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Comment: Re:One hundred *billion* dollars? (Score 1) 103

One hundred *billion* dollars? Enough to buy about 5000 Apache attack helicopters (I would not like to be on the wrong end of those). Why do I think this program will end up with a tiny, tiny fraction of that?

Actually, only about 2500 at the current (FY2014) fly-away price ($35 million) of a new build current model (AH-64E).

Comment: Re:How would you know? (Score 2) 274

by DerekLyons (#47408803) Attached to: The World's Best Living Programmers

True. This is as much a popularity contest as anything else.

If I were to select the "best programmer", my list would probably start with guys who write software that has to run in the "real world"... like the Shuttle GNC software which has to navigate in real time, while controlling the vehicles systems, and do this completely with a bug or a failure. Or the software that hundreds (thousands?) of airliners are running that is almost as stringent. Or... plenty of other programmers who must deal with real world problem domains as well as the limits of their hardware, firmware, OS, and programming language.

Yeah, I know, the argument could be made that this would just result in a list of "best programmers of type X" and there's a ton of potential values for X.

Comment: There's more to it than you think. (Score 1) 172

I won't knock what you're doing but I'm curious what you get out of it that you couldn't get out of a Rand McNally trucker's road atlas and a dedicated GPS.

The dedicated GPS would give you turn-turn directions without any data service and the atlas would give you decent printed maps for most highway planning.

The GPS doesn't allow annotation, and the Rand McNally atlas is at too large a scale for much useful annotation. Annotations are useful for "this exit has y restaurant" and "that [exit|rest stop] has an RV dump" or "if we're ahead of schedule, that exit has a [geocache|historical marker|whatever else". Sure, much of this is covered in printed gazettes and guides, but being able to annotate it all on a hardcopy strip map makes life so much more convenient because you don't have to look stuff up on the fly. Plus hard copy strip maps don't require a data connection or a battery or remembering which button does what. And unless your traveling companion(s) suffer from severe vision problems... they're always 100% compatible (I.E. no worries about the latest version of the OS, or you have an iPhone while your companion has a 'droid or just plain doesn't understand how to use your software).

As kids in the 70s we covered most of the Deep South and Eastern Seaboard in an RV with just a paper map. I don't remember us getting lost and we sure seemed to spend a lot of time off the beaten path.

I suppose the trip planning part would be OK if you were really compulsive about it, but it seems like a lot of work.

As shown above, there's a lot more involved than just turn-by-turn directions and not getting lost. And there are a lot of people who enjoy planning, or who simply must plan in order to meet a schedule or a goal.

Comment: There's more to it than you think. (Score 1) 172

I think the problem is that they can't compete with the dedicated units. Garmins and Tomtoms are fairly cheap and fit nicely on the dashboard, and even they're losing market share (or redirecting their business) to built-in systems.

Those units are fine for turn-by-turn directions... but there is more to the world of maps than turn-by-turn directions. They're completely useless for advance planning. Google and Bing are moderately useful for advance planning, but don't allow the level of customization that S&T does or the level of annotation that S&T or hardcopy (S&T or 'normal' folding) maps allow.

Comment: Re:And, probaly, nothing of value was lost. (Score 1) 172

I for one had never even heard of these products, and I don't think I've ever encountered a web site using it. All I see is Google Maps when sites need to do something with mapping.

Well, duh. MapPoint and S&T was a plastic-disc software title, intended for end users to do stuff without an internet connection. See kids, in the days between the joys of attempting to re-fold a paper map and always-on, always-connected internet streamed maps, companies got all the street information together and sold a software release in a perpetual licensing format. People could then take their laptops and a serial (later USB and/or Bluetooth) GPS add-on and navigate with a laptop, without worrying about data plans, cellular outages, or getting stuck on a necessary phone call that brought into question one's allegiance to accurate navigation.

All this... Plus for preparing and printing route maps in advance or any kind of customized map, S&T is (was) light years ahead of any Google offering. As a geocacher, I use it extensively for planning caching trips because I can prepare a custom map with pins (showing the location of the cache), routes highlighted, and everything that needs a custom label (caches, restaurant locations, spots likely to have public restrooms) neatly labeled. Then I could use the map *without* requiring a data connection, and the map is much larger than my phone screen, and can be handed off to a partner because it needs no technology or explanation. (Heck, for a large group or multiple vehicles I could print multiple copies and hand them out.) When playing tourist, a custom map made it handy to plan routes and during the day to compare progress to what's left of the day. Etc... etc..
I have a phone, and a tablet, and a dashboard navigator, and use them all. But there's a lot more to the world of maps (even if you aren't a cartography geek like I am) than just turn-by-turn routing from where you are to a single specific destination where you want to be, and so far "solutions" that either require always-on connections to the cloud and/or sufficient remaining battery life fall way short for many of them. Sometimes a good old fashioned hardcopy map can't be beat.

