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Space

Submission + - Would you support National Space Society videos on the importance of space? (kickstarter.com) 1

garyebickford writes: "I didn't know where to put this (it's not really science, where most space stuff goes), but I think it's important so I'm asking Slashdot: how important is space development in your opinion? How would you tell people about it? National Space Society wants to produce several videos about the importance, and the potential, of commercial space development.

I think space development could be the most important subject today. The potential of space industry for relieving various resource issues on Earth (including even possible 'climate change' and other ecological concerns) could make many of the contentious issues of the day moot. Just as the 'discovery' of the New World and sudden availability of large amounts of various resources disrupted the economic and political systems of the entire world, so also space could completely change the game on Earth again. I think this is not only overall a good thing, I think it is inevitable and we should be planning for it"

Comment Re:In a word: no (Score 1) 223

The interesting thing is that, if predictions pan out, it will be difficult for any one organization to establish a monopoly (of the sort now maintained by DeBeers), with regard to any particular resource. As such, your plan won't work for long. It would be too easy for someone to go out there and find another 1000-ton asteroid filled with 1% platinum, or whatever, and no reason for them to participate in a cartel.

Caveat: the real monopoly may be various resources required for those wanting to get out to the asteroids, mining them, and delivering them back to near-earth. I expect that the early players are going to work very hard to establish monopoly power by lobbying for exclusivity with the UN, and proceed with rent-seeking. The most likely argument will be the need to limit vehicle re-entry to licensed paths, and 'volunteering' to provide that traffic control for free (and optimizing for one organization's traffic). I hope that they fail in that.

Therefore I hope that an internationally-chartered body is established (perhaps descended or merged from the various national satellite tracking organizations, and/or from the national air traffic control organizations) to provide near-earth orbital traffic control, without favoritism to particular entities.

Shameless plug, which is relevant: Support the National Space Society's Kickstarter project! Our Future in Space to produce several videos that demonstrate the opportunities and the need for space development, with award-winning production team.

Open Source

Submission + - Why a Linux user is using Windows 3.1 (networkworld.com) 1

colinneagle writes: About two weeks back, I was using my Android tablet and looking for a good graphics editor. I wanted something with layers and good text drawing tools. That’s when it hit me. We already have that.

Photoshop used to run on Windows 3.1. And Windows 3.1 runs great under both DOSBox and QEMU, both of which are Open Source emulators available for Android and every other platform under the sun.

So I promptly set to work digging up an old copy of Photoshop. The last version released for Windows 3.1 was back in 1996. And finding a working copy proved to be...challenging. Luckily, the good folks at Adobe dug around in their vaults and managed to get me up and running.

And, after a bit of tweaking, I ended up with an astoundingly functional copy of Photoshop that I can now run on absolutely every device I own. And the entire environment (fonts, working files and all) are automatically backed up to the cloud and synced between systems.

But what other applications (and, potentially, games) does this give me access to? How far can I take this?

Chrome

Submission + - Acer Sees Success in Chrome; Windows Fails to Drive Sales (bloomberg.com)

Dupple writes: Acer Inc. the Taiwanese computer maker that’s suffered two consecutive annual losses, posted strong sales of notebooks using Google Chrome platform after the release of Microsoft Windows 8 failed to ignite the market.

Chrome-based models accounted for 5 percent to 10 percent of Acer’s U.S. shipments since being released there in November, President Jim Wong said in an interview at the Taipei-based company’s headquarters. That ratio is expected to be sustainable in the long term and the company is considering offering Chrome models in other developed markets, he said.

“Windows 8 itself is still not successful,” said Wong, whose company posted a 28 percent drop in fourth-quarter shipments from a year earlier. “The whole market didn’t come back to growth after the Windows 8 launch, that’s a simple way to judge if it is successful or not.”

Security

Submission + - 58,000 Security Camera Systems Critically Vulnerable To Hackers (forbes.com) 1

Sparrowvsrevolution writes: Eighteen brands of security camera digital video recorders are vulnerable to an attack that would allow a hacker to remotely gain control of the devices to watch, copy, delete or alter video streams at will, as well as to use the machines as jumping-off points to access other computers behind a company's firewall, according to tests by two security researchers. And 58,000 of the hackable video boxes, all of which use firmware provided by the Guangdong, China-based firm Ray Sharp, are accessible via the Internet.

Early last week a hacker who uses the handle someLuser found that commands sent to a Swann DVR via port 9000 were accepted without any authentication. That trick would allow anyone to retrieve the login credentials for the DVR's web-based control panel. To compound the problem, the DVRs automatically make themselves visible to external connections using a protocol known as Universal Plug And Play, (UPNP) which maps the devices' location to any local router that has UPNP enabled--a common default setting. That feature, designed to allow users to remotely access their video files via remote PC or phone, effectively cuts a hole in any firewall that would expose the device to attackers, too. And security researcher H.D. Moore has been able to show that the flawed architecture isn't just used Swann, but instead effects every company that uses Ray Sharp's firmware. Neither Ray Sharp nor any of the eighteen firms have yet released a firmware fix.

