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Comment Sally at JPL, circa 1985 (Score 3, Informative) 251

I met Sally (briefly) at JPL, after her 1984 Challenger mission. My impression was of someone who was confident, supremely able, and didn't worry a lot how she dressed. I got this impression since she showed up at the lab wearing shorts, and seemed instantly at home, like she'd been working there for years. Her later partnership with Tam was a surprise, since she gave no hint of that during her astronaut years. But yes, getting a ride on the big machine in the early 80's was a very political game, as much about appearances as it was about ability. And ability she had in spades. During the October 84 Challenger mission, all kinds of shit went wrong. An RF antenna cable on the radar overloaded and started arcing, causing the SNR to radically drop. The monitoring equipment at Johnson acted up, showing loss of TDRS downlink data when it was actually fine. I also seem to recall that Sally had to take apart parts of the shuttle with a wrench to get access to the data recorder, because of some malfunction or other. So overall, the mission was a disaster. But Sally took it all in stride. Best wishes, Sally. Some of us remember you.

Comment Sigh....The Myth of Humans in Space still persists (Score 0) 128

I am constantly frustrated with Yet Another Plan for Humans In Space. When will the politicians finally recognize the folly and waste in trying to put Humans into an environment completely unsuited for them? Do we see bizarre unrealistic plans to colonize Antartica? or the bottom of the sea? Then why this fetish about putting humans in outer space? Because of the constant re-runs of Star Trek and Stargate on the Syfy channel? Who believes that crap? It's patently obvious that the future belongs to the machines.. and only the machines.. Machines designed and constructed to excel in their target environment. I speak not from random passion, but from actual experience. I'm a 10 year veteran of JPL. We built machines there that *worked*, that explored the outer planets, and returned vast amounts of serious data. We should not be wasting another dime on putting humans any higher than 50,000 feet. Everything above that should be done by machines, and the best AI we can muster. Money should be poured into radiation resistant computing, AI, and self repairing electronics with massive redundancy. We need to establish AI operated bases on the moon and near earth asteroids, in order to start using the matter for construction of space based observation and computing platforms. No question, the future of the human civilization is *in* space.... with the machines we create. Not with monkeys in space.

Comment A good solution: Lucid Lynx with Intel I5 (Score 1) 609

Here is a decent recipe for a fast secure home server: Start with an ASUS Maximus III LGA1156 motherboard (with 10 Sata connectors), an Intel I5-660 CPU (32 nm, with support for AES instructions). Add 2 Gb of DDR3 memory, and at least 6 WD Green 2TB drives. Install either a 4GB USB key or a SSD drive for root storage, and then install Lucid Lynx 10.04 Server AMD-64. The latest kernel in Lucid now supports per-CPU threads for both RAID6 and dmcrypt, vastly accelerating both functions. It's now possible with this CPU to easily exceed 100 Mbytes/sec over the Gb Ethernet (using NFS) when running the following software stack: RAID6, with Luks (dmcrypt) using AES-XTS mode, and finally EXT4 (or XFS if you prefer). I've noticed significant bandwidth improvement using Lucid Lynx, even with relatively low performance AMD Athlon dual core cpus. I'm now bonding dual (or triple) ethernet interfaces, because I can saturate a single Gb Ethernet port. This solution still lacks checksums on files, but when BTRFS is released for general use, it ought to be excellent.

Police Called Over 11-Year-Old's Science Project 687

garg0yle writes "Police in San Diego were called to investigate an 11-year-old's science project, consisting of 'a motion detector made out of an empty Gatorade bottle and some electronics,' after the vice-principal came to the conclusion that it was a bomb. Charges aren't being laid against the youth, but it's being recommended that he and his family 'get counseling.' Apparently, the student violated school policies — I'm assuming these are policies against having any kind of independent thought?"

