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Comment Re:Just think (Score 1) 252

I think the more telling thing from these numbers is to show just how powerful these US technology companies are. Likely if you were to factor companies like Oracle and Intel into the mix, you're talking about one of the most economically potent sectors in the world. I don't really care much about the whole "repatriation" issue, seeing as by and large, with the exception of the EU, where they make the sales they pay the tax (in the EU, they are doing a bit of an avoidance scheme by moving all the profits to Ireland).

Comment Re:At least they're honest (Score -1, Troll) 152

Now that Mueller is digging into the business dealings of Trump and his associates, and with approval ratings south of Nixon in his final days, I'd say it's irrelevant. Even if Trump's presidency survives this, as can be seen from the ACA repeal and replace debacle, he has so little political capital, and so little desire to use whatever political capital he possesses that I can't imagine this will ever get very far. Even if it does, it's certain Congress will kill it.

Comment Re: Screw it (Score 2) 156

Yeah, and they were trying out never-before used titanium grid fins, too. But that was their highest energy trajectory yet (as noted, they keep pushing the bounds on trying to land more and more difficult trajectories). I imagine they'll cut back on that a lot once the Heavy is in full service and they can just offload heavier payloads to the Heavy.

Comment Re:More difficult with people? (Score 3, Insightful) 156

Beta testing: Musk has openly and often stated that autopilot is "continuously improving" and "evolving" and constant software updates are being made to existing installations.

You mean like almost every piece of software we use today? Do you call whatever programs and operating systems you're now "beta" because there's regular updates for them? Most people consider the ability to patch software a good thing. Traditionally, cars are stuck with whatever they're shipped with, and retain any deficiencies for their entire lifespan.

Shitty : fails to detect enormous object right in front of the car, when one of the stated purposes of the system is to detect objects in front of the car.

Yes, one failure from a guy who was ignoring warnings and watching Harry Potter, in over a billion vehicle miles under autopilot. My god, how unthinkable.

Half-assed : the vendor of the hardware disassociates itself from Tesla stating the tech is not being correctly implemented

Yes, that was their accusation as for why they were cutting off their relationship with Tesla. Contrarily, Tesla's accusation is that the Mobileye cutoff occurred when Mobileye learned that Tesla was doing its own in-house image recognition development, aka was going to be cutting Mobileye out of the loop in the future, and demanded as a condition to continue that Tesla kill its in-house development. Mobileye responded claiming that they knew about the team, but didn't feel threatened by it... yadda yadda yadda. Lovely when contract negotiations play out in public.

Comment Re: Screw it (Score 4, Informative) 156

To elaborate on the above AC's point, here's a list of SpaceX launches (starting with the first oceanic "landing" attempt) and their success/failure rate.

29-sep-2013: Ocean failure
03-dec-2013: No attempt
06-jan-2014: No attempt
18-apr-2014: Ocean success
14-jul-2014: Ocean success
05-aug-2014: No attempt
07-sep-2014: No attempt
21-sep-2014: Ocean success
10-jan-2015: Drone ship failure
11-feb-2015: Ocean success
02-mar-2015: No attempt
14-apr-2015: Drone ship failure
27-apr-2015: No attempt
**********28-jun-2015: In-flight failure
22-dec-2015: Ground pad success
17-jan-2016: Drone ship failure
04-mar-2016: Drone ship failure
08-apr-2016: Drone ship success
06-may-2016: Drone ship success
27-may-2016: Drone ship success
15-jun-2016: Drone ship failure
18-jul-2016: Ground pad success
14-aug-2016: Drone ship success
**********01-sep-2016: Pre-launch testing failure
14-jan-2017: Drone ship success
19-feb-2017: Ground pad success
16-mar-2017: No attempt
30-mar-2017: Drone ship success
01-may-2017: Ground pad success
15-may-2017: No attempt
03-jun-2017: Ground pad success
23-jun-2017: Drone ship success
25-jun-2017: Drone ship success
05-jul-2017: No attempt

These don't even tell the whole story because not only has their success rate gone way up, but they've also been attempting to land from increasingly difficult flight envelopes that previously they wouldn't have even attempted from (and simply flown legless / finless rockets)

The issue with testing rocket landing is, you can't just do it in some research lab; you can only do it by actually landing rockets, and changing whatever doesn't work. That's the only way you can learn of your failure modes. Sure, you can use scaled-down testbeds, and SpaceX did that with the Grasshopper series - but there's the difference between a testbed and something that actually goes to orbit. There's a reason that SpaceX used to call them "experimental landings". I don't think they use that term any more; nowadays a landing failure would be seen as a pretty significant setback.