Comment Re:Mititant metric user (Score 1) 177

I think there's at least two standard ounces: the Troy ounce (used for gold and other precious metals, = 31.1034768 g) and the Avoirdupois ounce (the 'common' ounce, = 28.349523125 g). Also there is a liquid measure, the fluid ounce, but that's another topic. And TIL that avoirupois is from Old French, meaning "goods of weight".

There are also less-used ounces, including the Apothecaries' ounce, the Maria Theresa ounce, the Spanish ounce, and a couple of different metric ounces. And the ounce-force, and the areal density ounce for fabric ("8 oz. denim"), ... fun with Wikipedia! :D

Comment Re:Yep there goes our civilization (Score 1) 143

How about fixing the general case, not giving special perks to those with lobbyists?

While I agree with this sentiment in general, I'm not sure it applies strongly here. Private commercial space development is a new industry, and as such many things having to do with the legal structure are poorly defined or not defined at all. One of the areas that must be filled in is how to handle liability related to activities on the way to space, and in space (outside the gravity well of Earth, let's say for the purposes of argument). Some of this is certainly covered by existing US law and regulations regarding commercial satellite launches, etc. But just as the rise of the Internet has required a substantial body of new law to cover things not previously anticipated, space development is going to require a similar effort.

As one example, there is presently no legal basis for private ownership of objects such as asteroids. There is a treaty (The Outer Space Treaty of 1967, IIRC - see Wikipedia) that no governments (that are signatories of the treaty) can assert sovereign rights. This theoretically would prevent a repeat of the European colonial process 'put a flag on it and you own it, at least until somebody bigger comes along' for nations. But depending on interpretation, this may or may not have anything to say about a private entity.

At present most everyone concerned appears to be trying to work within the existing body of international and national laws, treaties and precedent, making analogies from, for instance, the historical maritime traditions. Those analogies will eventually be embodied in new law by new precedent and/or legislation.

Comment Re:But this is BS: (Score 3, Informative) 143

Serves me right for not RTFA. :) However I think your argument VSV the ski industry is backwards. The limitation of expectations there were first developed when skiing was much less predictable and the equipment was much less reliable - much like the private space industry now in a sense (though I suspect everything WRT space is so challenging that the reliability of individual parts is usually much better than ski parts.)

And I would agree with Burt Rutan on the auto parts. Auto manufacturers have to make stuff that handles just about everything that a space craft would throw at it except for the greater extremes of temperature and pressure, and make it last for 100,000+ miles. That stuff has gotten pretty d_mn reliable, and robust against heat, cold, vibration, dust, electrical weirdness, etc. But those parts are an order of magnitude cheaper than similar items on an airplane that are actually less reliable and less advanced, due to the cost of getting FAA and FCC approval, said cost being amortized over only a few thousand units. My case in point - without going into detail, in the early 1980s you could buy a $50 CB radio that was better in all ways than a $2500 airplane radio. The difference had a lot to do with the fact that if you changed the value of a single resistor in the airplane radio it could cost $1 million (in 1980 dollars) to get through both FCC and FAA approvals again. That cost was amortized over maybe 2000 units = $500 per unit.

In fact, that's an argument for allowing the space folks to bypass some types of FAA approval (they are also subject to NASA approvals), to allow faster development and improvement, and allow the market to establish the necessary level of reliability. None of these companies - Space-X, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, etc. - have any interest in failures due to poor quality parts, workmanship, design or engineering at this point. I'm not 100% convinced of this argument, but it's one worth making.

Comment Re:It sounds like more (Score 1) 143

I stand corrected to some extent however civil suits regarding various aspects of flight still occur with regularity in both federal and state courts, and space flight is new so there are inevitably new aspects. If NM does not have some rules on this as well, the industry could still have state-level liability problems for external effects of the flights or failures thereof. If there is a way, some lawyer is going to find it. A vehicle working for NASA is in a quite different situation from a vehicle working for private entities. I would not be surprised if the very question of a private passenger space flight being somehow different from either an aviation flight or a federally-funded or freight-only space flight were to be litigated by some opportunistic lawyer.

I should say that when one needs a liability attorney, a good one can be a blessing! I'm involved in a case now regarding an injury received last year, and the lawyer is doing a great job! :)

Comment Re:It sounds like more (Score 1) 143

It's not just the passengers - it's also the guy who sues for $1 million claiming that the rocket exhaust caused his asthma to flare up, necessitating a hospital stay and the loss of his job - even though he lives 200 miles upwind from the spaceport and the rocket launched the day after his asthma problem occurred. Virgin settles for $100,000 to avoid going to court and having an idiot jury award $1 million. Now multiply that times 2 million people in New Mexico.