Jetman Attempts Intercontinental Flight 140

Last year we ran the story of Yves Rossy and his DIY jetwings. Yves spent $190,000 and countless hours building a set of jet-powered wings which he used to cross the English Channel. Rossy's next goal is to cross the Strait of Gibraltar, from Tangier in Morocco and Tarifa on the southwestern tip of Spain. From the article: "Using a four-cylinder jet pack and carbon fibre wings spanning over 8ft, he will jump out of a plane at 6,500 ft and cruise at 130 mph until he reaches the Spanish coast, when he will parachute to earth." Update 18:57 GMT: mytrip writes: "Yves Rossy took off from Tangiers but five minutes into an expected 15-minute flight he was obliged to ditch into the wind-swept waters."
PlayStation (Games)

US Air Force Buying Another 2,200 PS3s 144

bleedingpegasus sends word that the US Air Force will be grabbing up 2,200 new PlayStation 3 consoles for research into supercomputing. They already have a cluster made from 336 of the old-style (non-Slim) consoles, which they've used for a variety of purposes, including "processing multiple radar images into higher resolution composite images (known as synthetic aperture radar image formation), high-def video processing, and 'neuromorphic computing.'" According to the Justification Review Document (DOC), "Once the hardware configuration is implemented, software code will be developed in-house for cluster implementation utilizing a Linux-based operating software."
Operating Systems

Submission + - 28th Anniversary of Linux 2

Sam the Nemesis writes: 28 years ago on 25th August, Linus Torvalds, a 21-year-old university student from Finland, writes a post to a user group asking for feedback on a little project he's working on. He's built a simple kernel for a Unix-like operating system that runs on an Intel 386 processor, and he wants to develop it further. The kernel eventually becomes Linux, which is released in 1994 and distributed over the internet for free.

Comment I'm beginning to suspect Flash as my problem. (Score 2, Interesting) 286

I noticed in early July that my Kubuntu 8.10 machine started showing corruption in the EXT3 filesystems, and it seemed to happen everytime I used Firefox (which had Flash installed). I finally got so sick of restoring from backups that I rebuilt a totally new Kubuntu 9.04 image, without Firefox. I now run Firefox in VirtualBox, using a sandboxed image of Kubuntu 9.04. This has stopped the filesystem corruption in the host OS, but I continue to see EXT3 corruption in the sandboxed Firefox with Flash. It's beginning to look very sensible to use 3 virtual machines for browsing the web now. Green Sandbox for just my banks. Yellow Sandbox for email and Paypal, and Red Sandbox for everything else (including Slashdot). Even with Noscript, the Red Sandbox gets dirty still, and needs rolling back to the initial snapshot. I haven't run rootkit detection or virus scanning yet, but I'm beginning to believe that integrated intrusion detection will be the next Great Thing (tm) for virtual machines. Charlie Stross thought about this years ago in Accelerando. It's worth a read.

Comment NEW solution, not previously mentioned. (Score 1) 421

I had to read all the comments before I decided to contribute my solution to the problem. I use a portable Sata2 hard drive, with a Vantec enclosure that supports Sata2 and USB. I use a 250Gbyte 2.5" hard drive encased in the Vantec aluminum shell, which slides into a docking station in a 3.5" drive bay. I have one of these at home, and one at the office. I carry the disk around with me, and boot Kubuntu Intrepid from an 80Gb partition on the drive. But there's some magic in the way the drive is setup. The 250Gbytes is split into 3 partitions of 80GB, with a 10GB swap at the end (which is almost never used). Each partition is actually configured as an element of a Raid 1 (mirror) drive, with 3 copies. Having a 3 way RAID 1 lets me sync the portable drive to the desktop drive and simultaneously create an extra copy on a 3rd device if I need it. The desktops I plug this drive into also as a Sata2 hard drive, and once I successfully boot from the portable drive, I then add a partition from the fixed 3.5" drive in the desktop, and then they sync up at around 50 Mbytes/sec. This creates my backup in case of loss, corruption, or crash. As for privacy, I do full disk encryption on top of the RAID layer with dm-crypt, so I don't really worry about any of the disks being stolen. The same Kubuntu image boots beautifully on my laptop (using USB to connect it), and I also have a RAID1 mirror partition on the laptop for backup. This way, I have multiple copies of my operating system (with home directory) in different locations, and everytime I resync the RAID 1 devices, I freshen the backup (usually daily). I had one disk corruption problem that needed an OS rebuild, so I switched from XFS to EXT3 and haven't had any further problems. And what about Windows? No problem... A copy of VirtualBox gives me an XP Home version of Windows right inside Kubuntu, where it lives very happily. Remember, Windows works much better as an application than it does as an OS. One thing to note on the replication speed. I setup the RAID 1 devices with internal bitmaps, which keep track of modified raid chunks, and this causes replication between similiar images to proceed at a *much* higher speed than a simple copy. I can synchronize an 80GB RAID 1 partition in about 15 minutes when using a SATA connection. So at the cost of buying a 2.5" hard drive and a pair of Vantec docking stations, I can carry around my OS and home directory with security, redundancy, and convenience.

