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Comment: Re:misquote (Score 2) 117

by Teancum (#49475823) Attached to: SpaceX Dragon Launches Successfully, But No Rocket Recovery

SpaceX happens to have another barge for the Vandenberg launches. It still is a big deal in terms of landing in a desert, as you have the option of either trying to fly laterally to Mexico (with some international arms control problems with ITAR) or overfly Los Angeles and/or San Diego with that rocket.

Vandenberg happens to be located at a point where California sort of turns off to the east, and is used for polar orbits explicitly because there is a whole lot of nothing except for ocean between Santa Barbara County and Antarctica. Try to look at a map sometime and answer this question: Which city is further west: Los Angeles or Reno?

There is a landing pad being constructed both at KSC (in Florida) as well as at Vandenberg. Right now both NASA and more significantly the USAF (for Vandenberg especially) are waiting to see the results of landing on the barge first before formal approval for landing at the pads is going to be authorized.

It should be pointed out too that SpaceX does have a landing pad with several dozen square miles of desert to work in at Spaceport America in New Mexico. There was some construction work going on there at least in the recent past, and so far as I know the tests to be conducted there haven't been canceled although most of the current effort seems to be work on the revenue flights like this CRS-6 flight rather than the proposed test flights in New Mexico that were to be suborbital flights mainly going up really high and then coming back to the Earth with possibly a flight over White Sands (which is adjacent to Spaceport America and is both restricted airspace and ground access due to it being a military base). Flight clearance at that location is such that they can go much higher there than they can at their Texas test facility.

As long the launches are at KSC or Vandenberg, however, the recovery at the moment will simply need to be at sea. Physics also plays a part as other than returning to the original launch site, down range from either launch site is simply ocean as far as you can go in the general flight path.

Comment: Re:BASIC (Score 2) 315

by Teancum (#49445989) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Introduce a 7-Year-Old To Programming?

Visual BASIC used to be a pretty decent programming environment, and definitely didn't need a single GOTO command. There are other variants, although some of the later versions of Visual BASIC (to name one variant) have far too much influence from C++ developers in my opinion and has basically ruined a perfectly fine language.

Other than compiling the language to P-code or some other interpreted middle-language (something that is definitely not unique to the language either), I fail to see what real drawbacks those with complaints about BASIC have. It certainly can be used as the primary development language for any modern application on any current computer platform including desktop computers or tablets and is simply a choice in a programmer's toolbox as well as based on the whim of the project manager for whoever is developing the application.

Comment: Re:scratch (Score 2) 315

by Teancum (#49445927) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Introduce a 7-Year-Old To Programming?

The largest advantage of Scratch is the immediate results and the mixture of multimedia content that can be done with literally just a single click of a button. It can be extended to further complexity just one or two mouse clicks at a time.

For this, I completely disagree that Python is a viable replacement or even worse something that should be done instead of Scratch. Don't get me wrong, Python is a fine computer programming language and perhaps as a 2nd language to teach a kid it might be very useful. It is just lousy as an introductory environment for somebody in grade school or junior high school to learn the basic concepts of computer programming.

The other fun thing about Scratch that beats Python hands down is that Scratch is also multi-threaded with parallel processes happening as a major feature of the language. Kids doing stuff in Scratch don't even realize they are doing that kind of stuff until it is pointed out that some program/project they are making has nearly a dozen threads and even more event handlers being used. I don't see Python being nearly so easy to introduce such concepts.

Comment: Re:Youtube? (Score 1) 198

by Teancum (#49339597) Attached to: Pixar Releases Free Version of RenderMan

It doesn't even need a watermark. Simply a tag in the data stream. Yes, I know a clueful user could strip this out, but most people don't know enough about data streams to properly remove such tags, especially if there is a checksum or some other feature that needs to be recalculated. Such tags are commonly passed on when used in most editors, so it isn't even a new feature.

This isn't time consuming at all. YouTube and other similar channels commonly scan for tags as well for other kinds of meta data, so adding a simple if clause that flags the video as lacking proper licensing is enough to kick it out. YouTube in particular does processing of all videos uploaded into its own proprietary data format for internal storage and does other kinds of processing like scanning for copyrighted content. This is literally trivial in comparison.

