Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Slashdot Deals: Deal of the Day - Pay What You Want for the Learn to Code Bundle, includes AngularJS, Python, HTML5, Ruby, and more. ×

Comment The Moon and Nearby Colonies First (Score 1) 169

I got interested again in space exploration and development way back in 1977 when I read a book by physicist Gerard K. O'Neill titled The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space. That book laid out a case for building large rotating space stations -- called space colonies -- that could be as large as 5 miles long and 2 miles in diameter. By rotating them, it would feel -- roughly -- like Earth normal gravity inside. With a properly created biosphere inside, it would seem like living on Earth. What would the people in these colonies do to benefit people on Earth? One big idea was building space based solar power stations that would power the Earth cleanly and cheaply.

As the years progressed, I learned that such things, if possible, are far in the future. One group I joined was the L5 Society. Back in the early 1980s a common saying was "L5 by '95." We were young and very optimistic. I now sometimes say "L5 by '95 -- 2495." Since the 1980s we have learned we have much to learn about creating independent biospheres. Some of the Mars crowd is working on that. I think that is a good thing -- but it will take a long time.

Could people on Mars -- assuming they could get there -- do anything to benefit people on Earth as much as this? I and others doubt it -- at least in the near term future. Terraform Mars? Please.

All Dressed Up For Mars and Nowhere To Go by Elmo Keep goes into the problems with sending humans to Mars in far more detail than I can do in a short Slashdot post.

Comment Some Information About the TSA from 2007 (Score 1) 357

This has been known for years. Women in Aerospace held a forum on this topic on an easy to remember date -- September 10, 2007. Before I walked in to the event, I knew that when TSA tested its own "security" by trying to smuggle guns through, the guns got through over 90% of the time. That day I also learned about a college student who had smuggled high explosives onto planes just to show he could. The people there that day were furious at this farce.

Some Women in Aerospace members have significant political connections. How the farce of the TSA has survived this long I do not know.

Comment A Policy Paper on a Related Field and More (Score 0) 446


I have worked in IT for most of my adult life. Before getting into IT though, I actually worked as a physicist and did grad work first in physics and then, believe it or not, in social psychology. That, plus a few art hobbies (think photography and writing), managed to get me into the people side of IT in particular and science and tech in general.

Back in 2006 I became a leader of a committee in the Governor's Workforce Investment Board in Maryland. I and my team learned a great deal about problems in aerospace in particular and tech fields in general. I have stored the written documents of my committee on my blog. My page Aerospace Initiative Home Page is a useful introduction to my committee's work. That page has links to my committee's work. There is a great deal there.

I also wrote a much briefer public policy paper Aerospace Workforce Issues that is a quick summary of what I and my team discovered.

Very briefly, poor, sometimes abusive management and poor work life balance is causing young people to stay away from tech fields in general. Worker abuse also causes projects to fail. Exhausted workers do not perform well. People here might try reading Stanley Coren's Sleep Thieves to learn more about this. Demarco and Lister in Peopleware bring this up as well.

Enough -- probably way too much -- for now.

Comment Another Sad Day (Score 3, Insightful) 411

I woke up this morning thinking about my wonderful mother who passed away on Friday, February 27, 2009.

Now I learn that Leonard Nimoy has passed away. My family helped me grow up in so many ways. Leonard NImoy and Star Trek also had a significant positive influence.

I can't think of anything more to say other than I miss Leonard Nimoy as much as I can -- which is quite a bit.

Comment Re:just ban it (Score 4, Insightful) 365

Nearly a century ago in the United States we tried the full scale prohibition of alcohol. It was a disaster that in some ways is still harming the country.

We have been trying a War on Drugs for some decades now. It was via Slashdot that I learned that back in the 1990s the politically and socially conservative National Review had come out against the War on Drugs, describing it as a failure that was harming the country.

