199 posts • joined Monday 4th August 2008 22:45 GMT
Re: Honest Queston
It's too far out.
It's not actually in orbit round the Earth; it circles the sun, in an orbit which trail's Earth but which diverges over time. Their website says that it's about half an AU away by now. As such there's absolutely bugger all to hit out there, so debris is not a problem.
In order to deorbit it, you'd have to do an interplanetary transfer to find something to deorbit into --- probably Earth. But the process would take years and the amount of on-board thruster fuel is very limited.
What they'll probably do with it is leave it in safe mode and not use the thrusters. With luck it should remain alive but idle for many years to come. That way they retain the thruster fuel if, for some reason, it becomes necessary to adjust its orbit later.
Re: Oh S*&t!
...I found a ZX81 emulator for my Android smartphone, loaded up a snapshot of 1K Chess (all 672 bytes of it), and was thoroughly beaten.
Sigh. Do you long for the days when we used to be nostalgic?
Re: Antimatter and anti-gravity anyone?
Actually, that has not been tested yet. There are some experiments currently underway; this is one: http://home.web.cern.ch/about/updates/2013/04/alpha-novel-investigation-gravity-and-antimatter
Unfortunately actually measuring the motion of an atom of antihydrogen when you drop it is kinda hard, and the results aren't anywhere like conclusive.
Re: Debian Flavours
To use terminology from other distros: stable is the LTS branch; testing is the rolling-release branch; sid is the bleeding-edge branch.
It's also worth pointing out that when Debian talk about a 'stable' distro, they're not talking about the software. They're talking about the packaging. Stable packaging means that, e.g., you can rely on package upgrades not suddenly breaking dependency chains and causing other packages to stop working. This is vitally important for any production machine.
Desktop hobbyist users will probably want to use testing. That way you get continuous package updates as they come in, but there's more of a risk of something suddenly breaking (although this hardly ever happens).
I've been using Debian for years, and maintain a handful of packages. I think it's brilliant. Whenever I find myself using another Unixoid which doesn't have dpkg and apt I feel crippled.
Re: Last all week?
This works really well with soup. If you keep adding leftovers to a big pot of soup, and simmer for 45 minutes or so a day, it'll keep forever and after about a week gets really, really tasty.
If you manage to keep the pot going for more than about three weeks the flavours do tend to merge into generic brown, but we rarely got to that point as we kept finishing it while it was at peak soup. At which point, of course, you have to start again.
Build it yourself
Mosaic's been 'ported' to modern Unix machines (the original source is too primitive to build using our futuristic compilers). It's an easy build, and even works on 64-bit machines:
It's scarily small.
Still totally unusable, of course.
...is an interesting question. Back in an earlier life we had a rather embarrassing ARM build box which was an Compaq iPaq PDA with the PCMCIA backpack adapter. Into this was plugged a PCMCIA type II 1GB hard drive. This was the pre-flash days, so spinning rust was all there was.
The hard drive was a marvel of engineering, being 5mm thick, but it was dog slow and incredibly flimsy. It *bent* if you picked up without being careful, and for a device with moving parts that was scary. It lasted about six months before packing in (but by then we'd acquired a CATS box, so we didn't care).
I notice that these things dropped off the market soon afterwards and didn't come back. So I suspect there was some underlying engineering issue that hadn't been solved. (And then a few years later flash steamrollered them into the ground, of course.)
So I'd be interested to know what these things are like. A 2.5", 5mm drive is going to be thinner relative to its surface area than a PCMCIA drive.
Re: 4KB RAM ?
Run, don't walk, to TI's web site and order one of these.
$10 gets you a programming/prototyping PCB, two MSP430 microcontrollers, an optional external clock crystal, and a USB cable (international airmail postage included). The MSP430 is an elegant little 16-bit processor with about 8kB of program space and 1/2 kB of RAM (the two microcontrollerrs you get are of different specs). Linux support is impeccable, with a port of gcc and the programmer-debugger both in Debian; or you can use TI's own IDE for Windows.
The MSP430 runs at up to 16MHz and has a bajillion different integrated peripherals. (Including a built in temperature sensor!) It consumes basically no power. Unlike the PIC the architecture is simple and is a joy to use --- writing machine code for it is surprisingly fun.
Downsides are that it's a 3.3V device, which means interfacing the Arduino's 5V peripherals to it can be a pain, but it's not *that* hard and there's enough 3.3V stuff around that you don't need to. Plus they've just put the price up --- it used to be $4.30.
I have most of a CP/M emulator written for one, using external serial RAM for working storage. It's a really nice feeling using a machine small enough to be comprehensible again.