Comment Re:It sounds like more (Score 1) 143

California is also the state where a burglar climbed up to the roof of a two-story building, broke through a skylight, climbed down a rope, burgled the building (IIRC it was the LA School District Education Department or some such), and fell as he was climbing back up the rope, breaking his back. He successfully sued the District for (IIRC) $2 million for not making the skylight burglar proof. (This happened when I lived in Newport Beach in the early 1980s.)

Establishing the ground rules for what is reasonably considered grounds for and limits of liability for a new industry in the state such as space launches is not corporate welfare, it is an essential part of the state (NM) becoming a member of the community of states that support the industry. Without it, anyone who can conceive of some inane or insane grounds for asserting harm as a result of a space launch could bankrupt the company, and perhaps the insurer. It has happened in other industries. Proper ground rules mean that if a _real_ harm occurs, then something approximating a reasonable and fair payment can be determined.

Comment Re:It sounds like more (Score 1) 143

When anyone in the state can say "I smelled the rocket exhaust, and now my asthma is bothering me, and I had to go to the hospital" even though they live 200 miles away and upwind of the facility, and Virgin has to settle for $100,000 to avoid even higher legal costs, it's not a question of corporate welfare. It's a question of infusing some sanity into the legal system.

Without the legislation, the cost of liability insurance might well be several times the retail price of the product.

Liability reform of this sort in other states and at the federal level has been essential to the US space industry. This will just bring NM into that arena. Without it, NM will not have a spaceport; they will have a fancy parking lot in the middle of nowhere.

Comment Re:Yep there goes our civilization (Score 5, Informative) 143

As a physics professor once said, "Your thesis is not even wrong" - it's nonsense. Sorry, but you need to do some research. Because of the egregious nature of the present tort system, the liability is essentially unlimited, and would require insurance premiums many times larger than the total cost of the product.

Under present NM law, if a rocket causes a sonic boom then everyone in the state could sue Virgin, the Spaceport and every business that provides parts or fuel or services to them - whether they heard the boom or not! Settling at, say $100,000 per person times the 2 million people in NM is $200 billion - well outside the range of insurable amounts. Another example - "the exhaust of these infernal rockets caused my asthma to act up" - even though I live 200 miles away and upwind.

The above is not a joke - similarly ridiculous suits have been successful, and in fact such suits destroyed the US general aviation industry, where insurance premiums exceeded actual manufacturing costs, and were anticipated to exceed the actual sale price of parts. A similar legislative fix finally saved a small portion of the GA industry, after 90% of the makers had gone out of business or left the industry.

The whole rise of 'kit' airplanes was a response - if an airplane was over 50% manufactured by the hobbyist, all the liability rested with him/her. This meant that a kit manufacturer was mostly home free on liability, and the cost of the plane would be between 1/4 and 1/2 what a manufactured plane would cost.

(Recognize that at present, between up to 2/3 of your total medical bills are purely going to liability insurance, and that is a very predictable product liability-wise. A heart surgeon pays between 1/3 and 1/2 their gross income as insurance. Then there is the built-in cost of insurance on every facility, every part, every sterile package, etc.)

At present, my understanding is that every state with any significant space-related industry has some form of limitation on liability to force some sense into the system and prevent novel new interpretations of the law from biting the industry. If NM wants to become a space-related state, it will have to do the same.

Comment Re:Suspicous (Score 5, Interesting) 143

Because, without the legislation being offered, the potential liability is essentially unlimited, and forever. The general aviation industry was plagued and almost destroyed by excessive liability. This was partially fixed by a law in the late 1990s (IIRC) removing the 'long tail' liability.

As an example from when I was living in CA back in the 1980s, a pilot forgot to put gas in his 35 year old Cessna, took off and crashed into a house about a mile from the airport. The homeowner was killed (along with the pilot). In addition to the pilot's estate, the homeowner's estate sued the manufacturer of every part in the airplane for negligence. One company, a builder of starters or generators (I forget which) spent $2 million in 1980s money in legal fees, proving that their generator was not even on the plane! That company then ceased building any parts for airplanes, as their gross sales for those parts was only a few $million per year and insurance costs would have been higher than the manufacturing cost.

Not much later Cessna ceased building general aviation planes (except for the Citation jets), and said that they would start again once the liability laws were fixed.

The 'long tail' law basically put a cap of (IIRC) 20 years on defective part liability for manufacturers. The basic idea is that if a part has lasted 20 years, it's probably not defective in any rational sense. Once this law passed, I think Cessna did in fact resume low levels of production.

Rockets are going to be considered 'fun rides for elite snobs with too much money' even more than airplanes. So, bottom line - without some legislation, in the event of a crash, a falling part, or a loud noise as it flies over, the trial lawyers would be able to sue the Spaceport and Virgin Galactic and everyone who ever mentioned the word 'rocket', on behalf of every individual in the state, whether or not they had even heard or seen anything or even knew something was flying that day. There are already federal and state laws (for the states that do a lot of space activities) limiting liability for commercial space launches. This legislation would do the same for New Mexico. Without it, NM will not ever be a space-business state.

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