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Category: Technology

Tech, science, gaming, entertainment, space exploration, energy, and anything else tech-related.

December 25, 2015

Citizens of Tech 022 - Sucralose Hyperloop Blenders

00:0000:00

Intro

Eric and Ethan compare their Christmas wish lists.

Present

Thou Shalt Register Thy Drone

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/12/faa-launches-drone-registration-website-gives-owners-february-deadline/

http://www.faa.gov/uas/registration/faqs/

  • Unmanned drones must now be registered. Why? Some drone operators are idiots, and do things with their drones that endanger the lives of other people. Also, terrorism. Oh...and privacy.

  • The FAA calls these “Unmanned Aircraft Systems” or UAS (from FAQ).

  • Will cost you $5 to register (from FAQ).

  • If you don’t register, the FAA can issue a civil penalty up to $27,500. Criminal penalties could include a $250K fine and/or 3 years of jail time (from FAQ).

  • And yes, you must have proof of registration with you when operating (from FAQ).

  • Online registration starts on December 21, 2015 for any new UAS purchased. Any earlier owners must be registered by February 19, 2016. This process applies to drones weighing 55 pounds or less.

New Star Trek “Beyond” Coming to Theaters July 2016

http://arstechnica.com/the-multiverse/2015/12/theres-a-new-star-trek-trailer-and-it-looks-terrible/

  • Editor from Ars got his panties in a bunch because he doesn’t think it’s Star Trek-y enough. Plus, he saw people fighting.

  • It is another J.J. Abrams epic.

  • If you like the first two reboots, the trailer makes me think you’ll like this one.

  • If you didn’t like the reboots, then...um...I don’t think this one will be for you either.

Raspberry Pi’s big brother - a 64bit $15 computer

http://pine64.com

  • Called Pine64

    • Named after Pi, the Number “e” (Euller’s number - which is one of the 5 fundamental constants in mathematics along with 0, 1, Pi, and i ), and 64 (as in bits).

    • Much like Pi and e, my love for this project is... Irrational (•_•)  |  ( •_•)>⌐■-■  |  (⌐■_■)

  • 1.2 Ghz Quad-Core ARM Cortex A53 64-Bit Processor

  • up to 4K H.265 high-definition video

  • 512MB, 1GB, or 2GB DDR3 Memory

  • up to 256GB Micro SD Expansion

  • 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet

  • Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11BGN connectivity optional.

  • Two I/O Expansion slots

  • Dual core Mali 400 MP2 Graphics

  • runs on 5V micro USB or 3.7V battery - 2.5w

  • Android Lollipop (5.1), ubuntu, OpenHab (Home Automation), OpenWRT, XBMC (Now called Kodi)

Future

Amid overwhelming interest, 124 teams qualify for Hyperloop pod competition

http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/12/amid-overwhelming-interest-124-teams-qualify-for-hyperloop-competition/

  • It’s time to put something in the tube. This is what the competition is all about.

  • Forgot what hyperloop is? It’s an Elon Musk joint. Hyperloop would “involve a pod or capsule moving at nearly the speed of sound inside a tube elevated above the ground. This kind of track system could provide rapid transportation between cities 1,500 km or less apart, Musk said, after which supersonic aircraft would probably be faster or cheaper. Passengers might travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 30 minutes, according to Musk. The idea was hailed as visionary by some, but others have criticized it for being far from practical.”

  • Engineering students have responded, because it means they get to work on a real problem.

  • Yeah, but...isn’t Hyperloop unlikely to become a reality? “Many questions have been raised about the financial viability of a new transportation system, but Musk has argued that the pods and linear motors to propel them along the tracks will be relatively inexpensive, costing “several hundred million dollars.” The tube itself, rising above the ground on pylons with a narrow footprint roughly equal to that of a telephone pole, would cost several billion dollars to construct alongside highways between major cities, he acknowledges.”

  • At least we’ll get a test track. “Agreements have been secured for a five-mile, $100 million test track in California.”

