* Posts by Gary Bickford

187 posts • joined 27 Jan 2009

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Neo4j CEO: We're at 'a huge inflection point for graph databases'

Gary Bickford

linked Data and triple stores?

I'd be interested to see how well Neo4J works as a triple store. The linked data /RDF protocols are based on relations in the form subject predicate object. This structure generalized to support every kind of database application easily but at the cost of cycles and storage. Ultimate flexibility has a price.

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SpaceX is go for US military GPS sat launch, smashes ULA monopoly

Gary Bickford

Re: Security

Actually their profit wasn't that great. Their problem is that their _cost_ is more than $83 million.

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Gary Bickford

re: One wonders why it took so long

Pork - not really, just a classic tech disruption. The Atlas and Delta vehicles are 1960s Era technology, originally designed as ICBMs. They have been updated greatly but still. ULA and it's parents are companies whose entire business structure has been subsumed into the government contracting process, which is a highly soecialized, expensive operational paradigm. There are reasons why few small companies even try to work on government projects directly, but subcontract to big companies that have the huge paperwork mill departments and expertise to meet the government requirements and stay out of jail. (Case in point: long ago I was told by a McDonnell Douglas executive that the paperwork trail for a single DC-10 weighed as much as the airplane over its lifetime. Perhaps a small exaggeration, but we were working on a proposal to scan tgat paperwork so they could have the huge hangar back, where the paperwork was stored.)

So SpaceX has two benefits -or three - new tech that cuts the cost of mfg in 1/2, new business model that depends on computing to eliminate paper shuffles to meet USAF and federal contract requirements, and the extreme pressure on the USAF to go away from Russian parts and use Made In USA parts. ULA is more like a deer in the headlights of new business technology and rocket technology.

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Your mother has a smooth forehead, Klingon language lovers roar at Paramount

Gary Bickford

Re: Except for the fact that Doohan was Canadian?

A True Scot

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SpaceX's Musk: We'll reuse today's Falcon 9 rocket within 2 months

Gary Bickford

Re: Meanwhile, at the Pork Barrel Bar..

A weird, slightly relevant example or analogy. Back in the 1990s, General Motors could go from a blank sheet of paper to a new engine design coming off the assembly line in under a year. But it took two to three years to design a new headlight or taillight and get it into production.

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Gary Bickford

Sometimes it's not the skills but the interest and motivation. You can develop skills. Try going to some of the space conferences like ISDC or Space Tech Expo, meet up with the many space nerds out there, maybe work on a kickstarter, etc. My company is preparing to accept volunteers to help with new data for The Integeated space Plan (http://thespaceplan.com), adding information, curating and researching. We're making a big presentation next month at ISDC (http://isdc2016.nss.org).

Of course every company also needs janitors and other non-sexy jobs. You just hav d to be in the right place at the right time, or sufficiently persistent. I know someone who called his desired employer every week fir a year and finally got the job.

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Gary Bickford

Re: Pricing's gonna change...

Iirc the second stages are nearly orbital - I know some older second and third stages are still in orbit. So I'm thinking that by simil as rly using a bit more fuel in the second srafe, after putting theid paylosds into tge proper trajdctory, those units could be boosted further to a parking orbit for later use as a resourcd. This would not work for every launch but I'm sure ut would be feasible for some launches. I r ed call some talk about returning the second stage and landing it as , but I am guessing that would only work using a 1/2 orbit (a barge 1000 or mire miles down range) or full orbit strategy. Considering the value of materials in space, I'm thinking the orbital strategy would have the best long term value.

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Gary Bickford

Re: Pricing's gonna change...

As has already been seen, as costs go down the market expands more than linearly. There are literally thousand of projects waiting in the wings that become feasible with greatly reduced costs. The prices on the SpaceX website to LEO are roughly 1/2 of standard industry prices a couple of years ago, and proposed prices for flight on used hardware reduces that by another 1/3, giving a net of about one third of the cost for a ULA Atlas. I expect that their costs will continue to decrease (not necessarily their price) as their launch schedule becomes more predictable and a stable manufacturing line matures with attendant efficiencies.

Of course the Indian agency ISRO is nipping at the heels, with their lower labor costs and government supporg, and a strong desire to take a significant market share. But they are handicapped by a US federal law that prevents US companies from using them without a waiver. Bottom line - the pricing structure of space us rapidly decrezsing, it us changing the industry forever. ESA and ULA are both restructuring their entire organizations - and no doubt beating up suppliers - to meet thus threat to their busibess.

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Gary Bickford

use a SWATH barge! !

Dear Elon,

If you switch to a SWATH (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small-waterplane-area_twin_hull) type hull, you will be able to eliminate nearly all rolling and pitching in sea conditions up to one meter at least. Since SWATH works best when the load variance is small, handling the rockets is an ideal application. This could increase your probability if successful landing by 10%, 20%, of more - even 10% would justify tge cost over 5 to 10 flights, maybe fewer. Now that the concept is proved you can proceed to refinement and improvement of the system.

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Ecobee3: If you're crazy enough to want a smart thermostat – but not too crazy – this is for you

Gary Bickford

Re: Does it really save that much?

I used to tell my daughter that not raising the thermostat two degrees would save enough money to buy her a new sweater every month! :D She was not impressed though.

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Gary Bickford

Nu-heat bad, warm water radiant floor good

I wasn't familiar with Nu-heat so looked it up. While radiant floor heating has a lot going for it, _electric_ radiant floor is just a bad idea. Warm water radiant floors have been shown to save more than 30% on heating costs in at least some studies, and they can use things like solar to make the warm water. (Warm water systems are also completely different from hot water systems of the past.) Their biggest disadvantage is the cost and PITA of retrofitting to an existing house. But going back to the topic, radiant floors are also not a particularly good candidate for these thermostats that change the temp setting multiple times per day - their time constant is much longer.

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Gary Bickford

Re: Does it really save that much?

I think what we're all talking about here is that we're gradually going to build house HVAC and lighting systems that do the misering for you, which is a good thing.

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Google's call for cloudier, taller disks is a tall order says analyst

Gary Bickford

More than a cosmetic change, in a dead-end market

One of the physical reasons that support the high bit densities of today's drives is the extremely short axle on which the platters (typically two, IIRC) ride. Today's drives are approaching or exceeding 1TB per square inch, which means one bit occupies a space approximately one millionth of an inch on a side. To accurately locate that bit, the head has to be accurate to about 1/2 that, or 5 ten-millionths of an inch.

Now you have an axle spinning little disks at 7200 (or 10,000, or 15,000) RPM. The longer that axle the more distortion is going to occur depending on even an extremely small amount that the mass of the system may off center. The axle will bend slightly, and there is a small amount of 'play' inevitably in the bearings that the axle rotates in. At these scales, there is little room for fudging.

This may all be fine - it may be possible to do. But it will also require substantial research and testing to develop what is effectively an entire new disk mechanical technology. For perspective, the two largest disk drive makers, Seagate and Western Digital, have been de-emphasizing (or outright elminating) there advanced research efforts. These companies don't see any future in disk drives, as today's SSDs have equivalent or higher capacity, equivalent or better reliability and lifespan, and no mechanical constraints. SSDs with capacities of 13+TB are being publicly mentioned, and higher capacities are reported to be in the labs now. For enterprise-level SSDs the write count limitations now exceed the projected lifespan of hard drives. As a clincher, I was told recently that at least one drive maker executive has said they see the end of hard drives within five years.

It appears that the last remaining hurdle for SSDs to completely replace hard drives in all applications is price, and that is following Moore's law pretty well. So all in all, I can not imagine any hard drive maker taking up this challenge - they would do better to convince Google to just move entirely to SSDs, and cut a deal with Google as a guaranteed buyer to supply the volume required, justifying a new, high efficiency plant that can bring production costs down to below the hard drive price.

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Error checks? Eh? What could go wrong, really? (DoSing a US govt site)

Gary Bickford

Re: It could always be worse.

