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Comment Re:G-forces ???? (Score 1) 384

The really expensive part of space travel, in terms of fuel and energy, is building up the velocity for orbit. I.e., "climbing the gravity well". That part at least is solved with the gun/cannon.

The next most expensive maneuver is changing orbital planes, that is, change the "tilt" of the orbit in respect to earth's axis. It would make sense to build the gun so that the payload ends up in an orbital plane very close to the ISS's. (Or whatever is the intended destination.)

Then, a space tug would only have to adjust height, eccentricity and phase, which are very cheap maneuvers. It might just be economical.

Comment Re:G-forces ???? (Score 1) 384

If all you want to do is have the payload achieve orbit, the thrust and guidance control is actually very simple. All you need is some sort of passive aerodynamic stabilization, to ensure that the craft maintains a constant prograde attitude. Then there would have to be a (solid-fuel) rocket motor, which is triggered by a timer as the craft reaches apoapsis (the highest point after launch, before it starts to drop again). If the thrust and burn duration of the rocket motor are correctly pre-determined (easy to do), you'll end up in a circular orbit.

Comment Re:This seems to be getting pretty routine (Score 2, Informative) 205

Achieving orbit would be impossible for such a project. Most of the energy in spacefaring rockets is spent on gaining velocity, not altitude. This balloon would give a lot of altitude "for free", but virtually no velocity. Gravity is pretty much as strong at 30 km as it is here on the ground, so it's not like the rockets would have an easier time lifting the payload than they do at ground level.

Comment Re:Still not a Chrome user (Score 1) 207

Well, first off Chrome is famous for its sandboxing concept. Each tab is a process in its own sandbox, so in theory, any compromisation of the browser stays contained. If it's pop up windows you worry about, these are confined to the tab that (attempts to) open them. So if a page opens a billion pop ups - just close that tab and it's all gone. Chrome even has its own task manager where you can kill processes on a per-page or plugin basis.

It's quite neat, really.

Comment Re:Fast way to shut down! (Score 3, Insightful) 792

I like to conserve energy, so I don't leave my PC running when I'm not using it. I also don't use "standby", it's a useless power draw. When the PC is off, I physically separate it (and all the periphery) from the grid - so I do have to wait until shutdown is complete.

Hence, like booting up, shutting down is something I do once or twice a day, and it's comfortable to have it out of the way as quickly as possible so I don't have to sit around twiddling my thumbs.

Comment Re:Start-bar aka Dock! (Score 1) 792

True, the new task bar and start menu are pretty awesome. There's a good bit of OS X "inspiration" about it, but I don't mind - the usability is great. Now if only they had cloned Exposé and Spaces (or any good virtual desktop manager, really) while they were at it, it'd be the perfect windows.

Ah well, they need to sell Windows 8, at some point...

Comment Re:Nonsense. Yeah... I think that is the word. (Score 1) 304

It is? Why would any human want to permanently go to another planet/moon/whatever? It's not like there are many places in our current solarsystem that most humans would consider a nice place to live. I'll agree that having people on another planet is cool (in much the same way that being able to juggle flaming chainsaws is cool), I fail to see what makes it useful to us, especially the 'permanently' part.

It's a culture thing. Living in conditions and environments that we haven't inhabited before broadens our cultural perspective on an existential level. Colonizing the world did it, as did landing on the moon, and now we need to take the next steps or stagnate. Everyone who has gone to orbit and seen the world from far above has returned a different man (or woman), and I feel it would be beneficial to mankind to culturally ingrain that experience by making space accessible for everyone.

After all, if we don't develop our culture, there's not much point in existing at all.

Comment Re:4chan (Score 5, Insightful) 330

Not all is lost in Germany. Political activism against the ongoing restriction of our civil rights is strongly on the rise. The petition against the censorship law has been mentioned in the article, and our Pirate Party has gained thousands of new members in the past few months. It has done pretty well in the European elections this year, and I think that public awareness to civil rights matters has improved since then. I strongly hope the Pirates will enter the Bundestag (parliament) in September.

Our government has used pretty underhanded techniques to push these laws, effectively grouping all opposition to the censorship law with child molesters. So if you ask someone on the street if "they're against a law which will combat child pornography on the internet", of course they will decline. On the other hand, if you asked them if "government and police should be able to censor the internet at will", the result would surely be different.

By the way, this phenomenon is not unique to Germany. In America, civil rights have been whittled away with terrorists as a scarecrow.

Comment Re:Even the blind... (Score 1) 238

A laser range-finder could probably detect a rapidly decelerating car faster than good ol' Eyeball Mk.1. We only see the braking lights and have to guess the rate of deceleration, which may be not immediately obvious, leading to a delay in reaction. The laser range-finder immediately sees the closing distance, and doesn't even need braking lights as a clue.

Same thing about surprise obstacles. The laser range-finder has 360Â vision, all the time. We usually don't check the mirrors constantly...

But it has been said before - if you can make a car for the blind, you can make a self-driving car. I'd rather have that. It would drive a lot more rationally, possibly reducing or eliminating traffic jams (if everyone had one).

Operating Systems

Submission + - A Linux desktop for non-techies? 2

karstux writes: I'm sure this is a problem that many of the slashdot crowd have run into, and I'd like to hear your solutions. I'm tasked with providing a notebook to a completely non-technical friend, for exclusively mundane activities such as web browsing, e-mail correspondence and composing the odd letter. The recipient is of course indoctrinated to Windows ways.

I'd like the solution to be as maintenance-free, secure and easy to use as possible. I don't want to have to "teach" the usage of the system, and I won't be around to fix things if anything breaks. Under these circumstances, is Linux a good idea? If so, which flavor? Are there alternatives? (OS X won't run on the hardware.)

Comment Re:option 4: the US quits participating (Score 4, Interesting) 237

Why deorbit it at all? They could attach an ion drive to the station and slowly raise the orbit until it won't decay for another 500 years or so. The station can withstand that much acceleration. There's certainly space enough up there, it's not like it takes up valuable room... also, lifting all that mass into orbit has been so stupidly expensive, they should at least reserve the option to use it at some point in the future. Anything else is irresponsible.

At the very least, it would be an interesting machinery longevity experiment. Re-visit the station in 50 years or so, just to see how it has stood up to the environment up there. Also, at some point in the future it will be an archaeological artifact, and valuable to future historians.

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