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Comment Re:I've crossed that threshold, but it concerns me (Score 3) 473

I'm sorta the same, only I'm 52 and working for a major aerospace company. Yes, I still do technical support for users (executives, to be precise), but in landing this position you needed a lot of experience dealing with a variety of users as well as knowledge on the hardware and software used in the company. A college graduate is not going to have that sort of experience in troubleshooting a laptop while an executive is needing information on a major proposal, or even being able to work under that sort of pressure on a regular basis. [At least where I work, the executives are very laid back and easy to talk with... considering most of them deal with politicians, other government officials, scientists and engineers all day long.]

I've been in IT for around 20 years now, and look to still be working over the next 10 or so. The company I'm with currently still has benefits like education and pensions, things that have disappeared from the environment to a large extent.

Comment It'll look cute on your resume... (Score 1) 86

...but speaking as someone who happens to work down the street from the Johnson Spaceflight Center (for a major aerospace company), I can tell you that while the approach towards recruiting an astronaut is a little unusual, it is what you should expect for a government job nowadays. Gone are the days of NASA going to the Air Force and saying "give us two dozen of your best and brightest who you think might make good astronauts", and it's a major competition.

Just look at the required qualification just to even get your application looked at (and they WILL look at those applications.) Got an IT degree? Disqualified off the bat. Got a degree in astronomy or electrical engineering? You've passed the first qualification. Flown fighter jets? Good! Haven't flown, but been in charge of hard research or development? That'll work. Pass the physical? Think you can fit into the Soyuz spacecraft? Hey, you've got a shot.

Truth is, I expect 95% of the applications to hit the bit bucket within the first pass. Meaning that I fully expect only 400-500 real applications to have to be considered by NASA, the rest not even deserving the postage for a response. As geeky as it might seem to apply, I know I can't meet the minimum requirements listed, so why bother? (I'd have better luck applying for a position in Antarctica, to be honest.)

Comment What keeps me on Windows? (Score 1) 1880

First off, I have been running a Windows-based system for a number of years now. I am comfortable to a large extent with Windows, and tend to maintain it much more routinely than the average user. I also tend to be heavily security-conscious through the use of anti-virus software and firewalls (both hardware and software related) in order to minimize the exposure of my system to the outside world. From a software standpoint, I only install software that I am familiar with (either through reputation or through work) and do not install a lot of frivolous software such as toolbars and 'system speedup utilities' that ordinary users tend to do with alarming regularity.

This isn't to say that I haven't worked with other operating systems. Over the last 20 years I've worked with MacOS (classic), Mac OS X, SuSE, Red Hat, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, BeOS, Open Solaris, UnixWare, Ubuntu, and probably a half dozen others I can't think of right at the moment. I maintain a bootable version of Fedora on an old PATA drive as a "just in case" device, booting it once a month to get patches and updates... but I don't use it as a primary OS, just a backup OS.

Likely the main reason is that Windows works just well enough that I feel that I can do what I want to do without too much hassle. Yes, I know that there are programs that can come close to the quality of a Windows package, but close isn't good enough in some cases. Yes, I know there's packages like CodeWeavers and Wine that will let you run most Windows software, but they won't let you run *all* Windows software, and the chances are the one package you really need to work is the one that won't under Wine. I do have to give the Apple folks credit for their implementation of Unix with Mac OS X, if I really needed to I can get under the hood and compile the one or two applications that I do like from the Unix/Linux world. But it still wouldn't be enough for me to move 100% away from Windows.

I don't like everything with Windows, much as I don't like everything with Linux or OS X. But at least I can find some value in each OS, they do have their place in the computing world, and for someone like myself, that's perfectly fine.

Comment World's biggest gold coin... for now. (Score 1) 171

There has been a competition between the Perth Mint (which is separate from the Royal Australian Mint) and the Royal Canadian Mint for some time now. The RCM held the record for the largest gold coin (which was 100kg in weight), beating the European Austrian Mint's 31kg gold coin. The difference is that the RCM coin was actually sold to at least one buyer, while the Perth Mint's coin is more for show than for actual collecting.

And no doubt the RCM folks are already planning to find some way to top the Perth Mint's coin.

[Disclaimer: I do not work for any of the mint's mentioned, I'm just a collector of coins. I find it hard enough to justify to myself buying a 5oz silver coin, much less something in the 1+kg range.]

Comment I know I'm the exception here, but... (Score 1) 88

To be totally honest, I don't really care that much about mobile payment, or buying anything with my cellphone. I don't plan to do so, and would object if they suddenly decide to try and force such a service on me.

