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Comment More recently... (Score 1) 1397

Fwiw, for about eight years now I've been naming each box after a progressively more recent person who brought us closer to databases.
MarcusB (after Marcus Aurelius)
Sam (after Samuel Johnson)

Always wanted to have a Voltaire but ended up using that one for a machine that fubared.

I've just now decided to switch entirely. Maybe colors this time.

Comment Problem with girlfriend naming convention (Score 1) 1397

Back in the eighties all of my files and apps were kept for years on . . . . wait for it . . . 3 and a half inch floppies, all kept in a little box. Each new disk was named it after some "cute girl" I knew or had known, mostly ones from the NYC high school I went to, which was perfect since I got my first "real" computer at CMU in Pittsburgh. Each one was for a given subject with that subject meant to match the personality of the girl in question. Audrey was science, Rosemary was english, Anna was organizational stuff, etc. I even drew little pictures on each disk label.

In those days disks were expensive and more robust than you would think so my little stack lasted for years. Long enough for me to have moved back to NYC and have the inevitable happen - various of these girls ended up dropping by my place and discovering "their" disk. This rarely went well. And if you think that that was dicey, it didn't even compare to the reactions of girls who would come by my place for the first time and discover these so very thought out evocations of previous girls they didn't know about.

"So who is Audrey? Who is Simona?"
"Will you name a disk after me?"
"What subject would I be?"

Trust me on this, guys, don't do it. It will only end in grief.

Comment Who say that we need to depend on countries? (Score 1) 260

Hey, man, welcome to the 21st century. Private companies do space stuff now, too. Since when do we need to get everybody to "work together" to do such a thing? Anyway, we could create a station faster than it takes most proposals to get written these days by using approaches like this one.

And fwiw, the ISS is famously a boondoggle whose costs are grotesquely outscale in no small part because of how well it worked to have "each together". For the amount of money and time that was blown on the ISS we could have gotten a colony built on the moon by now. Seriously. Maybe two of them.

So if you want to see us working together like that my question becomes, so, what are YOU doing to help, cobber? It's real easy to say what others should or could do, not so easy to do it.

Comment But does it all need to be done in one trip? (Score 1) 260

You're right that 70ly is a long, long way. But three things counter that:
1.) Suspended animation is getting closer to real all the time and most of the supposed problems with that (such as radiation exposure in transit) are actually just matters of cost, not absolute limits.
2.) Generation ships.
3.) Yes, but what about getting to the nearer stars in part in the knowledge that the next generation would take the next step further away?

Perhaps the first two are examples of what you meant by "survive in space for a long time".

And keep in mind that what we can already see of a solar system is very far from complete. We may not be able to see anything orbiting Alpha Centauri yet but our resolution is rough indeed. In fact, our current techniques are in large part not even direct viewing but just imperfect means of derivation. I think that it's safe to say that we would find something there beyond just a ball of plasma.

As for your "they would go mad" absurdity, citation please. People have gotten by without contact with "civilization" for years on a regular basis for most of history. Look into how most of the Pacific islands were first settled. Or at some of the long duration nuclear sub cruises, which were shorter but still in very cramped spaces. Just bloody well watch Master and Commander or anything decent about 1500's to 1800's sailing ships.
People are tough. They adapt. Many of the proposals for ships to other solar systems have long proposed crews of several dozen or even more, quite enough to create a small society of their own. And if we were to choose to do it that way, we could send ships in clusters so that they would not all be at risk from one point of failure but could still communicate across the ships in transit and know that others would be there by the time they reached their destination.
Not only that, there are always some people out there who find the idea of near total isolation a feature rather than a bug. Just look at the history of forest service fire watch towers or lighthouse personnel. The travelers have plenty of ways to deal with human factors. Hell, maybe some of them would use up most of the trip smoking pot and playing video games. Add in a "real doll" and plenty of people would find it an improvement on their current level of social interaction. And if you think that I'm joking you're not paying attention.


Nano-motors For Microbots 77

Smivs writes "The BBC are reporting on the development of tiny motors the size of a grain of salt which could power surgical Microbots. Some surgical procedures are hindered by the size or inflexibility of current instruments. For example, the labyrinthine network of blood vessels in the brain prevents the use of catheters threaded through larger blood vessels. Researchers have long envisioned that trends of miniaturisation would lead to tiny robots that could get around easily in the body. The problem until now has been powering them. Conventional electric motors do not perform as well as they are scaled down in size. As they approach millimetre dimensions, they barely have the power to overcome the resistance in their bearings. Now, research reported in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering has demonstrated a motor about 1/4mm wide, about the width of two human hairs."

Boat Moves Without an Engine Or Sails 234

coondoggie writes "Researchers say technology they have developed would let boats or small aquatic robots glide through the water without the need for an engine, sails or paddles. A University of Pittsburgh research team has designed a propulsion system that uses the natural surface tension that is present on the water's surface and an electric pulse to move the boat or robot, researchers said. The Pitt system has no moving parts and the low-energy electrode that emits the pulse could be powered by batteries, radio waves, or solar power, researchers said in a statement."

Largest Data Breach Disclosed During Inauguration 168

rmogull writes "Brian Krebs over at the Washington Post just published a story that Heartland Payment Systems disclosed what may be the largest data breach in history. Today. During the inauguration. Heartland processes over 100 million transactions a month, mostly from small to medium-sized businesses, and doesn't know how many cards were compromised. The breach was discovered after tracing fraud in the system back to Heartland, and involved malicious software snooping their internal network. I've written some additional analysis on this and similar breaches. It's interesting that the biggest breaches now involve attacks installing malicious software to sniff data — including TJX, Hannaford, Cardsystems, and now Heartland Payment Systems." One bit of good news out of this massive breach is that, according to Heartland's CFO, "The nature of the [breach] is such that card-not-present transactions are actually quite difficult for the bad guys to do because one piece of information we know they did not get was an address." Heartland just put up a press release on the breach.

