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Comment: Re: 2% is nothing (Score 1) 121

by RightwingNutjob (#48569989) Attached to: NASA Gets 2% Boost To Science Budget
The other part of the problem is that the air force acquisitions is run by accountants and scientists, not engineers or combat pilots. And one of the things that you don't learn as a scientist or an accountant, or even as a combat pilot, is the hidden cost and complexity of doing two things with one aircraft by "fixing it with software," as opposed to the upfront cost building two types of aircraft. It's a serious problem, and it leads to bad acquisitions decisions, not just for planes. That said, having new F-35s that can do more of some things isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Comment: Thoughtstuff is a nonlinear space (Score 2) 205

by RightwingNutjob (#48552619) Attached to: The Failed Economics of Our Software Commons
Software is thought-stuff as Brooks famously put it, and it lives in a multidimensional nonlinear space. Just because two programmers are implementing the same thing sitting next door to each other doesn't always mean they're mucking in the darkness, looking for a great software sage to show them how to write reusable code. Maybe one of them is coding for speed, the other for memory footprint, and the third for prettyness. You can't have one set of libraries do all three for you without effectively implementing it three times and giving them each the option. Just because software looks close, doesn't always mean there's a short path to get it to where you need it.

Comment: Re:Enough! (Score 2) 197

Well, something like 8k of ROM and 2k of RAM was enough to go to the moon, land, take off, and come back, so...

That's what people have the disconnect on. Flight control software isn't stressing. It's maybe a dozen or two 6x6 matrix-vector operations which unroll into maybe a few hundred FLOPS (or they could be fixed point) that need to run maybe at 20 or 30 Hz (Apollo's major cycle was 10 Hz). This is stuff you could do with hand-wired 7400 IC's if you really wanted to (in fact they did the equivalent for the first submarine launched ballistic missiles in the 50's). Having a programmable computer that's fast enough to do it a few hundred times a second, and handle the control loops for some of the other stuff in the capsule is nice, but it isn't hard with a 10 MIPS processor, let alone the 200+MIPS they're flying in ORION.

In the 60's when they went to the moon, it was hard because there was no such thing as an off-the-shelf space-qualified programmable flight computer, so they had to invent it all from scratch, and there's this mistique that developed around it. But even by the 80's and 90's, the space hardware and avionics industries advanced to the point where the hard stuff was knowing what software to write, not finding a computer and inventing a compiler to run it on.

Comment: Re:Betteridge (Score 1) 545

by RightwingNutjob (#48535349) Attached to: Should IT Professionals Be Exempt From Overtime Regulations?
I'll add another wrinkle to the above: if you're salaried and subject to overtime regs, you now have to account for your time, and you are just setting yourself up for a confrontation over whether having a great idea in the shower and working it out on a napkin at breakfast counts for time-and-a-half.

Comment: Re:obviously they should track the sun (Score 4, Interesting) 327

Back in my student days, we had an experiment with a solar panel with a single axis tracker. The panel we got for about $800, the tracker for about 1k, if memory serves. Mind you, this was a single axis tracker with the panel mounted along the direction of the rotation, not offset to the declination of the sun like you'd have with a proper equatorial mount used in astronomy (which you'd still need to adjust every month or so to keep up with the seasons).

Conclusion: a sort-of OK tracker (that you still need to adjust seasonally) cost more than the panel. And it's moving parts that wear out and need lubrication, and it needs to be accessible for maintenance and adjustment. So about double the cost and not practical for sloped roofs.

Comment: Re:First in what? (Score 1) 247

by RightwingNutjob (#48431709) Attached to: Does Being First Still Matter In America?
There's a story told by one of the former directors of LANL about when he met his Russian counterpart after the end of the Cold War. The US nuclear weapons community kept being amazed at how to the Soviets could stay on par with them on bomb design, given that the Soviet computer industry was always a decade or so behind the US. The answer from the Russian physicist was something along the lines of "you compute, we think." Having been in the bowels of the US military industrial complex for the better part of the last decade, this is all to true in what's considered one of the smarter corners of it. So having the biggest digital dick may not be the smartest or the quickest way to get a better home-grown weather forecast. Scratch deep enough, and there's always a bit more stupid in the process that can be optimized away for much less cost (but with much less fanfare).

Comment: Re:Instant Quarantine (Score 1) 349

by RightwingNutjob (#48275041) Attached to: Suspected Ebola carriers in the U.S. ...
Exactly. Even if it's a 1000 to 1 shot, now you don't even know you're at risk and next week when the unlucky one out of 1000 of you go to hospital for a stomach bug, and the doctor asks you if you've been to West Africa, you say no. Granted, it's damn hard to cause a third-world scale outbreak this way, maybe a million to one or rarer for a grand total of at most a dozen or so infections nationwide, but it doesn't matter because you can turn that probability into an exact zero of the doctor stays home until they're guaranteed to not cause that scenario.

Comment: Re:All very sad (Score 2) 443

by RightwingNutjob (#48257083) Attached to: Antares Rocket Explodes On Launch
NASA has had its careless streak too. See Challenger and the investigation that followed. But realistically, this is what happens whenever you do things in one-see, two-sies instead of in bulk. If the Air Force only had one fighter plane and only flew it once every few months, you can bet there would be a lot of failures for a long time before everyone settled into a voodoo flight ops mentality and nothing new was tolerated at all because the cost of failure was so high.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford