Stealth, pool, Jade

Jul 30, 2005 | | 0 comments |

I went to see Stealth last night at the cinema. For all its CGI goodness, it comes pretty close to Top Gun in terms of story and effects. I was extremely impressed - I'd expected it to be less substance and more bang. Apparently I still like the films the critics hate - Stealth got 1 star in most reviews.
Edi, the UCAV did have more than just one or two similarities with the Manga cartoon Macross Plus's unmanned YF-21 fighter, from the aeroelastic wings right down to the design of Edi's brain. It also bore a striking resemblance to the Ghost X-9 unmanned fighter from the same series. Come to think of it, a lot of the design cues of the mach-4 F/A-37 fighter concept seemed to come from Macross too. Yet I didn't see any reference to the series in the closing credits.

Today we spent the better part of the day at Tim & Helen's today, and I spent the better part of that time in the pool where Jade insisted on using me as a human climbing frame. Still - at least it kept her occupied.

Shuttle good for return.

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Discovery has been given a clean bill of health to return to earth after an mission extension of one day. They've got some issues with filler fabric on the tiles just behind the nose gear door, but NASA said if necessary they could send someone down there to trim them off :-) The photos coming from NASA are breathtaking in their scope and detail. Check out this snippit from one of the nose tile inspection photos.



Debate has been raging on newsgroups and media sites like CNN and BBC who posed questions such as "is it worth the risk?"
There are always small-minded people who are terrified of exploration and a lot of these people seem to gather on these newsgroups. It amazes me when I read things like "if commercial airline travel had the same safety record as spaceflight there would be 500 crashes a day."
Well duh.

I suspect "Bob" from Cheshire (BBC link) considers that in 30+ years of manned spaceflight in the US, 17 dead astronauts is a large number, but he probably smokes, drives a car and drinks coffee - all of which put him in a group of people far more likely to meet a grisly death than any astronaut.

There are more in-air hours of flight racked up in an hour of daily air travel than the entire history of spaceflight. Lets look at it another way : if there were 10,000 space shuttles, one taking off and landing every 90 seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, don't you think the sheer volume of extra data might make things safer?
The same small-minded individuals had the same problem understanding the Concorde crash. They couldn't fathom why a Boeing 737 was safer than Concorde. They couldn't understand that Concorde flew perhaps 6 hours a day, compared to 12,000 hours a day of combined flight for Boeing 737s.
These are the same people who would no doubt have told Columbus it "might be best if you stay home today."

MPLM installed on space station

Jul 29, 2005 | | 0 comments |

Discovery has delivered 15 tons of cargo aboard the ESA Multi-Purpose Logistics Module "Rafaelo" today. The astronauts maneuvered it into place using the ISS robot arm and attached it to Unity. And so the ISS continues to grow.

DOOM vs. Aliens ?

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The first teaser trailer for the Doom movie appeared online today. Looks OK but they're going to have to be very careful - the style of the movie looks like it's going to be emulating the second Alien movie (Aliens) very closely. When you get into that territory, Aliens normally comes out on top, and given the "success" of previous game-to-movie conversions, Doom could be - I hate to say it - doomed.
I loved the first Doom game. In 1993 I downloaded it over a 1200/75 modem line from a bulletin board (BBS) long before the internet was so readily accessible. I put it on my DX4/100 PC with a shiny new SVGA graphics card and an original soundblaster and played it into the night. The gameplay and sound effects were astonishing, especially for a free game. As time went on, bigger and allegedly better games came out, but it wasn't until Half Life that gaming really took the next step. Then this year we had Doom 3 versus Half Life 2. Doom 3 ruined the franchise once and for all, where Half Life 2 shone brightly. If the Doom movie is going to try to cash in on effects-laden moviemaking, and base the storyline on Doom 3, it's going to be a bit of a disappointment.



George's thought for friday.

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Shuttle missing a complete tile ?

Jul 28, 2005 | | 0 comments |

Nasa have posted a great pic of the Shuttle taken from the space station. On closer examination, it looks like one whole tile is missing from the heatshield. On the upper photo, it's to the right and below the back of the front gear door - a little white dot. When blown up from the original, it looks like the bottom image, which to me looks like a whole tile has gone.



Amazing shuttle images

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Some of the photos of the external tank taken after separation have appeared on the NASA website. The shots are excellent, but they show that the large object which flew off the tank just after booster separation was a big chunk of foam from near the LOX transfer pipe. NASA have announced that because they thought they'd solved the problem, but apparently haven't, that they're grounding the shuttle fleet again. I think this is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. The problem is that this happens on every flight, but this time they had cameras to show it to them :-(
What's also amazing in this image is to see the burn pattern on the side of the tank which was created when the boosters detached 2 minutes into flight. The second pic is a closeup of the missing foam.





The Shuttle did at least dock safely with the space station today and before getting there, did an 8 minute backflip outside so the crew on the ISS could take photos of the underside of the orbiter. NASA only have one grainy picture on their site right now but I'm trying to find a better one.

Brilliant PR from London Underground.

Jul 27, 2005 | | 0 comments |

In a brilliant piece of PR, London Underground have posted instructions informing people not to run "if they look a bit foreign". Classic.

