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Comment: Re: It's the OS, Stupid (Score 1) 247

by harperska (#48178857) Attached to: Apple's Next Hit Could Be a Microsoft Surface Pro Clone

Calling it "Mach" is correct in the sense that the kernel is still the Mach microkernel, which came from NeXTSTEP. It does not have a BSD kernel.

It's BSD in the sense that _much_ of its userland is BSD, but certainly not all.

It also has many things that BSD does not have, which were proprietary from {NeXT/Open}STEP. For instance, the "netinfo" subsystem, the "defaults" subsystem, the plist architecture, Objective-C, XCode (which, afaik, is a modernization of NeXTs InterfaceBuilder).

My understanding, which granted is mostly wikipedia based, is that it is too simplistic to just say that the kernel is Mach. XNU, the kernel used by OS X, iOS, and Darwin, isn't just Mach but rather a mishmash of Mach, the BSD kernel, and a bunch of custom code to implement all that other stuff you mentioned.

Comment: Conventional Wisdom (Score 1) 608

by harperska (#48136167) Attached to: Wind Power Is Cheaper Than Coal, Leaked Report Shows

I'm not so sure about the assertion that alternative energy sources like wind and solar are considered more expensive than fossil fuels. I always thought that they were considered cheaper but not a serious contender to replace fossil fuel plants as the number of places on the planet that they are reliable enough for baseload generation are limited. And even though they don't contribute to air pollution, they aren't necessarily a magic bullet as they have other environmental impacts in more subversive ways (e.g. solar shades out large areas, which can have detrimental effects on the ecosystem that depends on the sun, especially in the desert where large solar installations are suggested, and wind turbines have a nasty habit of killing birds that try to roost on them). So arguing that wind is cheaper than coal seems to be a bit of a straw man argument.

Which is unfortunate, because even though renewables aren't perfect, coal is pretty bad environmentally and I think we do need to figure out a way to phase it out as soon as possible.

Comment: Re:Old issue (Score 5, Informative) 135

by harperska (#48059815) Attached to: Apple To Face $350 Million Trial Over iPod DRM

TFA mentions that is the reason for the lawsuit. Apple used their DRM specifically for vendor lock-in to shut out competition and unfairly raise prices.

That is RealNetworks' allegation as to the use and purpose of the DRM. Apple's rationale for using DRM on the other hand was an insistence from the record labels, according to Jobs' "thoughts on music" essay. The truth will come out in the court case, but I have a feeling that Apple's reason is probably more likely. They abandoned DRM shortly after that open letter at a time when the incentive for lock-in was probably stronger than ever, as they had just announced the original iPhone a month before the letter was published.

With that in mind, it really is silly to claim that any patching of a security flaw is done maliciously, just like how when Apple patches a bug that is exploited by a jailbreak, they are not doing it to 'get at' the jail breakers. They are simply patching a flaw and there is no rational reason for them to intentionally leave that flaw in place.

Comment: Re:Another Factor? (Score 2) 127

The GP argument was that Dream Chaser was rejected simply because it was a spaceplane like the shuttle, implying that the issues with the shuttle were due to it being a spaceplane. Yes, there were plenty of procedural issues that caused the mechanical issues to be a problem. If management had listened to the engineers about the limitations of the o-rings, it could have prevented the challenger disaster. Regardless, the point is that the shuttle had that particular point of failure, which Dream Chaser would not, and it has nothing to do with whether Dream Chaser is a spaceplane or not.

Comment: Re:Another Factor? (Score 4, Interesting) 127

by harperska (#48011697) Attached to: Sierra Nevada Corp. Files Legal Challenge Against NASA Commercial Contracts

Maybe, probably not. All of the problems with the shuttle were not due to it being a spaceplane per se, but due to it being a sideways stack rather than a vertical one. Dream Chaser is designed instead to be on top of a rocket, either an Atlas V or Falcon 9.

Challenger failed because the failed o-ring between the segments of an SRB caused a jet of flame that impinged on the external tank. Falcon 9 doesn't use any SRBs. Atlas V doesn't use multi-segment shuttle style SRBs, and may not use SRBs at all for manned launches. Either way, that particular failure mode would be the fault of the booster and not the vehicle. In addition, by being on the top of the stack, if there is any sort of catastrophic failure of the booster, the vehicle is equipped with a launch escape system that was impossible on the shuttle.

The Columbia accident, as well as countless near-misses that could have resulted in a Columbia style accident, was due to debris detaching from the external tank and striking the orbiter. If the vehicle is on top of the stack, nothing that breaks off of the rocket can physically come into contact with the vehicle.

Therefore Dream Chaser isn't vulnerable to either of the causes of loss of a shuttle orbiter, and being a spaceplane has nothing to do with it.

Comment: Predictions are always close but not exact. (Score 1) 139

by harperska (#47978077) Attached to: Sci-fi Predictions, True and False (Video 1)

These lists of sci fi predictions coming true always seem to bend what it means to 'come true' because the fiction never seems to get it exactly right. They almost always seem to either over predict such as tractor beams and cloaking devices which we "technically" have today but only at the quantum level and not in a way that would be recognizable to the average sci fi fan, or under predict, such as Star Trek PADDs being single use one-object-per-task devices rather than the more useful general-purpose iPads that we actually got. I am having trouble thinking of any futuristic predictions that the author got exactly right.

