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Comment Re: Next up - Falcon Heavy!! (Score 3, Informative) 103

Besides R&D, fixed infrastructure costs are huge. And there are somewhere north of 5000 employees! Block 5 (now also called Falcon 9 2.0, the latest and supposedly final version of Falcon 9) is supposed to refly 10 times. With greater than 20 launches per year in Florida, recovery may reach an economic payoff.

Comment Re:Shame it's not NASA (Score 3, Insightful) 103

The US gave up the idea of space exploration for the sake of science, and sold it to the highest bidder.

That's not actually how things are going at all. The U.S. has always had contractors build its rockets, now some contractors have chosen to build their own and sell rides to NASA and others. This is an inevitable consequence of the development of rocketry.

If you want to cry about something, go back to the 50 year vacation the U.S. took from space development at the end of the Apollo program.

Comment Re:Next up - Falcon Heavy!! (Score 4, Insightful) 103

Falcon 9 Heavy would be the largest operating launch system by weight carried to orbit. The closest competitor might be Blue Origin's New Glenn, which they haven't really started to build yet and is 4 years away if they work real hard, by which time SpaceX might have a similar large rocket.

National rocket programs and ULA are still in the denial stage. ULA has a theoretical, not built, recovery program called "SMART recovery" which is more efficient in flight but less economically efficient because it throws away most of the rocket, which probably makes it a non-starter given how SpaceX is doing.

SpaceX recovery is not yet proven to be economically feasable - it works and gives them a reserve of first-stages so that they can do launches faster than companies that have to build the first stage, but it doesn't yet save money - but it looks like SpaceX will get there.

Comment Re:Oh Really (Score 2, Funny) 359

Sorry, Bruce, sarcasm is in our DNA here, and that goes for numbered users as well as ACs.

Actually, you are perpetuating the naive assumption that Anonymous Cowards are human beings who have feelings. Not so. Anonymous Cowards are actually alien beings from a planet orbiting the star Beta Anonyma. They emigrated to Middle America and have been posing as real people, having destroyed their own planet through bad political policy. Although they have developed a society nearly as intelligent as ours (not quite as intelligent, they are actually the cause of the Red States Mystery), they do not have feelings, they are thoughtless automations who have been programmed to believe that they are alive and have feelings, which they volubly protest while in fact being entirely without consciousness. Also, no matter how many Anonymous Cowards you meet, they are all one individual.

Comment Re:Oh Really (Score 3, Interesting) 359

t Raspberry Pi, while not exactly open source, is pretty close, and it's available now. Feel free to trick that out and use it as your primary workstation.

I do have some issues with documentation. Have they now documented the GPU (or whatever it is) that first has control at boot time, before the main CPU is enabled? I'd also like to use the LVDS for an SDR rather than the camera and display, and that was not documented either the last time I looked. There was also some chat about additional entirely undocumented coprocessors on the die.

Comment Re: Oh Really (Score 4, Informative) 359

I doubt that open source hardware would prevent hardware bugs, but it would provide a way of avoiding backdoors that are intentionally placed. You're absolutely right in that respect.

Use of gate-arrays would make the bugs reprogrammable. And now that we have mobile gate-arrays, performance is actually getting pretty good.

Comment Re:Oh Really (Score 3, Informative) 359

Unfortunately, as you well know, this approach means goodbye to virtually very computing-type device most of us have become accustomed-to.

Maybe you haven't been following gate-array development. There are mobile ones now. They use FLASH to store the program bits. And the rest is CMOS which we know how to power-manage. The gate-arrays of yore were more power-thirsty because nobody cared back then.

Comment There is an alternative (Score 4, Insightful) 310

I have a paper on Open Cars, written with Lother Determann (a Boalt Hall [Berkeley Law] professor). One of the issues I go over is just how fast the hardware in your car goes obsolete, compared to your phone. Manufacturers want embedded net features because they can have a continuing income after you have purchased the car, from wireless fees (the cellular company kicks back fees to the auto manufacturer) and from advertising and content. But you will end up plugging in a phone less than 2 years old instead of the built-in device.

The problem is worse with self-driving computers. Who wants one more than 2 years old? Not even the state authorities who will license them.

Auto manufacturers would like to solve this by having everyone lease their car. An alternative is for the car to have plugs for self-driving and network features, allowing the user more control. The paper has more detail on the social and legal issues.

I have a 2007 Prius, a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and a Trailmanor travel trailer. Obviously I commute in the Prius and save the big SUV for tasks that need it. When I bought the Jeep, I rejected the connected version and went for a model with a dumber radio. I doubt I'm alone in making that choice.

Comment Oh Really (Score 2, Funny) 359

Thank you for this vast work of erudition, anonymous moron.

Someday, perhaps, when you are a pre-adolescent, you may aquire somewhat more knowledge of computers, though probably not enough to make you top-heavy. At that time, you may hear of a miraculous device called a gate-array which makes it possible to craft a running CPU similarly to the way that programmers write software. With this device, someone of greater skill than you will put together a computer that might not be as fast as you like, and might not have as many transistors as you like, and might use more power than you like, but will be capable of running an Open Source CPU with a known-bitstream so that the chance of there being nasties that we're not told about that spy on us built into the CPU die is reduced from today's horrible state (gate-arrays can still have them, but the people who make these nasties don't know in advance where we put the CPU implementation).

The instruction set and currently-fixed hardware features like the MMU and the translation look-aside buffer (a feature implicated today) will be repairable by changing the bitstream.

This will never be as efficient as a fully-custom chip, but it can be good enough. Many of us will be happier using it. And for those of us who require algorithm acceleration (hopefully for better reasons than mining cryptocoins, but that is one example) it will be possible to code it into the system and get the advantages of a hardware implementation without it being so hard.

Comment Just one way to get everything you want (Score 4, Interesting) 359

If you really want an Open Source, after-market bug fixes, and security, the best way to do that is to use not a CPU at all but a programmable gate-array. This also gives you the ability to have evolution in purchased hardware, for example improvement of the instruction set. The problem is finding a gate-array that is fast enough, dense enough, and power-conserving enough.

It would be cool to code your own special-purpose algorithm accelerators in VHDL or Verilog, etc.

This is sort of on the edge of practical, if you have the money to spend. Not as fast, not as powerful, uses more electricity, infinitely flexible. Certainly there would be some good research papers, etc., in building one.

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