Gart Sports - great store, but liars.

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Gart Sports started asking for phone numbers about a year ago and had a big notice on their front doors indicating that it was to be able to tell where their customer base was - ie how far people were travelling to get to the store. It also indicated that the numbers wouldn't be used for cold calling. I kept giving them my office number because they insisted on having a number ("or we can't do the sale" - which is bollocks). Sure enough, last week the cold calling started, with messages appearing on my answerphone at work advertising deals and coupons.
I've used their automated system to remove the number from their list, but I doubt that will have any effect.

NASA TV footage

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When I got home last night I went through the DVR because I left it recording for 2 hours after the shuttle launch. NASA TV replayed the launch over and over again from all the different cameras that were trained on it. It was amazing to see the detail and the number of views. The best one of course was the external tank camera, which they replayed for the full 9 minutes from booster ignition to tank jettison. When the shuttle throttled up the engines after the boosters had been jettisoned, you could see the orbiter strain forwards against the supports holding it to the tank.

The GTA Furore grows

Jul 26, 2005 | | 0 comments |

Hillary Clinton and the damn House of Representatives have got involved in this Hot Coffee patch for GTA San Andreas now. The House today overwhelmingly voted for an investigation into RockStar/Take Two, because kids might buy the game, accidentally visit the patch website, download the hack, load it and see semi-nude simulated sex.

It is garnering so much attention now anyone would think this was actually important. Considering the Shuttle flew for the first time in two years today without a hitch, considering the ongoing Iraq Adventure, and considering all the other news in the world, is Hot Coffee really worthy of so much attention?

One amusing outcome is that this controversy is threatening to scare off marketers that have just started exploring, and spending small slices of budgets on ads in games in a bid to reach the “lost boys” -- men 18 to 34 who are abandoning TV for Xbox and PlayStation. So-called advergaming spending is currently small, and the plan had been to expand it in the next few years. Marketers who have placed ads in games include Cingular Wireless and Burger King, in Electronic Arts’ "Need for Speed Underground 2".

Whilst big companies are desperate for ways to capture young men’s attention, they hate controversy more. The problem now is that with this GTA debacle, any future advertisers in-game will require more stringent guarantees. This brings up the grim spectre of advertising companies dictating game content.

Is nothing free of the chilling touch of sponsorship and advertising any more?

The end of the line?

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We're losing yet another engineer at the end of this week, and this guy was doing the work of three people. I think this is the end of the line. We don't have critical mass any more.

What about the few of us that are left? I don't know. I think I'll hang on until there is no company left. What then? I don't know. More contract work for MS Train Simulator or the up and coming Kuju Rail Simulator ? Freelance work ? Subcontract to one of the airlines that uses what we used to manufacture ? One thing I'm sure is that I'll do anything possible to stay where we are geographically.

Return to flight.

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I just watched Discovery's return to flight launch on NASA TV and it was nail-biting. Watched it from the 9 minute count, through retraction of the crew access arm and the LOX vent. They had cameras everywhere so they showed the main engine gimbal check and the control surface checks. It launched exactly on time and they kept showing the camera view from the external tank looking back at the orbiter right up to the point of tank separation, which for a space buff like me, was awesome to see. The orbiter separated cleanly and did a positive-X burn to move away from the tank. Cool.



Just before the main engine shutdown, you could see the halo effect around the orbiter and as the engines cut out you could see ice and other debris overtake the orbiter from behind as the thrust was cut and acceleration slowed. There was also some debris came off the tank during launch, and a bloody great chunk of mounting strap just after the SRB separation but it didn't look like any of it did any damage.

Another innovative piece of software bites the dust.

Jul 25, 2005 | | 1 comments |

About the most useful piece of software I've found in ages was Konfabulator - a tool which allowed you to write your own java-based widgets and have them appear on your desktop. Things like RSS readers, weather, stocks etc. Three guys wrote the tool and maintained the site, and today they sold out to Yahoo! for an undisclosed amount of money.
A quote on their site says "We're really happy about this and look forward to many years of continuing development, innovation, and damn cool Widgets."

Sorry guys - you got blinded by the money. Yahoo will compound and bog-down the code and turn it into useless bloatware before killing it off completely. Just like AOL did to Netscape. Just like Microsoft did to AutoRoute.

You guys are sell-outs.

Bloody joggers!

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As if its not bad enough that today is a state-wide holiday which our company makes us work through, I got up towards the campus this morning, and at rush-hour, they've decided to close off almost all the roads for some bloody jogging thing. Of course it would have just been too easy to make them use the sidewalks. No, instead, the best idea is to take one of the most congested junctions on the east side, close 2 lanes in every direction, and allow these idiots to jog in traffic. It would have been nice if they'd left at least one access to the campus unaffected, but no - every junction was coned off.
I don't know whats worse - that our company is so tight they make sure we're one of the only companies open this day every year, or that the organisers chose rush hour to hold a jogging meeting.

Trying to guarantee rain.

Jul 24, 2005 | | 0 comments |

In a desperate last ditch effort to get some wind and rain, I've manually watered all the roses today, washed the car, and invited Tim & Helen over for a BBQ this evening. I don't know what else I can do to entice rain....