Comment: Re:The purpose of Brownsville. (Score 1) 91

by harperska (#47977261) Attached to: Elon Musk Hints 1st Person To Mars May Go Via New Brownsville Spaceport

It is probably a practical impossibility to reserve enough fuel on the Falcon 9 to do an RTB back to the cape, as staging occurs right around 2000 m/s and reversing direction from that sort of velocity is surely more dangerous, inefficient, and mechanically wearing than launching from Brownsville and letting the first stage follow its natural 2 km/s parabolic path over Florida instead.

The current version of the Falcon 9 absolutely has enough fuel to return the first stage back to the cape for LEO launches. That was the whole point of the v1.1 upgrade. They already do the direction reversal and flyback on all non GTO launches. The only reason they haven't done a pad landing yet is that they are still practicing landing over water just off shore before they are comfortable enough to actually land on the pad.

They might be able to get a higher payload to LEO with the current Falcon 9 by launching from Brownsville and landing in Florida, but that is definitely not a requirement to do landings. Plus, if they were to land in Florida, they would have to build a special landing pad on the gulf coast as landing at the cape would require flying over populated areas which I highly doubt the FAA would allow at this point.

Comment: Re:No (Score 1) 282

by harperska (#47857083) Attached to: Is It Time To Split Linux Distros In Two?

Yep. If they were officially and permanently split, desktop linux would first stagnate, and then eventually cease to exist. For as good as linux is for desktop use, there just isn't enough interest to maintain it as a purely desktop system. Otherwise the oft predicted 'year of linux on the desktop' would have happened long ago. Because Linux is popular as a server OS, the community gets the benefits of just having to maintain a few modules on top of it to make it into a perfectly serviceable desktop OS.

Comment: Re:Not Enough (Score 1) 533

by harperska (#47856961) Attached to: AT&T Says 10Mbps Is Too Fast For "Broadband," 4Mbps Is Enough

Most people don't currently need symmetrical service, though I could see that changing soon if personal cloud computing and storage really took off. If people's entire library of documents, photos, etc. were in a dropbox type storage rather than on their own HD, people would start to notice how crappy normal upload speeds are.

Comment: Re:Well insulated? That's debatable... (Score 1) 72

by harperska (#47673151) Attached to: The Biggest iPhone Security Risk Could Be Connecting One To a Computer

There was one iOS version (4.something) that was vulnerable to drive by jailbreaking, though. If I remember, the only known exploit in the wild was a website for the purpose of intentionally jailbreaking that installed Cydia as well as a patch to close the vulnerability. Ironically, at the time the only way to properly secure your iPhone against the vulnerability was to let it be hacked by that website first.

I remember going to an Apple store and installing Cydia on all of the iPhones on display there via that website. Fun times.

Comment: Re:This is NOT a land breaking ruling (Score 4, Informative) 43

It is a landmark because even though abstract ideas were never patentable, it was never established that joining abstract ideas to generic implementations was also not patentable. Previous law suggested that an implementation, even if it seems obvious, was transformative enough to make an abstract idea patentable. This case clarifies that once and for all.

Comment: Re:Patent the invention (Score 5, Informative) 43

This case was specifically about whether adding "on a computer" would make something patentable that is otherwise not, but it does have wide implications beyond software patents, including possibly business-method patents.

The things that are by their very existence unpatentable are abstract ideas, and things preexisting in nature (possibly among other things that I am not remembering). This ruling was actually more wide reaching than the red hat article suggested, because it establishes tests specifically to be used in the future and not making it so narrow as they like to do, so that the ruling would only apply to the case at hand.

This ruling doesn't just apply to software patents. The common law rule now is that if anything is not already patentable such as an idea or thing of nature, you can't patent a method based on that thing if the steps of that method are themselves well known or obvious to the industry to which they apply. In this case, an abstract idea combined with an implementation on a generic computer is considered unpatentable, and the precedent cited was from Mayo v. Prometheus where a biological function (i.e. naturally occurring) combined with a common medical procedure to measure that function was considered unpatentable by the same logic. Since Clarence Thomas relied so heavily on Mayo for this decision, that rule now seems to apply not only to stupid software patents, but anything in any industry that seems obvious to those in that industry.

In a way, they did comment on whether specific software-implementation claims would be patentable by pointing out that this claim specifically did not further the state of computing technology, suggesting that software that was truly innovative that did advance the technology and didn't just use methods "well known" and "long in use" may themselves be patentable. Otherwise, why point out that this particular software was specifically unpatentable because it was "well known" and "long in use"?

Interestingly enough, Sotomayor wrote her concurring opinion specifically to make a statement about how she thinks business methods are themselves unpatentable. I don't think concurring opinions have any common law teeth like the primary opinion does, so we don't have any specific precedent regarding business method patents. But we do know how 3 of the justices feel about them (since Ginsburg and Breyer joined Sotomayor's concurring opinion).

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

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