Oh -- I don't smoke. I never have. I have even seen the harm heavy smoking can do to people. My wonderful Uncle John died from a heart attack at 65. What would I do though? Try to help the people like Uncle John with their problems rather than engage in another disaster like Prohibition of Alcohol or The War on Drugs.

Comment Re:It's a scam (Score 4, Interesting) 246

Anonymous Coward,

There is much truth in what you write. I got involved in this crowd back in the 1970s after reading Gerard K. O'Neill's The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space. It was a thought provoking, impressive book. My involvement, though, was moderate and independent. While, at the beginning of my interest, I wanted to get to L5 by 95, I eventually realized that it would not be L5 by 1995 but more like L5 by 2495. O'Neill made significant proposals that appealed to me. Instead of adventure trips to the Moon or Mars, he -- and others -- proposed doing things like building space based solar power satellites to benefit humans on Earth. They are still in the future, but could come about in the future. There are many problems to solve, though.

Sending people to Mars? Let's see. Mars does not have a geomagnetic sphere to protect it from solar outbursts. People will die if they are on the surface when one of those things happens Martian atmosphere is very thin. At ground level atmospheric pressure is only 1% of Earth. That is not nearly enough. Martian gravity is less than half of Earth's. Is that enough? We shall have to experiment.

There is one place on Earth that explorers have explored since we have had written records -- Antarctica. It wasn't even discovered until 1820. The first expedition to Antarctica was the Scott expedition a century ago. We started building bases there after World War 2. Quite a few humans have now lived there -- at least for a short time. Same gravity, same atmosphere, same geomagnetic sphere. Just much colder.

The optimist in me thinks we humans will, eventually, live and work in places other than Earth. It is going to take a good bit of learning, though.

Enough for now.

Comment Re:Understanding (Score 1) 453

I must step in here and make a few comments because I am both a tech person and an artist. How did that happen? When I was graduating from Rutgers with a degree in physics, my parents gave me a nice 35 mm camera outfit. A decade later the Princeton Ballet was paying me for my ballet photos. Photography has always been an important hobby of mine. It has also helped me in important ways at work. It has helped me to develop an artistic side that communicates better than too many tech people. It also helps me to understand society -- both the larger one and the tech one -- better than most.

Let me point people to my Flickr site where I am known as Chuck Divine. There are over 40,000 images there. My Science Fiction Art has gotten me attention in Washington, DC art circles.

I eventually got into IT, partly because I was good at it, partly because I liked doing it and partly because I could make a decent living at it. My career has taken me to all sorts of places -- including NASA. At NASA where I saw some good people doing good work -- and some screwing up so badly that it caused major accidents like that which happened to the Space Shuttle Columbia. Do check out the report of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. It is a well done analysis of a tech organization that needs significant reform.

I have also gotten involved in the STEM problem. Some of us are calling it the STEAM problem. The A stands for the Arts. It seems that scientists and engineers with an artistic side are more productive in their tech field than people without that side. They also work better with other people, tech and not tech. Some years ago I wrote a public policy paper titled Aerospace Workforce Issues that gets into this topic in some depth.

Let me finish by telling people here that people who know me describe me as bright, friendly and a bit shy and quiet -- most of the time.

That's more than enough for now. I hope I have been able to get some tech people to consider opening their minds a bit.

Comment Windows 7 should be 64 Bit (Score 0, Offtopic) 397

(Sorry, this is somewhat offtopic, but it was the first thing I thought of when I saw the comparison between Windows XP and Windows 7.)

I once saw someone here on Slashdot mention that Microsoft should not have shipped a 32-bit version of Vista, opting instead to push only the 64-bit version. While it seemed like an odd statement at the time (despite the fact that my home XP machine was an AMD64 processor), I find myself agreeing with it on Windows 7.

