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Macs In Space II 161

MasterOfDisaster writes: "Some nut is planning to make a global wireless network using apple's Power Macintosh G4 Cubes. Here's the story." We ran a story about this guy last year, but this one has a bit more detail and he's progressed further in his plans.
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Macs in Space II

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  • What you could do with a beowolf....oh, nevermind.
  • Sounds like well-planned marketing scam.
    Mac has fallen from the sky (look at the stock price) and now we the executives have dreamed up a funky story and found a geek to talk about it.

    And the expected response is?
    (after reading this article)
    "Sorry honey, change of plans ... no Trip to Tobago this year, I'll buy me self a Mac G4 Cube!"

    But hey ...why not!
  • Posted by Nr9:

    since when is the OS "responsible" for that. its good to have protected memory, but OSes rarely crash on their own. if the application is coded correctly, the box won't crash. its ultimately the applciations responsibility in not crashing.
  • No temperature in space, its a vacuum...read the article above where they talk about it

    What about Cooling? #17
  • Posted by Nr9:

    why would it crash when it runs out of memory
  • From the original article posted last year...

    "Apple Computer has agreed to provide hardware and technical support to SkyCorp for this venture."

    So other than modifcation costs, hardware costs are not a factor. Also...

    However, the primary purpose of the satellite mission is not to place a Web server in orbit but to test SkyCorp's satellite assembly technology. The company is developing technologies to assemble satellites in orbit that would be as fully-functional as existing satellites, but at a small fraction of the mass and cost.

    Wingo believes it would be possible to build a satellite constellation of the type proposed by satellite communications firm Teledesic for less than 10 percent of Teledesic's cost, which has been estimated to be at least $9 billion.

    Sound to me like the guys's sticking to technology he knows and attempting to bring down the costs of launching and maintaining a large-scale satellite communications network. I wish him success. Also, I wonder if he could get a few bucks from Apple for the It would be a great ad gimmick.
  • Yeah, that's all we need is more space debris!

    On a serious note:

    It will be interesting to see how these webservers are going to handle connections from earth and to see what type of bandwidth they can handle, collectively.

    One problem I see is that the satellites, er, MACs, I assume, are going to be put into LEO (Low Earth Orbit) to maximize the data throughput. The disadvantage of LEO is that one satellite will only have about a 10-15 minute (sometimes less) "talk-time" to a single spot on earth, since they are not geostationary.

    Seeing how there will be such short time for one to communicate to a single satellite, they will have to devise a scheme to pass a user onto the next visible satellite when the one they're on goes over the horizon. This may prove to be the simple part!

    For those of us who run multi-server web sites, we know the problem with passing a user from one server to the next and maintaining "persistance". By persistance I mean applications that need to be started and finished on the same webserver -- shopping carts, credit card authorizations, etc, etc. If they plan to offer high-end web services such as these on the satellites, they will have to come up with a pretty sophisticated load-balancing scheme that will allow them to keep persistant connections persistant.

  • My first thought when I asw this was that it was a publicity stunt by Apple - like that ad for Last Action Hero on the Space Shuttle. We all know how well *that* one worked.

    I mean, really; this could be kind of near as a proof-of-concept thing, but this guy's career will be pretty much over if it doesn't work out. I really hope that Apple is paying him enough that he can retire comfortably....

  • doing! He is just a Pro Mac goon trying to place his little biased reality in space. Neither Mac or Wintel are viable for this from a reliability standpoint. Also, at 150lbs, this is not a little satellite at all. 20lbs or less is the target for getting a free lift into space. This guy thinks NASA is going to piggyback him for 10mill?! 150lbs almost equals another astronaut. I pity the poor clueless VC who just lost half his trust on hairbrained dotcoms, only to step smack into Mr. Wizard here with his radiation proof, thermal proof, magic "Macellites".
  • umm no, things get really cold and really hot in space, thats why the shuttle umm, rotates so it faces away from the sun at certain tims so it does not fry the astronauts
  • One reason could be simply that PPC chips run cooler - can you imagine the size of the heatsink on a P4 to cool it by radiating only?

    It'd probably weigh more than the machine...

  • 2001-01-05 22:58:47 G4 Mac Powered Satellites? (articles,space) (rejected)

    You suck Rob.

  • I mean, what's a stupider idea? Making cheap datacom satellites, or using a sock puppet to sell pet food over the net?

    Iridium satellites and Mars probes seem to have been stupid ideas too, how much loss would this be if it chokes? :)

    My only technical worry is "what about debris and radiation?"

  • What happens if this takes off and Apple dies?

    Upgrade to NetBSD, of course.

  • he wants an astronaut to hurl a specially modified G4 MacIntosh Cube computer into orbit

    Will his pockets be deep enough when one of these things careens into one of AT&T's satellites?