Feature

3D Art… inspired by “The Science Behind Pixar” @ Boston Museum of Science

  • http://www.mos.org/exhibits/the-science-behind-pixar

  • Discusses the roots of Pixar (to some degree, they mostly start at Toy Story, which is 7 years after the founding of Pixar proper)

  • 40 interactive exhibit elements

    • Lighting, Wireframe, Textures, Rigging, Cameras, etc.

  • Sadly it’s only around for 19 more days, actually - 15 by the time you’re hearing this.

  • This got me thinking more about ray tracing and my fascination with 3D graphics.

  • Awareness due to Tron, but obsession started with Donkey Kong country, actually.

  • Wanted to learn, even ordered a program for my 286 from a computer catalogue.

  • Blender - the Open Source alternative to Pixar’s tools

  • It should be noted that Pixar has made Renderman available for free, but for non-commercial use only - and to use industry standard file formats, you really need Maya, Katana, or Blender - and use the Renderman rendering plugin to do the actual renders.

  • ...but it’s not really needed. Blender can do almost anything renderman can.

  • There are entire films made with Blender

  • Yours for the low, low price of free, plus some time to learn the intricate UI.

Content I Like

Item title in bold

Blender Galleries

Today I Learned

“Some researchers believe that artificial sweeteners [aspartame, sucralose, saccharin] do not satisfy our biological sugar cravings in the same manner as sugar, and could therefore lead to increased food intake. However, the evidence is mixed.”

http://authoritynutrition.com/artificial-sweeteners-and-weight-gain/

Enceladus, Saturn's 6th moon, has a warm ocean at its southern pole with ongoing hydrothermal activity—the first ever discovered outside of Earth. This is the most life-friendly habitat ever discovered outside of Earth.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/deep-space/a14507/enceladus-saturn-moon-ocean/

Outro

That’s all for today’s Citizens of Tech podcast. You can follow Citizens of Tech in all sorts of ways, including Twitter and Facebook. Head on over to citizensoftech.com to find the details. And as you watch the new Star Wars movie this holiday season, we ask you to first honor the best Star Wars movie ever made, The Empire Strikes Back, by blowing up your local rebel power station.

December 18, 2015

Citizens of Tech 021 - Winter Sponge Planets

00:0000:00

Present

Kickstarter hires journalist to probe implosion of "most funded" project

http://www.zdnet.com/article/kickstarter-hires-journalist-to-probe-implosion-of-most-funded-project/

  • $3.5M for a mini-drone by Zano. Company blew up.

  • Kickstarter is hiring a journalist (Mark Harris) to investigate what happened.

  • Where did the money go? Well...

  • $3.5M isn’t as much as it sounds. And, manufacturing costs were poorly researched. They couldn’t make the drone for the expected costs. Oops.

  • 12K+ backers - we don’t think you’re getting your money back.

Incredibly strong El Niño still developing, bringing surge of winter warmth

http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/12/incredibly-strong-el-nino-still-developing-bringing-surge-of-winter-warmth/

  • It’s warm in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. “Of the metrics used to gauge the strength of El Niño, the most straightforward is to look at temperatures between 90 degrees west and 160 degrees east longitude, and 5 degrees north and 5 degrees south of the equator, known as the Niño 3.4 region. Back on November 16, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that this area of the Pacific had a weekly average temperature that was 3.0 degrees Celsius above normal, a record high, topping the 2.8 degrees Celsius anomaly recorded during the week of November 26, 1997, the last really strong El Niño.”

  • Result? Really warm in the US. We can testify - little snow here in New Hampshire, even at mountainous elevations.

November was Earth’s warmest such month on record by a huge margin

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2015/12/15/november-2015-was-earths-hottest-such-month-on-record-by-a-huge-margin/

  • Science has known from statistics that 2015 would very likely be the warmest we’ve ever measured. But November’s numbers mean that it’s the margin is even larger than expected.

  • The margin stands now at 1.05C or 1.9F warmer than the 1951-1980 average.

  • The previous record was 0.97C in January 2007.

