3317 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009
Re: Fish in barrels
I'm genuinley interested to know why my comment got downvoted. I admit it's not the most coherent bit of writing I've done, but it mostly agrees with the (upvoted) comment above that the resellers don't look to be getting much advantage from this.
I did point out that there are (or may be) shiny opportunities for really small businesses to get IT they couldn't previously afford. But that doesn't seem controversial either...
I'm confused. A comment often makes far more contribution to an interesting discussion than a vote.
Re: Fish in barrels
It's all getting massively cheaper. At least looking at it, as I do, from the point of view of a company with under 10 employees. Loads of stuff that we couldn't even imagine doing ten years ago is now possible, and easily within our budget. I don't know how this relates to the costs of companies big enough to have IT departments.
It's got to hurt the resellers. Although there could be upsides. The market will get bigger, as smaller companies can now afford stuff. But it's all going to be set-up and hand-holding. And I suspect small businesses are going to be even more cheapskate about paying for IT advice than they previously were about paying for software. Why pay for Office, when you can get some mate to put a pirated copy on your computer, and hope for the best?
But then the cloud providers are going to be hoovering up all the cash. As they're doing all the ongoing maintenance, and presumably as the Cloud software will be permanently kept at the latest version, they'll be no data migration to do. So the only consulting to sell will be whether to move to a new, shinier product - and migrate to another provider.
Plus the boring work of keeping laptops and desktops going. As I say, I don't know the economics for bigger companies. But I guess the cloudy boys will hoover up all the gains as really small businesses start using IT services they previously couldn't even dream of operating.
Re: fuck off
For a lot of small businesses, hosting offsite is the only sensible option. Whether run by a spotty oik or not...
Even if they host the server, most of them aren't capable of running it, so they're going to have some spotty oik from their local IT shop remote desktopping in to set it up and/or fix it.
For our company, as an example, there are 6 of us. The best IT expertise is me. I can keep oru PCs going easily enough. I've got the experience to fix most problems, and usually an idea of what to look for when not. But I'm not qualified to play with servers. Again I've no fear that I couldn't find out a lot of the answers online, or go and do some training. But I'm paid to design and configure water systems, not IT systems. Plus I'd be using those skills so infrequently that I'd be forgetting stuff, almost as fast as I learned it.
For companies of our size, it's simply not sensible to have an IT deparment. But there's a lot of utility to be gained from IT. We can massively improve our marketing, project managent and communications with relatively modest investments in IT. But we're going to be at the mercy of whatever provider we use. However there's no choice in that, it's simply a choice of providers. You can deal with someone local, small and flexible (as we currently do) or go with one of the big boys. Then you're trading better kit and expertise for flexibility, and the chance to do a deal on a handshake.
For the same money we currently pay our local company, we can have Office 365, which gives us hosted Exchange, no need for a server and the latest version of Office - so we never have to buy a license again. Plus we get online document collaboration, One Note and Lync, which may or may not turn out to be useful for us. Of course, the 365 servers have been down a few times, but then so has our local firm. We can live with that.
Compared with a lot of people I know running small businesses, I'm an IT genius (which I'm not btw). If they want anything more complicated than two tin cans connected by a piece of string, then they need decent firms who can tell them what's available, then set everything up for them - with good cloudy comopanies. Hopefully at not too hideous rates. For these people the risk of the cloud provider going kaput, or screwing up, is far less than the risk of themselves forgetting to back up for a year or two. Or doing something unspeakable to their own hardware. Which is where decent resellers could come in, hold their hands and pick the best cloudy options - while making sure they've got some sort of outside back-up and their data isn't held hostage.
The benefits of cloudy CRM, group email / calendaring and accounts software are amazing for a lot of really small companies. But 5 years ago, really hard to achieve for most of them. Now it's amazing what you can have. It's all pretty cheap though, so I'm not sure there's much to excite the resellers.
Re: If I had to choose...
Now that really would be bad. Not content with showing your baby photos to potential girlfriends, parents could have the ultimate weapon in the family embarrassment wars. Let's put on the DVD of your conception... Eek!
It's a nice tablet. I was playing with one over Christmas, and it's the first tablet in a while that's stirred the gadget-lust in me, and endangered the credit card.
The iPad Air is nice, and the weight loss over my iPad 3 is a temptation, but not enough to seriously disturb the moths in my wallet. The Samsungs with pens are all nice, but expensive and with a messy user interface. The Lenovo Yoga laptop is also very pretty, and looks and feels lovely. I'd love to see them do a 10" Android one, if it could be almost as small as this - but I guess the keyboard makes it too big for prolonged one-handed use [fnarr, fnarr]. But I've not owned an Android device since 2.2 and my old underpowered Wildfire - and I want to get a cheapish one to play with.