There are those who say, (and I tend to agree) that this is exactly why exception handlers are the devil's spawn, combining the worst elements of gotos and segfaults! Yes, they _can_ be used, carefully, in such a case - but you are leaving all context behind, eliminating any possibility of maintaining state except by manual labor. There was an essay ... in fact there have been several:

http://www.lighterra.com/papers/exceptionsharmful/

> "Exception handling introduces a hidden, "out-of-band" control-flow possibility at essentially every line of code. Such a hidden control transfer possibility is all too easy for programmers to overlook – even experts. When such an oversight occurs, and an exception is then thrown, program state can quickly become corrupt, inconsistent and/or difficult to predict (think about an exception unexpectedly being thrown part way through modifying a large data structure, for example)."

> "Exception handling does not fit well with most of the highly parallel programming models currently in use or being explored (fork/join, thread pools and task queues, the CSP/actor model etc), because exception handling essentially advocates a kind of single-threaded "rollback" approach to error handling, where the path of execution – implicitly a single path – is traversed in reverse by unwinding the call stack to find the appropriate error handling code."

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2003/10/13.html

> "The reasoning is that I consider exceptions to be no better than "goto's", considered harmful since the 1960s, in that they create an abrupt jump from one point of code to another. In fact they are significantly worse than goto's:"

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/dennisg/archive/2012/04/28/exceptions-considered-harmful.aspx

> "The doctrine of object-oriented programming dictates that exceptions are the mechanism of choice to raise (and, possibly, handle) severe error conditions that cannot be safely ignored by the client code. Let me just take a step back to explain why I think exceptions are all but inappropriate in most situations by definition."

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Gary Bickford

Re: But the program is error free!

"Error free!" - Your title is best understood as being cognitively similar to the air force squadron leader instructing his fellow fighter pilots, "Weapons free!" - meaning, "Destroy anything that looks crosswise at you!" Similar, the program is ready to destroy anything in its path, most likely at an unpredictable moment with the highest potential of catastrophe! :D

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Snowden WAS the Feds' quarry in Lavabit case, redaction blunder reveals

Gary Bickford

Re: I wonder...

I suggest you read up on a bit of history. Start with the two Barbary Coast Wars (when the Sultan of Tunisia told Jefferson, "according to Holy Kuran we are mandated to kill all infidels. It is only because we are merciful that we only hold them hostage" - that is when the Marines were created, and why the song has the "Shores of Tripoli" in it).

The Middle East has been destabilized almost continuously for many reasons and by many different forces since roughly 650 AD.

See also, hmm, let's see ... just for starters: Crimean War, the Great Game (including the Uighurs and Yajub Beg), Hasan Bin Sabbah and the Hashishins (great name for a band ...), the defeat of Alexandria by the Romans (where they salted the fields of North Africa, eliminating the Alexandrians' ability to grow crops and attain a competitive level of power ever again), the millennia of war between the Greeks, Turks and Persians, dating to 1000 BC (see Xenophon, etc.). And the

Oh - and it was the British who were largely in charge of the Middle East in the 19th and early 20th century, who divided the area up into countries that did not match the traditional tribal boundaries, and told the Palestinians and Israelits contradictory things.

You have about five years of study about the real history before you stick your toe into this swamp.

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Top rocket exec quits after telling the truth about SpaceX price war

Gary Bickford

Re: We've all seen House of Cards

I think there will be an investigation, and it will have an effect. IMHO it's unlikely that anyone at USAF actually went outside the bounds of ethics, but it's quite common for government agencies to 'tilt' the RFQs one way or another to make it easier for a preferred provider to win. And in this case, USAF sees on one hand, ULA's perfect military launch record with the most recent version of a rocket design that has been around for 50 plus years, and on the other hand, an upstart company with zero military launches, with a rocket that has started well but hasn't been perfect, that has little experience doing things the USAF way (which could mean they mistakenly left out a crucial cost item, or even just underestimated the additional labor and other costs inherent in delivering under a military contract.)

So a combination of preferring to work with known quantities, with people who you are used to working with, and with an RFQ that is tuned a bit toward a ULA vehicle, doesn't amount to anything more unethical than tuning a fleet contract more toward Ford than to Tesla.

I think the main thrust of the investigation will be whether ULA has been highballing their costs above what they should have been all this time. One thing the government really hates is paying more for something than a commercial entity. IIRC it's actually a federal crime to charge the feds more for the same package as anyone else - they are entitled to the same discount as your best customer by law. They can at least come after you for a refund later.

