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We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: Re:Anyone has the real facts? (Score 2) 226

Yes, I contacted JSC PAO and they unequivocally said that there are no "virus epidemics" on the ISS. There is no current outbreak of anything, stuxnet or otherwise. Kaspersky's comments weren't about an ongoing event—rather, they are off-the-cuff unsourced remarks that could refer to any number of past incidents.

Comment: Re:Summer (Score 1) 346

by willith (#44923073) Attached to: My favorite season:

Winter. It's the best three weeks in Texas, and the only time you're able to go outside without becoming sticky with sweat after 15 seconds at any time of the day or night. Plus, you get so sleep with an actual blanket, instead of the thinnest sheet you can find. It's great to actually be able to wear normal clothes outdoors—layers! Suits! Coats!

Summer is my least favorite. Sure, you can go to the beach, but it lasts eight months, from April through November, and every second of it is an experience in humid misery. You spend your time dashing from one air conditioned space to the next, dreading your $400 monthly electricity bill (because of your home's central air), and dreaming of what it feels like to be cold.

If I could move, I would. Unfortunately—perhaps BECAUSE it's so miserable down here—home prices are ludicrously reasonable, so I stay.

Comment: Re:Who do people still use PayPal high value accou (Score 4, Insightful) 443

by willith (#44765477) Attached to: PayPal Freezes MailPile's Account

That's insane. If someone steals my credit card number, there's fast and quick legal redress. The most inconvenient part is waiting for the credit card company to overnight me a new card.

Paypal, on the other hand, can lift actual money right out of the checking account they insist on linking to my account and actually defraud me. There is literally no instance where simply using a credit card number is less safe than dealing with paypal.

Comment: Re:Interesting indeed (Score 4, Informative) 100

Probably too late to pick up any moderation points, but no. The CAD files are considered export-controlled technology and are not publicly available. I asked this specifically when I was talking with the engineers involved in the effort. It's also why the article I wrote (linked up-thread) lacks images of the disassembled F-1 engine and its components. I desperately wanted to photograph the lab and its awesome assortment of rocket parts, but NASA and the US government did not allow pictures of export-controlled technology.

Comment: Re:Interesting indeed (Score 5, Insightful) 100

The "paperwork" has never been lost—every shred of documentation is intact and on file. In fact, engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center have been spending the past year busily disassembling and working with components from several stored F-1 engines. They've constructed highly detailed CAD models of the engines, and even done hot firing on one of the gas generator segments.

I penned a very detailed piece on this over at Ars Technica earlier this year, including photos and video of one of the gas generator hot-fires. The piece includes multiple interviews with senior propulsion scientists at MSFC, and thoroughly debunks the "but the blueprints are lost!" urban myth.

+ - Confirmed: F-1 rocket engine salvaged by Amazon's Bezos is from Apollo 11->

Submitted by willith
willith (218835) writes "The folks at Bezos Expeditions have confirmed that faintly visible serial numbers on one of the large engine components they lifted from three miles below the ocean's surface match the serial number of F-1 engine F-6044, which flew in the center position on Saturn V number SA-506—Apollo 11. With the 44th anniversary of the first lunar landing coming up tomorrow, the confirmation comes at an auspicious time. The F-1 engine remains to this day the largest single-chamber liquid fueled engine ever produced—although NASA is considering using a newer uprated design designated as the F-1B to help boost future heavy-lift rockets into orbit."
Link to Original Source

+ - How NASA steers the Int'l Space Station around asteroids & other debris->

Submitted by willith
willith (218835) writes "I got to sit down with ISS TOPO Flight Controller Josh Parris at the Houston Mission Control Center and talk about how NASA steers all 400 tons of the International Space Station around potential collisions, or "conjunctions," in NASA-parlance. The TOPO controller, with assistance from USSTRATCOM's big radars, keeps track of every object that will pass within a "pizza-box"-shaped 50km x 50km x 4km perimeter around the ISS. Actually moving the station is done with a combination of large control moment gyros and thrusters on both the Zvezda module and visiting vehicles. It's a surprisingly complex operation!"
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:ET's big failure... (Score 1) 146

by willith (#43892203) Attached to: Salvaging E.T. In Software, Instead of New Mexico

I'd very much have to disagree. Atari games were often quite opaque—Yar's Revenge is a good example of a game that didn't make a lick of sense unless you'd read the manual. There wasn't room on the ROM for any handholding. Plus, most games had dozens of different modes of play available through the game select switch (like Combat, or Space Invaders), and figuring out the differences between them absolutely required a manual.

Comment: Art doesn't need remuneration (Score 5, Insightful) 684

by willith (#43569265) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are There <em>Any</em> Good Reasons For DRM?