As it stands today, 32-bit Windows is quickly becoming too small for many business and industrial uses, and it's very affordable to build a high-performance home machine with more than 4GB of RAM. (Case in Point.) In fact, with intensive web applications and sophisticated desktop tools (yeah, some of them are bloated) chewing more memory than ever before, it just doesn't make sense to get anything less than 4GB (nay, 3GB if you're running Windows 32-bit!) except for a few edge cases.

Unfortunately, Windows has been kind of lagging on the 64-bit front. By treating it as sort of a bastard child (like they treated all their non-i386 NT versions), Microsoft managed to ensure that hardware manufacturers wouldn't make an effort to support 64-bit windows in a non-server environment. Which is frustrating as I've started bumping up against that once-awesome 4GB barrier.

In an attempt to turn this into a slightly more useful conversation rather than a one-sided rant, I was wondering if I could get some opinions on using virtualization as a solution? With Windows' poor track record as a 64-bit OS, I have been thinking about running a 64-Bit Unix and virtualizing 32-bit windows for backward compatibility. I've already had some success with virtualizing Windows 7 on a MacBook, and have even been able to get desktop integration working. (Quite spiffy that. Though the two interfaces occasionally confuse my wife. She's the primary user of Windows, needing support for some specialized programs with no real alternatives available.)

Does anyone here have experience with setting up a system like this? Do you use Xen, VMWare, Sun VirtualBox/OpenxVM, or some other solution? What do you use as your primary OS? Linux has come a long way, but the upgrade treadmill is still frustrating. Especially with the seemingly regular ABI upgrades. Does anyone use [Open]Solaris x86_64 as a host? Do you have 3D Graphics completely disabled, or have you found a good way to allow all OSes solid and reliable access to the underlying graphics card? Do you bother with mounting virtual shared drives to move data between the OSes, or do you have a home NAS for storing data? (I'm leaning toward a NAS myself.)

Just a few thoughts, anyway. Thanks in advance for experiences & suggestions! :-)

Comment Re:Videogames in 1982? (Score 4, Informative) 320

Wasn't Wolfenstein, released in 1992 the first game with 3D graphics?

Not even close. Wolfenstein wasn't even the first raycaster game. It was preceded by Catacombs 3D (also by Id) which itself was preceded by Hovertank (also by Id).

Before those were even a twinkle in Carmack's eye, we had MIDI Maze (1987) and Star Wars Arcade (1983), just to name a few. There were tons of attempts at 3D games before Carmack. He merely popularized the First Person Shooter genre and made 3D Graphics the standard.

Comment Re:This is the nature of medical science (Score 3, Informative) 205

The problem here is in trying to patent a trade secret rather than an invention. Patents are intended to cover inventions. Real, working gizmos that operate is a specific fashion. Trade secrets cover processes and information that is of a competitive advantage.

In this case, the two are getting mixed up. The company may have a device to detect certain attributes (which IS patentable) but the fact that the attributes can be measured in order to draw conclusions is inherently unpatentable. If someone else develops a machine for measuring the attributes that works different from your machine... well... tough noodles.

All that can be done is to keep the information a secret. By keeping it secret, it is legally viewed as a "trade secret" which can be contractually protected when sharing with interested parties.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once. ;-)

Comment Re:Bought one, then wrote one (Score 2, Insightful) 136

I happen to agree with the GP, and I've written tons of games in the past 40 years. Here's my Atari 2600 version of Lunar Lander:

Run it through an emulator like Stella to play.

I later ported the game to Flash, but it's not quite as fun as the 60Hz 2600 version. However, you can play it on a Wii! (Use S for thrust if you're on a PC.)

Comment Re:If Apollo program had continued (Score 1) 389

That was one variation of the term "computer". But as my old fashioned flight computer can attest to, slide rules were often referred to as computers as well.

It's interesting listening to some of the vets from WWII. They'll often talk about their "trajectory computers" or their "bombing computers" or their "landing computers". To the modern ear, it sounds like they're talking about early electronic machines. Yet these references are just specialized slide rules used to "compute" results for a set of measurable inputs.

One picture is worth 128K words.