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Norman Conquest, King Edward, cyber pathogen and illegal gambling all emerge in Apple v FBI

Gary Bickford

completely ignores the purpose and tradition of constitutional freedom

As Franklin pointed out, anyone who is willing to give up a bit of freedom for increased safety deserves (and will achieve) neither. The fundamental philosophy of American law has always been that it is better that a few guilty go free rather than a single innocent be punished unjustly. Finally, the fact that today's law enforcement can use tactics that East Germany STASI would only dream about in silence and darkness, while the STASI had to do it in public, does not make it justified to hold every citizen as guilty until proven innocent. I don't have an ideal answer, but giving government authoritarians Carter Blanche certainly is not the right answer. And depending on a present government's good graces and protestations of virtue is a foolish conceit, as has been demonstrated throughout history.

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NSA: SO SORRY we backed that borked crypto even after you spotted the backdoor

Gary Bickford

NSA is not just one institution

It is a mistake to paint all of NSA with one brush. The Signals Intelligence Division is the 'spooks' that we tend to think of. The IT Division is the computer jocks. And the Information Assurance Division is responsible for protecting US business and government from attackers of all kinds. To an extent, from what 8ve learned, IAD works somewhat at cross-purposes to SID. IAD really, really wants to make sure encryption is strong and systems are secure. I think they are the ones behind SE Linux, for example. And I think that division is also the one doing the research on new encryption methodology. Including a back door in the tools used by government, banks, the military, etc. is just asking for a foreign governed to discover and exploit it, which makes no sense whatsoever. So belief that NSA does this is probably more conspiracy theory and less rational observation.

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Microsoft researchers smash homomorphic encryption speed barrier

Gary Bickford

bit locker is old hat - self encrypting drives are already here

Bitlocker is about "data at rest", while homomorphic encryption is about data in process and SSL (for example) is about data in transit. At present nearly all server class hard drives are self encryping, and most consumer drives though it may not say so on the label. I am told that by the end of this year nearly all HDs and SSDS of all types wi) be. All Apple products have been for years. What's been missing is a standardized library, which now exists (OPAL) and a widely accepted API and user/OS interface, which is now in the process of being accepted - see the Drive Trust Alliance (http://drivetrust.org iirc)

An SED drive keeps all the data encrypted all the time using an internally generated 256 bit key. Another set of keys - passwords - can be set externally. Resetting the drive's internal key effectively erases the drive as brute force decryption would require millions of dollars worth of cpu time at present.

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Stephen Hawking reckons he's cracked the black hole paradox

Gary Bickford

Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

This reminds me if an old SF story, where a scientist announces hechas found the equation that determines the entire universe. When he presents it on a chalkboard, one if his colleagues shoutts out, "You are incorrect! You have inverted a sign at step 14!"

Sadly, the scientist begins to erase his work. And as he does so, the Universe disappears.

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Learn you Func Prog on five minute quick!

Gary Bickford

EVERYTHING's syntax is easier than Perl's ...

Except maybe APL ... or Brainfuck. Actually in both cases its not the syntax per se. ;)

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Bloke sues dad who shot down his drone – and why it may decide who owns the skies

Gary Bickford

Re: FAA

I could just as easily argue the opposite - the excessive cost and delay involved in FAA (and FCC) approval has resulted in many newer advancements not being available, or too expensive to bring to market, or too expensive for normal people to buy. Case in point - 30 years ago $2500 aircraft radios had terrible sound quality and not very good reception or reliability compared with $100 CB radios, largely because the amortised cost of approvals by both agencies when even one resistor was changed on the circuit worked out to over $1000 (1980 dollars) per unit - after development costs. From what I've read even today much or most aircraft equipment is using seriously old technology for the same reason.

In truth, there is a happy medium somewhere.

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Gary Bickford

Re: the problem with drones...

Paintball would be interesting.

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Gary Bickford

Re: @h4rm0ny - What is the sky?

Re calling the police, it's probable that the police would not come for such a 'trivial' complaint, unless they were nearby and there was nothing else going on. They'd probably send someone in a day or two. Note that in that case, determine whose drone it was would be hard or imposdible for lack of evidence.

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Gary Bickford

Re: What is the sky?

