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Comment Nine-track cat-o-nine-tails (Score 2) 208

I once was a sysop for a small company's Data General system, where large datasets were stored as TAR archives on nine-track tapes; some poor soul had copied TO the tape instead of FROM the tape, and desperately needed to recover a file that was still there on the part of the tape beyond the end of the inadvertent write. You could read up to the added end-of-tape marker, but the tape just wouldn't read any further. Screwed, yes? Well, not quite. I set the system to rereading the damaged tape, waited 'till just before it reached the offending end-of-tape marker, and briefly put my thumb on the roller that measured tape travel, causing the drive to jump the tape ahead ('cause the sensor said "the tape is not moving!") and right past the EOT marker. Voila! The system read out the rest of the files on the tape, fortunately including the one they really needed, and I was briefly a hero. Hero never lasts, of course, but it was fun.

Comment Re:Why is it sad? (Score 2, Insightful) 226

For me, as a space enthusiast and aerospace professional, the sad part is that *anyone* would get a shuttle orbiter project so close to operational that they could launch, orbit, and land a fully-automated prototype -- and then just lose that entire program. The physical remnant is, as you say, just "stuff," and not really important in itself. What I (and, I believe, others) mourn is the loss of a manned space-launch program that came THAT close to being operational, regardless of just whose program it was. I, for one, still believe that the more different parties we have with active space programs, the better it is for humanity as a whole; there's a big solar system out there, with both resources and hazards aplenty, and the long-term benefit of the species definitely includes being active in space.

Comment Sorta defeats the purpose, doesn't it? (Score 1) 316

I've read a few postings elsewhere complaining of poor thermal design, iffy build quality, and not-so-great software support (something about having to JTAG the beast to get it to run a software load), so this seems quite plausible. If you do away with the wall-wart form factor by extracting the power supply, you're in the same functional class as lots of other single-board systems (such as my current favorite, the BeagleBoard), many of which have quite mature software support and very decent I/O and expansion capabilities, for comparable cost. While I admit that the wall-wart idea is very appealing, I don't think it's quite there yet (which is rather a pity).

Comment I call Godwin's Law! (Score 0, Redundant) 578

Trying to imply that this is some nonsense that should be dismissed just because you like Linux is like playing down and ridiculing the evidence of the murder of Hans Reiser's wife because you like ReiserFS. It's even sillier in some ways because Linux isn't at stake in the case like ReiserFS was. (An extreme analogy I know, but valid).

That's the kind of analogy that Hitler would have made.

Comment No whiskering. (Score 1) 103

Tin whiskers only form in the presence of pure tin, as in a tinned PC board trace or component lead. Combine the tin with lead or silver or anything else, and the pure tin crystal structure won't happen, hence no whisker formation. Tin whiskers (dendrites) form when a layer of pure tin is mechanically stressed; the tin recrystallizes as dendrites in response to the strain on the crystal lattice. The recent increase in tin whiskering is due in part to hazmat-reduction regulations that discourage the use of lead solder, causing manufacturers to plate component leads in tin rather than lead-bearing solder.

Comment Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen... (Score 1) 385

While you are correct in noting that a beta emitter isn't necessarily harmless (and emphatically correct that the perjury is by far the bigger issue), I'd like to note that tritium, being an isotope of hydrogen, tends to escape straight up, very fast. Molecules of "normal" hydrogen are VERY light, and rise so fast when released that they can reach escape velocity, plus hydrogen is good at diffusing through containers. Thus, it's safe to conclude that the tritium in question bolted for the stratosphere at its first opportunity, and didn't hang around to endanger anyone. Alas, the same cannot be said of the plant management...

Comment TFA uses Bad Math! (Score 2, Interesting) 77

Consider the article's quoted claim of a 1A, 1V sample 1 inch long and the diameter of a human hair. This is plainly ridiculous.

Solar radiation intensity in near-Earth space is 1353 W/m^2 (on Earth, under all that atmosphere, it's more like 120 W/m^2). This represents the maximum possible energy input to a solar cell, of whatever design.

A human hair is about 0.001 inch in diameter, so a 1-inch piece held lengthwise covers an area of 0.001 in^2, or 6.45E-7 m^2. At the stated solar irradiance, that area will receive 873 uW of solar irradiance at MOST, in orbit, and rather less on Earth. Unless their solar cell has a 120,000% efficiency, they'll come up rather short on the 1-watt claim (1 V * 1 A = 1 W) in TFA.

I call Fuzzy Math, at least on that particular claim. The rest of their idea may well be good; let's hope the fellow who said this was misquoted, though...

Comment Not so much compromised as badly written. (Score 1) 252

If I understand the article correctly, the access application in effect ignores the entered password, and instead - probably as a result of miserable software design - uses a fixed-string password for the encryption/decryption. In that case, it's not so much a compromise as an own-goal by the fools who wrote and tested (?) the Windows access application. The encryption implementation itself is probably fine if it's given decent keys...

Idle

Hand Written Clock 86

a3buster writes "This clock does not actually have a man inside, but a flatscreen that plays a 24-hour loop of this video by the artist watching his own clock somewhere and painstakingly erasing and re-writing each minute. This video was taken at Design Miami during Art Basel Miami Beach 2009."
Games

NYT's "Games To Avoid" an Ironic, Perfect Gamer Wish List 189

MojoKid writes "From October to December, the advertising departments of a thousand companies exhort children to beg, cajole, and guilt-trip their parents for all manner of inappropriate digital entertainment. As supposedly informed gatekeepers, we sadly earthbound Santas are reduced to scouring the back pages of gaming review sites and magazines, trying to evaluate whether the tot at home is ready for Big Bird's Egg Hunt or Bayonetta. Luckily, The New York Times is here to help. In a recent article provokingly titled 'Ten Games to Cross off Your Child's Gift List,' the NYT names its list of big bads — the video games so foul, so gruesome, so perverse that we'd recommend you buy them immediately — for yourself. Alternatively, if you need gift ideas for the surly, pale teenager in your home whose body contains more plastic then your average d20, this is the newspaper clipping to stuff in your pocket. In other words, if you need a list like this to understand what games to not stuff little Johnny's stocking with this holiday season, you've got larger issues you should concern yourself with. We'd suggest picking up an auto-shotty and taking a few rounds against the horde — it's a wonderful stress relief and you're probably going to need it."

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