Anyway, congrats to Lenovo for thinking a bit differently. It really does feel very nice in the hand, which is important in a tablet or phone. It's also got that feeling of design elegance. By which I mean it looks pretty and feels nice, but you know that this has been achieved without sacrificing practicality. So it's satisfying in a way that so many things fail to be, when they try too hard to look good.
Just goes to show "the internet of things" is a load of bollocks.
Oh shit! Does it? When are they going to implant chips in those?
Will they be able to post on forums independent of the rest of me? I guess that might explain 4chan anyway...
Re: Always keep you spam inside the fridge
Never take the spam out of the tin. It's disgusting! The only use for those huge tins of the stuff is to beat burglars to death with. Or to give to Vera Lynn if she happens to pop round for tea and a sing-song - and fancies some spam fritters.
We used to have a car alarm songbird where I lived. Obviously one too many had gone off, so he'd learnt to imitate them. Suddenly the dawn chorus isn't quite so romantic, when one of them is beeping and wailing.
How does a parakeet pronounce @...
Re: "It's not remotely possible...
There is an alternative way to make lifetime deals sustainable. A business model equally open to web hosting or annuity companies. Simply hire an assassin, and you can really keep the recurring costs down of your lifetime deals...
Which leads to another problem. If you're going through this scheme to get your Bitcoins because it's such a hassle to buy them, then it's going to be equally difficult to sell them afterwards.
This isn't a problem if you're getting them to spend on stuff. But if you're getting them as an investment, which a lot of people who promote Bitcoin on forums are, then you've still got exactly the same problem. Only worse, becuase you've now got your money tied up in a volatile and high risk asset.
Re: Sign me up!!
You don't want your salary paid in an unregulated start up currency.
So you're OK with a currency where unelected people simply print more and more, thereby diluting the value of the money in your pocket every time they do this.
If the dollar economy collapses, then Bitcoins are as fucked as everything else. The world economy will grind to a halt, many governments will collapse, there'll be no bail-outs, my savings will be destroyed in whatever form I've made them (gold may be slightly less disastrous than anything else), and life will become rather difficult for a while. The same for sterling, but on a smaller global scale. As a British resident the effect will be equally horrific for me though.
As to central banks being un-elected, that's pretty much irrelevant. Congress just had an approval hearing for the head of the Fed. They had quite a big input, as Yellen was preferred over Larry Summers - who basically pulled out of the race, even though Obama probably wanted him, because he wouldn't get through the hearings.
Or we can look to Japan, where the new government just told their Central Bank to do as it was bloody well told. It whimpered a bit, for all of 2 months, then the governer resigned, and was replaced with the Prime Minister's choice. Hence Abenomics - not Kurodanomics... The European Central Bank mostly wants to do QE, but doesn't dare because the German government won't let it.
Central bank independence is a tightrope. Mostly the idea is to stop the politicians from lowereing interest rates just before elections, to get some cheap feel-good popularity. That mostly works. When the shit hits the fan, the Central Bankers come into line. Hence the ECB have allowed the inflation rate to drop below 1%, miss the target and risk deflation, because they're more scared of the German government than they are of the others.
Talking of deflation, that's what money printing was for. It doesn't look to have been a disaster. The current asset bublle and uncertainty over the taper is preferable to the deflation that not printing money would have caused. Deflation would have led to defaults on a massive scale. So it looks to have been a price wroth paying.
Plus QE isn't printing money. At least not technically. The fiction is that it can be later un-wound. My suspicion is it'll get slowly, and guiltily, written-off. But it's a trick that can be pulled off once every 50 years or so. Probably with relatively little damage to the economy.
Anyway, the Central bankers aren't really the problem. It's the politicians. Governments ran up all the debt, and they set the inflation targets. The Japanese got 20 years of deflation becasue they were unwilling to allow the knackered companies from the 1990s recession to fail. They got stability, at the price of stagnation. The Eurozone's problems are also mostly political. The ECB have dodged and weaved, ducked and dived and managed to keep consent with everyone, just about. While doing just enough to stop the Euro collapsing, and giving the politicians time to get their act together. Mario Draghi is a genius in my opinion. I think the Euro will still fail, because Italy will have to partially default or leave in the next 3 years. But that won't be the ECB's fault. And when it comes to the abyss (for the 3rd time), the Northern solvent countries may agree to a solution that's actually workable.