Effective weapons range has a strong historical precedent. The original Three Mile Limit in maritime law was (according to references I read some time ago) based on the practical point that it was the maximum range of cannons of the time.

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Thinking of buying a Surface? Try a modular OLED Thinkpad first

Gary Bickford

Has Lenovo given up their spy/adware?

I recall that last year Lenovo was caught putting (what I read was) unremovable crapware onto their systems. Has that stopped? How do we know?

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Ed Snowden crocked cloud, says VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger

Gary Bickford

There may be a way - split-key encryption

I was just discussing a similar issue with the CEO of Bright Plaza (and inventor of self-encypting drives) - http://brightplaza.com. Without going into gory detail, one can strongly encrypt a file in country X using split-key technology. Put portions of the key in countries with strong privacy, without moving them over compromised links (i.e. US pipes). Then the data can be transmitted anywhere and stored anywhere, securely. Done correctly this would prevent any legal method to force exposure of the key. To access the file, simply return the encrypted file to the original country (or transmit to another desired country, where the split key can be restored and the file decrypted.

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Gary Bickford

Full encryption, all the time - possible, but hard

One way to protect data from snooping is to maintain it in encrypted form, not just 'at rest' in hard drives etc., but in computer memory and even in processing. This sounds impossible, but it's not - quite. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homomorphic_encryption. This fairly new science or methodology performs all the minimal required computational activities - add, multiply, boolean ops, etc. - on encrypted data using encrypted algorithms. It was long thought impossible but now has been proven to work at least to some extent. IDK if Turing-completeness has been shown.

This methodology would allow a dataset and all of its operations be unsnoopable, even in a compromised computer whose memory can be read by a third party. I believe that this will eventually become an essential tool for the post-human set. A computer intelligence or 'uploaded human' is basically a large complex 'agent' that can move itself around the cloud, and process its functions on any computer in the cloud. But to maintain its identity it _must_ have boundaries, _must_ be able to keep secrets about its internal state. To do so in a complex unpredictable cloud where the agent (or components thereof) may be running on any computer anywhere, every bit of information within the agent must be protected even from memory dumps. AFAIK homomorphic encryption is the only way to assure that.

There is a huge price, which will make computer makers happy. Unless I'm wrong, or quantum computing or something takes over, this method will require two, three, or four orders of magnitude more processing power to accomplish any task.

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Silicon Valley now 'illegal' in Europe: Why Schrems vs Facebook is such a biggie

Gary Bickford

Re: Mainly a public sector issue

I'm not sure, but if an encrypted copy were sent to another jurisdiction (e.g. USA), but the keys were never sent out, that might provide backup with reasonably secure privacy. It would have to be sent back to EU before decryption, slowing things down a bit, but small price. The USA copy could be safely 'disclosed' in its encrypted form without violating privacy. Of course it would be necessary to use multiple keys, at least one for each small unit of data like a file.

It would also be useful to store the encrypted data on drives with Full Disk Encryption, with the disk key(s) also stored in a special system outside the jurisdiction. The US Fifth Amendment actually protects against forcing a person from disclosing a password to an FDE drive, _if_ the person has never written it down or disclosed it to anyone (verbally, email, whatever). The court case regarding a corporate person's privacy and what constitutes disclosure if the data is on a special server would be interesting.

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Gary Bickford

Re: Lars Agreed

It's worth adding that most of the objectionable provisions of the Patriot Act were already in place for use in the "War On Drugs", and had been in use for years. How do you think they nabbed that Panamanian dictator (and former CIA contractor), and all those Columbian drug lords?

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Gary Bickford

Re: Lars Agreed

In today's climate (no pun intended), the only real limitation is the cooling capacity of computing facilities. NSA's Signals Division spends more on computing than NASA's entire budget. Of course, that is matched by the National Reconnaissance Office and USAF satellite surveillance, which is also more than NASA's entire budget.

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Gary Bickford

Re: Agreed

IIRC at one time Sweden had a very strong privacy law, and an enforcement arm that could go into any business to assure that they weren't storing personal information unnecessarily, nor passing it to anyone else without permission. But that was a long while ago, IDK what the present situation is.

