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Comment Netbook or Tablet? Netbook wins, no question. (Score 2) 336

I prefer a netbook over a tablet for a wide variety of reasons. One, I don't like Apple all that much and find their products fairly overpriced for what you get. I have a small Android tablet I tend to use more as a toy, as I don't see it being useful for productivity. And since tablets have no keyboard to speak of (yes, I know you can get a USB keyboard for them) I don't ever see me using a tablet for anything other than the occasional eBook or game.

Now, my Samsung netbook has been upgraded with extra memory, a solid state drive, has a SD slot for still more memory storage, runs Windows 7 Home, and I have absolutely no qualms about it. It does what I want, how I want it, and does so far more efficiently than a smartphone or a tablet would. Mine is about 5 years old now, and I love it for what it provides, a good working environment that's small and extremely portable. And the battery life is around 6-8 hours, even with the screen set to a moderately high brightness level.

Now I realize that folks have bought into the tablet craze (and that's really what it is, a craze in my view) just as they've bought into the smartphone craze. But it's what people want... it's not what I want, nor would I want it pushed on me. I'll take a netbook that's easily configured and upgradable over a tablet that's a fixed device any day.

Comment Re:Progress! (Score 1) 215

Fundamentally what SpaceX seems to do is produce their systems in an integrated environment and not worry about a lot of the things the traditional players do. No clean rooms, production designed to scale, things like that. They use a startup mentality and ...more theatrical lighting truss than I would have thought practical. They buy things that make sense now with an eye to the future, but they don't keep idle capacity around.

The Russian Soyuz rocket is very much similar in this respect. Consider them the assembly line version of the rocket industry, almost literally thrown together in a factory and hauled out to launch whatever they need launched. Considering that they've launched over 700 Soyuz-U rockets with only 19 failures, that's a 97% success rate since 1973. Yes, the Atlas series has a better record, but much fewer launches. As for the Delta, it's slightly lower at 95% success rate, again with fewer launches than the Soyuz.

Comment Re:Cell phones are usually tied to a person (Score 1) 445

Landlines also have an interesting benefit... cost. Let me give you an example, using the company I work for. A landline (actually a VoIP phone but is a physical phone) runs roughly $20 a month, no matter how often you use it. On the phone for five minutes a day or five hours, it's the same flat rate, all of $20.

Now, take that cellphone. The way the cellphone companies handle their contracts, you have a base monthly charge for the device (basic cellphone may be less than $10 a month, an iPhone/Android/Blackberry may run you $25-30 a month). Now, calls to company numbers, company mobile devices and 1-800/866/888 numbers aren't billed... but anything outside of that is billed at a per-minute rate. So suddenly that nice shiny iPhone that you use 4 hours a day is racking up a $100 a month charge to your company. Multiply it by the number of employees all doing the same... and suddenly the landline phone looks like a financial bargain to the company.

But since companies today want 24/7 access to their employees, it's the price you pay for requiring your employees to carry those ball-and-chain devices on their hips or in their purses.

Comment Re:Don't Go (Score 1) 56

Unless the weather between Kennedy Space Center and Houston improves (which the forecast is not looking good), the shuttle may end up bypassing all of the planned overflights and visits and end up going directly to Los Angeles. This includes overflights at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi (originally planned for this morning, cancelled), Michoud Space Facility in New Orleans east (cancelled due to weather) and the overflight of the Johnson Space Center and overnight visits at Ellington Field in Houston (also cancelled due to weather.)

NASA is hoping that tomorrow they can fly the shuttle to Houston at least, but the weather doesn't look to cooperate at all.

Comment Re:User still a risk point (Score 1) 242

Let me state that the company I work for had not one, but two instances where the loss of a non-encrypted device could have potentially led to a data breach. In this case the data was personnel data for the company, some 100,000+ employees. *THIS* is what forced the company to do a company-wide encryption of all computers, including servers. Yes, it meant a slight slowdown when data was being accessed and decrypted, but it was better in the long run for protection of company information.

The use of full disk encryption is just one layer of security the company has installed. By itself it gives a measure of protection, but in combination with others (such as disabling user name/password login for Windows 7 and making people use a card and a PIN to log into the computer) minimizes the chances of another loss of data. It doesn't fully eliminate it, but it reduces it significantly.

As for recovery of data on an encrypted drive, we have to send that drive to a group within the company, who are the only folks allowed to have the necessary keys for decrypting a drive. The previous software (which was used on Windows XP) had a challenge/response code that needed to be entered before decryption, but the new software under Windows 7 is locked down so that local IT support cannot decrypt a drive. Yes, it's an expensive package, but the company is willing to spend the money considering how much in proprietary and government information they have to keep controlled at all times.

Comment A few bits of information (Score 5, Informative) 214

First off, a Category 5 hurricane is highly unlikely striking that region of the country. Historically, there have been only three confirmed Category 5 landfalls, two of them in Florida and one in Mississippi (the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in Florida, Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.) There has been Category 4 storms that have struck the Cape Hatteras area, and South Carolina did have Hurricane Hugo in 1989. But the odds of a Category 5 hitting that specific region of the US is extremely low.

Additionally, these data centers are not located along the coastline, but a significant distance inland. Facebook's is west of Charlotte, while Amazon's located west of Washington DC. Of the list, the Amazon one that could... and I mean could be impacted by a hurricane, but there really hasn't been a good strike in the Chesapeake Bay area in a while. They were taken down by the derechos that rolled through last month, and a derecho could happen pretty much anywhere west of the Rockies.

So while the chances of a hurricane taking down one of the datacenters is low, it could happen. It's one reason you don't see data centers built anywhere within 150 miles of the Gulf Coast or in Florida as a whole, the entire region is a target zone for Mother Nature. (Disclaimer: I've lived along the Gulf Coast now for over 30+ years and have been through a Category 5, two Category 4 and a host of other hurricanes over my time.)

Comment Re:Satellites still need to be launched (Score 1) 237

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Being involved peripherally in the space program, here's what took me two minutes to find:

Syracuse, NY - Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors facility. There is also a facility in Liverpool, NY, but I suspect Syracuse. Why? Well, Corning Glass is right down the road, what you'd need for building optical sensor systems based on the KH-11 which bears a remarkable appearance to the Hubble Space Telescope. Now, add in a few years of upgrades and modifications, and you've got yourself one heck of a box Brownie camera...

Comment Cloud Computing? (Score 0) 349

I don't see our company ever moving into "cloud computing", if simply for the fact that there is no effective security. We deal with data from governments, other companies as well as our own data, much of which must be protected at all times from accidental disclosure. Not only do we have to protect that data, we have to additionally add an additional layer of security to ensure that employees are only able to access data they need for their work duties and not have carte blanche access to anything in the cloud. So while there may be pilot programs to investigate cloud computing, anything would have to be kept internal to the company and not be allowed external access.

In some ways this is no different than distributed computing, thin-client computing and all the other variations of trying to move people away from the desktop and to some virtualized environment. I don't see it happening, as people want their data to be local, their applications to be local and their access to be local.

Comment Re:Badly needed (Score 1) 31

Before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the storm surged in intensity from a Category 3 to a Category 5 storm. At that point, the National Weather Service in New Orleans issued out what has since been referred to as the "Doomsday" message, making it graphically clear what was facing the region when Katrina struck. It was the first time that the NWS went to this extreme a message, and made people realize just how real the threat was.

Having lived in the region at that time (panhandle of Florida) I can tell you that people took seriously the threat as we had evacuees streaming through the area.

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.]

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