Re: Sign me up!!
Think of it as a *protocol* (like SMTP but for money) rather than a currency, and you'll get further in understanding the impacts.
I'm not really sure that means anything. Plus, I'm disputing that Bitcoin (or any other crypto-currency) even is money. Either now, or in the immediate future.
Money is a means of exchange. Which means you need a decent number of people who'll accept it, before it can become stable. And it's hard to persuade people to use it, until it does become stable. It's certainly not an insurmountable hurdle, but will be a long struggle.
Remember the banks can do a lot of damage to any schemes like this, by charging less for their existing services. In 2001 I could transfer money more cheaply from my UK bank account to my Belgian one (including currency transaction costs), than from my Belgian account to a German or French one. This despite the fact that Belgium, Germany and France were all in the Euro. You can already get credit cards that give the market exchange rates, without any commission or loading - and no extra fees for foreign transactions. The banks will charge the fees that the market (and regulators) allow. They can cut them at the flick of a switch.
Now I admit there will always be a market for untraceable transactions. Add that to the market for cheap international payments to order online - and you have a valuable and growing marketplace. Take away the customers seeking value though, which the banks can do if threatened, and you're left with a much smaller market, that may struggle to achieve critical mass. And is going to be tarred with the the accusation that it's full of criminals, druggies and money launderers.
Therefore I'm not betting on Bitcoin. Plus while unregulated can be an advantage, it also means unprotected and no hope of bail-outs.
Re: Sign me up!!
Is Bitcoin a high risk investment or a currency?
Now I'm pretty sure I've seen you argue in the past that it's a currency. And I've explained why it isn't. It could be one in future, though I doubt it myself. But at the moment it's a very high risk investment with high returns. That's what annoys people. The claims that it's some new utopian future of currency, when it's not. At best it's currently a highly speculative investment with tentative signs of a future as a global internet currency. At worst it's a pyramid scheme (even if that wasn't deliberate).
It's too speculative to be the sort of investment that should be linked to payroll, in my opinion. This time last year, Bitcoin was collapsing from $120 to $20 over the span of 2 days. It's spent the last couple of months fluctuating between $500 and $1200.
I've no problem with people talking about it. But it would help if they understood just how volatile it is. And the massive risk to its chances of becoming a currency caused by the designed-in deflation.
Sign me up!!
YES! I want to have my salary paid via an un-regulated startup, using software that's still in beta, in a different 'currency' whose value sometimes fluctuates by more than 10% in a single day.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?
OK, so the satellite's got it's sunglasses. Who's building the hat?
Re: Yea! Boeing "fixed" the problem!
I liked Boeing's comment on it only being vapour. As it reminds me of their far more fun euphemism from last year. No, no, no! That batteries were NOT on fire. They were merely 'venting with flame'.
An excellent and normal failure mode, that no-one should have any worries about. We'll just stick them in big metal boxes, with an exhaust, and all will be well. Of course, some might say that if this was a known failure mode of the batteries, it might have been a teensy weensy bit of a good idea to provide these simple protections in the original design. But only the most petty-fogging of ninnies would say that Boeing were negligent in not doing so...
Re: Fixing problems the Microsoft way
So they redesigned it to leak instead of catching fire. I stand in awe ..
That's a perfectly sensible design decision, if true. Failures are inevitable, so things should fail safe.
That still leaves it open to question whether they'd have been better off using an older, safer, battery tech though. And why they didn't design around the known failure mode of lithium batteries when they did choose to use them.
Re: Try taking one in China
That reminds me of living in Brussels. Trams have immunity. Any crash is automatically the other party's fault. On dual carriageways (with concrete tramways in the central reservation), taxis are allowed to bypass traffic by driving in the tramways. This scared the crap out of me the first time I was in a cab that did it though. I wonder how many accidentally end up going down the tram tunnels?
The result is game of chicken with 30 tonne trams! When the cab can't get off the tramway, due to trying to rejoin the normal traffic, and there's a tram zooming up behind him - things can get interesting quite quickly...
I wonder if it's a co-incidence that the tram drivers are apparently bitter that they're paid less than the taxi drivers?
I particularly enjoyed Chicago taxis. They're perfectly safe once you're in them, and seemed to have a pretty relaxed attitude to all the jams. I guess the meter's running, why worry.
It was the pick-up that was 'interesting'. Approved method seemed to be that when you stuck an arm out to hail one, the driver would simply turn the wheel until the cab was aimed directly at you, and depress the accelerator. Brakes were only applied once the cab was at least halfway up onto the kerb, pretty much exactly where you would have been standing, if you hadn't just run for cover. Whichever lane of traffic they were in didn't matter either, as none ever seemed to hesitate, or bother with indicators. They'd just come in like a kamikaze.