Comment: Re:that's sad (Score 2) 56

by Teancum (#49324899) Attached to: NASA's Abandoned Launch Facilities

The problem is that they are sitting in the middle of a wildlife refuge, and doing any demolition would actually cause far more damage to the local environment than simply leaving them in place. This is both in terms of simply hauling the demolition equipment in and trying to "rehabilitate" the land in some fashion after you have cleared away the mess.

Besides, there is always the possibility that some of those sites could still be reused, and concrete poured in the past for a launch pad is often very useful for subsequent launch site. For instance, the landing pad site at KSC that SpaceX is using to recover the Falcon 9 1st stage components is a former launch site that SpaceX got permission from both NASA and the USAF to clear away the metal on the site and set up the other things (like a radio beacon for the core to find) that needed to be put into the site as well.

Otherwise, the land is not really all that useful and can't be used for anything other than a place to study wildlife or launch rockets. Certainly no commercial businesses or homes can be built in the area unless it is directly in support of launch vehicles themselves. There is nothing else for it to do other than rot away, which has other very useful value in terms of trying to see what actually stands up to the environment of Florida over time and what doesn't.

Comment: Re:How quaint, a new Windows SDk (Score 0) 133

by Teancum (#49324813) Attached to: Microsoft Releases Windows 10 SDK

Yup, the motto of Microsoft truly is:

We take yesterday's technology one step closer to today!

The problem is that betting against Microsoft has generally be a bad thing, especially in the operating system software realm. I've been trying hard to avoid using Windows, but it keeps coming back from the dead each time I try to kill it and switch to Linux due to various kinds of issues. This might be the final nail in the coffin for me though as I may just weld shut any attempt to use Windows in the future.

Comment: Re:There might be hope for a decent adaptation (Score 2) 331

by Teancum (#49186947) Attached to: 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen

The Number of the Beast is a horrible introduction to Heinlein, and is sort of the last in a long line of books about Lazarus Long. It purposely went into a fictional tangent of multiverses where literally anything could happen, and it was written as though it could. It was basically written for the hardcore fans of his other books to tie together multiple characters and wrap up dangling storylines as a capstone book to his entire collection. It would be like watching a TV series final episode that has been running for many years, and you trying to make sense of what was going on when it was the very first episode you ever watched.

No wonder you couldn't figure it out.

Of books I'd recommend, "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" and "The Man Who Sold the Moon" are much more approachable and don't contain characters from other books (although Harriman does show up in some other books too). "Friday" is one of his more recent books that IMHO is pretty good too, but was written in the "Dirty Old Man" stage of his career none the less.

If you absolutely don't want to take on Heinlein or feel like not reading any other books of his, I'd then suggest reading some Isaac Asimov... especially the Foundation Series. Unfortunately those stories do need to be read in order though.

Comment: Re: There might be hope for a decent adaptation (Score 2) 331

by Teancum (#49186861) Attached to: 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen

All of that meant that he completely missed the story in the book itself. It would be like telling the story of the Lord of the Rings from the viewpoint of Sauron and making it very sympathetic to his viewpoint too, portraying Gandalf as a stupid idiot sent to torment him. I could use other examples, but at least Peter Jackson was a fan of the Tolkein books. Verhoeven hated the political philosophies of Heinlein and didn't even really bother trying to finish the book itself before finishing the screenplay.

The point here is that "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is likely to become the same kind of crap that misses what it could become if it was made by a genuine fan of the author and book. The adaptation, while perhaps a bit funny, misses some of the key undertones of the book and what actually sets it apart from an ordinary story.

I only hope that a real Heinlein fan will eventually do his books justice. The only film that has done his stories justice is "Destination: Moon", and that is partly because Heinlein himself was on set for much of the film shoot as a technical adviser.

Comment: Re:I'll be rich! (Score 1) 61

by Teancum (#49186815) Attached to: SpaceX's Challenge Against Blue Origins' Patent Fails To Take Off

In fairness to Blue Origin, the "Do X" happens to be "Make a rocket launch, rise up to a substantial height, and bring the rocket safely back to the Earth in one piece".