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Infosec bods rate app languages; find Java 'king', put PHP in bin

Gary Bickford

Re: Look at what they are actually measuring.

Indeed. It was proved back in the 1980s that black box testing can never (*) find more than about 30% of the bugs that exist.

(*) probabilistically speaking

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Gary Bickford

Re: It's not the language

Yes, using C would explain how Microsoft's OS and apps managed to avoid all those exploits over the years ... Oh, wait...

Historically, writing apps in low-level C has been by far the largest source of actual exploits, lately due to lack of language support for even basic protections. C is all very well for device drivers and kernels, but "programming without a net" s a bad methodology fir today's networked application environment.

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Work on world's largest star-gazing 'scope stopped after religious protests

Gary Bickford

Re: Bad Old Days

Your point about the 'sacred Moon' is actually something I, as an advocate of space development (see http://thespaceplan.com), am worried about. There is already a small but vocal cadre who say either that all of space should be left 'pure' for scientific research, or that it should be off limits to the 'evil humans who pollute everything". I am fairly confident that a significant attempt will be made to block all attempts at commercial or other non-governmental space activity, including habitation. I could see this both on the US and Euro stages, and in the UN.

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Gary Bickford

Re: this is a bunch of watermelons who want to stop anything

Umm... Most of the extreme green activists are decidedly _not_ GOP.

Historically the GOP has been a much better supporter of science and research than the other side. Not completely unrelated: The GOP are also the party that introduced the first Civil Rights Act in the late 1800s, and voted almost unanimously for the very similar 1964 Act, passing it over the Democrats' attempts to defeat it. IIRC less than 1/3 of the Democrats voted for it. Somehow that fact never gets into the media's narrative, nor the education establishment.

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Who owns space? Looking at the US asteroid-mining act

Gary Bickford

No space faring nation has signed the Moon treaty

AFAIK no nation with the actual capability to go to Space has ever signed the Moon treaty. The wording of the Outer Space treaty is a subject of intense debate among experts. Iow the author knows not whereof he speaks, gas no dog in this fighg., and us I St trying to enable those the extreme greenies. I expect he will probably try to ban all human exploration to preserve the universe from "evil mankind". It appears he also is ignorant of biology. Humans exploring and populating Space, (and taking all of Earth Life along) to propagate across the solar system and beyond are doing nothing different than every species has always done, only the distance are larger. We are an expression of Life, carrying Life with us as we go.

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Balloon-lofted space podule hits 30,000m

Gary Bickford

Not space, tossing away helium, and where will the balloon end up?

I'm sorry, despite the company's name and FAA stipulation, IMHO that's not space. I would be happier with their system if they weren't letting a large amount of helium go bye-bye. And I don't see any reference to a method for managing the balloon after separation - will it just float around for a while, acting as a hazard to aviation? (Perhaps it has a 'dump valve' and a radar reflector, which would be better than nothing.) For the cost of another two hundred kilos the system could decompress mist of the helium and open its own parachute, ride down with the capsule, or (coolest but most difficult) zip open a couple of seams in the balloon to become its own parachute.

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Hacker mag 2600 laughs off Getty Images inkspots copyright claim

Gary Bickford

Lots of poor lawyers

Actually yes, there are a lot of poor lawyers. Like rock bands, a few make the headlines, most of them toil away in the legal equivalent of neighborhood bars. I read several years ago that at that time the average pay of sysadmins was about $65K, and of lawyers about $61K. I think this is because a large fraction of lawyers spend their days doing legal research for big enterprises, another large fraction work defending (or prosecuting) low level defendants. These latter don't get paid to sit around and wait for clients. I've been to the offices of independent lawyers defending DUI clients (not me) - they tend to have offices near the courthouse in very cheap office space with very used furniture.

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Falcon 9 fireworks display grounds SpaceX

Gary Bickford

Re: Ha, ha, ha

It's important to distinguish subsidies from purchases. SpaceX has not to my knowledge done any cost-plus contracts with NASA or any other gov't agency. But NASA does buy stuff from them, including paying for launches. I expect, but don't know, that NASA may also be paying for additional development costs for features that SpaceX wouldn't otherwise have any use for. That's also not a 'subsidy' but payment for product or service.