    Dancin Santa
  • Well, NASA seems to have enough faith that it will work that they are going to put it up there and assemble it in space for him. I doubt they would be willing to do that if they didn't think it might work. Im sure they have better things to do than assemble and set into orbit computers that they think will fail.
  • Macs are too user friendly to be put into space, if we want to make the aliens elite and smarter we need to launch a x86 machine running linux with kernel 2.4 and let them tinker with that. That way when we finally get in touch with the aliens we will be able to communicate through a common os.
  • What about linux though? You don't have to use ms on pc hardware.
  • Are they trying to tell me that someone Apple's silicon chips handle a gravityless environment better than Intel hardware?

    Not sure if this is what the "nut" was thinking of when he said it performed better, but apparently the later Intel processors (post-486) have big problems with cosmic rays - flipped bits, missed instructions, etc. This is one of the reasons why NASA relies on older machines still.

  • cmon' mod this guy up! This is funny. What else is a mac good for in the vacuum of space--loaded with MacOS?


  • Geez... I think I would feel better running windows 2000, serously.

    Unless they are using OSx, I can't imagine that they really believe it's any more reliable than your average 1-2 week lifespan uptime. Also, whats to protect the vital comunication systems if a single process freaks out and crashes the entire system? Wouldn't be such a big problem with any modern OS.


    I am not sure it is that unrealistic to cover most of the United States or greater Europe w/500+ satelites at the right orbit level. (15 minutes of coverage is bullshit, depends on the altitude of the satelite and it's orbital rotation ...)

    Anyway, lots of very interesting inovations come from 'wacky people' with 'wacky ideas' ;-) I love real inovation.

    Would you like a Python based alternative to PHP/ASP/JSP?
  • so that's who's buying G4 Cubes. i was wondering which 50 people bought them, as it certainly wasn't anybody i know.

    people have been wondering what the target market was for these things: do you think Apple had this in mind all along? i guess this would account for the astronomical pricing ;)

    - j

  • by maggard ( 5579 ) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Saturday January 06, 2001 @06:04AM (#527498) Homepage Journal
    Yep, you heard me right: Apple's very popular line of AirPort wireless base-stations use x86 processors, not PowerPC ones.

    Really the thing is little more then a FlashROM, an off-brand x86 and of course Lucent's Orinoco PC-Card. The code running it is exemplarily, folks have found lots of goodies in it and Apple's put out several revs. of improvements, but not a PPC to be found.

    Since the article talks about flying boxes with MacOS on PowerPC's then clearly the existing AirPort base-station technology is NOT the subject. There'd be nothing in common with either the hardware or the code. It'd be easier to start with a BSD underpinning (MacOS X) or something like Sustainable Software's [sustworks.com] products (MacOS >X.)

    Thus, moderators, please bring down those postings that refer to flying AirPorts.

    BTW, a good (though dated) AirPort technology link is http://www.msrl.com/airport-gold [msrl.com]

  • Of course the fact that the original dual CPU g4's came installed with an OS that only used one CPU might have had something to do with. It certainly didn't help them in the public eye.
  • He is refering to a bug in previous versions of MacOS that was persistant for a few years. Everytime you opened a window you would permanently lose 1k of memory to a memory leak, if I recall. I don't think it's been that way for a few years now, though.
  • Of course that is true for most Operating systems. Even Windows will run for months if you don't touch it. Err... well, now that they fixed that 47 day bug.
  • "What makes the Mac unstable has nothing to do with the OS and eveything to do with the applications it runs. "

    That's absolutely true, and it's what most *nix guys mean when they say those OS's aren't stable.

    Excuses don't help, an OS has no reason to go down short of hardware failure. Ever.
  • That was a troll? Hardly. It was funny. No I'm not being biased against Apple, it would have been funny no matter what system was being ragged on.

    Time to go refresh in metamod until I can right this injustice.
  • yes, i realize this. i actually work in the semiconductor industry, and i'm very familiar with Motorolla PowerPC from and embedded systems standpoint (Motorollo's primary focus for the PowerPC).

    really the only problem with Apple's computers is the fact that Motorolla chips are holding them back. i'm sure they would've gone for IBM long ago, and would have had a plan in place to have near 1Ghz G3s if Altavec wasn't so damned impressive. if it weren't for the Motorolla problem, Apple's computer would be considerably faster and cheaper. it's no reason to go jumping to Intel as some might suggest, but it is a serious problem.

    - j
  • Putting a Mac in space is like using a new Volkswagon Beetle as a spaceship. It's cute, but really out of place. Now don't get me wrong, there are lots of good reasons for people to use a Mac, and I have nothing against them except their way-too-high prices, but... for this kind of thing you have to be a "Believer" to sign on, and the Mac following is better at that than any other bunch.