But then again, when I purchased my cellphone and my service, I was purchasing a phone. Which is what I own. I do not have a smartphone, an iPhone, an Android, or any of the recent offerings. I have no interest in being able to read my email wherever I am, could care less about texting, already have an MP3 player, don't want or need a web browser, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or any other applet on my phone. I want a cellPHONE, to place and receive calls, and that's it.

Just because I work in the computer industry doesn't mean I automatically want every shiny! new toy that comes out. I need a good reason for having anything like that, and since I already have a computer for things I do at home, a netbook for travel, and that's it. If I go out to dinner, I want to enjoy dinner, not respond to people as I see far too many doing today. The same for going to a movie, spending time with friends, or just enjoying myself... I don't want an electronic tether that folks can yank on. If you can't bother to call me voice, then you're not worth responding to at that moment and that's all there is to it.

This (the ability to buy with your cellphone) is just another "feature" that isn't necessary, but the phone companies are going to push it on us whether we want it or not.

Comment Amazing amount of misinformation here (Score 1) 291

A couple of notes here:

When Atlantis went up to the ISS a few months ago, the decision was made to have a smaller than usual crew. Instead of seven astronauts, only four flew up on Atlantis, while the rest of the mission was a resupply job. Officially, close to a year's worth of supplies were taken up to the ISS, giving it the ability to have just what happened occur, the loss of a supply capsule.

Now, this was one of the first failures of a Progress capsule. Considering that the rocket the Russians use has a 98.5% success rate (12 failures out of 799 launches) this is only a temporary setback. As has been noted elsewhere, the likelihood is that the Russians will get another Progress capsule up into orbit soon (there is a scheduled manned launch on 21 September and 29 November, and a Progress resupply on 26 October and 27 December). In addition, we have SpaceX doing a dock with their Dragon capsule, and I wouldn't be surprised if they launch it with supplies as well.

So no, I doubt that despite the sensationalized headlines that the ISS will be abandoned anytime soon.

[Disclaimer: I work for a prime contractor on the ISS, but the statements made are of my own observations.]

Comment Re:For some, this is actually wecomed news (Score 1) 64

It's a security issue. The iPhone and iPad are not exactly stellar when it comes to Enterprise-level security. And you have to remember that the devices do not belong to the end users, it belongs to the company and it should be the company's decision as to what is allowed to be loaded on the device and what isn't.

This is no different than locking down a laptop so that unauthorized software cannot be loaded on the laptop unless it comes from a company-run and provided website/service. I wouldn't want the end users to have the ability to load whatever piece of crudware on their machines, and I don't want to see an iPhone being filled with games and useless applets simply because the end user could do it. It's company hardware, and the company has the right to say what's allowed on their networks and their devices.

Comment For some, this is actually wecomed news (Score 1) 64

Where I work, we (meaning the IT support people) have been dreading the rumblings of having iPhones and iPads approved for use within the company. The biggest fear was that the security folks would try to lock down the devices, and having to listen to people complaining that they couldn't load music and applications, blaming us for the resulting mess. But this would not only help us in being able to remind folks that the devices are company devices, but that instead of having to deal with iTunes on the machine, we'd have a much simpler interface to work with. From my perspective, this would be a perfect way to go. People get their iPhones, but the company can keep them secured and still provide a limited number of applications (business related) that they can utilize. And we don't have to worry about iTunes and the resulting messes that would make supporting their machines a major hassle.

Comment Living in a Hurricane zone... (Score 1) 562

I have usually been quite prepared for a disaster, consider the number of storms that I have been through. From Hurricane Betsy (1965) and Camille (1969) to more recent storms such as Hurricane Ivan (2004) and Katrina (2005), you learn that being prepared is always the best plan. For example:

Living in northwest Florida, there are not many routes that can take you out of a potential hurricane landfall area. You have Interstate 10 and US 90 and 98 that go east-west, but the only major roads north-south are either past Tallahassee or Mobile. And by major I mean Interstate highways capable of handling some of the traffic levels you can see during an evacuation. For New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana, evacuation routes can (and do) become over-saturated, and you can find yourself going only 80 miles in 12 hours if you wait too long.

If you decide to stick it out, you're better off having already stocked up on supplies, such as water, canned foods and other essentials for surviving the storm. Owning a gas-powered generator means also having some gas stored somewhere safe, to provide power for the absolute essentials (and I'm speaking of power to run the fridge and a fan for cooling, not your computer system here.) Oddly enough, cellphones will become useless as many towers will be damaged or destroyed by the storm, but a land-based line (the plain old telephone) will continue to be available.

