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Comment Re:But but but! (Score 1) 233

Is this going to be driven by space rednecks with astro-mullets carrying their space shotguns?

I think the image you are supposed to get is of space contractors throwing their space toolboxes and some space lumber into a pickup truck and driving over to a construction site.

Notice that if you hire contractors to do some work on your house, they are more likely to show up in pickup trucks than giant vans.

Realistically it's going to be more like a space van or lorry.

I didn't invent the term "space pickup truck". I saw others using it years ago in Internet discussions of space.

The idea is that it is specifically not a giant van or lorry. On rare occasions you might need a giant van, but a pickup truck can be something you use every day. That's the metaphor.

The Space Shuttle was metaphorically a lorry. It had a large cargo volume and could carry heavy loads... to low Earth orbit, on rare occasions. It would be much much more useful to have a fleet of vehicles that can each only carry a tonne or so but can do it frequently, economically, with little drama.

Space X et al. are really just trying to use current technology

They are advancing the state of the art, but yes they are only using the known proven technology. I just read the Wikipedia page for the Skylon, and if Reaction Engine can get that to work, then they deserve all the money. I hope both companies succeed but I'm not pinning my hopes on the radical new technology.

The Skylon promises to be a reusable SSTO craft with a 15 tonne cargo capacity. Obviously 15 tonnes is better than 1 tonne. If it can fly routinely, without excessive maintenance, it should be a huge step forward. But it's a lot more complicated than what SpaceX is trying to do, and therefore a lot higher risk.

If the Skylon works, but it turns out that the engines have to be torn down and rebuilt after every flight, and SpaceX can make 20 flights for every one Skylon flight, then SpaceX will win.

Comment Not Virtualization (Score 1) 345

I've seen a number of companies try to go down the virtualization route. Not only does it never work, it's one of the first signs the company is on the decline. You'll spend two years implementing some Citrix environment that everyone hates and which never perform correctly or have the software that you need to get your job done. Then the company will have a round of layoffs and quietly sweep the whole Virtual Environment thing under the carpet. They won't get rid of it, because that would involve admitting the CTO was horribly wrong, but no one will ever actually use it for anything.

Comment Re:But but but! (Score 4, Interesting) 233

I definitely am a fan of the idea of doing space exploration in a systematic way. We should build a space station that includes a fuel depot, and use it as the hub of space operations.

I am loathe to just destroy the ISS. It was expensive to get it up there and it should be affordable to keep it going. How hard is it really to just boost it into a higher orbit? If we want to save money we might want to stop having people on board for a while... just turn off the life support and other things, but do keep boosting its orbit to keep it where it is.

We will have a real game-changer once we have a "space pickup truck", a launch vehicle that can take a relatively small amount of cargo to orbit, but can do it affordably and frequently. The biggest problem with the Space Shuttle (aside from the fact that it was only 99% safe) was that it took man-decades of labor after each flight to service an orbiter for the next flight.

SpaceX is really working on the "space pickup truck" idea. Recovering the first-stage booster to be refueled and re-used is part of making launch more affordable.

Additionally I would love to see a mass driver or other sort of "cannon" to fire inert payloads (oxygen, water, fuel, dried food, sturdy electronics) to orbit. I've read about this. The biggest problem is that anything you fire from Earth will return to Earth unless its trajectory can be altered; the two obvious ways to do that are to put jets on the cargo capsules so they can adjust their own trajectory, or to have some sort of cargo capture system (a net? a drone with grabber arms?). I favor the latter because I want the cargo capsules to be as simple and cheap as possible.

Once we have an affordable way to get fuel into orbit, all sorts of things become possible. Make a rugged and simple craft that can shuttle back-and-forth between Earth and the Moon, and Moon visits become dramatically simpler and cheaper. Re-boosting the ISS, re-boosting satellites, launching space probes, all of it becomes much simpler and cheaper. Once you are in orbit you are halfway to anywhere in the solar system.

Comment Re:Alternative media. (Score 1) 292

You can always voluntarily demonetize and say anything you want (that fit legal bounds and are within the terms of service).