Comment Re:I'm shocked! (Score 5, Insightful) 156

So.... he didn't read the requirements before he started

Right, so you apparently think there was just some printed list sitting around of what NASA will and won't accept when you want to do something that's not been done before (propulsive crew landing)? As was made abundantly clear, what NASA will and won't accept came out of discussions with NASA. It became increasingly clear over time that they weren't going to allow it, so they cut it. I'm sure that you and your army of space psychics could have handled it better.

didn't look at previous NASA designs used successfully,

Yeah, let's just go back to Redstones. Because that will surely lead us to the future that SpaceX is working to achieve! The whole point is to innovate in ways that can make access to space cheaper and more routine, not to keep repeating what we know doesn't allow for cheap, routine access to space.

Even his cars are low-sales,

I love this double talk that you get from Slashdotters. On one hand, bringing a brand new mode of transportation from almost nothing to huge demand, to the degree that each new model is produced is in volumes an order of magnitude than the previous and yet accumulates even greater waiting lists, isn't happening nearly fast enough, that Tesla is "low sales" (actually, no, they're not, not when you take into account market segment). On the other hand, we're also always flooded with posts about how Tesla isn't paying dividends and keeps having to take capital rounds. So let me get this straight, Slashdot. Tesla is supposed to have, in a decade, gone from "design concept for an electric car" to "selling more cars than the major automakers", of an entirely different type of vehicle, while paying dividends and not raising capital. Am I understanding this correctly?

Tesla's rate of growth has been phenomenal. The fact that you find an automaker going from almost nothing to opening up factory lines to produce hundreds of thousands of $35k+ vehicles per year in under a decade to be way to slow, boggles the mind.

Sure, it's nice that he's throwing his money away so others don't have to, but as yet he hasn't really achieved much that couldn't have been done better, faster and more usefully than just giving that same money to NASA

For decades, US launch costs had stagnated. In the matter of a few years, SpaceX cut them to a small fraction of their former value - and they've only barely just started reuse. Again, the fact that you find this to be "not really achieving much" and that you think NASA would have done better (despite decades of distinctly not doing better) likewise boggles the mind.

Comment Re:More difficult with people? (Score 3, Insightful) 156

beta testing his shitty half-assed autopilot junk on the buying public

Questions Answer: Yes
(1) Have you ever used Autopilot before? 99 %
(2) Are you familiar with the car warnings that Tesla provides about how Autopilot is to be properly used? 98 %
(3) Are you aware that when you first enable the Autopilot, you have to do so through the Drivers Assistance section of Settings on
the center screen? 93 %
(4) Are you aware / Do you know that after enabling Autopilot, you had to agree to an acknowledgment box which stated that
Autopilot “is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times” and that “similar to the
autopilot function in airplanes, you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle” while using Autopilot? 99 %
(5) Do you know that each time you activate Autopilot, a message appeares on the screen behind the steering wheel stating:
“Please Keep Your Hands On The Wheel; Be Prepared To Take Over At Any Time“? 96 %
(6) Based on these communications, have you understood that when using Autopilot, the driver is expected to maintain control of the
vehicle at all times? 98 %
(7) Has the name “Autopilot” caused you to believe that the car is fully autonomous, meaning that it does not require the driver to be
supervising the car? 7 % (No : 93 %)

There was an interesting study done (unrelated to the German owners survey above) which showed that the minor autopilot failures (occasional lane drift, unexpected speed changes) are ironically improving consumer safety. Users were well aware of its ability to make mistakes specifically because they're common enough, and this keeps the vast majority of users from treating the vehicle like a tool you don't have to pay attention to it; instead they tend to treat it more like cruise control. As automation improves, the danger may counterintuitively increase as users get used to never having to do anything when the vehicle is driving and thus stop paying attention.