  • Although El Niño is a big deal, “the Pacific Ocean wasn’t the warmest region of the globe in November — much of the warmth measured by NASA emanated from the Arctic, where temperatures were running anywhere from 4 to 10 degrees Celsius (7 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit) above average.”

  • What is less clear is the root cause, as there have been historical earth warming and cooling trends throughout geological time. However, the science points towards a constant burning of combustibles to make energy we turn into locomotion and electricity.

  • The issue isn’t whether or not the earth is warming, but rather the impact humanity can actually have if we change to wind, solar, geothermal, etc. energy.

  • Side note - an electric car by itself isn’t “green.” The electricity for the car comes from somewhere...what energy source generated it?

Valkari Clip is where Apple's iPad Pro meets Apple Pencil

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/clip-by-valkari/#/

  • Got a new iPadPro? Got one of those Apple pencils? Beautiful, aren’t they? (Oooohhh, ahhhhh.)

  • Charging the pencil means shoving it into the Lightning connector on the bottom of your iPadPro. So clunky. There’s no way you can groove ironically to Bon Iver while that’s going on. Not hipster at all. And dare we say, not Apple at all.

  • Valkari to the rescue. Now, you can shove a conductive charging pencil dock into your iPadPro’s Lightning connector instead. So elegant. So color matched. So able to route sound through the little portals. So able to make your unwieldy iPadPro even bigger.

  • Want one? 35 GBP gets you early bird buyer status on IndieGoGo.com. Supposed to ship May 2016.

  • Or...realize that you get 12 hours of life with the Pencil, and a 15 second charge gets you another 30 minutes of use. And move on with your life. Ironically.

Sponge injection could save the lives of domestic gunshot victims

http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/12/sponge-injection-could-save-the-lives-of-domestic-gunshot-victims/

  • You know how on Star Trek when there’s a hull breach, they’ll apply the shields over the hole as a temporary patch until the damage can be repaired properly?

  • This is like that, only for gunshot wounds.

  • Called XSTAT.

  • The idea is to deploy 92 little sponges that can soak up blood via a syringe. More like a plunger thing - not a needle.

  • The sponges can handle up to a pint of blood, and fill in the wound as they expand.

  • XSTAT acts as a temporary patch that increases the victim’s chance of survival while they are en route to a medical facility.

  • Is this a big deal? “About 30 to 40 percent of civilians who die from traumatic injuries do so because of blood loss, according to the United States Army Institute of Surgical Research. Of those deaths, up to 56 percent occur before the wounded patients make it to an emergency room.”

  • But I don’t want any nasty sponges left inside of me! “Each sponge contains an X-ray-detectable marker, to ensure that no sponges are left behind.”

Astronomers question claim of super planet found at solar system’s edge

http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/12/astronomers-question-claim-of-super-planet-found-at-solar-systems-edge/

  • Is there something out there beyond the orbit of Neptune and Pluto? Could be, but this is far from decided. And frankly, most astronomers think not.

  • Two new papers posit “a massive object at the edge of the solar system. Using observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile during 2014 and 2015, the astronomers spied "a new blackbody point source" that appears to be moving in conjunction with the Alpha Centauri star system, about 4.3 light years from Earth. The authors do not believe the new object is part of the Alpha Centuari system, however, because if it were that far away, such a star would have been bright enough to be seen before.”

  • Well...okay. So what is it, and what’s it orbiting? “Perhaps most notably, they suggest a "Super Earth" at a distance of about 300 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, or about six times further than Pluto is at its aphelion. Another explanation is a "super-cool" brown dwarf (too big to be a planet, too small to be a star) at about 20,000 AU from the Sun.”

  • In other words, they are totes shooting from the hip here.

  • Skepticism and cynicism are running rife in the scientific community. “In a series of tweets, Mike Brown, a prominent planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology who specializes in the outer solar system, said, "Fun fact: if it is true that ALMA accidentally discovered a massive outer solar system object in its tiny tiny tiny field of view that would suggest that there are something like 200,000 Earth sized planets in the outer solar system. Which, um, no. Even better: I just realized that this many Earth-sized planets existing would destabilize the entire solar system and we would all die."”