    After all, they're SUPERCOMPUTERs, right?
  • Only a couple hundred degrees, actually; and the lack of air means you get no convective cooling. On the other hand, if you could manage some kind of a half-shell casing that kept your hot stuff shaded from the sun but exposed to space in the right wavelengths while shielding from trash and hard radiation, you should get enough radiative heat loss - it's fourth power of temperature, after all - to make do :)
  • What exactly are the satellites going to do?

    Quoth the article:

    he plans to build a 544-satellite constellation to provide earthbound Web hosting and e-mail.


    The orbiting Apples would use a modified version of the Apple Airport wireless-data device to transmit information to users here on terra firma.

    It looks like the Macs aren't going to be the web/mail servers (*earthbound* hosting) - all they're going to do is manage radio signals?

  • Even if there were, how much participation would NASA have to have before they got veto powers?
  • by zephc ( 225327 )
    the quietest beowulf cluster in the world (or off of it!) of course, the vacuum of space helps :)

  • So this would be a cube flying overhead with about 10 to 15 mins of useful time before it passes out of range. And they have no plans for working out some sort of handoff to the next cube passing by. Something tells me that this might be one of the most difficult networks from a commercial user standpoint.

    It seems to me that someone can't let the Mac vs. PC war end.

  • Someone contact AOL/Time Warner, Microsoft, or some other capitalist company and buy out this guys technology!!

    I would like to see something good happen for Apple, after all Steve Jobs returning and the iMac did the company some justice this year, this however is like a slap in the face if you ask me. His idea will never fly... liTTerally

    Firestone Tires Spoof [antioffline.com]
  • Just what we need, molten hunks of plastic falling to earth.
  • While I'm no expert, things in space suffer extreme temperature changes. Can the components hold up to that? And what about power...he'll have to have specially-designed solar panels. And propulsion...where is he going to put the propellant? Not to mention radiation...those macs will be crashing left and right. Its amazing that any idiot can be covered by a bored news media.
  • But a PowerBook running the MacOS was able to crack the Alien's central computer and upload a devastating virus that wiped them out and saved all of humanity.
  • ~270C, but that doean't help anything. That's the background radiation. There is no temperature in space because there's nothing to cool you other than you radiating your heat away (winter is cold because the air conducts and convects the heat away from your body). I've read that in space, heating isn't the problem: cooling is because it's so hard to get rid of the excess heat.

    Bill - aka taniwha

  • Hey, let's just shove 544 more pieces of crap into our orbit. I'm sure that'll be great for space-travel in the future -- especially for non-shuttle (space plane) travel.

    I really don't see what the hype is about. This seems like a poor idea and a gross waste of funds.

  • Maybe he should look into using Linux as the OS - he definately isn't going to want to have to figure out a way to reboot the Mac when it runs out of memory.

    Ground Control, "When you move your hand over the button it should light up."
    Project Reboot, "It's lit up."
    Ground Control, "Hit the button when it lights up."
    Joseph Elwell.
  • Than again... NASA is practically panhandling for any funding they can get their hands on, and publicity to boot.
    What's next, millionare vacations on the ISS? Oh, wait...
  • actually cooling in space is a big problem - you have heat input from direct exposure from the sun and from internal sources - but you can only radiate excess heat on the side away from the sun - no cool convective air flows to take heat away - keeping electronics and batteries cool enough to operate safely is a big worry
  • The air trapped in the hardrive will exert a constant pressure on the seals holding it in, increasing the chance of hard drive failure.

    Have you ever noticed a little hole on the top cover of your hard drive with a BO NOT COVER label next to it? That's a vent hole. Air goes in and out through it (heavily filtered, of course). It's the air that allows the heads to float a teensy-weensy distance above the platters while they're spinning (and dragging air around with them). Remember the Landing Zone parameter on old MFM hard drives? That's where the heads would go before the drive stopped spinning so that once they did stop, the heads would stop floating and slide to a halt on the surface.

    Where the hell am I going with all this, you ask? Vacuum of space == no air in drive == heads can't float == hard drive doesn't work. Period. That's why satellites don't have hard drives (they also don't need them).

  • Let's just remember that cubes come without fans and are prone to cracking. They'll all melt before the sun ever has a chance to do any damage.
  • Well, being in the rather chilly environment of a total vacuum, he should at least be able to overclock the hell out of those processors and not worry too much about the heat build-up.

    For some reason I can just envision a Bird of Prey equipped with a 8.6 Linux Kernel decloacking next to one of these things and making waste of it... "Space Garbage!"

  • Or just send up some more of them. You'll have to do something like that anyway, they won't last forever.
  • Three quick notes:

    1) s/BO/DO

    2) The concept of heads floating on a thin cushion of air above the platters is the cornerstone of Winchester hard disk design. This is why the surface of the heads is carefully designed with a contour that promotes the correct "ride height" or "float height" (I can't remember which term is used). IBM's technical documents state the proper float height for their drives.

    If you wanted a hard-drive-like thing in a satellite, you might get away with a solid-state hard drive (rad-hardened, of course... if such a version exists at all).