Comment: Re:Horrible Article (Score 1) 104

by DerekLyons (#47404325) Attached to: ESA Shows Off Quadcopter Landing Concept For Mars Rovers

Which was just changes the problem to a different domain... diverting the probe is going to be a stone cold bitch. By the time you're a couple of hundred feet up, you're only a few seconds from landing and it'll take quite a bit of energy to divert any significant distance. (Energy == weight.) And that's without pondering how amazing the optics and processing system will have to be.

Interesting work to be sure, but applying it in practice will be even more so.

Comment: Re:Mars Direct - Unanswered? (Score 2) 57

by DerekLyons (#47402945) Attached to: Interview: Edward Stone Talks About JPL and Space Exploration

I'm disappointed that he ignored the entire Mars Direct (Dr. Zubrin) component of my question, and instead only responded peripherally to the core component of the question.

Just because he didn't say what you wanted to hear doesn't mean he didn't answer your question. He did answer your question - with the cold sober truth. He correctly identified the bits that matter, and the bits that are handwaving window dressing and addressed the former while ignoring the latter.
Zubrin's plans are... more than a little optimistic. (In particular he doesn't have a firm grasp on the difference between speculative laboratory proof-of-concept experiments and actual developed technology. His plan relies heavily on treating the former as the latter.) Musk? Musk is irrelevant. Musk is playing to the fanboy crowd, but don't look behind the curtain. There's nothing there but a pile of powerpoints and someday, maybe's.

I think Dr. Stone's Mars response is a great example of everything that's wrong with NASA. There's no leadership at NASA, and NASA is adrift (in the same manner Dr. Stone is afraid a manned mission to Mars would become adrift), and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

I think you represent what's wrong with space fandom, geekdom, and advocacy today.
In the first place, you completely fail to grasp that it is not NASA's role to provide leadership - they're a part of the Executive Branch, and their job is to carry out the policies of the Administration within the bounds of the budget as set by Congress. No more, no less. If NASA had it's way, we might have landed on the Moon by the Bicentennial. Or maybe not. Their plans were vague at best. Then Kennedy was killed in Dallas, and LBJ pushed the moon program as a monument to Kennedy. Which momentum didn't last all that long... by '66/'67 Congress was swinging the budget axe, and by '69 the program was running mostly on fumes and force of habit. (which is something else fandom, geekdom, and advocacy have failed to grasp for nearly a half century - just how unique the alignment of circumstances was that propelled Apollo and just how short lived support actually was.)
Second, in that you name check... but you complete fail to grasp the meaning of Dr Stone's answer - Mars is going to be very hard, and it's not visionaries and buzzwords that will get us there. It's technology, technology we don't have but are (as Dr Stone says) working on figuring out. By the time we can send men there, the probes will have done the advance scout work and identified the places and areas of research where men can make the real difference.

Comment: Re:The problem with Bitcoin (Score 1) 115

by DerekLyons (#47370159) Attached to: Investor Tim Draper Announces He Won Silk Road Bitcoin Auction

I think that Amazon and others love BTC simply because they dont have to pay a tithe to credit card companies

That's only true if they operate their own exchange - otherwise they're paying exchange fees. (Which admittedly are likely far lower than what they pay the credit card companies.)

but credit card companies help us deal with fraud, bad products, identity theft, etc. If you pay your credit cards off in time you get a company that can be helpful in dealing with fraud and identity theft vs nothing.

BTC is like walking around with krugerrands and bearer bonds without security.

This. And also the reason I refer to BTC as "casino tokens" rather than "cash money".

Comment: Re:Myths are socially hilarious (Score 1) 198

To be fair, in the domain of common experience a 7' tall ape man living in the pacific northwest *is* far less crazy than the idea of a subatomic particle being in two places at once.

Good point, and one many of the /. types often forget.

There's this great book

But here... here you come off the rails. How about not acting like a creepy religious zealot who must witness and prosthelytize and lead people to the Light?

Comment: Re:Waste of Tech (Score 1) 66

by DerekLyons (#47355371) Attached to: The Internet of Things Comes To Your Garden

Ever wonder why, after almost a century of technological development, a lot of small time and hobby farmers still drive 1940's era tractors?

Because they're either dead broke, stupid, or they're fascinated by retro things. 1940's era tractors are uncomfortable, low power, and at best middling in reliability. (And while you can with ever increasing investment of man hours jerry rig them along, you can't get parts for them anywhere but on the (expensive) hobbyist market.) Just as with cars and most other things, anyone who can afford better has long since moved onto better.

Comment: Re:What else have they gotten wrong? (Score 1) 37

by DerekLyons (#47347883) Attached to: EDSAC Diagrams Rediscovered

That was my thought too... Nineteen pages of the size shown in the pictures is pretty much nothing compared to a complete set of diagrams. It's like getting nineteen pages out of Game of Thrones (which is itself just one volume of a much larger series). If they found errors with so little new information, it does not give me much confidence that their recreation is accurate to any great degree. (Especially given that they tossed out an approach now known to be the one used.)

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito