If we look at jet aircraft, wear depends on the airframe and the engines, and the airframe seems to be the number of pressurize/depressurize cycles as well as the running hours. Engines get swapped out routinely but when the airframe has enough stress it's time to retire the aircraft lest it suffer catastrophic failure. Rockets are different in scale (much greater stresses) but we can expect the failure points due to age to be those two, with the addition of one main rocket-specific failure point: cryogenic tanks.
How long each will be reliable can be established using ground-based environmental testing. Nobody has the numbers for Falcon 9R yet.
Weight vs. reusable life will become a design decision in rocket design.
When I was in college, one of my CS professors had a weekly quiz that he called "Iron Code." It required you to write a (relatively simple) program, and submit it, using a custom utility (I forget the details; this was 15+ years ago now)...but you only got one shot. Your grade was based upon the degree to which your program's output in response to various inputs met the specifications. If it didn't even compile, you got a zero.
I was so-so at this activity, but there were a fair number of students in the class who consistently got high marks.
Humans can be taught not to make errors. It just requires more time and more careful attention to detail. It's not sexy, and it's usually not fun, but it's totally possible, and if it's your job, then you can damn well do it.
I'm just glad it's not mine, because patience and attention to detail are not my strong suits.
People are herd animals. If they think the best or most hip way is in a massively stupid direction they'll embrace it. Why pay $4.00 for a cup of coffee, right? And yet, millions do.
Any rational interpretation would suggest that when people buy or pay off the loan on a piece of equipment—whether a car, a refrigerator or a mobile phone—they own it, and should be free to do what they want with it. Least of all should they have to seek permission from the manufacturer or the government.
Any rational interpretation would suggest that when rich people and large corporations buy or pay off the loan on a congressperson, they own it, and should be free to get whatever legislation out of it they see fit. Least of all should they have to deal with interference from busybody economists trying to tell them what's "rational."
The biggest problem with what Stross is saying is that people, in general, want to read about situations that are familiar to them. It's damn hard to come up with a truly believable far-future culture in the first place, but it's much harder to do so in a way that makes it both alien to us and something that people can identify with enough to actually enjoy reading.
If you really follow Stross's advice when writing far-future sci-fi, you're likely to lock yourself into a very small niche of potential readers. And if you're writing that way because that's the story you want to write, or because you truly believe it's important to the integrity of the story that the culture be very different than our own, and you're OK with selling a few thousand copies or less, then that's fine. But I dare say most sci-fi authors who actually publish do so because, at least in part, they actually want to have people read their books, and to make a little money off them.
Trains May Soon Come Equipped With Debris-Zapping Lasers
That is... frickin awesome! How do I get a ticket? Can I work the laser?
Sorry, of you can't see that when Real advertises that the DRMed music you buy from them will play on an iPod without problem, Apple will have to make sure it does - then you are obviously a fanboy.
Well, in that case, I guess I must be a fanboy.
"so what should they have done? Just let those pieces of random garbage data take up space on the iPod for the rest of its life?"
Do you realize how inane your argument here is? The answer to your question there is simply "yes". If they wanted to be customer friendly, pop up a warning message that files were detected that were now garbage and prompt for a deletion.
OK, that's not an unreasonable option. Apple could have chosen to do that, and that might have avoided this issue. But it seems likely to me that when Apple wrote the iPod OS (not to be confused with iOS) and the iTunes synchronization mechanism, they didn't even consider the possibility that someone would manage to put songs on there that tricked the iPod into thinking they were FairPlay DRMed files, and thus it would have been a considerable extra effort for them to put such a notification in place. But even without it, it's not like any actual data would have been lost—files synchronized to an iPod would still exist in the music library. Unless they were using unsupported third-party software in the first place, in which you should be blaming the third-party software for doing things that are explicitly not supported. So once the files are deleted off the iPod...they're still on your computer where you downloaded them to originally.
If you can find some actual "tricky, monopolist behaviour" somewhere, I'll give you an answer. Until then, though, all we're talking about is FUD regarding Apple not wanting to go to a lot of effort to implement various random competitors' DRM algorithms...which said competitors would have had to license to them, and provide proper information for third-party implementation of, etc, etc.
and removed the songs with bogus FairPlay from people's devices, because they would no longer work.
See that's the thing, it's MY filesystem on MY device.
If the files exploited a hole in the DRM, then the DRM was patched and the files no longer work... fine, the files don't work, but you can't delete my files on my device
Face it, Apple screwed the pooch and got called out on it. Hopefully they get a sharp smack in the nose with a newspaper, learn from the past and don't do stupid shit like this again, and everyone can move on.