  • Um, pardon my ignorance, but what *is* standard military voltage?
  • I wish people looked at their hard drives before they say something incorrect. All hard drives have a filtered breather hole.

    Instead of trying to make a disk drive perfectly sealed, disc drive companies make the drive breath from a well filtered breather hole. This is because when drive run and heat up the air expands and wants to push air out, then get turned off and the air wants to come back in. Better to filter air in one spot then get contaminated air from misc. leak points.

  • Until the cost of _launching_ becomes much cheaper it still looks silly from a business perspective.

    He's talking about hundreds of satellites. That's a few billion USD worth of launching there.

    You have to keep launching replacement satellites too. With 544 satellites and a 15 year lifespan you'll need to launch 3 satellites a month.

    Unless costs go down, it'll fail for the same reasons Iridium failed. Iridium didn't really fail because they charged high. Iridium failed because it was a no-win situation.

    If you charge less you'll go bust. Because your satellites won't have capacity to support enough customers to keep you operating at that price. If you charge more, you don't get enough customers.

    The Iridium people thought they would have enough customers willing to pay really high prices. But they were very wrong. GSM roaming was good enough for most. Those that go where normal cellphones don't reach probably don't want to be contacted by cellphone ;).
  • How is the Mac Cube's convection cooling going to work in zero-g?

  • To be viable what you need are not cheaper satellites.

    What you need are cheaper space vehicles, and cheaper launches.

    Once it's about USD50K-100K per launch, such schemes no longer sound ridiculous.
  • This guy is out of his mind if he thinks MacOS is any order more stable than Win32. I sure as hell wouldn't stake the success of a system like this on a desktop operating system. Did it ever occur to him to use an operating system like QNX or even BSD/Linux if he's really got to have the Cubes? The theory behind his madness sounds straight-forward enough, but something just doesnt seem right about having so much faith in MacOS for this kind of project.

  • Dude are you a retard? You're telling people to read the article, then you say that he doesn't plan to use cubes?

    Researcher Dennis Wingo says there's a cheaper, simpler way to set up a network of wireless-data satellites: Girdle the globe with Apple's Cubes

    What part of that didn't you understand? And no, he didn't say he'd use OS9, but it does say Mac OS. I agree that he'll probably use Darwin (more probably the whole OSX) because if he claims that Windows crashes a lot, he doesn't use classic Mac OSs very often.


  • When was the last time you saw a 150lb
    G4 mac cube? Sheesh.
    Anyway... This may not be as farfetched as everyone might think.

    The point is... If he can get it to fly (pun intended)
    They're CHEAP! With enough backups in orbit..
    it should work.

    Now.. as far as it actually being able to handle the traffic that he's thinking of... that
    remains to be seen.. but I don't think he's going
    to have as many problems as most people think he
    A LOT of research has been done on shielding and
    materials to withstand that kind of environment.

    I'm curious to watch the progress on this one ;)

  • by Argyle ( 25623 ) on Friday January 05, 2001 @03:01PM (#527533) Homepage Journal
    The solar radiation will degrade the hard drive and RAM to the point of unusability. Long term solar radiation studies have shown that that extended exposure in orbit subjects electronics to solar storms and other destructive environments that harm non-shielded systems.

    There are also the issues of microgravity and vacuum. Metals behave differently in orbit. Several communications satellites have failed because of the growth of zinc solenoids in the spacecraft in orbit. Plastics will outgas, changing their structure. The air trapped in the hardrive will exert a constant pressure on the seals holding it in, increasing the chance of hard drive failure. All the rules are different in space.

    The temperature differential between the light and dark sides of the satellite are approx. 200 F. With all that thermal stress, all components will be mechanically stressed.

    While I applaud this guys gung-ho spirit, I think he underestimates the harsh environment of space.
  • Sure, a 500mhz box is capable right now, but what happens when these systems need to be upgraded? Are they going to launch 544 missions to each little box and upgrade it? And how are they going to keep all the little screws from flying around in space?
  • You got that one right. Without the atmosphere or a nice space shuttle to shield you from all that alpha and gamma radiation, the system (both CPU and memory) will have huge error rates. Modern processors are already slightly succeptable to alpha particles here on earth. In space...

    Besides, the business model is bogus. Iridum couldn't make it doing phones, what makes him think that he can make money with data-only transmissions competing with DSL, CableModems and GSM/PCS technology?

    Oh yea, then there's the latency issue since you are sending your signals further, making it unacceptable for playing games... Anyway, there's no real North American or Europe market that can support him. Maybe in more remote places lacking current infrastructure it would make sense, but can they pay the cost of all those mini-sats at 120lb a pop???

    - Mike

  • NASA lost their credibility when they wasted millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours because they forgot about the metric system.
  • Bill?


  • this is true.

    At high altitudes (>10,000 feet), driving cars becomes hazardous, because there isn't enough air to adequately cool normal brakes. This, coupled with steep downhills. . .
  • A pooter in Space... I wonder just how much i could overclock my Athlon 1g. Seriously though, why not put linux up on an x86 or throw an an alpha up there? If it's going to be used as a server, those might be more feasable plans, esp. Since I've never heard of a mack cluster b4? Although, there is a ppc version of linux... hmmm..

    Cool Beans! Well at least the Geeks in Space will have something to play with... too bad arent any games written for it :-P

  • <em>Rubbish. You cannot "lock a Mac down harder than a UNIX box". They can both be locked down to any degree desired. </em>

    The trick is to get it watertight out of the box. OpenBSD's probably the closest, but starts to wander away from the mark when you add functionality. There's a quicker return on investment with with Mac servers if you're security conscious. You know how much a Unux security guru costs?

    <em>And sure you can run a Mac with no software and no extensions, but you can't do anything with it. </em>

    In my extensions folder, there are 206 items. (Most of them shared libraries Lotus Notes barfed all over my system.) Do I need an audio CD driver on a server? No. Do I need ColorPicker or ColorSync on a server? No. Do I need MacInTalk? No. Do I need finderpop? No. Ditto for control strips, control panels, any font that didn't come with the OS, etc. Five minutes worth of work gets you one stable Mac server.

    What makes the Mac unstable has nothing to do with the OS and eveything to do with the applications it runs. Protected memory systems (like Unix) are more forgiving of buggy code...if the Gimp dies a horrible death, it won't take the kernal with it. On the other hand, the Mac will reboot if the program/thread isn't coded to exit gracefully on error.

    This means the Mac is only as stable as its applications. This is a problem when you are running enormous and complex applications, like popular web browsers, office productivity suites, or desktop publishing programs.

    Running small RealBasic apps and garden variety networking software tied together with a few Applescripts will likely keep running forever without a reboot.

    OTOH, cruising slashdot with Netscape while photoshopping Steve Jobs sodomizing Tux while "working" on sales pitch in Microsoft Word will probably have you cursing up a storm and rebooting once every couple days. (If you used iCab and Nisus and Canvas instead of NS and Word and Photoshop, you'd probably think those singing the "Macs are unstable" chorus are a bunch of idiots who don't know what they're talking about.)

    So, ironically, where the Mac is supposed to shine the brightest, as a desktop workstation, it is at it's least stable. As a server, it does all right. Better than NT/2000, at any rate, and probably as good as the BSDs. (My personal favorite younickses. Got an OpenBSD box running an intensive PHP-heavy site on an antiquated Sun workstation. I'm impressed with how well it holds up.)

    SoupIsGood Food
  • I don't know if this true or a legend, but the story is that NASA was having problems breaking the glass in a lamp on the Lunar Rover. After several attempt to fix the lamp, someone realized that the purpose of the glass was to maintain a vacuum to prevent the filiment from burning out. On the moon, no glass was neeeded. The correct answer was to install a bare filiment! I think that a hard drive case would be similiarly useless in space. The solution to that problem might be to provide a frame, and forget the case! There are probably other similiar opportunities. On the other hand, the cooling fan isn't going to work very well unless the entire computer case is sealed. Perhaps at space temperatures that will also not be a problem. My point is that there will be both opportunities for improvements in the standard computer designs, and also unexpected problems!
  • Yeah, but he's certainly not going to just take a cube up in a shuttle and heave it out the cargo bay (although that was my first mental image -- I like the idea of hundreds of little cubes orbitting the earth). I think he's planning on starting with the guts of a cube (which are very small, lightweight, cool-running, etc.) and building it into his 120lb satelite.
  • not like the larger atx forms found in x86's and most other computers.

    Oh, come on. There are plenty of small-footprint x86 solutions out there. PC-104 systems are commodity stuff these days.

    This whole scheme just reeks of madness and a complete ignorance of the embeddable hardware on the market.
  • keep me sane. I mean.. if the majority of
    the population will post such drivel.. I feel
    safer knowing that no one else is going to beat
    me at the projects I'm working on.

    I like this guy's thinking.. It jives with mine
    on a certain level.

    Keep being morons (this goes to 89% of the population
    of the earth) 'cause yer just gonna be paying
    my company in the future.

  • Presumably this won't be a stock Cube in it's fancy case and standard equipment (hey, I can't hear the Harmon-Kardon speakers in space...)

    Rather I expect they're planning a motherboard with a PPC in a heavily shielded case, likely with a bunch of thermal stabilization tricks and no hard drive (I presume the gyroscopic effect, spin-transfer, and of course environmental requirements of a hard drive wouldn't be welcome.) A couple meg of solid-state memory would do just as well as a hard drive anyway since it's not gonna be running Photoshop or any bloaty MS applications.

    I doubt it'll run MacOS 9 (why bring along all of the integral GUI for a remote device) but rather some Darwin derivitive. Why Darwin over some other random *nix? Probably 'cause one can assume Darwin will work really well on a Apple motherboard with Apple's own Northbridge etc.

    All said however I do wonder why the insistance of using a general design over those from groups like Hams & Universities have come up with. Also why on using Apple hardware in particular over the legions of equally small and at this point relatively efficient embedded x86 (as in 386 & 486 eqiv.) motherboards? I can't imagine processing-power is a bottleneck in this kind of application.

    Aside from that there's been a *lot* of non-big-name comsat design, much of it remarkably clever & low cost as well as at this point relatively well tested. Reinventing the wheel, even if it's using very off-the-shelf components seems like little savings over using off-of-a-smaller-but-still-cheap-shelf with tried-&-true hardware. At the costs they're talking about the risk/savings ratio just doesn't seem to work out.

    Of course I'm neither a motherboard designer nor a comsat engineer so probably there's a lot I don't have a clue about...

  • Hey, my mom is buying a cube. It's the perfect computer for her -- it's small, quiet, completely unobtrusive. So they're a bit pricey -- but they're not that expensive, and she's really not comparison shopping just based on price. There really isn't anything else out there in its niche (it's probably just a smaller niche than Apple estimated).
  • No, because once society (magically) decides that our future is in space, we'll (again, magically) have all the data and experience we need to start building huge stations and inter-planetary craft.

    Oh, you mean that's NOT how it works?!


  • As far as I know, convection cooling doesn't work in zero G. Why choose the G4 cube as opposed to the mini-tower? There aren't really any advantages, heck you can't even upgrade the G4 cube due to space (sic) considerations.
  • "Standard Military Voltage" is what Circuit City applies to it's Drones just before every shift. If you look at the back of their skulls you can just see where the droud is fitted in. This is what results in their empty glazed look as they stumble about and read out the sales card to confused customers...

    (Go ahead, go into any general electronics shop and ask the clerks to tell you one relevant thing about a computer product that's not on the card. It's not that everything is on the card, it's that they've had no training and know almost as little about computers as they do about French-Fryers, Car Audio & Talking Toasters (all departments they have also likely worked in the past month.))

    Besides, Apple has negligible DOD sales these days. Consumer, Publishing, Graphics/Multimedia, Academia, and R&D institutions (particularly Bio folks) are the big Apple markets, military probably ranks after direct sales to "Hair Care Professionals".

  • How would these systems handle the huge swings in temperature? I think that the temperature extremes these things would go through in space are beyond the tested tolerances for most consumer hardware..
  • There is a reason that most of the computers sent into space are not normal boxes. The radiation and magnetism present in space nessecitates that a good portion of the bits in the commands be dedicated to error correction and parity. A cube, even with that strong, yet usually flawed casing, will not be able to function in space without excessive shielding, which will defeat the main purpose of the cube: it will not be pretty. Remember that ham sateliete that went up, and the PC on it crashed? Well, a Macintosh, in my experience, will not even run at normal terran altitudes, I doubt it will work in vacuum.
  • Oh yes, and he might want to include the purdy looking speakers that are designed for the cube, you know the octopus-tentacle ones? I am sure that those will be about as useful as the cube will be, and they will give the astronauts in the ISS something to jam to! Note: I know that vacuum does not conduct sound.
  • As far as I'm concerned, the eyes of hurricanes have been a private playground for a government chosen elite for far too long. I think I'll take my next vacation in one...
  • Too much latency for games?

    Who's actually going to pay the high wireless fees just to play online games? I don't see any other use for this beyond fast connect-disconnect services like email, small FTP transfers and quick searches.

    And since we have more than enough alternatives to orbiting servers that are more efficient, easier to upgrade and maintain, cheaper and faster -- I don't see any serious application for this.

  • Besides, the business model is bogus. Iridum couldn't make it doing phones

    Iridium didn't succeed because they were charging upwards of $3 per MINUTE for their phone service, and the phone themselves cost many hundreds of dollars. These sats are supposed to be much cheaper, off-the-shelf parts, so I imagine the service would be a LOT cheaper.

    Still don't think it will work though...

    - Isaac =)
  • I think the decision to use apple cubes was based on displacement and weight... right now it costs something like $10k/lb to eject something into space, and a shuttle isn't exactly a 5 bedroom hotel... they've got those things stuffed fuller'n a thanksgiving turkey w/ stuffing coming out it's arse!
  • they should stick with the current design...
  • The operating system isn't the important thing. It's the fact that it's The Cube. The cubed shape of the case looks spacey, I guess -- and although nobody is going to be looking at these things while they're in space, the artist's renderings of little Mac cubes bring more awe to investors and the press. After all, publicity is the important thing -- substance is secondary.
  • by Chairboy ( 88841 ) on Friday January 05, 2001 @03:26PM (#527559) Homepage
    Most of these (very valid)concerns can be addressed cheaply. He probably intends to shield most of the hardware. He can avoid most of the plastics problems by removing the Cubes from their boxes and putting the components in a special case, and by filling the sealed case with nitrogen at low pressure, he can avoid having too large of a pressure differential between the components and their surroundings. He'll need to do this anyhow so he can install special heat transfer sinks to pull heat out to radiators.

