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Comment Hugos and the WSFS (Score 1) 1037

The Hugo awards are a part of the Worldcon, nominated and voted on by members of the Worldcon. Anyone can be a member of the current Worldcon by paying a membership fee. Supporting membership usually costs $40. That doesn't get you physical access to the con itself, attending membership is a lot more.

Joining the Worldcon makes you a member of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) for that year. As part of that membership you get nominating and voting rights for the Hugos including the right to nominate the next year but not vote. If you want to vote next year (that con will be in Kansas City in 2016) you need to pay for a supporting or attending membership for that specific convention.

I was a member of the 2014 Worldcon, nominated and voted that year and nominated this year but I couldn't vote this year since I didn't join Sasquan.

As I understand it a lot of people joined Sasquan as supporting members after the nominations closed simply to vote for the Hugos, generally opposing the slate nominees. They couldn't change the nomination lists but they could vote against the slate nominees. In the end the opposition was strong enough that most slate nominees ended up below No Award (or as David Gerrold calls it "Noah Ward").

Comment Re:the USA is Portugal (Score 3, Informative) 87

JAXA is currently flying its second asteroid material return mission, Hayabusa 2. The first was not a total success but the craft did get to its target and return a capsule to Earth. Number of NASA asteroid material return missions, zero.

Hayabusa 2 is carrying a lander built by the French CNES and three smaller "hopping" landers as well as an IED meant to blow a hole in the asteroid's surface to expose fresh material for inspection and analysis.

There's a lot of difficult science to be done (tm GlaDOS) out in the solar system, we can't expect the US to do all of it.

Submission + - HTV-5 on its way to the ISS->

nojayuk writes: There's another launcher delivering cargo to the ISS apart from US and Russian vehicles, and it's Japanese. The fifth Koutonori (White Stork) cargo vehicle was successfully launched today at from pad 2 of the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima south of Tokyo at 11:50:49 UTC, carrying over 5 tonnes of food, spare parts and scientific equipment to the ISS in a pressurised cabin and an external racking system. This is the fifth successful launch in a row for the Japanese H2B launcher. The Koutonoris have carried over 20 tonnes of cargo in total to the ISS, more than double the amount of SpaceX's six successful CRS resupply flights.
Link to Original Source

Comment Re:Sell batteries as an end product (Score 1) 232

There are also satchel charges which can be, in extremis, thrown a certain distance by hand so they could be classed as "large hand grenades", I suppose. On the other hand there's the Special Atomic Demolition Munition which was (theoretically) man-portable...

I suspect that large Li-ion technology cells are used in certain circumstances such as submarines but not usually in "civilian" environments like cars because of Li-ion's ability to release its stored energy in a short period of time as heat or even a low-order explosion due to its low internal resistance. A rough calculation suggests a fully charged Li-ion battery holds about 15% of the energy of a similar mass of TNT. Building a battery pack out of a lot of smaller cells extends the time for a fire to propagate and engage neighbouring cells. A few large cells each storing several megajoules of energy are more likely to burn faster (the square/cube law at work) and set off their neighbours similarly.

Comment Re:Sell batteries as an end product (Score 2) 232

My understanding is that the Tesla car batteries are built from large arrays of commodity Li-ion battery cells, they're nothing special in terms of capacity or size or design. An 80kWh Tesla battery pack might have ten thousand cells each of which is a 3.7V 2.2AH unit of the sort you'd find in a laptop battery pack, arranged in series-parallel.

Tesla's "secret sauce" is the charging and conditioning of their batteries as well as armouring them against damage in a collision and preventing propagation of a fire in a series of cells spreading too quickly to the other cells in the pack.

Making Li battery cells in the Musk Gigafactory will bring the cost down a bit, cutting out the middleman as Henry Ford did but I don't expect them to change the design much, for safety reasons if nothing else. Battery makers don't sell large Li-ion cells for the same reason they don't sell large hand-grenades...

Comment Re:Just another case.... (Score 4, Interesting) 184

We did workarounds on the ATA bus spec for known hardware bugs in older VIA chipsets. These were silicon bugs, not chipset firmware so they couldn't be fixed afterwards with patches and there were millions of these boards out there. Declaring our devices (CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives) wouldn't work with these boards was not going to happen for sales reasons so our code included a lockup-recovery function that was invoked when the rare bug conditions were met and the IDE bus froze. The average user never noticed these lockups and we didn't tell them about them.

Out-of-spec bugs like this were well-known in the industry and workarounds were easy to produce as long as you had access to a few million bucks worth of test equipment and a good team of professional engineers with decades of experience, not something that's common in the Linux world.

Comment Re:In other news... (Score 1) 484

Right now, as I type this, France is importing 2.5GW of electricity from Germany and 450MW from Switzerland. It is exporting 2GW to Britain, 2.6GW to Italy and 890MW to Spain though, a next export from France of 3GW.

You can find real-time details of France's generating capacity, imports and exports at this website,

I've seen times on this page when France has been exporting as much as 10GW of electricity to other countries (Britain in particular takes 2GW of cheap French nuclear electricity nearly all the time). I don't think I've ever seen a case where France was importing more electricity than it exported.

Comment Somewhat misleading (Score 2) 111

The title of this submission talks about "phones", the Fine Article discusses Nokia's possible entry into the smartphone world after the noncompete agreement with MS lapses. This being /. I can comprehend that "smartphones" and "phones" are synonymous in most readers minds but Nokia is still building and selling dumb phones and feature phones (profitably, I presume) and has been all the time they were being funded by MS to make the Lumia range.