There were many cabs, so I can understant that speed is required, in order to avoid someone else stealing the fare. I just struggle to understand how they expect to get repeat custom, if they kill all the customers.
Re: Judges usually don't like to be played for fools
There's nothing wrong with not giving a fuck about court orders. So long as you don't tell the judge! That tends to annoy them.
If you then don't fully comply with their orders, they're likely to threaten you with contempt, and make things even worse for you. Best to keep the judge onside as much as possible. The only time it's worth pissing judges off normally, is when you're trying to influence a jury.
Re: ... hardly surprising that "lawyers get paid a lot of money".
I'm wondering if it's too late to retrain, since I've now lost the will to do anything good and creative in my life.
Don't be downhearted! There are still many options you can pursue.
Have you considered a career in accountancy?
However, as your careers advisor, I have to warn you that accountancy and the law tend to require training. All that mucking about faking certificates and references is far too much like work. You're too old, cynical and worn down to want to waste your time doing that. Plus there's the danger that you might accidentally do some good work by instilling a sense of cynicism, futility and impending doom in the young people you encounter during your studies.
So I recommend a career in PR or marketing. There's no risk of you accidentally doing anything good, renumeration can be huge, and no training (or skills) are required.
Have fun in your new life!
Oh, by the way, about my *ahem* fee. Just pop the brown envelope on the desk, there's a good chap... I believe we said about $1,800?
Re: Judges usually don't like to be played for fools
Don't annoy the judge old darling. Unless you're Rumpole of course...
I know several people, [stereotype alert!] all of them happen to be women, who want the iPhone 5C. They like iPhones, because they're used to them and they've got apps and iTunes. And they like the idea of a bright pink phone. I didn't ask, but should have, whether they were also reacting against Apple's horrible decision with the iPhone 4 to go all glass. Basically creating the iSoap. In my experience almost all plastic phones are less slippery than the metal ones, except with HTC's nicely ergonomic 'Desire' type ones with the rubber backing.
So I guess Apple thought the risk of losing lots of customers, and profits, in the West to a cheap plastic handset was more than the gain of having a lower priced model. Although I don't see why they couldn't just do a re-cased version of the 4 - or even update the 3GS with a bit more RAM and a slighly faster chip. Or even just have a 3rd world model, that they don't sell in the West. All the other mobile firms have models that only sell into certain markets, so I don't see why Apple couldn't.
Re: Private vs State charity
UK overseas aid this year is about £11.3 billion (not £16bn). This is the first decent looking link I came across: Grauniad link.
That figure looks about right, as the idea was to hit the targe of 0.7% of GDP this year. UK GDP is around £1.5 trillion a year, so 0.7% of that is about £11bn. From memory that comes to about 1.5% of total government spending.
Oddly international aid can also include things like supporting asylum seekers in the UK. So there's obvoiusly some bulking out of this figure to meet the 0.7% target - but I've no idea how much that comes to.
Another thing it does inlcude is contributions to the WHO, who participated in the vaccination program in India (along with Bill G). Along with lots of global diaster relief, which might not achieve any nice long-term targets, but does hopefully save lots of lives.
Of course governents are also good at wasting money. And sometimes the purpose of giving international aid is political / diplomatic, rather than humanitarian. We are one of the founder members of the UN for example, and although that organisation has been responsible for quite a lot of money wasting itself, it's also been very useful in brokering quite a lot of ceasefires and peace agreements, given us the WHO the UN Food Program and so on. So our international aid isn't all wasted, some of it got spent on eradicating smallpox, and some on polio, which should be on the way out soon as well.
Re: What a load of developer old tosh
The Register wouln't be here without advertising. They might do the odd sponsored story or competition, but basically they're advertising funded. As is much of the press.
Google now make a bit of cash on the side from Android and their online office stuff, but they're still 90% advertsiing funded. That's search, maps, mail etc.
Many websites have adverts as extra gravy, this is true. But many others have no other income stream (or nearly none).
Re: My personal gripe
I hate that bouncy, bouncy site-loading thing so much. It's even worse on a tablet than on a desktop. And of course even worse worse on a phone...
Site writers need to re-establish some sanity as well. I know that we all have super-fast fibre to the house 100Mb/s broadband nowadays, but some of these sites are getting bloody enormous! Oh no, hang on a minute, it's the other thing isn't it. We don't all have super-mega-fast-broadband.