Once the storm is over and you're stuck in that time between services being brought back up (power was out for a week during Ivan where I was living previously) you can try to get additional supplies. Some stores will manage to get back operational such as Wal-Mart and Publix, but with only limited offerings to the public. And you will have disaster relief services coming in such as the Red Cross and National Guard, bring in supplies such as bottled/canned water and MREs. Just don't count on them as your sole source of supplies, however.

Unfortunately, you also have to deal with your workplace, and depending on the kind of business they are, you might be required to be back to work within days of the storm passing. In my case, Ivan passed on Wednesday night and Thursday, and I had to be back to work on Monday to help in getting the worksite back up and operational.

I've moved since then to the Texas coastline, which means I still need to take precautions for hurricanes. Can't seem to get away from the Gulf...

Comment Just a few observations... (Score 5, Informative) 88

The key word there in that article is *could* give residents the chance to see the aurora. If you look at the chart on the Solar Cycle Progression and Prediction webpage ( then you'll notice that the predicted sunspot activity and the actual activity are still very far apart. Additionally, the predicted maximum sunspot number is going to be well below the past two cycles (1991 hitting a sunspot number of 147, and 200/2001 hitting a high of 120. For this cycle, they're predicting a high of only 90 for the sunspot number, a level that hasn't been that low since the 1880's.

So while it is possible that folks south of 45 degrees latitude might see the aurora, it'll have to be courtesy of a really strong CME (coronal mass ejection) aimed in our general direction. Otherwise, it'll probably be a rather boring solar cycle 24.

Comment Re:what is really cool now is ... (Score 1) 52

This is true, but the resolution is not going to be at the same level as the images you see on television or online. NOAA does provide guides for anyone with the equipment to receive the transmissions. Still, it is a fun kind of receiving watching an image appear on the screen one line at a time. (I'm old enough to remember when the transmissions were more like a fax signal, a fax being exactly what was hooked to the receiver to generate the image.)

Comment Re:Not a Soviet first? (Score 1) 52

There is a way to do this, using a Molniya type orbit pattern. Three satellites in a Molniya orbit would give you 24 hour coverage over the high altitudes and polar regions, but in order to use such data you'd need at least two ground stations tracking the satellites constantly. It's just much easier to view the earth from a geosynchronous orbit instead and not worry about polar information so much.

Comment Weather Satellites are indispensabe now (Score 5, Informative) 52

TIROS 1 was one of those major milestones that we take for granted today. With today's coverage via the GOES and POES (Polar Orbiting Environment Satellite, along with the older ESSA and NIMBUS satellite systems from the mid 1960's and 1970's) weather forecasting took a giant step forward from the late 1950's to today. Just as an example, take hurricane forecasting. Back in the 1950's and early 1960's, discovery of a hurricane forming would have been from a ship report in the Gulf of Mexico, reports from the Leeward Islands, or a Hurricane Hunter randomly coming across the storm during routine patrols. Once satellites were added into the mix, the discovery of the storm became easier with increased advance notice for populated areas. What used to be 12 hours warning for an area (New Orleans, Hurricane Betsy 1965) became 35 hours warning (New Orleans/Biloxi, Hurricane Katrina, 2005). This made a significant difference not only in being able forecast the movement of the storms, but also to get the warnings out to evacuate people and save lives.

The weather satellite is perhaps the best example of how our technology has improved our lifestyle overall.

Comment Re:Does anyone beiieve this number? (Score 1) 175

Let me state that at the company I work for, disk encryption is *MANDATORY* for all computer systems, including servers. In addition, encryption is also mandatory for anything being saved to removable media (read thumb drives, portable hard drives, but not CD and DVD media), and that digital rights management is installed for email so that you can protect a message by restricting it to only those recipients and prevent (or at least mitigate) the ability to copy that message.

Admittedly this does make my job of supporting the systems more complicated, as previously if the operating system suffered a failure, I could still access the user's data. Today, the odds of being able to decrypt the drive (yes, there is a procedure for it) and recover data is slim... and if the user didn't install/use the company data backup software that is provided to them, then their data is lost.

But all these requirements are for the company's safety, not necessarily the user's.

Comment Re:Tornado 101 for those unfamiliar (Score 1) 112

They happen any season, though the highest frequency is during the summer months they have been known to happen even in wintertime, and in those cases are even more dangerous (trying to find a grayish-white funnel with grayish-white clouds and white snow covered ground while snowing is extremely difficult). Basically any combining of cold dry air with warm humid air has a potential for creating tornados and funnel-clouds. In winter, such combinations are often what bring on your basic snow storms.

In the south, winter is the most dangerous time when it comes to tornadoes. For example, just from February, 2008, there were 12 killer tornadoes with 59 fatalities. Snow had nothing to do with it, there were your average supercell thunderstorms combined with warm, humid air from the Gulf mixing to create a dangerous situation.

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