA? Because of the high-powered, big money political lobbying of Morton Thiokol, the Shuttle's Solid Rocket Booster producer, which saw its meal ticket vanishing with the Shuttle retirement. Why has every other human-rated rocket (aside from the Shuttle) been liquid fueled with progressively smaller stages? Because the engineers went with the best design instead of having key pieces decided a priori by senators with law degrees and pockets full of contractor dollars. It will be truly pathetic if NASA winds up with another unreliable, problematic, unsafe vehicle due to back-room lobbying by government contractors. NASA engineers realize the truth which is why they are openly calling for a better design concept. Morton Thiokol should be forced to independently build its own solid-fuel rocket and participate in a fair competition with other rocket designs instead of using back-channel politics to sell its products.
NASA Releases Columbia Crew Survival Report
In April 2008 a Soyuz made an uncontrolled reentry due to failure of the service module to separate during the de-orbit sequence. The cosmonauts survived due to the inherent ballistic stability and fail-safety of the design:
NASA has finally conceded that the safest place for the astronauts is on top of the launch stack, with abort rockets to escape a failing lower stage, and with no exposure to damage from falling debris. These factors plus the increased safety of ballistic reentry explain the return to capsules with the Constellation system.
Shuttle vs. Soyuz Reliability
Soyuz vs Shuttle
NASA Releases Columbia Crew Survival Report
The mainstream media once again lives up to its long history of mangling science stories.
The report cites 5 specific fatal aspects of the loss of Columbia: depressurization, extreme dynamic loads, separation of the crew from the vehicle, exposure to space, and ground impact. Implying that this really means inadequate restraint systems is a joke. No amount of safety hardware would permit surviving the breakup and uncontrolled re-entry of (pieces of) your spacecraft.
Due to NASA politics, the report omits a more accurate summary statement that the Shuttle is an inherently flawed and unsafe design when compared to ballistically stable capsules that can and do survive uncontrolled re-entry.
Why Climbers Die On Mount Everest
Though not a hardcore climber, I've summited numerous 14,000+ ft peaks in Colorado.
The fact that most Everest climbers die from altitude effects while descending is not surprising. Altitude sickness hits gradually and most of them realized they were ill (or their more lucid companions did) and were in the process of trying to get down when they died. At such heights oxygen deprivation kills you before you have time to freeze to death.
More than falling, exposure, altitude, or any other specific risk, "summit fever" is the single greatest danger of mountaineering. When people are fixated on summiting regardless of conditions (including physical exhaustion) they place themselves at an elevated and unnecessary risk of death. Everest expeditions involving gung-ho newbies who have paid large amounts of money for a single-shot attempt inevitably leads to a high death rate, since these sacrificial victims are both maniacally obsessed with reaching the top and incapable of objectively evaluating the situation.
Everest climbs should be limited to those who have proven high-altitude mountaineering experience. Guides who profit by leading inexperienced tourists into extreme danger should be villified, especially those who have the gall to come down unscathed while leaving behind the frozen corpses of their clients. They're the ones creating Everest's culture of death.
First Mars-Goers Should Prepare For a One-Way Trip
Buzz knew the odds were high of Apollo 11 being the end of his life. Someone traveling 400m km away from the nearest breathable atmosphere understands that completely. A Mars mission that budgets mass for a return capability gives up many years worth of resources. The immense expenditure of traveling to Mars make it insane just to spend a few days or weeks on the planet. The astronauts must be prepared to stay for a period that is well past their life expectancy given the many risks, even if theoretically they have can return.
The ultimate billionaire stunt: get a Soyuz TM, load a 1 year supply of ramen noodles and beer, use a satellite booster to shoot it trans-Mars and back. Live deep space podcasts!
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