Also, many more people are now online from mobile connections. Oh, but that's OK. We've all got 4G now, at 20Mb/s and doubling in speed every year! Erm, oh, hang on a minute... Is that right? What's that GPRS sign nexto to my one bar of signal mean again?
At least on a desktop tabbed browsing means that I can open pages in a tab, and carry on doing what I was looking at on the original page. Then pop over to the tab once it's stopped bouncing around like a psychadelic jelly on a trampoline. But sadly this doesn't work on the lower resources of mobilei devices, where you usually have to click on the tab before it will render the page.
Re: A lot of bored/dissapointed people out there.
I couldn't be arsed to finish it. I didn't think it was telling me anything about Hitler that I was going to learn without years of concentrated study, and probably lots of cod psychology. So I read Joachim Fest instead. Who's an excellent historian.
I read the book in a quiet university library, so didn't get spotted with it. Everyone else was probably at the pub. But I do remember mentioning having read it, to a german colleague. To the response of shocked silence. At which point I remembered that it's banned in Germany. Although I'd assume that there'll be copies in university libraries, it's just a question of who gets access.
Re: Much worse.
Aha! Were you caught reading Mein Vamp?
Re: The worst book ever?
Is that worse than an Edwina Currie book? I found a copy of her first novel just after she'd revealed that she'd been having her end away with John Major. Seeing as I wasn't going to buy her autobiography, I read the first 50-odd pages of it, and it had the young, ambitious female MP, new to Parliament. Who has a steamy affair with her handsome whip, Roger (fnarr, fnarr!) with his big blue pants.
No one else seems to have suspected, but I guess John Major must have known she'd be outing him soon. I don't know if he was assigned her, when he was a junior whip, so maybe it wasn't all that obvious.
On the subject of getting caught with embarrassing books... Oops what have I done! It was bloody awful, but the writing (apart from the sex scenes) was probably slightly better than The Da Vinci Code.
Getting back to bad writing, I could never finish Mein Kampf. I was doing Nazi history at the time, so I had a reason for reading it. I don't recall seeing any other book in a university librabry with writing all over it. It seemed to be a particular vehicle for un-funny cartoons for some reason.
Re: @Steve Renouf
It's all very well you saying that. But the margins in the delivery business are shit. And have been shit for years. Which means only the big companies can do anything like planning ahead. The rest are just surviving.
Partly this is a problem, because it's so easy to set up. Especially for the shysters and fraudsters, who trade for a bit, build up the debts, then go bust and start all over again. But there's always someone around under-cutting the ones with good service. And the companies doing the buying, tend to go with the cheapest. As do the customers.
Town wasn't that crowded - as everyone was online. I didn't order a single thing online this year for Christmas, for the first time in year. Some techy I am!
I was in Central London with my 5 year-old neice on about the 20th. That was quite busy. But the shops where I live were mostly reasonable to empty. Even on Christmas Eve. Not that there were many bargains to be had on Crimbo Eve. Sadly I didn't score any enormous piles of special offer cakes, biccies or smoked salmon this year. Boo!
Special bonus points to Argos for their click-and-collect. You don't need to log on, you just find thing on website, see if it's in stock near you, and can then reserve for 48 hours with just an email addy, or phone number. Then pick up by using the reference number in the magic payment station, or take to the till. I don't mind setting up an account to order something, but just to be able to see if something's in stock locally, I really can't be arsed to jump through the hoops to do that - and will look elsewhere.
M&S deserve to be in trouble, as they've been relying on their name for years. Most of their stuff is no longer the same quality, but it's still quite boring, lacks variety, and is still priced as if it's top quality. That applies to their food, as much as their clothes and other stuff.
If a shopping centre drops round to my place unexpectedly, but brings an entire off-licence (or supermarket!) full of booze and crisps with it, then it's welcome to be my friend anytime!
Re: I laughed at all the people a few years ago calling google evil
I've been highly sceptical about Google for years now. And got quite a few downvotes on here to show for it... But they're not making Soylent Green, or building death camps. So I don't think they're evil. They're just fucking creepy.
Re: My cunning plan to thwart the evil social media...
I don't have any friends!
My plan is even cunning-er. I kill all friends, and keep their embalmed corpses in the basement. That way they never spam me with crappy emails, or invites to be fruitful farmers on their virtual farms! But, they do listen to all my anecdotes, without any pesky interruptions!
But think of the super-powers you might end up with...
Re: No safety concerns....
The only thing worse than a Godzuki is a Scrappy Doo!
The horror... The horror... The horror...