The Nokia board probably have a good idea about their ability to leverage the good name of Nokia in the Android smartphone biz by looking at the sales of their N1 Android tablet in the markets it's already been released in. No public numbers yet though.

The two big differentiators that Nokia could bring to a new smartphone design based on its long phone-making track record would be voice call quality and the radio hardware, not something any of the other smartphone makers (with the exception of the Lumia series spawned by Nokia) seem to bother with much.

Comment Re:Energy Storage? (Score 1) 80

Pumped storage and all other storage systems cost money to build and operate (construction costs for pumped storage are about $200 million/GWh) and they waste energy in the storage/regeneration cycle (about 30% losses for pumped storage round-trip). The renewables boosters never mention these costs and resulting energy losses when claiming how economic solar and wind are, focusing instead only on the peak generating capacity of new-build renewable plant and pretending the large amount of combined-cycle gas and coal generating plant "backing up" renewables doesn't exist.

Comment Lazertag (Score 3, Interesting) 210

Back in the day friends were into doing Lazertag with the original retail guns and detectors and they came to me to see what I could do for them. I reverse-engineered a gun, scoped the output to the IR LED in the muzzle and discovered it was a simple short burst of 1kHz, nothing complicated for the target detectors to register.

By the time I had finished they had a couple of hand grenades (push a button, toss it at the Other Guys, three seconds later it fired a burst of 1kHz through a bunch of small IR LEDs peeking through holes of the plastic casing made from laundry detergent globes) and a "knife" (push the handle down against the Other Guy's body close to their target, another short burst of IR from LEDs in the handle shielded from the holder). The best item though was the "bomb on a stick", an omnidirectional radiator on a short pole, just push it round a corner and fire it off. That one emitted for as long as the switch was held down and it had a LOT of IR LEDs. One-shot room clearance FTW.

Comment Re:Forgetting something? (Score 1) 316

Something went wrong with this Falcon 9 flight. Assuming little has changed in its design over previous flights then that something could have happened on any previous flight and SpaceX were just lucky it didn't happen on an earlier flight.

The goalpost-shifting criteria of "how many successful launches do you achieve before the first bad one happens" is not something the insurers will look on with equanimity. What they want to see is a long unbroken string of successful launches like, say, the Ariane V which had its last failure back in 2002 and which has launched sixty-four times since then with every mission an unqualified success (no OrbComm-style failure-to-achieve-correct-orbit in that sequence BTW).

As for the Japanese HII failure, a strap-on motor on an HII-A failed to separate after burnout and it was aborted by the range safety officer. It was flight number 6 of that design.

The larger HII-B has four successes for four attempts to its credit, all cargo flights to the ISS. Hmmm, just ran some numbers -- the four Japanese HII-B resupply missions have delivered 19.8 tonnes of supplies, spare parts etc. The six successful SpaceX CRS missions have delivered 9.7 tonnes of cargo in total, slightly less than half that amount.

Comment Forgetting something? (Score 4, Informative) 316

Where's the Ariane Vega, or the Japanese H2 launchers or the PSLV in that list?

Vega - five launches, five successful.

H2 (A and B variants) - thirty-two launches, one failure.

PSLV - twenty-nine launches, one total failure (the first), one partial where the final stage underperformed but the payload satellite used its own propulsion system to get to the correct orbit.

That moves the Falcon 9 down the listings a bit, I think.

Comment Re:Don't rule out sabotage (Score 5, Informative) 316

"The only alternatives to SpaceX are NASA's AtlasV and the Russian offerings. That's well known."

Well, apart from Arianespace (the Ariane V medium-lift and Vega small-capacity launcher), the Japanese H2-B launchers (one will fly a cargo resupply mission to the ISS in August), the low-cost Indian PSLVs, the Chinese Long March series of man-rated launchers etc. etc. That's well-known.

Saying that this launch failure has certainly put a crimp in SpaceX's plans to nuzzle up to the DoD/NSA funding teat.

Comment 4k is the new black (Score 1) 558

I've got a 4-core 955 AMD CPU running at 3.2GHz in a generic ASUS motherboard populated with 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a 120GB Sandisk SSD on SATA-3 for OS and programs with a 3TB spinning-rust Toshiba drive for data. The video card is a lowish-end AMD R250 with 1GB of video RAM, nothing special, chosen because it was the cheapest card I could find with DisplayPort.

Why DisplayPort? Because my mad money went on buying a 32" IPS 4k monitor, the Dell Ultrasharp UP3214Q and I needed DisplayPort to drive it at 60Hz. I have no peripheral vision left. It's the best computer upgrade I've ever spent money on, even better than fitting an SSD as a boot drive. My eyes aren't getting any younger after all.

My previous monitor, a 27" Dell IPS 2560x1440 display is running in portrait-mode as a sidekick off the same card with no hassles but I do most of my computing (video, graphics, photoediting, browsing) on the 4k monitor directly in front of me. If you're hesitating about going 4k, my advice is don't wait. The IPS panels like this Dell are more expensive than the smaller TN 4k displays but I really wanted the extended colour gamut and good off-axis viewing the TN displays lack.

The confusion of a staff member is measured by the length of his memos. -- New York Times, Jan. 20, 1981