  • http://earthsky.org/space/wandering-jupiter-accounts-for-our-strange-solar-system is presents an alternate explaination of why the solar system is so “weird” astronomically speaking. (No inner planets closer than Mercury, etc.)

Tokyo’s drone squad will deploy 10-foot drones armed with nets to police the sky

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/12/tokyos-drone-squad-will-deploy-10ft-drones-armed-with-nets-to-police-the-sky/

  • Drones hunting drones.

  • Okay, more specifically...massive 10 foot drones with nets controlled by the Tokyo police going after unauthorized drones in city no-fly zones.

  • Why in the world do they care about this in Tokyo? “Earlier this year, a 40-year-old Japanese man admitted he landed an unmanned drone carrying radioactive sand atop Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office in an effort to protest nuclear power. Nobody was injured in the stunt.”

  • Yeah, but...AIR ROBOT WARS IN JAPAN! Now, when do we get mechs??

Content I Like

Sentdex channel on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfzlCWGWYyIQ0aLC5w48gBQ

  • A ton of video tutorials, mostly about Python.

  • But not just Python, but real-world applications of the programming language.

    • Data visualization

    • OpenGL

    • Machine learning

    • Flask web framework

    • Robotics

    • And that’s just what I spotted on the channel landing page...

Today I Learned

TIL Astronauts have to sleep near a ventilator fan or they risk suffocating in a bubble of their own exhaled carbon dioxide.

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Astronauts/Daily_life

There are least 10 basic types of clouds. High: cirrus, cirrostratus, cirrocumulus. Mid: altostratus, altocumulus, nimbostratus. Low: cumulus, stratus, cumulonimbus, stratocumulus.

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/srh/jetstream/clouds/cloudwise/types.html

December 11, 2015

Citizens of Tech 020 - Flying Dolphin Sensors

00:0000:00

Intro

Welcome to Citizens of Tech! At this merry time of year the temperatures begin plummeting here in the wondrously frigid north-east of the United States. Along with the dropping mercury our thoughts obviously wander to such festive topics as the chemical properties of water, flying personal robots, and hard drives with massive storage capacities; let alone “Today I Learned” and “Deathwatch”.

Settle in, Citizens, as we prepare to talk about tech, science and other anecdotes, facts, and hypotheses! Santa may leave presents under the tree, but with even greater care *we* nestle nerdy news, research, and commentary directly into your auditory cortex.

Present

IoT Sensors Powered by Radio Waves

http://www.engadget.com/2015/12/08/tiny-sensor-never-needs-battery/

  • Dutch researchers have built a 2 square mm temperature sensor

  • Powered by radio waves from your WiFi router

  • Range anxiety: 1 Inch range at this point - plans for 10 foot and someday 16 foot range.

  • This opens lots of potential avenues for home automation

  • General “presence” sensors could detect your location in a room and adjust lighting, temperature, accent colors, art, even what Netflix profile is selected.

  • Cost? ~ 20 cents (Presumably once once mass production ramps up)

Fleye - Your Personal Flying Robot

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gofleye/fleye-your-personal-flying-robot

  • Size and weight of a soccer ball

  • No exposed spinning blades of death - you can push it away from yourself without risk of injury.

  • Single prop inside case

  • 4 steering vanes in case

  • Camera on top, 1080p, 30fps

  • Computer on board running Linux and OpenCV

  • Open API & SDK - code the robot to react to what it sees.

  • As of this writing, 236 backers for almost $115K total. Looking for $186K ($175K euros) by January 15, 2016. A bit of a pricey project to back if you want a robot out of it. Cheapest buy-in if you act fast is 699 euros - only 9 of 100 left.

HGST beats Seagate to market with helium-filled 10TB hard drive

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/12/hgst-releases-helium-filled-10tb-hard-drive-seagate-twiddles-shingled-fingers/

  • BIG, SLOW storage. Very big. Very slow (by SSD standards).