I think netbooks were partly killed by disappointment. Too many people bought them as cheap laptops. Which they simply weren't suitable as. With either Linux or Windows.
Also laptops continued to get cheaper, from the £400 for anything useable at the time down to £300 for an OK one nowadays.
So I suspect that the Chromebook may rise, and fall, in a similar way to the netbook. The geeks know what they're buying, and will be happy. The normal users may think they've scored a decent sized £200 laptop, only to find it only works when connected to the internet, and they can't put iTunes on it - or fill it with photos.
Of course, I may be wrong. People may be buying them instead of tablets. Actually given that the decent tablet bluetooth keyboards seem to cost around £70 (and often only fit one specific model of tablet) it may be cheaper than buying, then repacing, one of those to just keep a Chromebook around for long emails / forum posts. Or in fact buying them because they're cheaper than 10" tablets.
As a piece fo purely anecdotal information, I've been in PC world 5 or 6 times in the last few weeks. I've been variously after a cheapo desktop PC in a hurry, helping a friend buy a laptop and playing with tablets. I don't think I saw a single customer at the side of the shop with the full-fat Windows tablets and the Chromebooks. Goodness knows why they're placed together. There were plenty around the iPads, fewer round the Android tablets, and a good number around the laptops. Even a hardy few still buying deskops - and the odd one lusting after the huge tables of Apple kit. Then again, for a company supposedly having a great Christmas, the store was never even close to full, and I was actually approached by several staff on each visit, offering 'help'.
The fact that I had to get my phone out and get a spec online for one of the laptops I was showing my mate, reflects amusingly badly on the company... This was while at the desk with 'small business expert', who couldn't find the model on either their internal system, or their website. I suppose I should have just booted it up and gone to control panel, if only they'd had a power lead handy.
Re: Up vote total query
As I understand it, it's a total of all your upvotes. Including anonymous, and ones from previous handles. So if you've reached 2,000 and are still without a silver badger - that could be why.
Re: "a meth lab comprising a small torch, batteries and other items",
Oops, I'd forgotten flashlight. So what's torch mean in USian? Something like an electric paint-stripper?
I wonder what US kids would make of Jamie and his Magic Torch, the cartoon I watched when I was 5? I'm sure I don't remember any meth labs...
Re: Oh crap.
Going back to the Moon doesn't solve any more problems than being on the ISS. The shuttle actually might have taught us some new things about Earth-to-orbit flight, which is still the biggest problem of space travel, from which most of the other problems flow. But I think the lesson we seem to have learned, was that it's not worth doing again. I'm not sure that's the correct lesson, but then I still don't think we have the technical solutiosn (either engines or material science) to build a practical Earth-to-orbit taxi.
You can't just dismiss the radiation problems with water. To get enough water to surround your astronauts, you're going to need a bloody big ship. Plus an engine that can push it, plus the actual water itself. That ship will need to be assembled in orbit. One of the things the ISS was designed to teach us. Current rockets would give us a pretty slow trip to Mars, or a huge ship, with big fuel tanks. Though modern engine research and testing (some of it being done, or about to be, on the ISS.
One of the problems we have is that there are only 3 currently practical things to do in space. Go to the Moon, do the ISS thing, or repair satellites. There's notthing else close enough to the Earth to do safely. Repairing satellites is incredibly hard and expensive. You've complained about the cost of the ISS, but that's only keeping 6 people in orbit. To repair satellites would need more, with more resources in orbit - and so at current costs would probably be uneconomic. Which means we need to cut the costs of living in space, and of Earth-to-orbit flight, which means we need the experience of the ISS and the shuttle. Here the ISS also helps, because of COTS. Space X may be about to cut costs by a huge amount, which might make more things possible.
I really don't see any possibility of deeper manned space exploration without the ISS, or something like it. This is the kind of expensive, only semi-useful, thing that government does best. We're learning loads of stuff, but the scienctific gains are probably far too expensive compared to what could be funded on Earth. However, we need this in-space experience before the commercial sector can go do it's thing. We need a platform to test growing plants, because that's going to have to happen in long-term space travel, or people are going to need awfully big ships. That still needs to be studied.
For example 1 person needs say 5kg of supplies per day - food/water/oxygen/whatever. It's 2 years to Mars. That's over 3.5 tonnes of supplies, per astronaut. Maybe that's a bit too much, but a Dragon can get 2.5 tonnes to orbit. So if you want to take 6 astronauts to Mars, that's 8 Dragon flights, to put them, and their dinner up. Now you've got to get the ship up there. Including a couple of Mars landers. If they're to spend more than a token couple of days on Mars, then you need to give them spare landers, and plenty of fuel. Because to stay on Mars for more than a few days, they'll need tons of cargo, radiation shielding (or digging equipment). All this makes the ship bigger, and more expensive. We're talking low tens of billions, a pointless fly-by or a suicide mission.
