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Comment: Re:unlikely to ever work with existing fleet (Score 1) 59 59

While standards would be great going forward, it does not follow that existing satellites can't be repaired. Satellites have to be fueled before launch and their makers do not design unique fuel fill ports for each satellite they build. There are undoubtedly a few common sizes and it should not be that difficult to equip a repair station with a set of adaptors or a universal fill device that can work with a large fraction of existing fill ports. Same goes for grappling points. All satellites have fittings that attach them to the launch vehicle. Again there are a limited number of designs and a robot arm could be designed to grab many if not most of them.

Comment: Re:i was just thinking... (Score 1) 246 246

> ... Why would you think Swift is appropriate to "replace" C++ or Java?

Java is designed to be interpreted, which makes is less suitable as a system programming language. C and C++ are full of pitfalls for programmers. Arguably the C languages are a major source of the world's increasing computer insecurity. Swift is designed to be compiled and it avoids many of the C family's problems, while working with C family libraries. Someone really good with strong support from a major player has tried to get it right. The Apple community seems to think he got close. Time will tell if any other community agrees.

Comment: Re:i was just thinking... (Score 2) 246 246

For any readers not in the programming community, he is of course kidding: there are dozens of programming languages in active use, far too many. The problem is that there is no one modern programming language that has gotten wide adoption. Swift is taking over Apple's rapidly growing software ecosystem, giving Swift momentum. Open sourcing is a good first step toward making Swift a candidate for replacing C++ and Java, but they will need to do more. I'd like to see a Swift development environment for small stand alone microprocessors with a tie-in to Apple's HomeKit. That and some good security tools could make Swift the language of choice for the Internet of Things.

Comment: Re: No thank you (Score 1) 203 203

There is no excess capacity on the Amtrak/New Jersey Transit lines. A project is underway (East Side Access) that will connect Grand Central with the JFK Airtrain people mover, but it's late and massively expensive. New York State is proposing a similar people mover to connect Laguardia with the subway and commuter rail. Extending that elevated people mover to link with JFK is a more realistic option since it could use air rights over highways. This could allow JFK to back up Laguardia, for example.

Comment: Re:America (Score 3, Interesting) 120 120

I think you are missing the point. When the pullout tabs were phased out in favor of tabs that stay with the can, I remember thinking that a thousand years from now discarded pullout tabs will be a valuable archeological resource. They are distinctive, ubiquitous, and indestructible, and because they were only used during a short time, they would conclusively date any architectural layer they were found in. Maybe modern circuit boards with their date coded components will serve a similar purpose. I wonder what it would take to get current manufacturers to emboss a year code in can tops or in IC dies? Make trash serve history.

Comment: Re:Feminist bullshit (Score 3, Insightful) 41 41

Leavitt's discovery is on a par with Galileo's discovery of the moons of Jupiter in changing our view of the universe. It combined a brilliant insight, that all the stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud are at about the same distance from Earth, and a lot of hard work analyzing photographic plates. Her measurement tool is still the main one used to determine cosmic distances from beyond the range of stellar parallax out to nearby galaxies, and is used, in turn, to calibrate Type Ia supernova, the standard candle for probing deep into intergalactic space, and back to the Big Bang. Another example of women astronomers getting less recognition than they deserve is Jocelyn Bell, who discovered millisecond pulsars and whose thesis advisor won the Nobel Prize for that discovery.

Comment: Re:So which kind of solar is it? (Score 1) 191 191

"But that is only a theoretical advantage, not a real one, since the current demand curve for electric power fits the production curve of PV quite well." That's not true. Peak consumption is around 7 pm, after solar drops off. Visit the California ISO site and look at their renewable graphs. Being able to provide power a few hours after sunset is a big win.

Comment: Re:About time. (Score 2) 309 309

A much better source is Cal Iso, which runs the California grid and publishes a graph of demand and sources every day. The peak power use is generally around 7 pm, after solar production has stopped. Wind output various greatly from day to day.

Comment: This is a software issue (Score 4, Interesting) 78 78

The Cambrian explosion is more likely explained in terms of genetic software. At some point, a collection of genes evolved that could reliably control and pass on complex growth patterns. Before those existed, multi-cell organisms had very simple forms and limited functionality. Once that morphological operating system was in place, a vast variety of organisms could evolve.

Comment: Re:Huh? (Score 1) 230 230

From the IBM History FAQ, page 26: "Q. Did Thomas Watson say in the 1950s that he foresaw a market potential for only five electronic computers? A. We believe the statement that you attribute to Thomas Watson is a misunderstanding of remarks made at IBM’s annual stockholders meeting on April 28, 1953. In referring specifically and only to the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine -- which had been introduced the year before as the company’s first production computer designed for scientific calculations -- Thomas Watson, Jr., told stockholders that “IBM had developed a paper plan for such a machine and took this paper plan across the country to some 20 concerns that we thought could use such a machine. I would like to tell you that the machine rents for between $12,000 and $18,000 a month, so it was not the type of thing that could be sold from place to place. But, as a result of our trip, on which we expected to get orders for five machines, we came home with orders for 18.”

Comment: Re:In the late 70s (Score 5, Insightful) 230 230

The punched card era ended for me in 1975, when I started working on Data General Nova minicomputers at Computervision. But I spend more than a decade before that with cards and keypunch machines. I never let anyone else punch in my programs, as I usually found some errors when I typed them in myself. Card decks weren't dropped often and it wasn't that big a deal. Dropping a deck is not an effective way to shuffle it. I'm more nervous about my online source files being munged by accident. The overnight or 24 hour turnaround was common, but possible to work around. I spend many nights after mid-night at the MIT computer center in the late 1960s, when hour or even half hour turnarounds were possible. One spent the time waiting socializing or helping others find their bugs. During summer jobs at NASA MSC, I found a Honeywell 316 that wasn't being used much and could get time on it all to myself when needed. In the early 1970s my employer had an IBM 1130 and we took turns using it, so turnaround was not an issue there, though it could be when software was to be installed at a client. Finding ways to get around obstacles in your path was a valuable skill then as now.

Comment: Their data is too weak to support their conclusion (Score 1) 198 198

One could also interpret the data as saying that since 2011, 8% of data center operators have looked into improving their energy efficiency and have done as much as they think feasible. That 50% consider energy efficiency very important in the latest survey suggests that it is still is. Data centers use about 2% of the electricity consumed in the United States.

Work expands to fill the time available. -- Cyril Northcote Parkinson, "The Economist", 1955