Comment And we put up with this WHY, exactly? (Score 1) 217

Seems to me like all the more reason to stop buying "refrigerators" and start just having big insulated boxes built in when we redo a kitchen or build a house. Look at the suggestions above. Heat exchanger linked with outside air and house HVAC. Big block of thermal mass inside. Networked controller. Chiller a bit off to the side. Add all this up and you'll get a much more robust result where even if the chiller or some other part breaks down, all that you do is replace it with another chiller (or whatever). And since that chiller is a separate component in its own little cabinet off to the side or even through the wall, it's no big deal if the new one is a different design. As long as it still provides that stream of cold air it can be made of nanomachinery-linked magic Fritos for all that your fridge will care.

You're right. Current appliances are cobbled together crap that's built of cheap parts, includes a shitty manual, and is a pain to repair or even modify. Why the hell do /.ers, of all people put up with this?

Comment Yes, but... (Score 1) 217

Well, there are all sorts of points of technology, even this one. But I think that a key factor of TFA is being missed by the posters here, which is that this system is meant to cool a dedicated thermal mass stored within the fridge. Unfortunately, TFA doesn't go into detail but I've seen others that do. Part of optimizing such a system is to maximize that thermal mass, maybe through such simple techniques as having people keep a few gallon jugs of water in the fridge at all times, perhaps through integrating things like slabs of cement into the interior of the fridge. Either way, the greater the mass within the insulated envelope, the longer the viable interval between periods of active cooling.

In short, put more stuff that stays cool within the fridge and you can leave the chilling means turned off longer.

Comment And you fail the reality test again. (Score 4, Insightful) 217

What's your point? There are thousands of things that people "could" do that they don't. They could superinsulate their homes with dirt, straw, and a few weekend days. They could teach their kids the basics of astronomy in an afternoon or two. They could all show up at the polling place and vote for every single election. Hell, we could all build cantennas and have free wireless in every city in the world by the end of this week.

Reality isn't about what people in theory could do. It's about what they will do. And out here in the real world less than one percent of the population has the skills to do what you're suggesting and less than one percent of that one percent actually might. No comparison to a plan like this, not even taking into account the fundamental issues of determining protocols and load calculations.

Comment Nice theory. But not true. (Score 2, Insightful) 217

You might as well start with a spherical cow.

Humans are not random operators, especially in industrialized societies. Spikes can come in as little as fifteen to twenty seconds in a society like ours. Rush hour starts and within fifteen minutes you starts seeing a wave spreading away from centers of workplaces of air conditioners being turned on or up and lights going on as people get home. The Superbowl starts and everybody comes indoors from the barbeque to watch the game, air conditioners get turned up as the patio doors get shut. Ad breaks come and toilets all across the area flush within thirty seconds of each other all over the time zone. A big audience tv show has whispering or something else quiet and air conditioners get turned off so people can hear what's on screen.

We live in a society where most people get up around the same time, go about the same distances, stay away for about the same durations, and come back in to do the same damn things as big chunks of their neighbors for hundreds of miles around. And some of these things, like rushes during ad breaks or when a popular show ends have noticable peaks and drops that can be measured in tens of seconds. This doesn't even get into things like what happens when all the living soil is replaced with pavement and, for example, stormwater load spikes get much higher and then drop off much faster. And then, with all that water moving faster everywhere, again more people turn devices on and off to deal with the consequences.

No averages have nothing much to do with such demand at all.

Comment There are quite a few ways to extend functionality (Score 4, Insightful) 217

Fridges as we know them are pretty sad contraptions with no shortage of room for improvement. They put a whopping big heat source under the chamber they're trying to keep cool. They use room air from the hottest part of the house, even though in most homes that room is a foot or two away from outside air that is much cooler, if not actually even cooler than the fridge interior should be. In general, they're an agglomeration of kluges and marketroid idiocies. So yeah, this could be a key part of a rethinking of what a fridge is and how it works that could eventually cut power usage by as much as eighty to ninety percent. The same could be said of quite a lot of appliances and HVAC components. Hell, done right, we now know that comfortable homes can be built that require no conventional heating or cooling systems at all.

Kinda makes you wonder why we're supposed to need this "smart grid" for all this massive increased demand we supposedly have no way to avoid, doesn't it?

Comment Then how about open protocol transit. (Score 1) 809

I have at least a partial response to that. Open source, shared protocol transit systems.

The internet is, by some standards, an excellent example of what you're saying can't be done and the reason that it works is that the shared protocols are adhered to.

Keep in mind that our current road systems are, literally from the ground up, products of over a hundred years of mass organization thinking. Everything about how they're built, from signage to surface composition, to determination and enforcement of traffic regulations, is an outgrowth of how we handle vehicular rights of way. And then remember that all of this has been subject to vast bribery and subversion by car companies, oil companies, and the like. As such, not much of it would qualify as good engineering. And trust me, I've spent plenty of hours of my life being ranted at by engineers and managers at various DOTs bemoaning this in great detail.

Anyway, go, read the blog post, and think about open standards and shared protocols. Then think about implementation of transparency of operations, another thing that organizational procedures have been advancing for at great speed. This kind of thing can be done. And we're getting better at it all the time.

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