    Finally, by choosing a super-low albedo material for the outside (polished silver or white, for instance) he can reduce the mechanical stressing (which is caused by the temperature differential) by a lot, making this a viable cheap satellite.
  • I highly doubt they're sending an ots (off the shelf) cube... the article discussed using lightweight metals and indicated that the computer would be assembled in space... I'm sure that the NASA boy's are going to be more than eager to share their knowlege with this guy... besides, the computer oly weighs 5lbs, tops, and at current pricing ($10k/lb) that leaves a lot of padding for the progect. Keep in mind, it's supposed to cost about $10M to make it operational... Even assuming 1/2 of that is for manpower, Using an ots pooter would only cost 1M for delivery... I'm certain they're going to hook the computer up with a solar array, heat dissipators and sheilds, and radiation sheilding. They'll probably use a decompressed drive, and use a proprietary case... the important part is that the unit is small... not like the larger atx forms found in x86's and most other computers. They'll probably rip the guts out of the case, and fit it into their own, designed to be inexpensive to mass produce, and effective at maintaining operation in space. my $2000000E-6
  • studying the effect of weightlessness on hamster's mating habits, or the growth of a tomato plant. Really pathetic.
    Thats not pathetic. Thats pragmatic. Welcome to the 21st Century. We will be in space this century. We will be building closed ecosystems.

  • NASA contracted with the people who made the mistake and they should have verified the work.
  • I meant ~ -270 (forgot a keypress :/)

    I still stand by then "no temperature in space", "space has no temperature" is the same thing just phrased differently (though I just saw your point: mine is a little ambiguous). Radiation is not temperature as temperature is a measure of how much thermal energy is stored in a mass.

    Solar wind wouldn't give you a vector I think, but it would give you a wind chill effect :) (mind you negligable due to it's sparsity).

    Bill - aka taniwha

  • Does it? I was under the impression that convection worked by the fact that hot air rises, pulling in cold air from the bottom of the cube. Hot air rises because it is less dense than cold air - less dense and thus not as heavy per square unit. In zero g, the weight of an object would nothing, since Weight=mass*gravity and gravity=0, thus Weight=0.
  • PC Operating Systems are unstable in many situations because of hardware differences, when manufacturers fail to follow the spec.
    If that were true, Linux would be no more stable than Windows. Windows crashes because it's badly written. A Windows box may also sometimes crash because of hardware, but Windows is so bad by itself, that sometimes it's hard to tell when you really DO have a hardware problem -- You tend to presume that the problem is with the OS (usually a good bet!). WIndows' lack of a sane explanation when it crashes doesn't help much, either.
  • And you have no convective airflow even in the space station, because of the microgravity environment. I do hope this guy understands that you shouldn't try to use a Mac Cube in space without considering cooling. Inside the space station, adding a fan is enough, but outside is going to be much trickier.

    Another thing that has me concerned is that the guy is proposing just throwing it from the space station. In addition to resulting in a rather imprecise orbit, there's always the chance that it will hit the space station when it returns. While this isn't as bad as hitting an object orbiting in the oppsite direction (with impact speed = 2X orbital speed), an object that size could still do some damage to the space station.

    I think this guy has an interesting idea, but as far as implementation goes, he's a kook.

  • My Redhat 6.2 box at work with all name-brand hardware (...) kernel panics about once a week.
    My quick guess is to try reseating the memory DIMS. I've seen that help a surprisingly high percentage of kernel panic problems. (In the apple II days, the default 'fix' was to push down on every socketed DIP you could see on the motherboard -- also surprisingly effective.)

    RAM is a rather critical and highly-stressed component of computer systems, these days. In afterthought, it's not surprising that the RAM socket is a source of many failures.

  • Wouldn't that be the developer of the applications fault?

    No, it would not be. The App is not responsible for keeping the box up. Thats what the OS is for
  • 500 MHz is fine for quite a long time. Remember, NASA just recently (well in the last year or two) upgraded the Hubble from 10 year old 386's to brand new 486's... It's not like they need to be running Gnome, MS Office, Photoshop or any other resource hungry application...

    AFAIR, the original power macs (60 to 80 MHz PPC601's), with their GeoPorts which were basically serial ports controlled by the CPU rather than an extra chip, could flood a T1 on each port, while still remaining relatively responsive for the foreground applications.