I'm happy.

Sun Microsystems

Submission + - SPAM: Real Nanotechnology Getting Closer, says Drexler 1

destinyland writes: "Sun Microsystems has helped fund a 198-page nanotechnology roadmap — but how close are we to real nanotechnology? A science writer asked four nano pioneers, including K. Eric Dexler ("progress is accelerating") and Ralph Merkle ("the exponential trends continue to be exponential") Though we don't have Star Trek replicators yet, the article lists some surprising recent nano developments (artificial tissue, nanoparticle sheets, ultrathin diamond nanorods). And the roadmap's scientists are envisioning targeteted cancer therapies, super-efficient solar cells, high-density computer memory chips and even responsive "smart" materials.""
Link to Original Source

Comment I like VHDL... Here are some cool reasons why. (Score 2, Informative) 301

Disclaimer #1: I work for Xilinx. Disclaimer #2: I used to teach VHDL, back in the late 90's. I too, voted on the IEEE effort for standardization on the synthesizable subset for VHDL, and boy what a waste of time that was. But I digress. Here are some cool reasons why VHDL is better than Verilog. 1. Recursion. You can write recursive hardware components that instantiate smaller versions of themselves. Recursion is cool, but tools hate it. The Xilinx tools complain about it, but will still produce the right hardware. Recursion can be used for Multipliers, adder trees, priority encoders, muxes, and just about anything where divide and conquer actually works. 2. Attributes. VHDL attributes translate straight to EDIF properties, and let you do cool stuff like physical design in an FPGA, EDIF properties in the netlist let you do anything from selecting the power-on state of a flop, to setting the logic function of a lookup table (LUT), or setting the initial value of a RAM. Even better, you can pass LOC (Location) or RLOC (relative location) properties, allowing you to physically place the location of a component in the target device. You can even specify directed routing constraints that lock down the signal path to a specific defined route. Verilog will sort of let you do this, but only in a pragma (code comment). Hence creating relatively placed soft macros controlled by top level generic parameters is possible in VHDL, but not in Verilog. 3. Compile time elaboration of constants. This sounds incredibly obscure, but is actually very powerful. During elaboration, constants are evaluated. Constants can be defined by an arbitrarily complex function call. These functions can perform arbitrary computation, as well as read and write files. A standard trick is to read a hex file from the design directory containing data to load into a RAM or a ROM. I use compile time function calls to do precomputation on stuff where I don't know the generic parameters in advance. An example of this would be a state machine to detect a serial unique word, with the states branches computed at compile time by function calls that calculate the state branches based on a unique word specified in a generic parameter. Or how about CRC's? You see people writing C programs to generate Verilog designs to calculate a CRC, but in VHDL, you can compute the parity matrices directly at compile time given a static CRC as a generic parameter. Once the parity matrix is generated, it's easy to generate the hardware to calculate it. It's a bit trickier to do error correction with a CRC, but also possible. These calculations are hideously difficult in Verilog. 4. Type REAL. VHDL has a floating data type REAL, and even a IEEE library REALMATH to use it with (Sine, Cosine, Tangent, etc). You can do very nice geometry calculations during elaboration with this library. Or, for the EE's, you can do stuff like generate coefficents for a raised root cosine filter in VHDL. Now REAL types can't be synthesized directly, since they have no direct hardware representation.. but REAL can be converted to INTEGERs, and integers can be turned in to real hardware with a precision of up to 32 bits. That's plenty in most cases in an FPGA.

Now having said all that... System Verilog has a LOT going for it, and when the tools catch up to the Language Reference Manual, then it could be an extremely powerful design language. This presentation from DATE 2004 shows why.


OpenSUSE Beta Can Brick Intel e1000e Network Cards 129

An anonymous reader writes "Some Intel cards don't just not work with the new OpenSUSE beta, they can get bricked as well. Check your hardware before you install!" The only card mentioned as affected is the Intel e1000e, and it's not just OpenSUSE for which this card is a problem, according to this short article: "Bug reports for Fedora 9 and 10 and Linux Kernel 2.6.27rc1 match the symptoms reported by SUSE users."

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