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Comment: Re:GPS on Mars (Score 1) 104

by JWSmythe (#47405685) Attached to: ESA Shows Off Quadcopter Landing Concept For Mars Rovers

I'd love to see something like that functional. It could really change what we're doing there. quadcopter or quadcopter/fixed wing hybrids, could do really well exploring the surface of Mars. It's not like there's a rush to get anywhere. They could lay out with solar panels extended for weeks to charge, and then fly for miles. It wouldn't be practical for moving lots of equipment, but it could grab samples and bring them back to the rover/base.

They'd need to take into consideration those pesky sandstorms though. It's not a great place for an aircraft, unless they can automatically secure it. Like have a screw anchor it to the ground (like a tent screw or dog tiedown), and a cover to extend over it and secure itself. Then there's the matter of digging itself out after the storm without killing the batteries.

Comment: Re:GPS on Mars (Score 2) 104

by JWSmythe (#47405405) Attached to: ESA Shows Off Quadcopter Landing Concept For Mars Rovers

That would be a cool trick. I think it will be a long long time before we see that.

GPS, and GLONASS have 24 satellites for global coverage. Galileo has 27. Beidou has 10 right now, but has limited coverage. It will have 35 when it's fully operational.

Most (all?) require ground stations to keep them updated, so it isn't just a matter of throwing some satellites up and having GPS on another planet. As I recall, GPS satellite service will degrade to unusable somewhere between 90 to 180 days. [insert obligatory apocalypse reference]

Theoretically with GPS, you can lock with 3, but that assumes a highly clock on the receiver. Our phones and GPS receivers aren't that accurate, so we require 4 satellites.

But I believe this was dumbed down for the casual reader, so they said "GPS". Using the known location of the orbital vehicle, gravitational center of mars, magnetic poles, and stars optically with a sextant, and using inertial sensors, they could put it down on a precise target.

They might use GPS for test flights here, since we have the luxury on this rock. They aren't accounting for other things with their tests right now. Like the Mars average ground level air pressure is 0.087psi. The summit of Mount Everest is 4.89psi. The highest surface air pressure they'll get on Marswould be Hellas Planitia at 0.168psi.

They're going to need some *huge* propellers on their quadcopter. Flying on Mars is like flying at just over 100,000 feet on Earth. The record for any propeller aircraft is the Boeing Condor UAV with no payload, at 67,028 feet.

The record altitude for a helicopter in Earth's atmosphere is 40,820 feet, and it also got the record for the longest autorotation when the helicopter stopped flying. :)

But other than navigation, and lack of atmospheric pressure, it could work fine. :)

Comment: Re:Did you bother to read the story? (Score 1) 59

by JWSmythe (#47342639) Attached to: 2600 Distributor Withholds Money, Magazine's Future In Limbo

Unfortunately, it's a fairly standard business tactic.

Corp X has assets and debts. They sell the assets to Corp Y, which includes products, staff, equipment, etc. Corp X holds the debts. Wen they declare bankruptcy, there's no way to recover the debt, so it's gone.

Corp Y may be operating in the same office, with the same people at the same desks, doing the same jobs. The only real difference is that employee paychecks now say the new name, as does all new marketing materials and letterhead.

So what about the people owed money from Corp X? They get nothing. Or if they're lucky there's something left and they'll get pennies on the dollar.

Sometimes it's done for the right reasons, and they will work out deals with those owed. For examine (if I read the article right), 2600 is owed $100K. That may be broken up to $10K/mo over 10 months, or $1K/mo over 100 months. In the end, they get their money. Unfortunately when they already have high dollar events scheduled, it hurts.

Comment: Re:Uh, sure.. (Score 1) 358

I guess I'm weird. I use text editors.

On the server(s) or dev boxes, I use vim for anything.

When I'm on a Windows desktop, I use UltraEdit. I don't use most of the extra functionality, but the brace matching lines are nice. I could almost do just as well with notepad.

I have to pay more attention to what I'm doing, but I end up writing better code than I see churned out by a lot of people with overly helpful IDEs.

Comment: Recharging drones. (Score 1) 30

by JWSmythe (#47331275) Attached to: Automated Remote Charging for Your Flying Drones (Video)

A while back, I was thinking about how to to make an ultra-long range drone. Like something I could send off on a mission, and expect it to come back on it's own later on. One of the ideas, if it were battery powered, was to instruct it to land on or near power lines. That would have been a nightmare to figure out though.

To be stealthy, it would need to fly around 5K to 10K feet. It wouldn't be able to approach ground level, except in uninhabited areas. There's no way you'd get a map of all the high tension power lines in the world, and I don't know of any method of detecting them miles away. Well, other than Hollywood magic methods, which unfortunately don't translate well to the real world. :)

To land on power lines or on the connecting towers, it would have to hover, which is battery expensive. Automatically picking an arbitrary landing spot isn't exactly easy. Once you're parked close to the power lines (like on them, or on the towers) inductive loops could handle farming electricity without human intervention or needing to deploy charging mats.