Blue Origin has done that, although the "great height" is debatable. Their New Shepherd test flight is impressive engineering, although watching the Falcon 9 test article fly in Texas is IMHO far more impressive. SpaceX flying a rocket into space (the 1st stage actually gets past the Kármán line even though it doesn't get to orbital velocities) and bringing it back to the ground safely is definitely much, much more impressive. They haven't had the rocket return successfully mainly because of pretty lousy weather in the North Atlantic Ocean on the last several launches, including one storm that nearly destroyed the barge. 30 foot swells overwhelmed the stabilizers trying to keep the barge flat and level.

Comment: Re:Wow, (Score 1) 61

by Teancum (#49185601) Attached to: SpaceX's Challenge Against Blue Origins' Patent Fails To Take Off

It could be treated as a defensive patent. Basically saying that the whole concept of patents stink, but as a necessary evil since they do exist we should try to get a bunch of patents anyway to make sure our competitors don't sue us into the ground with patent lawsuits of their own. It becomes a massive patent war where you can charge back with your own patents, or go after trolls because you not only have prior art but have prior patents that should have been cited by any subsequent patent claims.

Prior art is one thing, but a prior patent takes precedence like none other in federal court. For that matter, a prior patent is useful even if it has expired.

Comment: Re:Why can't they fairly negotiate? (Score 1) 61

by Teancum (#49185579) Attached to: SpaceX's Challenge Against Blue Origins' Patent Fails To Take Off

"I don't want to hear about it. It's guaranteed to be invalid on the basis of obviousness, but if they get lucky in court and I've actually read or even heard about that specific patent they'll be able to take us to the cleaners."

This is one of the aspects of the whole concept of a patent that to me invalidates why patents even have a right to exist. The purpose of a patent, according to the U.S. Constitution, is "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Art". I fail to see how the current system even attempts to secure that goal if engineers are basically prohibited from even hearing and talking about various patents.

Comment: Re:International waters (Score 1) 61

by Teancum (#49185377) Attached to: SpaceX's Challenge Against Blue Origins' Patent Fails To Take Off

SpaceX keep changing their mind, it seems, as to if they will continue to use the barge after they get FAA-AST clearance to land on the landing pad at KSC. It appears as though they want to keep the option available for either super heavy launches that push the fuel envelope, like what can happen with the GEO launch that just happened, or for trying to recover the Falcon Heavy central core (which will be quite far down range when it finally does stage separation).

For many launches though, they do plan on eventually going back to the original launch site if possible. On the other hand, there are two barges that SpaceX is using, with one on each coast at the moment (the west coast one being kept near Los Angeles when not recovering rockets from Vandenberg).

Comment: Re:So... (Score 3, Insightful) 61

by Teancum (#49185121) Attached to: SpaceX's Challenge Against Blue Origins' Patent Fails To Take Off

Those who support the patent system claim that their purpose is to disclose all of the information that somebody "skilled in the art" (aka somebody trained in that specific engineering field with credentials, degrees, or some other recognition of competence) can take the information disclosed in the patent and be able to duplicate the invention.

In former times, the USPTO actually required either a copy of the invention or a working model to demonstrate the concept. Thousands of these models can still be found floating around the USPTO building, including some funny perpetual motion machines that have been tried before. The working models at least forced the patent developer to show that the idea was physically possible.

I might even buy this argument, assuming that it was possible with the patent application and supporting documents to be able to treat the USPTO as a sort of archive of technological knowledge. Unfortunately, as you sort of point out, it doesn't do any of that, nor is there any way for an engineer to be able to dig through the stacks of patent applications of years past to try and come up with some interesting ideas for future products or even simply to figure out how something worked, like the Saturn F1 engine (or something comparable from 50+ years ago).

The current patent database is a waste of paper, time, and effort beyond a way for large companies to grind into the dust any small company that can't afford the patenting process. It is IMHO the single best thing to shut down small business development and kill job creation in general. I have to presume those are goals for politicians who support the patent process?

Comment: Re:Sigh... Yet another scam (Score 1) 233

by Teancum (#49074813) Attached to: Mars One: Final 100 Candidates Selected

Countries can't do it, because it costs too damn much. It isn't just focusing on the problem at hand, but making it much cheaper to put things into space... a task that governments are ill suited to perform as well for multiple reasons. The economic justification for going to Mars simply isn't there.

I also have doubts that even the supposed $10 billion figure that Mars One claims to be able to raise is going to be sufficient to pay for everything needed on Mars for even a small crew of say a dozen people.

Money is the root of all wealth.