Make that an asteroid, and things get easier. You've still got the living in space thing, so the huge ship with radiation shielding and loads-a-food. But the journey can be shorter (hence a smaller ship), if you pick the right asteroid. You can do without landers, and do your exploration with suits and backpack jets. Then maybe do some mining/prospecting. Maybe attach a dirty great rocket, and push the thing to Earth orbit, to build spacestation on? But even that's at the edge of our technical capabilities, and beyond our current political/budget capabilities.
If you want to argue this means giving up on manned spaceflight, and going all robot probe-y - then you're possibly correct. But I'm unsure if I'm on board with that. I'm certainly not as inspired by it. I want to see people in space, I want to harness all those lovely free resources up there, if it's possible. The ISS helps to tell us if it is possible. The robots can maybe tell us if the asteroids are full of free resources. But manned flight any further than the geo-magnetic field will probably be horrifically expensive for decades even in the best case scenario. So the only pracitcal chance of a trip to Mars is probably a space race with China, and that would probably only happen if we got into some kind of Cold War II. Not a price I'd want to pay for the exploration I'd like to see. So to me, the answer is making permanent orbital presence possible (and cheaper), the economics being covered by whatever goodies can be manufactured best in micro-gravity, and satellite repair. Then try to capture an asteroid and mine it. If we could get one with hydrocarbons, then we wouldn't have to keep boosting rocket fuel into orbit. Ditto for growing plants for food/oxygen. Then we could try orbital manufacturing. It's a chicken and egg problem, unless we can solve the horrific costs of Earth-to-orbit. How do you make a space based economy viable, when it costs so damned much to start up?
Re: The issue at the moment
Well SpaceX Falcon/Dragon is pretty re-usable. The capsules are, and the first stage of the rocket will hopefully be soon as well.
I don't know if Reaction Engines will get anywhere with Sabre. But we can hope.
There's never really been much re-usable space tech. It's not like a plane, where you just fuel it, and send it back up again. With spaceships you have to take them apart and rebuild everything. We're still too near the edge of our materials science to have anything reliable enough to re-use easily. At which point disposable modules may actually be cheaper and more efficient in some cases.
I say the next international exploration of space should only include nasa as a Minor Partner...
Who put up the most money? I'm pretty sure it was the Yanks, as they were subsidising the Russians at the beginning, as well as paying their own way. And Europe and Japan have probably put less in than either of them.
The ISS will be dictated to by the Russians and the Americans because they're the ones who could get people there. Ignoring the fact the US temporarily can't - how long is it until SpaceX get their man-rating?
A quick Google suggests that I'm right. I didn't find a source, though I didn't look that hard. But it looks like it's not easy to say, as everyone accounts for it differently. There were a lot more shuttle flights than there have ever been ESA ones though, and of course even more Soyuz and Progress ones. Apparently the $100 billion total cost of the ISS estimate that I've seen before, was from the ESA, and they estimate that their total costs will be about $9 billion. I think that's up to 2024.
Without the space shuttle, I'd imagine that building another big space station from scratch will be considerably harder for many years to come. So I guess we're stuck with what we've got. Plus whatever bits we choose to add to it. Personally I don't see there being any more money from space that'll be forthcoming from government. Unless something (probably something horrible) happens to change things radically. What will get more space hardware built is asteroid mining, orbital power generation or maybe orbital micro-gravity manufacturing.
Re: Oh crap.
What useful manned spaceflight are you talking about? I can't see popping back to the Moon being any more scientifically useful than wandering round in orbit, as the ISS does. I don't get what alternatives you're suggesting.
The science is still partly the living in space thing. There's still plenty of data to collect from just doing that. Plus they are doing a bunch of experiments on the ISS. Helped immensely now that we have the SpaceX Dragon capsules that can return experiments to Earth again. You wouldn't get more research happening on a manned ship that was going somewhere else, as they'll be spending time on their own maintenance, as well as the going somewhere thing.
Plus the elephant in the room, which is leaving the Earth's magnetic field. It's scary out there, and full or radioactive death. Only the Apollo astronauts have done it so far, and they only did it for a few days at a time. I don't believe we currently have the shielding technology for normal travel, let alone if the ship gets hit by a solar flare.