    500 MHz G4's should be robust enough to tons of bandwidth flying through them...
  • Why does a satellite costs as much as it does. You can build a device with the same functionality for less.
    The problems is that it is a lot harder to replace a part that breaks down. That's why you don't want to use a Mac(or other end(l)user hardware). If a Mac or a PC for that matter was built with the same requirements for the MTBF as a satellite the price of the hardware would skyrocket(pun intended). The test required for each circut and chip would make it impossible to sell today.
    So go ahead and launch your Mac into space, just don't me to go and fix it. well maybe I would like to but who's gonna pay.
  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Friday January 05, 2001 @03:20PM (#527611) Homepage
    after READING the article, (wot a concept!) I start to see a method to his madness.

    Nowhere does it say that a Mac cube will be used. Nowhere does it say that MacOS 9 will be used.

    It's a 120 lb satellite, not engineered to withstand launch stresses, because it will be assembled in orbit. Many of the parts are off the shelf - including probably not more than a motherboard and CPU of a macintosh (much cheaper than designing a controller) - which will probably THINK it's running an Airport - but I'm betting it will be fooled into thinking that it's running airport when it's running some higher-powered device (airport range = 150 feet on disputed radio bandwidth (in France)), (his satellite range, altitude of 120 miles plus azimuth. . .).

    In fact, I bet it will run Darwin, probably without a hard-drive, (probably some sheilded flash RAM device instead), and probably with lots of custom software (like TiVo runs Linux). (I'm guessing Darwin because it would be much easier to run the transceiver as Airport that way than trying to hack together something with Linux - BSD is supposedly more reliable than Linux anyway, but I digress and risk a flamewar).

    Cooling will be an issue, and so might radiation, but a PPC chip will give him some pretty good computing power without worring about heat as much as with SOME OTHER solutions.

    Of course, part of the 120 lbs will probably be gyros, solar panels, the transmitter and amplifier,

    but the main gimmick here, is that he's using off the shelf parts, and assembling them in orbit, in an attempt to reduce costs. (in other words, he probably plans on all devices being launched from ISS or Shuttle, assembled in orbit). Yeah, the labor of assembling in orbit is probably LOTS higher, but you end up reducing the overall weight by bunches, by not having to design solar-panel deployment systems, shrouds, and shock-resistant innards.

    If he's planning on spending $10 million on the first device (instead of hundreds of millions for standard communications satellites), it sounds like a worthy project to me (*cough* irridium)
  • This does not make sense, putting stuff up in space is extremely expensive, therefore the lighter the better. It would actually be cheaper buying a smaller lighter PPC controller board and preloading it. DVD drives in space? I don't think so. And are those 7400's able to stand the radiation up in space?

    I don't think so. Off the shelf components will not survive the temperature and radiation extremes. A solar storm would kill them all, and shielding them is not too easy.

  • don't go by what you think of the company to judge its OS. My one server (code name NegativeNINE [moldycr.net]) was running Mac OS 9, and stable everyday between 3/March/2000 through mid October/2000, when i had a blackout. That is 7.5 months at least. and the blackout wasn't the computers fault. i would recommend they put something a bit better on there though, such as a PowerMac 8500. I run Mac OS X Server on NegativeNINE now, as i use it as a server for people to crack into. much more stuff to try if it runs a *nix, over Mac OS.

    I am Moldy.

  • Macs, when used as stone stock simple servers, tend to be fairly reliable, with uptimes on the order of years for some older (Pre-PowerPC) systems I'm personally aware of.

    Macs become unstable when you dump a crapload of extensions, control panels, fonts, third party software, plugins for third party software, plugins for plugins for third party software, and, well, you get the drift.

    Clear the cruft out of the system folder, use only proven, reliable third party software and damn little of it, and the lowly and much maligned Mac can keep cranking the bits month after month with the younicks big boys. Figure in some scheduled downtime every so often for a pre-emptive reboot, and it will be spiffy for as long as they're up there.

    Why bother putting up with three minutes downtime out of a week? Security. You can lock a mac down harder than a Unix or windows box. Simplicity. Configuring these bad boys will be a breeze. Plus, tools like RealBasic and Applescript make coding applications and scripts painless and powerful...without sacrificing reliability.

    Put anything that says "Netscape" or "Quark" on there, and the mission is doooooooomed!

    Just 'cuz the consensus has it that Macs are inherently unreliable, doesn't mean it's neccesarily true, or that the "unreliability" is a liability to steep to be surmounted. Question consensus, and do a little thinking and research for yourself.

    SoupIsGood Food
  • What's next, millionare vacations on the ISS? Oh, wait...

    And just what's wrong with this? As far as I'm concerned space as a been a private playground for a government chosen elite for far too long. Someday I want to be able to take a vacation in space, opening up the ISS to anyone who can afford the trip is a good thing IMO, because it's paving the way for the rest of us to get up there.

If at first you don't succeed, you are running about average.