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Submission + - NASA budget cut $3 billion

dsmall writes: "CBS NEWS Coverage of Breaking Space News
Posted: 4:30 PM, 5/8/09

By William Harwood
CBS News Space Consultant

Changes and additions:

04/15/09 (12:45 PM): Station crew says lab ready for six full-time crew members
05/07/09 (06:55 PM): Obama orders independent review of manned space operations; NASA 2010 budget unveiled
05/08/09 (04:30 PM): Reeling from projected budget cuts, NASA braces for manned space flight review


4:30 PM, 5/8/09, Update: NASA braces for manned space flight review

Reeling from projected budget cuts totaling more than $3 billion through 2013, NASA managers and engineers working to build a post-shuttle rocket system for an eventual return to the moon are bracing for a critical review ordered by the Obama administration that could set the agency on a different course.

The chairman of an independent review panel charged with evaluating NASA's post-shuttle manned space program said Friday he will bring an open mind and "go where the facts lead" in assessing the technical and economic feasibility of the space agency's current manned space program.

Norman Augustine, former chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin Corp., said the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee also will assess alternatives, including different rocket systems and alternative targets for exploration. The team's report is expected by August.

"We are planning to spend billions of dollars on the human space flight program and it's wise to be sure we're spending that the way we should," he told reporters in a teleconference. "New information becomes available all the time. And similarly, we have a new administration and it would probably be imprudent on their part not to examine this major of a program to be sure such a long term undertaking is still on a course that makes sense to them."

The cost of NASA's manned space program — and ongoing efforts by the Office of Management and Budget to cut spending — is at the heart of the review, announced Thursday when the Obama administration's fiscal 2010 budget request was unveiled.

"I think what it boils down to is we're being told there's no sense in being unrealistic and putting together a program that can't possibly be afforded, and we've been given some guidance," Augustine said. "I think one of the chronic problems NASA's encountered over the years has been that it usually had more programs than it had money. That can be dangerous when you're doing something as difficult as NASA does.

"So as we go through this evaluation, if we were to find there were reasons the budget didn't make sense in any way, I can assure you we would not be bashful about pointing that out, and I suspect the administration would want to know that anyway."

The Obama administration is asking Congress for $18.7 billion in funding for NASA in 2010, a watershed year for the civilian space agency as it tries to complete assembly of the International Space Station and retire the space shuttle fleet after just nine more flights.

NASA is designing a new rocket, called the Ares 1, and an Apollo-style Orion capsule to replace the shuttle, but the new system will not be ready for routine use until 2015. During the five years between the shuttle's retirement next year and the debut of Ares 1/Orion, NASA will be forced to buy seats on Russian Soyuz rockets to get U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.

NASA's long-range goal, set by the Bush administration, is to return to the moon by 2020, using Ares 1/Orion spacecraft to carry astronauts to orbit and then new heavy-lift Ares 5 rockets to boost the astronauts and lunar landers to the moon. The new rocket systems are the central elements of what NASA calls the Constellation program.

But funding has been a critical issue from the beginning. Congress and the Bush administration, which put NASA on its current course, did not provide the funding necessary to significantly reduce the gap between shuttle retirement and first flight of Ares 1/Orion.

The Obama administration's 2010 budget includes a near-term funding boost of $630 million for Constellation, thanks in part to about $1 billion routed to NASA as part of the economic Recovery Act.

But the administration's predicted budgets through 2013 show an overall cut of $3.1 billion for the exploration systems directorate in charge of Constellation, cuts that have sent shock waves through the NASA community.

"That's the real story," a senior space manager, who asked not to be named, said of NASA's Thursday budget briefing. "It's like that Sherlock Holmes thing, the real story is the dog that didn't bark in the night. ... If the three-plus billion dollars in the out years, if that cut stands, then there's no moon by 2020 and maybe none at all."

NASA officials said Thursday the budget numbers may change depending on the results of the Augustine review. But the agency turned down a request Friday for an interview with Jeff Hanley, Constellation program manager at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, to discuss the potential impacts of the projected cuts.