  • 7 platters in a 1” sealed case filled with helium. Why helium? “offers significantly less air resistance to the spinning platters”

  • However, the reason Seagate was beat to market is because they are waiting on a new technology called HAMR - heat assisted magnetic recording. HAMR “uses a laser to heat up a small region of the hard drive that's being written. The heat causes the magnetic grains to lose their superparamagnetic effect for a short period, allowing for smaller magnetic grains and higher areal density. Superparamagnetism is an annoying trait of magnetic nanoparticles where they randomly flip direction—a problem when, for example, this results in your binary zeroes randomly becoming binary ones.”

Vermont utility says it will be the first to install Tesla powerwalls in the US

http://arstechnica.com/business/2015/12/vermont-utility-says-it-will-be-the-first-to-install-tesla-powerwalls-in-the-us/

  • Coming January 2016 to Green Mountain Power customers. “GMP says it will receive 500 7kWh Powerwalls in early 2016 with shipments starting in January. It will initially install the daily cycling batteries in the homes of 10 pilot customers, and then the utility will open order and installation to all customers.”

  • Pricing disappointingly higher than expected. “Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that batteries would only cost $3,500 for the 10kWh version and $3,000 for the 7kWh version. Now, according to GMP, buying a 7kWh Powerwall outright will cost $6,500, including the inverter and the installation fee.”

  • Although...you don’t have to buy the PowerWall outright. There are creative options. Customers “can also choose to allow GMP to share access to the battery, which will run customers a mere $37.50 per month with no upfront costs. Or, a GMP customer can buy a Powerwall outright for $6,500 and share access with GMP, receiving a $31.76 monthly credit, which a GMP press release says "represents the value of leveraging the battery to help lower peak energy costs."

  • GMP is a leader here, and they have other interesting power ideas, such a the community microgrid. “GMP says it’s pushing forward on more experimental grid arrangements with stationary storage playing its part. "We see a future with community microgrid—and have one in Rutland (Stafford Solar Farm) we are building,” the spokesperson told Ars. The Stafford Solar Farm is the first micro-grid in the US to rely solely on solar power and battery backup.”

NASA Has Published Hi-res Photos of Pluto

http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/12/these-are-the-best-photos-of-pluto-youll-likely-see-in-your-lifetime/

http://www.nasa.gov/feature/new-horizons-returns-first-of-the-best-images-of-pluto

  • The New Horizons spacecraft keeps sending back data. This latest data is from the closest flyby back in July 2015.

  • “Each week the piano-sized New Horizons spacecraft transmits data stored on its digital recorders from its flight through the Pluto system on July 14. These latest pictures are part of a sequence taken near New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto, with resolutions of about 250-280 feet (77-85 meters) per pixel – revealing features less than half the size of a city block on Pluto’s diverse surface.  In these new images, New Horizons captured a wide variety of cratered, mountainous and glacial terrains.”

Feature

Dihydrogen monoxide - Defying the rules, to our benefit (that’s water, by the way)

  • http://w3.marietta.edu/~biol/biomes/water_physics.htm

  • http://www.science.uwaterloo.ca/~cchieh/cact/applychem/waterphys.html

  • H2O gets more dense… until it doesn’t

    • Gets more dense until it reaches 4.44 degrees C (40 degrees F)

    • So it suddenly gets less dense as it becomes a solid

    • Since it expands when it freezes, its density actually decreases about 9%

      • This is what makes ice float in water

      • Think about it, what if ice sank?

  • Amazingly potent solvent

    • Both Inorganic & Organic substances

  • Surface tension helps it climb trees and support organisms

  • Polarity

    • Negative Oxygen side

    • Positive H2 side

    • Implications in microorganisms

      • hydrophilic vs hydrophobic

    • Why it’s a “universal” solvent

      • It can dissolve all ionic materials

    • How it bonds to other H2O molecules

      • notable density, as the molecules pack in “neatly”

        • Oxygen “zips” in between the two Hydrogen atoms in an adjacent water molecule

Deathwatch

The Spinning Disk Drive

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/12/ssds-arent-as-cheap-as-hard-drives-yet-but-theyre-getting-there/

  • Spinning rust is a huge bottleneck. “Putting an SSD in a five-year-old computer is enough to make it feel like a new machine even if every other component stays the same, and at this point you're really doing yourself a disservice if you're buying a new machine without one.”