At the same time, despite the frequency of errors, the overwhelming majority of users felt that its failures presented either no risk, or little risk, as they tend to be things that any reasonable driver could react to (in the same way that we don't fear cruise control because if it's looking like it's going to drive us into the rear of the car ahead of us, we slow down). E.g. autopilot never just suddenly jerks the wheel to hard right in the middle of a road or whatnot. They also get quite used to what situations you use it in and what you don't use it in (just like people do with cruise control); the fact that the system won't let you use it when it perceives its ability to follow the road to be too poor doesn't even need to factor into the equation.

Comment Re: Screw it (Score 5, Insightful) 156

That's the thing I don't get. SpaceX is saving the US government huge amounts of money. Yet so many Slashdotters have this weird conception that they're a giant leach sucking government budgets dry. Their conception is precisely the opposite of reality. ULA has been getting an unbelievable sweetheart deal for government launches, getting paid even when they don't launch anything, and charging massive fees when they do, while also getting government subsidy to develop new craft. SpaceX paid back its COTS funding in spades versus what was being doled out to ULA.

Comment Re:I'm shocked! (Score 5, Informative) 156

It's like you didn't even read the article or pay attention to what he said. So I guess someone has to repeat it for you.

NASA's regulations for propulsive landing of a Dragon 2 capsule are too difficult to reasonably meet. So they're dropping propulsive landing from Dragon 2. Meaning it can't land on Mars either. At the same time, they've decided that there's a better approach to landing on Mars than Dragon 2's approach of a bottom-mounted heat shield and side-mounted thrusters.

And for the record, that better approach is what they're looking at with ITS - a side lifting body heat shield with base thrusters for landing. The latter spreads the heat out over a much larger area (Dragon 2 had no option for that because it had no giant, partially empty propellant tanks attached) and increases the length of time over which the heating occurs, slowing the rate.

It'll be interesting to see their changes to ITS. I'm glad to see that "smaller" is among them - I like ambition, but ITS was a step too far, IMHO.

Comment Re:It's a matter of time... (Score 5, Insightful) 360

Indeed. I don't quite understand how you could classify a laser weapon along side nukes. Nukes are indiscriminate, tend to cause a lot of collateral civilian damage, and as you say, the fallout can have effects far from the point of the nuclear detonation, not to mention long-term effects in the area of the detonation.

A laser weapon, on the other hand, is more like a bullet in that it is aimed at a specific target, so short of the target crashing to the ground and taking people out, the level of collateral damage is going to generally be low. Since this is on a ship, the target is most likely going to fall into the water, so unless we've suddenly decided the death of sea gulls and krill is a crime against humanity, I'd say we'd be better off seeing more laser weapons and less nuclear weapons.

Comment Re:Hmmm. (Score 2) 691

I grew up in the city and moved out to the suburbs. While local activists in my current town have marked a lot of bike lanes, I don't see them getting much use; if you go out on any particular day you might see one or two cyclists using them. But I took a detour through the old neighborhood recently, and was astonished the degree to which bicycling has caught on there. Driving over the course of about a mile I must have seen at least fifty cyclists using the sharrow lanes.

The point is, to get people in my current neighborhood using bikes instead of cars, you'd have to invest serious money; the pavement and traffic impact alone in my old urban neighborhood probably pays for the lane markings. But where would the money be spent? Probably where there are already a lot of cyclists. It needs to be spent, ironically, where people find cycling inconvenient or dangerous.

Not far from my house is eight miles of bike path that link five communities with about 200,000 population. But the path is fractured into four fragments; getting from one to the other is a tricky and dangerous; the gaps amount to maybe 150 yards in total. At the end of the bike path there's another bike path that leads to the town where I grew up, an industrial suburb where 80,000 people live and quite a few people from the five communities work. It's only 700 feet away as the crow flies, but getting there by bike takes three miles of riding along a major traffic artery. That city has an extensive bike trail network, and you can get anywhere easily on a combination of quiet side streets and rail-converted trails.

If every cyclist in these five communities paid $12, perhaps we could close that roughly 1000 feet of gap, creating a single trail network linking over a quarter million people. Thousands would potentially be able to bike to work across a path where there are currently no good direct mass transit connections. City dwellers would have easy bike access (granted after a ten mile ride) to the beach, and to a 2200 acre forest.

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