Oh, speaking of the Spectrum:
...is a photo gallery of some of the wacky Spectrum clones from around the world, including some of the insane Russian ones. Well worth your time!
Was the Cray the only computer to have upholstery?
I'm not so sure about the Archimedes. All the designs ended up being a bit too redolent of beige box syndrome. The A400 case with the slanted front section for the floppy drive was excellent in terms of ease-of-use, but made the box look a bit squint. Likewise, the RISC PC design was great for access and modularity but was incredibly fussy --- too many angles and weird lumpy bits --- and those semicircular shutters were definitely weird.
I'll admit to having a soft spot for the ZX80. It's just so incredibly ugly and cheap you have to love it. And the ZX Spectrum *is* a masterpiece, even by today's standards; it's a computer stripped down to its very essence, with nothing left to take away. Shame the keyboard was nigh unusable.
...was just about to comment about this book. Definitely recommended reading if you're interested to know what sort of horrors military rocket fuel tended to involve (at one point they experimented with injecting metallic mercury into rocket exhausts to increase the momentum transfer...). There is a lot of tediously skimmable chemistry, but the rest of the book is definitely worth it.
The book itself is unfortunately woefully out of print. Anyone who is interested in it should therefore not visit http://library.sciencemadness.org/library/books/ignition.pdf, because that would be naughty.
Re: What is this article supposed to be?
Sounds like *somebody* needs to go watch Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie's _Every OS Sucks_ again:
Pretty nice machine
128kB is enough to do useful work on, even today; although 64kB bank switching is a very odd choice. (If you're switching the code you're currently running, don't you need code in the new bank at the same address? How would you populate an empty bank? There must be some other mechanism...) 512x248 is damned good for the time for a full colour screen, too. Unfortunately it's not so good for the 80x24 text you really want when running CP/M; that gives you characters that are only 6 pixels wide, which is pushing it.
(I still think it's hard to get clearer than the BBC Micro's 80x24 mode 3. Monochrome, though.)
I wonder what the keyboard was like?
Re: What, no photo?
End-to-end carbon fibre with over one million transfer microchannels per square centimetre via its unique Xylem™ architecture. It's capable of having dozens of cores, although if you put too many in it gets a little unstable and might have a tendency to collapse under heavy load. It has ultralow power consumption and the temperature is usually barely above ambient even when working hard.
What, no photo?
I see that the photo of my set-top-box seems to be missing --- probably a conspiracy of some kind, you know how it goes. Here it is:
(Served from the machine, naturally.)
The writeup also neglects to mention the 100% organic hydrocarbon biodegradable backplace. In other words, it's nailed to a plank.
Re: nice but is it efficient
The short answer is: yes, it is. Because parachutes are big and heavy, and the rocket engines are free --- you've already used them to launch with! The only overheads are the avionics, the landing gear, and some dregs of fuel left in the tank from the launch. As the tank is now almost completely empty, it's a lot lighter than it looks in the video.
Also, don't forget that this is just for landing the first stage. It's never reaching orbit. SpaceX are *also* working on rocket-landing the Dragon capsule, using scaled up versions of the existing manoeuvring thrusters, for exactly the same reasons, but that's a totally different system.
Re: So far...
Don't forget that that fuel tank is nearly empty, so the centre of gravity is way down low --- the the whole point of the system is to land spent first-stage boosters, using the engines they already have, using the dregs of the fuel they've already used. The fact that the stage itself is six storeys high (twice as big as the office building I work in!) is deceptive.
Required reading for anyone interested in the subject is OKTrends' "Why you should never pay for online dating". It got pulled after OKCupid was acquired by one of the companies they were damning in the article, but there are cached copies everywhere:
Re: Samsung GT-I5510
I'm very fond of my Motorola Flipout. Full five-row keyboard with dpad, thank you very much --- and it's physically tiny and fits far more easily in my pocket than a modern slabphone. I just wish it got firmware updates; the most recent Android you can get for it is Eclair!
Re: Gerry Anderson would be proud
Someone did Fireflash in XPlane! Kick-ass video link and writeup follows:
The conclusion seems to be that it's a really stupid design for an aeroplane. Looks fantastic, though.
Re: I call bullshit...
"...the administration nuked the moon 3 years ago for no good reason..."
Um... did they? Are you sure?
Re: LED lighting instead of fluorescent 'haz mat'
Flashing lights are easier to *notice*, but the strobe effect utterly defeats the brain's ability to track movement --- extrapolation of movement can't be done and your brain will try to tell you the object is stationary. Strobes are used for exactly this effect on stage. Ever wondered why it's so hard to follow aircraft in the night sky? That's why.
So when I'm driving and I see a flashing bicycle light, I can see that there's *something* there, but I have absolutely no idea which way it's going or how fast it's moving.