Google is a de-facto monopoly on search and video dissemination. So I think there's a reasonable argument to be made if Google impacts search results based on 'objectionable' content. But when their clients - advertisers - say, 'I don't want to pay to see my ad on that channel / content', it doesn't matter if it's hate speech or football talk. The whole point is to target ads at likely buyers. And maybe Pepsi marketing has determined the neo-nazi market isn't worth the trouble. In which case, they get to make that call. And if Google can't meet that customer need, maybe it makes sense for Pepsi to give Google the finger and yank their ads.

I mean, we used to call that a 'free market'. But when you see alt-right wingers whining on about their losing their free speech rights on a corporate platform they don't own, it seems these days things are topsy-turvy. You know, up is down, black is white, left is right.

Comment Re: Uh, why? (Score 1) 208

If you think Vista was bad you're not old enough to remember NT 4.0.

I remember the sound system crashing on my Vista laptop, sending a horrible, unstoppable screeching through the speakers. Basically it was an audio snow crash. Yet everything else worked normally; I was able to save my work and shut the system down. And I remember thinking, "that was horrible, but so much less horrible than it could have been."

Comment Re:Workplace Shell & virtualisation engine (Score 1) 208

It used a lot of COM/DCOM to get its job done, though, and there are implications for creating long-term persistent system objects with those things, that aren't released when you close applications. So you could end up tying up a system resource until you rebooted, if your application crashed in the process of using an object. System-level objects look good on paper, but there they really don't handle failures very well, most of the time.

Comment Re: Uh, why? (Score 1) 208

I got it working on a 386sx with 4 MB of RAM and a standard VGA card. Linux would run on the system as well, but I never could get X11 running well on it and ended up just using terminal mode, with one of the virtual terminals dialing up gate.net and running slirp. OS/2 had a number of artifacts from Windows, so even though it was preemptively multitasking, one program could type up the system event queue. They came up with a workaround for that, but it never really worked all that well. So if you really wanted OS/2 to shine, you had to install it on a multiprocessor system. That version of OS/2 created an event queue for each processor, so you could tie event queue up and the system would still be responsive. We did a pretty impressive demo at the '95 COMDEX in Atlanta on a massive Compaq quad processor 486 with a ridiculous 16MB of RAM, running 4 videos in 4 different video players without slowing the system down.

Funnily, even though OS/2 sported newfangled "threads", very few IBM applications used them -- most IBM OS/2 programs were pure windows ports. Ironically, if you ran the windows versions of those programs, you could run them in separate memory spaces so that the programs couldn't interfere with each other when doing processing in the event-handling thread. So Windows programs ran better on OS/2 than they did in windows and better than OS/2 programs ran in OS/2. You could format a disk and run a print job at the same time, as long as you did it from the command line. The GUI versions would tie the system queue up, so you could only do one at a time.

Comment Re:Good grief (Score 1) 269

>The thesis of this "scientific paper" is basically like a couple of tokers sitting around in their parents' basement saying "DUUUUDE... what if the money in our savings account DOUBLED EVERY YEAR?!???

Again this is not a critique of the paper, it is a critique of tokers sitting around in their parent's basement. There is no substance in your criticism to address, it really is just an expression of your feelings toward the paper's author. Aside from the fact that you're just name-calling, the numerical basis you've used for comparison is just wrong.

Now it so happens I have you at a disadvantage: I've actually read the paper. It's closer the tokers sitting around saying, "How can we achieve a 7% annual compound interest rate sustained over ten years with our portfolio," which is roughly what doubling your money in ten years takes. The authors are talking about what it would take to half carbon emissions which would be a 6.6% reduction each year, and they discuss methods for reducing them, which they break down into near term no-brainer, near-term difficult, and long term speculative. As is usual the further out you go the less concrete and certain you can be. This is normal in economic projections that go twenty or more years out.

Now you may disagree with the specific means proposed, some of which are quite drastic (e.g. attempting to recover external costs through inheritance taxes). But there is nothing inherently irrational about starting with a goal -- zero carbon emissions by 2050 -- then asking what it would take to achieve that. Nor is there anything inherently ridiculous with coming up with the answer that it'll take a mix of things, some of which looking twenty or more years into the future we can't predict yet.

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