"Because, in my eyes, when people stop getting paid for what they do, they'll stop doing it."

The creation of art is not, nor ever has been, dependent on remuneration. People don't exclusively create to be compensated. People have always created things. It's what we do.

It may be valid to worry that unrestricted copying of things—be those things paintings, songs, sculptures, stories, programs, or whatever—could potentially lead to a reduction in people who earn a living exclusively from creating those things, but it takes a powerfully broken worldview to even begin to think that people only do create stuff so that they'll get paid.

+ - The modern rebirth of the Saturn V's incredible F-1 engine->

Submitted by willith
willith (218835) writes "Through a remarkable confluence of backyard engineering and external requirements, NASA has been "hot firing" 40-year old parts of F-1 rocket engines, pulled from storage and museums. The process of resurrecting the old engines has been complex, including a total 3D scan inside and out of the rockets to produce modern CAD files. NASA is considering using a brand new, redesigned version of the F-1, called the F-1B, as booster rockets for its upcoming SLS launch vehicle. I was on-hand for one round of F-1 gas generator test firings and I've written up the story of how a group of young engineers drove the engineering effort to bring the giant back to life.

The F-1 is the most powerful single-chamber liquid rocket engine to ever have existed; putting out 1.5M lbs of thrust, five of these engines powered one Saturn V moon rocket, each gulping 3 tons of fuel per second. The new F-1B would modify the F-1's uprated F-1A variant (extensively tested but never flown) to make it simpler and easier to manufacture, and at the same time even more powerful: 1.8M lbs of thrust per second."

Link to Original Source
Open Source

+ - Doing shots at the range with a $17,000 Linux-powered rifle->

Submitted by
willith writes "Back at CES I wrote up a story about Austin-based TrackingPoint and their "Precision Guided Firearms," a set of high-powered hunting rifles with computer-controlled scopes and "guided" triggers. Last week, I had the opportunity to take the three TrackingPoint rifles out to the range and test their accuracy. How much did they improve my marksmanship? My photographer, who'd never before even picked up a rifle, scored a 1000-yard shot on his very first attempt.""
Link to Original Source

+ - Swimming with spacemen in NASA's giant NBL pool->

Submitted by
willith writes "I spent two days at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, watching astronauts dive and getting a thorough tour of the facility. The largest indoor pool in the world contains 6.2M gallons of water and is filled with life-size replicas of International Space Station modules (though at 202'x101' and 40' deep, it isn't nearly enough to hold the entire station). Every spacewalk requires a huge amount of rehearsal, and that rehearsal is done right here in this pool. I talk at length with divers, astronauts, test coordinators, and test directors about how the facility works and what it takes to train folks to work in spacesuits. I also get to talk about the NBL's commercial future, and what's next for the big pool. Plus, lots and lots of pictures!"
Link to Original Source

+ - Behind the scenes at NASA's Mission Control Center->

Submitted by
willith writes "I was recently given the opportunity to spend several hours on the floor of Historic Mission Operations Control Room #2, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. MOCR2 was used to control almost manned Gemini and Apollo mission, including Apollo 11 & 13. More, my tour guide was none other than famous Apollo mission controller Sy Liebergot, one of the fellows behind the solution that saved Apollo 13. I go in-depth on the role of the flight controller during Apollo, and focus on how and why Mission Control functioned, and I spend a lot of time talking about the consoles and how they worked. The feature includes a ton of anecdotes and stories from Mr. Liebergot about mission control in general, and about what he did during Apollo 12 & 13 specifically. I also put together a supplemental report that goes through each and every station and describes their Apollo-era layout. I wrote this story to be the kind of thing I'd always wanted to read, but could never find online. There are also lots and lots of pictures of MOCR2!"
Link to Original Source

Comment: Because work makes me (Score 1) 1880

by willith (#38022448) Attached to: What's Keeping You On Windows?

I use Windows at work, because work says I have to. I have a Windows 7 laptop loaded down with management agents and security agents and update agents and all kinds of other agents, which makes IT security comfortable. If I wiped it and loaded Linux, or God forbid if I brought my MacBook from home in to work, my network port would be disabled within seconds and I'd get a fun walk-up visit from security a minute later.

My job requires me to shuffle around MS Office documents, do e-mail, and use web-based tools. There's nothing there that can't be done on another platform, but Windows lets my work keep tight, locked-down tabs on my laptop. The need for that control is at least in part driven by the vendors selling those lock-down solutions. There is a fear- and risk-management-based culture in IT security these days, and Windows is the platform that has the tools that companies have been told they have to deploy to keep things safe.

"If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?" -- Lily Tomlin