  • SSDs have become affordable. “According to data from DRAMeXchange, average pricing for SSDs has fallen from about 99¢ per GB in 2012 to around 68¢ in 2013 and about 39¢ in 2015.”

  • SSDs are going to get cheaper. “DRAMeXchange projects that pricing will fall to about 24¢ per GB in 2016 and to 17¢ in 2017, lowering the average price for a 1TB SSD to about $170.”

  • The HDD baseline is about 6¢ per GB, and isn’t going to change much for a couple of years. But, they aren’t getting better, either.

  • Thus, the HDD is going to die. It’s just a matter of time.

Content I Like

XKCD’s “What if?”

https://what-if.xkcd.com/

  • Hypothetically, from a scientific perspective, what would happen if some unrealistic weird scenario happened?

  • Always a fascinating read.

  • Topics like…

    • What if the Earth were made entirely of protons, and the Moon were made entirely of electrons?

    • If you did fall into Jupiter's atmosphere in a submarine, what would it actually look like? What would you see before you melted or burned up?

    • Which has a greater gravitational pull on me: the Sun, or spiders? Granted, the Sun is much bigger, but it is also much further away, and as I learned in high school physics, the gravitational force is proportional to the square of the distance.

Today I Learned

TIL of an exoplanet known as J1407; a planet with a ring system 200x larger than Saturn's. If it took the place of Saturn in our solar system, it's rings would be brighter and more prominent than the moon in the Earth's sky.

http://www.rochester.edu/newscenter/gigantic-ring-system-around-j1407b/

It’s believed that a dolphin wishing to convey the image of a fish to another dolphin can literally send the image of a fish to the other animal. The equivalent of this in humans would be the ability to create instantaneous holographic pictures to convey images to other people.

https://www.msu.edu/~marablek/whal-int.htm#sect7-1

Outro

With that imagery, we draw this episode to a close. Remember all the other geeks in your life by sharing the gift of Citizens of Tech with them! We’re on Twitter, Facebook, and citizensoftech.com. Drop us a Like, Tweet or leave us a review on iTunes or simply drop an email to a friend mentioning Citizens of Tech. Expanding our listener base is one of our top wishes for Christmas! Sharing is caring, after all.

And remember, if you do happen to get an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle from for Christmas… be careful, or you’ll shoot your eye out, kid.


December 5, 2015

Citizens of Tech 019 - Supercooled Macaroni Gifts

00:0000:00

Intro

Welcome, fellow Citizens of Tech. We are your hosts, Ethan Banks and Eric Sutphen. We talk about science, gadgets, astronomy, gaming, and any orthogonal or tangential topic we find interesting.

For those of you that been listening to the show, you’ll find that today we’re moving to a slightly new format. A half hour! That’s right. We’re going to figure out how to get to the point, move on, and shut our yaps after 30 minutes. Less bluster, and more content that gets to the point.

Also - we need this show to grow. Therefore, fellow Citizen, evangelize this show to other Citizens in your area. Spread the gospel of this podcast to all the other tech-minded folks in your life. Did I say knock on doors? Hey, if that’s your interpretation, I’m not saying no.

And now, on with the show. Eric, what have we got?

Today, we’ve got a CoT holiday gift guide, the failing Mac app store, Thunderbird ain’t no phoenix, rockets land in real life like in cartoons, and a little bit of Today I Learned.

Present

Citizens of Tech Nerdy Gift Guide (COTNGG)

Mac App Store Upsetting Some Software Companies

http://9to5mac.com/2015/12/01/sketch-leaves-mac-app-store/

http://blog.sketchapp.com/post/134322691555/leaving-the-mac-app-store

  • Mac is a heck of a platform.

  • The App Store is handy for all the same reasons it’s handy on a phone.

  • Considering the uptick in Mac sales, it sucks to see this part of the ecosystem unloved by Apple.

