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Comment: Re:Is this new? (Score 1) 673

I travelled with a large external hard disk as well, once - which also got taken to one side and swabbed for stuff. Internal monologue: OH NO MY PRECIOUS DATA ... Oh, it's just the possibility of it being a bomb they're worried about.

On another occasion, I had fun with my home-made, Arduino-powered dSLR timelapse gadget - it got thoroughly inspected by the TSA. I'd already opted out of the backscatter X-ray whatsit, only for a swab-for-explosives test to give a (false-)positive. Eek. Cue being taken to one side, where they looked in my bag and found the timelapse-o-tron...

To give the screeners their due, they let me go after a few minutes - after I'd heard their complaints about the potential radiation doses they and the passengers were receiving from the backscatter X-ray thingers, and after I'd provided advice on what sort of camera to look into buying for a budding photographer.

Security fun elsewhere: carrying a plastic bag of loose change through the Eurostar security in Brussels (it basically looked like an amorphous, completely opaque lump on the X-ray) - and a random customs check at a UK airport giving a (false-)positive swab for some sort of illicit drugs. Eek.

Comment: Re:The worlds largest optical/near-IR telescope (Score 2) 76

The worlds largest single dish telescope is still the Green Bank Telescope (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Bank_Telescope), which at 100m is ~6x the size.

World's largest fully-steerable single-dish telescope - the Arecibo Observatory is larger still at a diameter of 300m! (Impressive Arecibo exploration video here. The thing's sodding enormous.)

I went looking for the largest diameter multi-dish radio telescope. It looks like the biggest terrestrial 'telescope' is the Global VLBI system created by combining the European VLBI Network with the US Very Long Baseline Array - it's like some massive team of superheroes combining to save the Earth from some terrible secret of space. Or whatever. Apparently they can also add space-based telescopes when that just isn't enough. Which, quite frankly, is showing off...

My thoughts when seeing one of the beautiful, 10m diameter Keck optical telescopes up close a few years ago? I've had full control of a telescope bigger than that.

Radio Astronomers: Compensating For Something.

Comment: Re:Reminder (Score 2) 46

I dunno, I always get a big belly laugh whenever I log into something and see that horrible 1980s B&W X11 desktop, complete with ugly 'X' cursor.

Try flying on a Virgin America plane with the LCD screen inflight entertainment systems in the seat-backs. They'll often mass-reboot the things before or after a flight, briefly revealing that retro-fantastic, monochrome stippled background with 'X' cursor...

Comment: Re:Meanwhile, back in America (Score 3, Interesting) 284

by Ford Prefect (#46078533) Attached to: Chinese Moon Rover Says an Early Goodnight

Do we have any Mars rovers close enough to the poles to not get sunlight in winter?

The non-roving Phoenix Mars probe landed sufficiently far north that reduced sunlight due to an approaching winter caused its (expected) failure. It most likely got buried by carbon dioxide ice later on anyway - orbital photos showed its solar panels got crushed...

For keeping space probes warm, radioisotope heater units are pretty common. Apparently the Chinese Moon rover has them - but it sounds like it hasn't successfully closed itself up in order to keep heat inside.

Comment: Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (Score 1) 99

by Ford Prefect (#46077745) Attached to: Bletchley Park's Bitter Dispute Over Its Future

The Babbage difference engine model is in the Computing section, on the 2nd floor

Definitely still there when I visited in early December last year - loads of Babbage stuff, in fact. Including his brain in a jar!

(The museum did feel kind of tired and empty compared with how I remembered it, sadly - and the Wellcome collection stuff didn't seem nearly as grisly as I thought it was as a ten-year-old. They've got some fancy new galleries at one end, but it's more of the raising-questions public-oriented kind of display rather than the dusty old real exhibits I've really come to appreciate. I did get a bit spoiled by the two branches of the Museum of Flight in Washington DC about a year ago, however. Blimey. Spaaaaaace!)

Comment: Re:"Modernizing" museums is a blight on the world (Score 1) 99

by Ford Prefect (#46077705) Attached to: Bletchley Park's Bitter Dispute Over Its Future

I always liked the working electromechanical telephone exchange.

If you're ever in Seattle, try the Museum of Communications. Fairly large old telephone exchange with colossal amounts of powered-up electromechanical telephone equipment - place a call on a phone and hear it rattling through the machinery until another phone next to you starts to ring. Loads of old teletypes, UNIX boxes and miscellaneous other hardware to look (and often poke) at.

Basically nerd heaven, yet surprisingly few people round here have heard of it. Makes the equivalent display at the London Science Museum look a bit silly.

Comment: Re:Basic Statistics (Score 4, Funny) 312

by Ford Prefect (#45972269) Attached to: Why Standard Deviation Should Be Retired From Scientific Use

Nuclear Resonance Imaging (NMR) was changed because people were afraid of word Nuclear despite it describing the process, unlike its replacement term.

Also, if you arrived at a hospital saying you were there for an NMR, you might have received something other than what you were expecting.

Comment: Re: Dear Nvidia... (Score 1) 111

by Ford Prefect (#45823235) Attached to: Intel Releases 5,000 Pages of Open-Source Haswell Documentation

I checked out that link and it looked like I was stepping back into the 90s. That image on the home page looks like it's a 256 colour GIF! Where's the specular mapping? Everything in those shots looks dead, like a bad phong highlighted raytrace.

There's much more impressive stuff going on with path tracing on conventional GPUs - something that, at least for me, is making a definite case for ungodly improvements in processing power for GPU hardware.

Comment: Re:The life of RRi (Score 1) 246

by Ford Prefect (#45451875) Attached to: Raspberry Pi Hits the 2 Million Mark

I've got a very-first-generation, USB-hobbled-by-polyfuses-until-I-performed-surgery-on-the-thing 256MB Raspberry Pi. The thing's part of my time-travelling Radio-4-Matic and thus transfers a few gigabytes a day over a little USB WiFi adaptor by streaming radio over the intertubes, buffering it for some hours then playing it back.

Uptime? Right now:
19:12:14 up 52 days, 15:46, 1 user, load average: 0.01, 0.09, 0.12

Last reboot was for a system upgrade of some description; the things are pretty stable now. (There have been many improvements to the firmware and system software.) My other Pi (a more recent 512MB model) is busy being a tiny home fileserver and virtual server backup device (remote stuff rsyncs over ssh to this thing) - I could easily use a spare PC for those tasks, but the result would be a lot less near-silent and much more power-hungry. Plus it can saturate 100Mbit ethernet with file serving - faster isn't much use when most of my stuff is on WiFi.

Make sure you've got a decent power supply. Apparently voltage drops can be a big source of instabilities. Power for my midget fileserver is via a Samsung cube phone charger; the radio's got a hacked-together DC-DC converter running off a mains-to-12V-DC adaptor. (I'm surprised the thing is as stable as it is, what with it solely relying on my impromptu electronics hackery!)

This universe shipped by weight, not by volume. Some expansion of the contents may have occurred during shipment.

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