Recognize that their fixed price (the catalog price is on their website) being less than 1/2 the price of of the 'old space' firms like ULA has caused ULA in particular to reorganize their entire company to reduce their operational costs so they can compete with SpaceX. This is resulting in huge savings for NASA (notwithstanding the lack of Congressional wisdom.)

Several tourists have paid the $20 million or so it costs to do a stint in LEO on the ISS. But AFAIK nobody has proposed a cost to go around the moon under $400 million, and while some Russian oligarchs and Arab sheiks have paid that much for their new yachts, you can use a yacht for more than a week. For national agencies, just riding in a capsule around the Moon doesn't have enough benefit to justify the cost. A couple of companies have come up with lower cost moon landing proposals - Golden Spike company comes to mind - pricing at $1.5 billion for two people to land, stay a week, and return. But there hasn't been much interest. I think it's just too early.

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Gary Bickford

Re: Debug Question ?

In addition to other answers, accident forensics is an extremely interesting discipline of science, art, deduction, and thorough knowledge of physics in context. Fire investigators, collision investigators, and murder investigators have a lot in common - sometimes in the same incident!

I'll just make up an example. In the wreckage a particular piece of metal is found, which is bent and twisted in a certain way. By analyzing how it is bent and twisted a fairly good idea of which way the other components were affecting it can be determined. This can be confirmed using a Finite Element Analysis and simulation, played in slow motion to confirm. Minor scuffs or paint chips may be indicators of impact by another object, which leads to the question of what other object _could_ impact it in the situation, and where that object might be now. If there are burn marks, soot, etc., then from things like which parts of the twisted object's surfaces have soot on them it may be possible to determine whether the burn came before or after the twisting, and which direction the flame came from. Also, from the 'stretch marks' in the bent portion, one can notice whether the cracks have soot in them. If not, then the bending happened afterwards. A classic question in the event of an explosion is whether the metal is bent in (meaning an external impact) or out (meaning an internal explosion), or both (a missile impacted punching a hole, then exploded.)

NTSB examiners have many times basically re-assembled an entire airliner on a frame in a hangar, hanging as many of the pieces as possible on the frame in their original locations, to help determine what happened. I think that was done in the case of TWA flight 800, when they determined that an explosion inside one of the fuel tanks was the cause, leading them to the short in the wiring that went through the tank.

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The good burghers of Palo Alto are entirely insane

Gary Bickford

US Doctrine of governmental 'taking'

Tom,

The problem with your thesis is that under US law (legislation and precedent), if the City Council were to just zone the property as park or whatever, reducing the value of the property by $38.5 million, the present owner could take them to court for the difference in value. There are some circumstances under which it can be done, but in general any zoning or other action after the fact that reduces the value, or the owner's right to 'enjoy the benefits', without compensation for the lost value, is an illegal taking.

The most recent major case I can think of was in Oregon, where a business in Tualatin had a back parking lot that abutted the Tualatin River. The City decided to install a "River Walk" to allow folks to enjoy a walk along the river, and attempted to use Eminent Domain to take the land from the business. The business, which was about to lose several of its parking spaces, sued and won (IIRC after it went all the way to the Supreme Court). Had the City made the River Walk easement a condition of the original construction of the business, there would have been no case. This was about 10 years ago so I may not have all the facts right ...

What makes it interesting is that the right of the public to travel along the river is unimpeded - it's a navigable waterway. But there was no way to walk along it on that side at that point. I don't know what the final result was.

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Does Linux need a new file system? Ex-Google engineer thinks so

Gary Bickford

Multiple projects can be a good thing

Back in the heyday of Japanese 'Asian Tiger" when their cars were eating everyone's lunch, one of the methods they were using for development of new products (or so I read at the time) was to assign the same project to two or three independent teams, who each competed to come up with the best new design. At some point either a winning team was selected, or the best points of all of them were merged and the most successful team was given the lead to finish.

This seems more expensive, but it probably greatly reduces the probability of abject failure so is probably cheaper and almost certainly better in the long run.

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One in eight mobile calls in India drops out __ ___ middle of your chat

Gary Bickford

Not so bad ... :(

So, if I move to India I'll get better service than I have now? Cool!