Against this backdrop, the Obama administration ordered the Augustine review of NASA's ongoing manned space exploration program, prompting speculation that budget pressures could lead to a major change of course. It's not yet known how any such a change might affect the gap between shuttle and any follow-on spacecraft, or whether the moon will even remain NASA's primary target.

"I must confess, as an individual I'm not thrilled with the fact that we have a gap," Augustine said. "But we have what we have. ... There are things that could be done, probably, that would shorten the gap, there are some things one might do that would lengthen the gap. But certainly, an objective, I think, of anybody would be to balance the various pros and cons of whatever is proposed against the impact on the gap, among other things, and recognizing that extending the gap is probably not a desirable thing. On the other hand, and I'm not making predictions here because I don't know the outcome, it's not something that's written in stone, either."

John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said the administration's objective "is to ensure that these programs remain on a strong and stable footing well into the 21st Century, and this review will be crucial to meeting that goal."

An OSTP statement said Augustine's panel will "assess a number of architecture options, taking into account such objectives as: 1) expediting a new U.S. capability to support use of the International Space Station; 2) supporting missions to the Moon and other destinations beyond low Earth orbit; 3) stimulating commercial space flight capabilities; and 4) fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities."

While the review is underway, NASA was told to continue work on Ares 1/Orion.

Augustine said he planned to assemble a team of experts with a broad range of space experience to evaluate the Constellation program and alternative architectures "both from an economic and a technical standpoint."

"We have a rather short time period to conduct our review, to be completed in August, and because of that we're drawing heavily on prior work and on our own experience as well as analyses ... from NASA and possibly others."

He said the panel's instructions are "to take a fresh, independent look at the human spaceflight program and go where the facts lead. And that's what we'll try to do. Obviously, the U.S. has excelled in the exploration and utilization of space for a long time. It's a source of great pride to our nation as well as, I might say, to myself.

"I also have long believed it should be a balanced program that includes both robotics and human involvement. Our focus will be on the human spaceflight aspect. The president has made rather clear he's very supportive of human spaceflight, he believes it's important from an economic and technical and scientific leadership standpoint. I certainly share that view and I believe this is an important task and I look forward to leading it."


Quick-Launch Web Links:

CBS News Space Shuttle Status Reports:

CBS News Space Shuttle Quick-Look Page:

CBS News Breaking Space News Page:

NASA Shuttle Web:
NASA Station Web:
Spaceflight Now:

Hubble Space Telescope Background:

HST Overview:
Servicing Missions:
Space Telescope Science Institute:
Hubble Site:
NASA HQ Hubble Page:
Goddard Hubble Page:
Ball Aerospace Hubble Page:


Submission + - Terry Pratchett diagnosed with Alzheimers

dsmall writes: I did a -search- of this site and did not see anything on "Pratchett" so I thought I'd send this along.

The Turtle Moves!

Thanks, Dave Small

- — - — - — -

Author Terry Pratchett Has Alzheimer's
Posted: 2007-12-13 11:12:23
LONDON (Dec. 12) — Best-selling fantasy author Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with a rare form of early onset Alzheimer's, he said in a message posted to his illustrator's Web site.

In a brief note to fans entitled "An Embuggerance," Pratchett, 59, said he was taking the news "fairly philosophically" and "possibly with a mild optimism."

Jorge Herrera,
Terry Pratchett, 59, has written dozens of books. Despite his Alzheimer's diagnosis, "I think there's time for at least a few more books yet," he said.

"I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while, but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news," he wrote on the Web site of Paul Kidby, who has illustrated many of his books.

Pratchett is best known for his Discworld series, which explores the residents of very flat, very weird and almost invariably hilarious planet dominated by the sprawling, chaotic city of Ankh-Morpork. Pratchett wrote his first Discworld novel, "The Color of Magic," in 1983, and 35 more books followed, many of which topped the best seller charts.