In the end, I gave up on the idea. I don't really have a reason to make one. If I did, and it worked, I'd have all the lovely three-letter-agencies knocking on my door to have a chat over a nice cup of tea.

Maybe "nice" would be optional in their opinion, and cup of tea would be room temp water in an interrogation room. Either way.

Comment: Re: In other news (Score 1) 358

by JWSmythe (#47311349) Attached to: Florida Man Faces $48k Fine For Jamming Drivers' Cellphones

A bus is a lot bigger than a car, with a lot less margin for error. I have a city bus that's converted to be a RV. All that extra space beside a car becomes pretty much non-existent. According to the FHWA, lanes are 9 to 12 feet wide. My bus is 8.5 feet wide, so on a narrow road, that gives me 3 inches on either side on a local road, along the 40 foot length of it.

The last drive I took it for a drive, I cruised down a 6 lane "local" road, with 9' lanes. It was like threading a needle with giant steel elephant, and people get stupid around large vehicles. Sure, it can stop on a dime, as long as that dime is the size of a Buick.

Bus passengers tend to be more annoying too. They tend to argue, just because they can.

The "don't talk to the driver" rule is mostly there so the driver can say "Go away, I'm driving." I've had plenty of bus drivers that like some idle conversation. I'm not asking how to get to some obscure place, or demand that they take the bus off-route to drop them off, so they like talking to me. :)

Comment: Re:Thanks for the tip! (Score 1) 448

by JWSmythe (#47305457) Attached to: $500k "Energy-Harvesting" Kickstarter Scam Unfolding Right Now

It sounds like the formula for an urban legend.

Take a little bit of truth. Just enough to be believable. Build up that truth with whatever lies you can tie to it, get enough suckers to believe it, and you'll have the next Snopes entry.

I could build an inductive receiver. Given enough time, it could charge a small battery. Believers will see "enough time" as being minutes or hours. People analyzing it will see it's really centuries. The whole time, I never lied. I just let their misconceptions carry it along.

Comment: Re:Tuning it out? (Score 1) 254

by jedrek (#47303781) Attached to: The Bursting Social Media Advertising Bubble

There is literally one metric that counts with advertising, no matter what agencies, media houses or publishers tell you - sales. Everything else is BS. If your advertising does not increase sales (be it by increasing brand awareness, engagement, education, market segment creation, etc), you're just throwing money away.

Comment: when you go.... (Score 1) 208

by JWSmythe (#47280133) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Bequeath Sensitive Information?

In the last several years, things have happened. Someone very close to me died with no notice. Quite literally, I saw him alive and normal at home. I went outside. A few minutes later I went back inside and he was dead. Natural causes.

I went in for spine surgery a few weeks ago. I could have walked away from it, or have been rolled away to the cemetery.

I always make sure someone knows how to do what I do. That person usually knows where everything is. They don't necessarily have all my passwords, but they know where the "key" is, which guides them to the vaults (one logical, one physical). I double checked the key, and the instructions for the vaults before surgery, and reminded them where the "key" is hidden. My "key" has another more colorful name, so I'm not even giving away secrets here. :) Your "key" could be something like an envelope marked "1997 expense reimbursements", with just a piece of paper containing a few important passwords and instructions for the rest.

It doesn't have to be a life changing (or ending) event, or even an employment terminating event. It could be something as dumb as you're stuck in a remote airport during a blizzard, with no data service, and something major happened. Sure, everything *could* wait a week for the storm to pass. Or you could say "Call X. Tell them to go get the key. They will understand and can take care of everything." The instruction to "Call X" is kind of redundant, as the primary people should already know who the "oh shit" person is to contact. It's just reaffirming, "I'm stuck, and can't do anything from here."

Just be very sure you can trust the people holding your secrets.

Comment: I've seen IRS computers (Score 5, Interesting) 682

by slaker (#47271171) Attached to: IRS Recycled Lerner Hard Drive

An acquaintance of mine is a senior guy in Chicago's IRS office. He does large corporate audits, which means he's sitting across from guys in $2000 suits all day. The laptop he was carrying until late 2012 had a Windows 2000 license sticker on it and his "new" government-issued laptop is an HP that was manufactured in 2004. These guys really do make more with less and I have no trouble believing that the equipment Lerner was using was painfully obsolete and used until it died.

Comment: Re:the Putin stage (Score 1) 294

I'd personally much rather have a single credit rating database, run by an accountable government body with clear rules and regulations concerning who has access to my data and how, along with a clear-cut procedures for updating and correcting the data, than the status quo: three private, opaque, for-profit organizations that are not accountable to any public entity.

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes. -- Dr. Warren Jackson, Director, UTCS