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Neat but narky at times: Pebble Time colour e-paper watch

Gary Bickford

Re: I see the usefulness, but not at full price

Hey, you might as well send Pebble an email at least. Maybe they'll do something about your screen.

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Arctic ice EMBIGGENS, returns to 1980s levels of cap cover

Gary Bickford

Re: Good news for Polar Bears

Hmm. Increased snow, longer winter ... So, the next Ice Age is happening as some scientists have predicted for a while now?

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SpaceX's blast shock delays world's MOST POWERFUL ROCKET

Gary Bickford

Re: SpaceX Management is to blame, not a broken strut.

I wouldn't put it this strongly - Musk himself mentioned complacency, and it's easy to ascribe blame from outside. But I think in this general sense, you have a point. Until now, SpaceX has benefited from 'lean and mean', entrepreneurial style systems but with this failure, and especially as they progress toward man-rated systems, both the hardware and the systems for building and launching will inevitably have to move somewhat toward more rigorous systems with additional checks at every stage in the process, which will likely increase their operational and launch costs, although I don't expect them to go as far as the 'old school' methodologies. But at the same time, additional analysis may discover additional cost savings in other areas, as their technology matures, so it may be a wash.

SpaceX has already revolutionized the cost structure of orbital launches with the fixed price approach and roughly 50% cut in that price from traditional ones - ULA, Orbital ATK and Boeing are all working on reorganizations that will allow them to cut their costs to be more competitive.

Finally, assuming SpaceX gets the reusable first stage working with a 30% or better success rate, that will reduce the costs some more. I assume that SpaceX pricing will take into account the success rate so SpaceX will eat the costs of the failures to return the first stage. So in the long run, even with the increased carefulness, launch costs will continue to come down. ... I hope! :)

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Why SpaceX will sort out Sunday's snafu faster than NASA ever could

Gary Bickford

Re: NASA inefficiency: The hint is in the name

In fairness, everyone I've met from NASA has been a committed, dedicated, talented and skilled professional. It does have a big-organization decision methodology, replete with the usual politics and administrative complexities. But NASA has been very creative in providing a variety of support for outside efforts - they really want the 'people' to succeed where they are not allowed to go.

There was a milestone back in the late 1960s or early 1970s - I'm too lazy to look the date up just now. At the time, the NASA team were working on an advanced nuclear engine based on the NERVA program. The engine had progressed to the point where they had successful test stand firings, and were preparing to move to the next phase, building it into a new second stage for the Saturn V. This engine was considered essential to a variety of heavy-lift jobs after Apollo, notably a not-yet-official Mars project.

But certain members of Congress thought all of space was a boondoggle, and killed funding for the nuclear engine specifically to prevent any thought of going to Mars. This was the first time I know of when the politicians really imposed their rules on NASA, which had been working on the magical can-do Apollo project till then. NASA had no choice but to cancel the engine, and put the Mars project file on a shelf. And since that day, NASA has been subject to Congressional and Presidential whims, trying to survive the Washington bureaucracy as best as possible.

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Bitcoin, schmitcoin. Let's play piggyback on the blockchain

Gary Bickford

Transactions will be by far the more important application in the long run

I first learned from an online security professional (he teaches this stuff) that the importance of Bitcoin is not Bitcoin but the protocol, which will allow, for example, two entities who are remote from each other to transact business and sign and execute contracts, neither necessarily knowing who the other is or where they are depending on the situation, securely.

My favorite application is the following: This will become an enabling technology for space development and business where two parties to a transaction may be separated by thousands or millions of miles. Thus a party on Mars can agree to a contract with a party on the Moon or mining asteroids, with a complete distributed transaction record.

But in order for this to be viable in the long term, the system needs to support several orders of magnitude more transactions. This is analogous to the IPV4 vs. IPV6 problem. IPV6 was made large enough to support any foreseeable expansion of the internet address space.

The blockchain protocol needs to be expanded similarly, either to a size that contemplates the huge potential expansion in human population across the Solar System (one trillion people?), or incorporates a way for multiple blockchains run by different vendors (or governments) to be managed cooperatively with interoperability. In fact the latter would be a good way to do that, by adding one or a few extra fields to the transaction data to identify the vendor and protocol (if they aren't already there.)

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