Pratchett's Web site said his novels have sold more than 45 million copies and have been translated into 33 languages worldwide.

His latest work, "Making Money," was published in September and Harper Children's was due publish a non-Discworld novel, "Nation," in 2008.

Pratchett said he would continue completing "Nation" and that he had already begun working on "Unseen Academicals" — another writing project.

"Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet :o)" he wrote in his message. "I know it's a very human thing to say 'Is there anything I can do,' but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
2007-12-12 16:20:55

Submission + - Excel 2007 Multiplies Oddly

dsmall writes: "Excel Thinks 65,535 = 100,000 Microsoft Working To Fix Spreadsheet Problems

POSTED: 12:42 pm EDT September 28, 2007

SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp.'s Excel 2007 spreadsheet program is going to have to relearn part of its multiplication table.

In a blog post, Microsoft employee David Gainer said that when computer users tried to get Excel 2007 to multiply some pairs of numbers and the result was 65,535, Excel would incorrectly display 100,000 as the answer.

Gainer said Excel makes mistakes multiplying 77.1 by 850, 10.2 by 6,425 and 20.4 by 3,212.5, but the program appears to be able to handle 16,383.75 times 4.

"Further testing showed a similar phenomenon with 65,536 as well," Gainer wrote Tuesday.

He said Excel was actually performing the calculations correctly, but when it comes time to show the answer on the screen, it messes up.

Gainer said the bug is limited to six numbers from 65,534.99999999995 to 65,535, and six numbers from 65,535.99999999995 to 65,536 and that Microsoft is working hard to fix the problem.

This short summary is Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All rights Reserved


Here is the actual blog entry at :

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 6:51 PM Calculation Issue Update

Yesterday we were alerted to an issue in Excel 2007 (and Excel Services 2007) involving calculation of numbers around 65,535. The Excel team would like to provide a description of the issue and explain what we're doing about it.

Background Yesterday evening we were alerted to an issue in Excel 2007 (and Excel Services 2007) involving calculation of numbers around 65,535. The first example that we heard about was =77.1*850, but it became clear from our testing as well as additional reports that this was just one instance where Excel 2007 would return a value of 100,000 instead of 65,535. The majority of these additional reports were focused on multiplication (ex. =5.1*12850; =10.2*6425; =20.4*3212.5 ), but our testing showed that this really didn't have anything do to with multiplication — it manifested itself with many but not all calculations in Excel that should have resulted in 65,535 (=65535*1 and =16383.75*4 worked for instance). Further testing showed a similar phenomenon with 65,536 as well. This issue only exists in Excel 2007, not previous versions.

The Problem This issue was introduced when we were making changes to the Excel calculation logic in the Office 2007 time frame. Specifically, Excel incorrectly displays the result of a calculation in 12 very specific cases (outlined below). The key here is that the issue is actually not in the calculation itself (the result of the calculation stored in Excel's memory is correct), but only in the result that is shown in the sheet. Said another way, =850*77.1 will display an incorrect value, but if you then multiply the result by 2, you will get the correct answer (i.e. if A1 contains "=850*77.1", and A2 contains "=A1*2", A2 will return the correct answer of 131,070).

So what, specifically, are the values that cause this display problem? Of the 9.214*10^18 different floating point numbers (floating point on wikipedia) that Excel 2007 can store, there are 6 floating point numbers (using binary representation) between 65534.99999999995 and 65535, and 6 between 65535.99999999995 and 65536 that cause this problem. You can't actually enter these numbers into Excel directly (since Excel will round to 15 digits on entry), but any calculation returning one of those results will display this issue if the results of the calculation are displayed in a cell. All other calculation results are not affected.

The Solution We take calculation in Excel very seriously and we do everything we can in order to ensure that calculation is correct for all cases. We've come up with a fix for this issue and are in the final phases of a broad test pass in order to ensure that the fix works and doesn't introduce any additional issues — especially any other calculation issues. This fix then needs to make its way through our official build lab and onto a download site — which we expect to happen very soon. We'll add another post once that's taken place with a link to the download.