  • “App Review continues to take at least a week, there are technical limitations imposed by the Mac App Store guidelines (sandboxing and so on) that limit some of the features we want to bring to Sketch, and upgrade pricing remains unavailable.”

Thunderbird “a tax” on Firefox development, and Mozilla wants to drop it

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/12/thunderbird-a-tax-on-firefox-development-and-mozilla-wants-to-drop-it/

  • “Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker has announced that Mozilla would like to stop supporting Thunderbird, calling its continuing maintenance "a tax" on the more important work of developing Firefox.”

  • "Many inside of Mozilla, including an overwhelming majority of our leadership, feel the need to be laser-focused on activities like Firefox that can have an industry-wide impact," Baker writes. "With all due respect to Thunderbird and the Thunderbird community, we have been clear for years that we do not view Thunderbird as having this sort of potential."

  • What am I missing? Email is still key.

  • My inbox is a wasteland of despair.

  • Can’t someone really -- truly -- fix e-mail?

  • Slack has replaced much e-mail for me. Still.

  • E-mail is how you communicate rudely to people you don’t care about in a timeframe that doesn’t matter.

  • It’s one more thing to check in a world where I don’t want to check things.

  • Mail demands responses. It makes its own work. People still reply to all.

  • But none of this means we don’t still have a problem with inbox management. If Mozilla attacked that problem instead of offering Yet Another IMAP Client, then maybe we’d get somewhere.

  • And oh, bad news Mozilla - Firefox is Yet Another Browser. Get over yourself.

  • And finally - what is your e-mail client of choice, and why?

Blue Origin sticks rocket landing, a major step toward reusable spaceflight

http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/11/blue-origin-sticks-rocket-landing-a-major-step-toward-reusable-spaceflight/

  • Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, in a statement. “Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle flew a flawless mission—soaring to 329,839 feet and then returning through 119mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a gentle, controlled landing just four-and-a-half feet from the center of the pad. Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”

  • “Like Blue Origin, Musk's SpaceX is attempting to build a reusable Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 booster, but so far the company's efforts to land its rocket on a mobile, seaborne platform have not been successful. What SpaceX is attempting is more difficult because the Falcon 9 rocket flies payloads into orbit, which requires considerably more thrust. Blue Origin's rocket only made a comparatively easier suborbital flight. Nevertheless, it is a significant achievement.”

  • Didn’t NASA solve this with the Space Shuttle? Yes, somewhat. The solid rocket boosters were re-usable. The shuttle itself was re-usable. The external fuel tank was NOT re-usable. Falls back through the atmosphere and disintegrates after use. I know the shuttle itself was clunky -- basically a big glider that needed a very long runway to land. Still…

  • These pinpoint landings with the rocket are, presumably, a marvel of math and software.

  • The video shows the rocket with its payload already safely deployed elsewhere falling rapidly, rocket re-igniting at about 12,000 feet, and then landing vertically on the ground.

  • The point? We get a re-usable rocket! Lowers the cost of getting to space, which is one of the major barriers.

  • Also, it was SO COOL.

Content I Like

Yesterbits on Twitter

Today I Learned

Supercooled liquid water can get down to 55 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-48 C) before it absolutely must freeze. Supercooled liquid water must become ice at minus 55 F not just because of the extreme cold, but because the molecular structure of water changes physically to form tetrahedron shapes, with each water molecule loosely bonded to four others.

http://phys.org/news/2011-11-supercool-doesnt-.html

The Shuttle Landing Facility covers 500 acres (200 ha) and has a single runway, 15/33. It is one of the longest runways in the world, at 4,572 m (15,000 ft), and is 91.4 meters (300 ft) wide.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle_Landing_Facility

Outro

  • In closing today, allow us to remind you that when we create strong AI, it’s gonna stab you in the back. So dumb that code down, people. You developers are gonna wipe out humanity, and that just ain’t cool.

Until next week, I’m Ethan Banks @ecbanks on Twitter

And I’m Eric Sutphen @zutfen on Twitter

And this has been Citizens of Tech - farewell!