Okaaaay...but, see, first of all, even by the time of the events in the lawsuit, pretty much everyone already knew, if you want to have total control over your device and manage every single configuration and file copy by hand...you don't buy an iPod.
Second of all, what the hell were you going to do with those songs once Apple fixed the bugs? Without the buggy code, the bootleg implementation of FairPlay just wouldn't work. The files wouldn't play, and the way they were put on the iPod would mean that there would be literally no other purpose to having them on there. I don't know if you know how syncing to iPods worked in the pre-iOS era, but while there was a "disk mode" that would allow you to mount the iPod's hard drive as a simple HFS+ filesystem (or, presumably, FAT on Windows? not sure of the details on that end) on your computer, it would not allow you to directly access the music on the iPod, either to add it, copy it off, or delete it.
So basically, once the bugs were fixed, these files were nothing more than junk data, in a section of the iPod that there was literally no other way for you to get rid of them unless you were using one of a few different pieces of third-party software—obviously not supported or assumed to be the case by Apple—so what should they have done? Just let those pieces of random garbage data take up space on the iPod for the rest of its life? Forced you to erase the whole thing just to get rid of them?
Based on your tone, I'm pretty sure your answer to all this would be along the lines of, "They should have just left it all up to me in the first place," but that ship had sailed long ago. And I think that really just brings us back full circle, to "yeah, but if you wanted that, you'd know perfectly well not to buy an Apple device."
There is—demonstrably—room in the market for devices with multiple competing philosophies. At the time, there were a number of devices made by various other companies that would have allowed you to manage your music by hand. Demanding that every single company adhere to your personal philosophy, provided they are not infringing any actual rights or breaking any laws, is not a reasonable position to take.
How can you be such a corporate apologist?! Apple in no place advertised that the only DRM music that could be played on iPods was Fairplay music, this screwed over customers, it was a shit thing to do but you go out and defend and praise Apple for it. "Oh yes thank you master for fucking me over Ill tell everybody how good it was, may I have another?"
They may not have put up giant posters proclaiming that the only DRMed music that you could play on an iPod was FairPlay, but it's not exactly like it was some kind of secret, either.
I'm not saying I don't feel bad for the people who honestly didn't know how these things worked who bought music from RealNetworks, then had their music stop working when Apple fixed the loophole. I can imagine how frustrating that would have been.
But that doesn't mean that Apple is at fault for fixing bugs in their code. I suppose you could blame them for having the bugs in the first place, but I think that's kind of a "let he who is without sin" situation to get into. And the decision not to license FairPlay, or implement any of the dizzying array of competing music DRM schemes that existed at the time, is one that can be legitimately questioned by reasonable people, but I don't think that makes it by any stretch of the imagination Obviously Wrong.
However, it seems to me that you've got an axe to grind against Apple specifically, and possibly against corporations in general, and aren't actually interested in reasoned discourse. (The first clue was leading with an insult, by the way. Ad hominem attacks are never a good sign.)
Either way, I don't see your objection as having any serious merit.
First of all, what lead has Apple lost that it ever really had? They're set to cross the $1 trillion market cap barrier—for the first time of any company ever—in the not-too-distant future, selling iPhones and Macs faster than ever before, and iPads only very slightly slower than their peak.
Now, if you were paying any attention whatsoever, instead of just writing a knee-jerk Apple-hate comment, you'd know that this was in reference to acts that allegedly occurred many years ago, before the iPhone was even released. That's why it's talking about iPods, y'see?
Furthermore, what actually happened is that a) people had purchased music from stores other than the iTunes Music Store, which had DRM on them that Apple didn't support, and/or b) people had put songs from RealNetworks on their iPods, who had somehow managed to exploit some holes in the FairPlay DRM to trick the iPods into allowing them on there while still maintaining their DRM-ness...and Apple figured out what they had done, fixed the bugs in their code that allowed RealNetworks to get around the fact that they never licensed FairPlay, and removed the songs with bogus FairPlay from people's devices, because they would no longer work.
So...no. This is not Apple getting upset that it's not the top dog (in some way) and lashing out in immature ways. This is other people getting upset that Apple was the top dog (in some ways) and lashing out in immature ways.
Wow. You spent all that time explaining how iOS devices sync with iTunes when the lawsuit is referring to a time period before iTunes existed.
Umm...no, sorry, you lose. iTunes existed for years before the first iPod was ever sold.