Posted by David Gainer | 159 Comments

=================================================================== Note (from Dave Small): In my testing with a small (non-Excel) calculator:

77.1 X 850 = 65535,
10.2 X 6,425 = 65535,
20.4 X 3,212.5 = 65535,
Of course, 65535 = $ FFFF = $1111 1111 1111 1111,
and, 65536 = $1 0000 = $0001 0000 0000 0000 0000
(I usually separate out the binary into hex digits for readability.)
The blog entry seems convinced that the problem is in floating point conversion. I find myself wondering if the programmers simply have a .Word 16-bit value and don't realize the significance of these numbers.
I do not have Excel 2007 and cannot test it, but it would certainly be interesting to check numbers around 32767 and 4 billion (e.g., a .Long full of 1's).

— Dave"
Linux Business

Submission + - thinkgeek sells toy: code for it, make money. (

dsmall writes: "ThinkGeek's latest catalog has the Neuros (see them at )... The Neuros, a media device with a twist. It arrives without all the code to make it fully work. If you submit the code to make it work, you get paid.
From Neuros: "These bounties are a community style thing that is just a modest way to put a little money back into the Neuros community as a token for our appreciation. We hope and expect for people to collaborate, split bounties and credit and share information, etc. The deliverables and rules are sketchy and the interpretation is completely subject to the whim of the selection committee"
YouTube or Google video Browser Bounty: $1000
Flickr Photo Browser Bounty: $600
Implement a wireless remote using a WiFi PDA (or PSP) as the remote. Bounty: $500
TiVo style functionality for radio. Hook up the OSD to a FM/AM or Satellite receiver and do timed recordings or FF/RW and Pause Live Radio. Bounty: $700
Voip on the OSD. Plug a USB phone into the OSD and make calls without touching any of your PCs. Bounty: $500"
Might be interesting if you have too much time on your hands and are looking to make a quick Euro."


Submission + - Canadians ban funny site

dsmall writes: "This story is from ZDNet and is -not- my scoop. But still, it's part of the ongoing battle between the censors and the sites and what should be free speech. It's all the more painful because this site really is funny.

The French-language site is at this link:

— ZdNet's story is at:

February 16, 2007

Canadians ban popular comedy animation site

Education Technology Students
Canadian school officials have banned students from viewing the popular Têtes à Claques comedy website, after it was deemed to be without education value and unsuitable for children, reports the CBC.

More than 25,000 people visit the French Canadian comedy show online, but recent complaints about the show from the superintendent of a New Brunswick school district prompted the Department of Education to review the site.

The Department of Education contracts with a private company to screen websites for inappropriate content, such as nudity, sex, gambling, illegal activity, hate and racism, violence and weapons and tastelessness.

"The site was reviewed and some content was found to be inappropriate as a result of coarse language — and as a result the access is restricted," said Education Department spokesman Hugues Beaulieu.

Josee-Anne Doucet, a student at École Secondaire Népisiguit, says she is sympathetic with the district but that the ban is too restrictive.

"They always ban all sorts of sites that we need for research," Doucet said. "I have a friend, she wanted to do research on tattoos because it was for school and she couldn't go on the sites because it was tattoos."

— end —"

Submission + - Microsoft patents makefile/kernel build

dsmall writes: "Take a look at: O2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.h tm&r=1&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PTXT&S1=microsoft$.ASNM.&OS= an/microsoft$&RS=AN/microsoft$

[Note: I am unsure if that link will work, a strange return/linefeed is working its way in there.]

You can always go to Patent's home page [ ] and look it up directly: this is Patent #7,140,028.

Or, as Microsoft puts it,"System and methods are described herein for determining which components of a source operating system are required to be included in a target operating system to support selected source operating system features in the target operating system."

Good grief, sounds like building a Linux kernel to me!

Thanks, Dave Small"

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