In cities it's less of a problem as the cyclist is lit by streetlights and there's enough context so that I can actually see you. But if you're cycling in the dark, such as in the countryside, please, *please* don't use flashing lights.
Re: LED lighting instead of fluorescent 'haz mat'
My house is lit throughout with GU10 minispot clusters. I originally had halogens --- beautiful light, but 50W each, 150-200W a cluster. And they blew. Frequently. I then replaced them with CFLs. The light was hugely variable and CFLs are simply too big, so GU10 CFLs push the bulb size limits --- I ended up having to saw bits off my light fittings to make them fit. I experimented with some of the early LED clusters and they were an expensive waste of time.
Then I discovered the Philips GU10 LED bulbs. Holy crap they're good.
I haven't tried a side-by-side comparison, but the light seems indistinguishable from my old halogens; they use a single chip, so you get a point source of light, which means that suddenly everything shiny in my house sparkles again (the diffuse CFL light made everything really dull). And they're 4W each. Currently I'm not buying anything else.
They're not cheap, though. At a tenner a piece and three to four bulbs a light fitting, they're quite an investment.
'easily achieved with reversible Java code'
It gets you coming *and* going!
(Is there a missing in that sentence?)
Re: How did I miss this?
It costs £10 *if you also buy a smartphone contract*. The linked article is hideously misleading. They don't seem to be planning to sell them on their own.
Science Fiction author, too
I have some of his books. They're terrible. Utterly, utterly terrible, and worth reading for that reason alone.
Re: Better idea
To be fair, the originals were pretty VHS-like in quality too.
I watched them not long ago; the pilot is still fresh and original and if you haven't seen it it's well worth checking out, but the actual series feels like it's got way too much filler in it.
Re: What are the specs?
Hey! An emulator!
Re: What are the specs?
Actually quite substantial, according to the wikipedia page. It had 48 bit words, with 16kw of RAM and 96kw of drum storage --- that's 96kB and 576kB --- mapped into a 24-bit virtual address space, and what looked like paging between drum and core so that applications could use the full address space. It had an MMU, full interrupt systems and was asynchronously clocked (something that's still not done much today). Performance seems to have been about 500000 flops.
The washing machine comment is a bit harsh: this is way more powerful than the kind of embedded PIC you find in that sort of thing, and even beats a lot of 8-bit microcontrollers of today. I think it's roughly equivalent to about the 16-bit microcontroller class, although you'll need to find one with an FPU.
Does anyone have a reference to the instruction set?
Re: The first person (apart from me)...
I would actually be genuinely interested to see where 'correcthorsebatterystaple' appears on that list, but I couldn't find a download of the whole thing --- does anyone know if it's available anywhere?
Re: re 2001
No, you're mangling 2001 and 2010 (when they put in the kill device, and then Doc Chandra quietly took it out again when nobody was noticing).
I always felt rather sorry for HAL --- he wasn't evil, he was driven insane by bad management and unfollowable orders. Even so trying to kill everyone on board is a little extreme; all he really needed was a little primal scream therapy.
Re: Razor software
The PEBL *hardware* was beautiful. Felt nice in the hand, solid and well-made; small but supremely readable primary screen, a crisp OLED on the back for time and status notifications; the magnetic latch and the spring-action lid where positive and satisfying. The battery life was superb --- I'd charge it once a week --- and I had no complaints about voice quality.
That just made the terrible, terrible UI even more irritating, particularly since I'd just upgraded from a 6310i. I kept thinking, if only Nokia had written the software...
Gingerbread? Luxury! My Motorola Flipout still runs flipping *eclair*.
I ran into the guy who (headed the team that) wrote the software for the Motorola Razor family of phones. Embarrassingly, I only found this out after ranting to him about how crap the software on Motorola phones was, using my PEBL as a prime example --- but he was totally fine with it: he agreed.
What apparently happened is that his team were contractors implementing the spec that Motorola had sent them. They *knew* the UI design was terrible and kept submitting bugs, more or less on a daily basis, saying that the design was faulty.
The only response they ever got back was 'implement specification as designed'. There was absolutely no interest in feedback or any kind of usability improvements.
Re: Midi is an optical connection
Yeah, why *does* it use that weird frequency? 31250 baud is... so very different from anything else in the serial world.
I've also heard that at only 3125 bytes per second, and about three bytes per message, that's only about 1000 messages per second, which isn't good enough for accurate triplets and chords in some situations. *shrug* Can't say it ever bothered me, though.
Re: Is it wrong...
I really really want a watchphone too. I actually had a look for one not long ago, but couldn't find any that aren't crap --- they're all featurephone grade, and I really want something with Android.
I did find this: http://www.linuxslate.org/Review_Z1_Android-2.2-Watch.html
...but it's less of a watchphone and more of a smartphone with a wristband. Also, Froyo, eeagh.
The one in the article may be a low-rent featurephone but at least it looks like a watch.
There's more to it than the protocol...
...the electrical interface itself is very well thought-out and more subtle than first appears.
For example: all MIDI devices are optoisolated from each other, so there is no actual electrical connection. An LED in the receiver is driven by current supplied from the transmitter (via a pair of wires). This means no voltage spikes, no ground loops, no floating potentials that make your expensive electronics lose its magic smoke. In other words, it actually works in the ghastly electrical environment you tend to find on stage.
Otherwise I wouldn't dare try to connect two computers to each other on stage unless I was damn sure that they were plugged into the same power strip... and even then I'd be nervous.
I thought I'd like Okami, as on paper it's precisely the kind of game I enjoy --- right now I'm replaying _Wind Waker_, for example --- but found it a severe disappointment.
This was on the Wii, so it's entirely possible that this is all just a platform quirk, but I found it very unreliable at detecting gestures. There's one 'minigame' where you have to draw Blossom spells (a circle) over flowers on a tree. About 1/5 of the time it was read as Sun instead (also a circle). There are about 40 of the damn things you have to do, you have to get them all right, and if you get one wrong you restart from the beginning. You can't skip it and you can't even cancel to let you give up and go and do something else instead. It took me hours. Not fun.
Then there's the way it handles savepoints. I'm used to Zelda games, which are pretty forgiving when it comes to death, simply placing you back at the beginning of the current sequence (usually a room) with a health penalty. Okami has old-school death. You die, you reload at the last savepoint. This means that when doing anything tricky --- boss fights, platforming over bottomless pits, etc --- you can easily lose a big chunk of your game time.
They don't even put the savepoints anywhere useful: at one point in the early game there's a five-minute unskippable cutscene followed by a fairly tough boss fight. I saw that cutscene about six times. Did I mention it's unskippable? It's unskippable.
The point where I finally gave up was when I ran into a tricky miniboss in a dungeon, *just* managed to defeat it after great efforts, turned a corner and was then attacked by two of them. After reloading I found that the last savepoint was at the beginning of the dungeon and I had to do the whole thing again (miniboss included).
Which is a damn shame, as even on the Wii it looks fabulous --- the way your character moves is fluid and a joy to look at, and simply running round the overworld is an absolute blast. But I just don't have time for Nintendo hard any more.
Re: And it's actually *programmable*
Interesting that it could run machine code out of RAM; that would make it one of the very first von Neumann machines in the world.
I wonder what you could achieve with this using modern dynamic-code-generation tricks... probably nothing, but it would be interesting to try. Has anyone done an emulator?
Put it like this
...they can't be any *worse*, so why not give them a try?
Re: Gravity probe.
It's been done, many times, as it's pretty vital knowledge for doing anything weight related --- here's a link with some pictures in it and some decent pictures of the Earth geoid (as it's technically known):
Google Image Search is your friend
...you can upload an image and it will find 'visually similar' images. Actually not so helpful in this case as there is one metric fuck-load of flesh-toned photography on the intertubes (adjective carefully chosen), but what claims to be the original is here:
Portfolio -> Glamour 2 -> about halfway down.
Even by today's standards...
...it actually looks pretty nice. The keyboard, in particular, looks excellent. Those calculator-style LCD screens with the big square pixels are very old-fashioned but I've always found them very easy to read and easy on the eyes; I'm particularly fond of my NC200's silver-on-dark-blue screen.
Of course, the actual computer inside can be outperformed by a 50p PIC, but that's not the point.
And the battery life was excellent; I own a super-lightweight ARM notebook, and like it a lot, but even that only gets six to seven hours!
Re: The Point?
If you like BBC Basic, check here:
This is the same version of BBC Basic that the Z88 and NC100, NC200 ran and it's pretty damn good (for a Basic). It even includes Z80 inline assembler. There's a vanilla CP/M version, so you can run it on your old Amstrad PCW if you want (and you know you want to).
And, of course, it has been exquisitely hacked and munged to run on the Spectrum. http://mdfs.net/Software/Spectrum/BBCBasic/
R.T. Russell produce a Basic for DOS, that's equally good (inline 80186 assembler! Be afraid) and a Windows version which I have no experience of, but it's apparently Basic 4 compatible. But they're commercial. (I have no idea how you can manage to make charging thirty quid for a pretty crappy Basic by today's standard viable, but there you go.)
If you're a Linux user, try 'apt-get install brandy' for an open source version.