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Comment Re:Huh? (Score 1) 173

When I learned programming, there wasn't even an internet. Well okay, ARPANET did exist then, but that was nowhere near what the internet is now, and there certainly wasn't Google and Stack Exchange.

It's always amusing when I can't get wireless, so I hack on something that's on my laptop, and people start asking me how they can get on the wireless too.

Comment Re:Two questions before I invest (Score 2) 156

If you want more things to worry about before you "book a ride", the space elevator could take days to reach the top, during which time you have to slowly go through the wonderful Van Allen radiation belts. But maybe we will put up something to drain them of their charged particles by then. (in before all the people whining that draining the belts would somehow permanently remove them, or that the charged particles are the important part of the belts, rather than being the crap that they accumulate)

Comment Re:Screw paying for ANY television viewing (Score 1) 232

You're not going to get 40 miles with a pair of rabbit ears in the living room. Also, ATSC reception seems in my experience to be quite directional, especially in an urban area with multipath interference. So if you haven't set up a big stick 20 feet in the air and taken the time to find which way to point it, it's your fault, not ATSC's fault.

As to the freesat thing, in the US there are hundreds of local broadcasters who get to run their own local programming and overlay ads. Many of them are not owned by the network. DirectTV already sends down lots of local channels, but you're not allowed to receive any but the market that you live in, and then you probably have to first convince them that you can't receive them with an antenna. It's at least as bad as the problem of independent car dealers vs Tesla. And stations are slowly getting used to the idea of using their extra capacity to run low-cost programming, such as reruns from the 70s and 80s. Every network affiliate runs its own programming outside of certain time ranges (daytime, prime time, late night), so there is no single unified channel to put on a satellite.

MPEG4 is probably a lost cause, because the lead time to get HDTV working meant that it was still being developed by the time that the first TV sets had to be manufactured. At the very least, one stream would have to remain in MPEG2. Pay TV doesn't have that problem because they can always force people to get new cable/sat boxes every few years.

At least there is (usually) some guide data, but most ATSC stations only put up 12 hours because a small number of TV sets have problems with too much guide data. If you can't even get all sets working with basic broadcast features without crashing, you're sure not going to have any easy time trying to squeeze MPEG4 in there.

Comment Re:Live streaming beats fixed schedule (Score 1) 232

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a one-way stream. Now that TV has gone digital, you can put a tuner into a computer and have it record the shows you want to see without having to have your butt on the couch at that specific moment. And as the other guy said, ATSC can go up to 19Mb/s, enough for one HD and multiple SD streams, or half a dozen SD streams, or possibly even two HD streams.

Since setting up a MythTV a few years ago, I have accumulated almost 5 terabytes of video even after deleting the stuff that I watched and didn't want to keep. There's still quite a bit I feel like saving, and some shows that I would rather marathon after I've accumulated a few of them. But much of what I keep comes from PBS, especially one of their extra SD channels, and SD takes up about 1/6th of the space of HD.

Broadcast has the advantage that you neither need a multicast protocol nor a server that pumps out hundreds of unicast streams, which is needed to allow arbitrary users to pause the program while they go to the bathroom.

Cable can usually fit twice as much data per channel due to using a better encoding (one that is less tolerant of distance and interference), but the data is often encrypted, sometimes even for the "basic" channels. Less-popular channels are on-demand and are assigned dynamically to one of a pool of channels when requested by set-top boxes, so computers with "dumb" tuner cards can't reliably receive them.

Comment Yay, VASIMR at last! (Score 3, Informative) 70

VASIMR has been ready to go to a full-scale trial on ISS for a while now. Then the ISS won't be so dependent upon Progress supply missions to give it orbital boosts. This thing will be powerful enough that they have to have batteries in it because the ISS solar panels aren't powerful enough to run it at full power.

But I'd be happier if I saw a date when it would actually get launched for installation on ISS. It looks like they will still be building the first engines through summer 2016. After that it's not clear if the tests are meant to be done on ground. They're also talking about having it run for 100 continuous hours in the third year of the contract, which is more than what ISS needs, so maybe they'll send one up to ISS in 2017 or 2018?

Comment Re:Lost in Space? (Score 1) 169

As was I (when it was in reruns in the '70s), and Dr. Smith was awesome, as was with his banter with Billy Mumy and the robot. The rest of the show was a steaming pile of pasteurized process space opera product.

And the character wasn't intended to be important. Dr. Smith was only the star of the show because Johnathan Harris was so completely freaking awesome. "Oh the pain!" was such an awesome meme. He basically carried a completely bad show with his awesomeness alone, turning into the vehicle by which he got to the situations that he would react to.

Comment Re:"Never" is a very long time (Score 1) 378

While I can agree that humanity might not go beyond Mars, people still climb Mt. Everest. They just don't live there. Individual people may go out beyond Mars, but not many, and they won't stay. The main problem will be supplies and medical care due to the travel time, unless we can get reliable suspended animation. And generation ships or similar might happen, but they won't be common.

Also, Venus might not be out of the question if you could put a large enough shroud in front of the planet to cool it off.

Comment Re:Mandate open access (Score 1) 148

Changing channels was also extremely slow: about 2 seconds between stations. TWO WHOLE SECONDS.

That's actually pretty normal for digital channels, because it takes time to decode enough of the stream to show a picture. But if it does that when switching analog channels, that's unacceptable.

Comment Re:Use a computer monitor (Score 1) 148

Quick add here: one of my sets that does overscan also has a VGA input. The VGA input has overscan. Yeah, WTF. So I guess you can't necessarily tell even from that. But I think you can be sure that Sharp Aquos sets all have overscan these days, those made up three or four of my sample population.

Comment Re:Use a computer monitor (Score 1) 148

The primary definition is whether or not it has an RF tuner, but the primary thing you will notice is overscan.

Overscan is something they did with CRT TV sets to prevent you from having black bars at the edge, or VIR crap at the top, and to avoid having to explain to people why those edges moved noticeably when you rotated the set 90 degrees in the earth's magnetic field.

Out of seven LCD TVs between my place and my mom's, the only one that doesn't do overscan is a 16:10 Dynex (yes, the Best Buy store brand) that I bought years ago because it still had S-video inputs, at a time when the industry was going nuts over HDMI. The others seem to have about 2.5% overscan, which is more than enough to prevent you from seeing UI elements at the edges of the screen. Even changing video modes resulted in the same degree of overscan on the sets I tried. (OS X can adjust for overscan, but it seems to do this by scaling in the video card, rather than reducing the dimensions of the frame buffer.)

About the only way you can know whether a given set does overscan is by bringing something to the store with an HDMI output. A cell phone with the right adapter cable could be good for this, and you can find overscan test graphics with a google image search.

It might also be possible to tell by if the TV set has an old-school 15-pin VGA input, which my Dynex does.

Artificial intelligence has the same relation to intelligence as artificial flowers have to flowers. -- David Parnas