That's either going to come through materials science, or it's going to be done with bulk. If you go the bulk approach, then you'll need a ship constructed in orbit. In which case you're back to needing a permanent space station.
I really struggle to imagine any space program in the near or medium term future that isn't going to rely on some supplies and workers from Earth, and therefore that isn't going to need a space station in Earth orbit. It's going to be a long time before we can build anything entirely in space, so we're going to require earth construction and space assembly, which will likely be done in earth orbit. That's assuming we even get that far. Otherwise any manned spaceflight is just going to be glorified tourism for a tiny number of astronauts on the public meal-ticket. Not that I object to this, space is cool. But a significant number of other tax payers do, and the program is liable to get shot down in electoral flames.
Re: Who's next to visit the ISS?
But what happens if they just ring the bell at the docking point?
The ISS 'nauts will simply turn the lights off, and hide behind the sofa. Just in case it's the Jehovah's Witnesses...
Re: Oh crap.
One of the reasons the ISS got funding, was that it was a way for US government to help the Russians keep some of their space infrastructure intact, after the Cold War. For example, I rember reading in the Economist back in the late 90s, that Iran were offering $1m a year (tax free) to any senior Russian rocket scientist to come and help with their missile program. I guess that was a way to sell it to Congress, who've mostly been sceptical of space stuff. A large part of what got Man to the Moon was probably Lyndon Johnson grabbing people by the bollocks in darkened rooms...
So there's the 'No Bucks, No Buck Rogers' thing, that suggests you might struggle to get funding for manned spaceflight without some other reason. Space is not a universally popular project to spend cash on amongst either voters or politicians.
Add to that the international co-operation thing, which has got the Russians, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Japanese and others all working together - which may well turn out to be the biggest legacy of the ISS in the end. It also makes it harder for any one country's politicians to cancel the program.
Then we come to the even sillier part of your argument. The idea that we can just go off exploring space without having done the groundwork (if you'll pardon the pun) first. If you don't do spaceflight as a series of small steps, you get people kiilled. Often you kill people even doing it that way. Any flight to Mars would be an almost certain death sentence now. We still need advances in radiation shielding, space medicine, re-cycling, life-support and engines. All of those areas are being studied on the ISS, in one way or another. They only just got the wee-recylcing space-toilet working last year, you don't piss around with that sort of thing on a trip to Mars without testing. And while it got tested on Earth, it still broke down in space and had to get fixed. When your water recycling breaks down halfway through a 2 year trip to Mars, don't come crying to me...
There is science going on at the ISS. More than at the start too. As they're now spending less time on building it. But then I'd argue that building a huge structure in orbit is science.
Then we have the fact that most previous attempts to keep a permanent human presence in orbit have nearly failed horribly. Mir had a series of near disasters, the Skylab program was worse, the Soviets had various stations going on in the 80s, that I know less about. So it's not like manned orbit is fully understood yet, and we can just say 'done', and go on to the next bit.
Finally it's worth mentioning commercial spacefight. What will keep us in space is money. Again, it's back to 'No Bucks, No Buck Rogers'! Governments have infinite pressure on them to spend taxpayer's cash on stuff, and not all taxpayers want space. Some really, violently hate it. That's no sound basis for long-term projects. 2 things will get long-term investment in space going, warfare or commercial success. Let's hope for the latter. It could be that there'll be a new global armsrace in space, and that will certainly get the budget flowing, and we could end up with a permanent military presence up there - space fighters and satellite weapons ahoy! Or (depressingly maybe 'and') we might get permanent orbiting factories, asteroid mining and space tourism. That still looks a long way off, but the ISS has given us our first commercial outfit with an earth-returnable spaceship. OK, SpaceX haven't got it man-rated yet, but it's designed to be. It's also supposedly designed to land on the Moon or Mars.
What better manned spaceflght option has there been, other than the ISS, in the last twenty years?
That's still vital research. When you're halfway back from Mars and your primary cooling pump goes, you're going to need to know how to change it out for the spare. And you'd ideally like to have experience of replacing a spare from cold storage for a couple of years too - because that's an area that's not really been tested before.
Much better to get as many of your fuck-ups as possible over and done with in low earch orbit, with an escape capsule on hand to get you back to Earth pronto, should the need arise.
I'm sure of one thing that BT aren't guilty of. They didn't deliberately hide information on their website.
This is because it's impossible to find any information on their website. Especially if you're specifically looking to find something. It's one of the worst websites that I regularly use. I've never been able to determine if this is deliberate obfuscation or not, but my general inclination is to put it down to the usual incompetence...
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