January 2004 Archives

Mountains of the Mind

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Mountains of the Mind***

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Would have been better as two books, one looking at the changing attitudes and different viewpoints on mountains and one looking at the Mallory expeditions to Everest. The account of the final trip was just too abridged - and the section brought out few of the points raised in the rest of the book beyond "because it's there".

Opportunity's wheels in the dirt

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Cracking picture of Opportunities lander just after Opportunity rolled off.

Been watching NASA TV over breakfast - but was out for the actual roll-off itself. Just caught the end of the press conference.

As with Nokia Game, or I suppose any other modern global event, it's just amazing how the web spawns sites and blogs to provide better coverage than any official media. I can't remember the last time I actually saw anything on MER on UK TV or in the UK papers.

Motivation

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Priceless! (courtesy of www.2020hindsight.org )

[ The text reads: If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon ]

LAN enabled DVD

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A DVD that plays DivX and will browse your LAN and the Internet. KISS from The Mustard Concept.


Also Salton Europe have the iCEBOX - a flip down media centre for the kitchen. Mind you it's £2299!

Another Good Mars Blog

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Susan's 2020 Hindsight : - from a JPL insider.

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This essay was published in the Birmingham Post as part of their New Year review. The key points are:

- As Holway says – things will be better because things will stop getting worse
- More for less is the mantra
- Simple web services and WiFi are key technologies
- Corporate IT Governance is an emerging issue
- West Midlands regional IT goes from strength to strength

Classic random surfing. Having just posted the Opportunity story below I checked how it looked on the Blog. I then noticed the link I'd put up to another blog by another David, who'd just come back from the CES show in Las Vegas and has a wife and kids etc when I first found the blog. Decided to check it out to see what he was up to. Found an interesting post by him to another blog talking about the disappearance of the great Spalding Gray - he of Swimming To Cambodia fame. It's a great film, and the passage about the German in search of the "perfect moment" is brilliant.

Also from Dave's site a link to a web site by "the leading expert on Douglas Adam" , talking about the new H2G2 movie. As Dave says "this has the potential to be so cool, almost Lord of the Rings cool.... Or it can suck completely. We have until 2006 to fret over it."

Did I ever say that I missed the start of my first Uni exam, Christmas '79 because I was listening to Douglas Adams at the ICA?

Lazy Sunday afternoons.

Opportunity On the Ground

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Great to see that Opportunity made it safely to Mars. "Two for two" as the Americans are saying.

Already there are two noteworthy items. First the exposed ridge of bedrock clearly visible on the photo and in easy roving distance. Second the completley different landscape - very dark soil and hardly any boulders. Just compare the shot above with that for Spirit a week or so ago.

Question is are the engineers going to put Opportunity through memory tests before doing anything to try and avoid Spirit's problems, or just go for it?

Legit Music Downloads

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With all the talk of iTunes and growing frustration with Kazaa I finally signed up to MyCokeMusic - their implementation of OD2 looks better than HMV. It's a good system, 1p to stream, 10p to download. You can even stream a whole album for just over 10p. You just lodge as much credit as you want. HMV looked far more packaged.

Fittingly the first thing I downloaded was Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel - as trying to get it on Kazaa was my first experience of spoof files, a few seconds music and a few minutes white noise.

Mars Express Success

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Stunning pictures coming back from ESAs Mars Express. They also think they found water frozen in the south polar cap.

Spirit is still looking pretty sick. Apparently it rebooted itself about 60 times in the last 24 hours. Let's hope Opportunity works flawlessly when it lands tomorrow morning.

Silent Spirit

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Hey they've lost data contact with Spirit. Sad news.

Asimo's coming to the UK

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Asimo's coming to the UK to visit the Science Museum in London. Luckily since it's during half-term I can see if I can persuade the kids to come down and see it. He's also at the related Dana Centre.

GlobalStreetscapes

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Globalstreetscapes.com is another Cool-Spotting site in the vain of Pattern Recognition. Mind you looks like it was last updated mid 2003. Archives are quite interesting though. To quote from the site:

Our Mission


To provide access and connection to global urban energies, both consumer and brand. We work with clients to access rapid, raw global intelligence from urban hubs across the world....through our unique network of GlobalStreetscapers.

What we are

GlobalStreetscapes is a global network of discerning, observant, urban connected individuals. These people are life observers, passionate about the energy and resilience that their cities evoke. They connect you to the energy of their cities giving you a constant feed of fresh intelligence and inspiration.

SMC EZ-Stream

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SMC EZ-Stream lets you "access and enjoy music, movies and photos stored on your home PC through your TV or Hi-Fi system! All from the comfort of your lounge sofa and no matter where your PC is located at home"

Now that's what I need at home. And under £300. Question is, is a single box solution like the Streamium better?

Test of quick blog from

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Test of quick blog from my Palm over GPRS - at the breakfast table.

Converjed - Mobile Edition

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I've implemented a new set of templates to provide a "mobile edition" of this blog to make access and display from my Palm over GRPS easier. See link at right. Still needs a bit of work, but it's a start.

This is a test of

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This is a test of my PDA Quickblog application using XML-RPC on movable type.

I can blog wirelessly from my PDA again. Hurrah#EXCLAM#

Mars Panorama

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Stunning 360 degree bubble photo of mars, courtesy of the Mars Rover blog.

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Well at least the US is. President Bush announced the following:

2008 - Latest date for robot return to Moon
2008 - Test the Crew Exploration Vehicle by 200
2010 - Complete ISS
2010 - Retire the shuttle
2014 - Latest date for first CEV manned mission
2015 - Earliest date for extended manned moon missions
2020 - Latest date for return to moon

No actual date for a manned mission to Mars, shame. Does this mean 2030 stands?

Don't understand the CEV fixation. Its talked about as "the first of its kind since the Apollo Command Module". Surely what we actually need is a simple X-Prize type orbital ferry, and then something we build in space to get us on to the Moon or Mars. We'll see.

Now if only we could get them to spend an equivalent number of dollars on solving world poverty....

Grand Challenges

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The UK Computing Research Committee, a joint BCS/IEE panel working with universities has identified a number of new Grand Challenges:

- In Vivo - In Silco (IVIS):advanced simulations of life - just like that book

- Global Ubiquitous Computing: in 20 years time we'll have the Global Universal Computer (GUC), formed by every connected computer on the planet (and they'll all be connected)

- Memories for Life: Managing lifes personal records

- Scalable Ubiquitous Computing: build and learn systems

- Architecture of Brain and Mind: How the mind works, and implement elements of it

- Dependable Systems Evolution: Justified, secure systems

- Journeys in Non-Classical Computing: Mimicing biologial and ecological responses in systems design

Past Grand Challenges include:

- Human Genome Project - completed
- Turing Test - outstanding
- Championship chess programme - completed
- Cure for cancer - outstanding
-- Unifying the 4 forces of physics - in progress

Personal Mobile Gateways (PMG)

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Interesting article in the Guardian on Personal Mobile Gateways, using IXI-Connect software on top of Bluettoth to implement proper PANs.

Veripay

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The Independent in its Big Brother Britain feature today reports that ADSX in the US is launching a sub-dermal RFID tag which will allow you to verify a payment transaction "securely".

Makes you think of the season 2 episode of 24 when Jack Bauer had to cut the chip out of the guy........

Dress Code

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Read somewhere at the weekend that the in term for "wired clothing" - eg those jackets with built in iPod pockets and headphones is "dress code" - code as in computer software. Hence you can talk about dress code dress code - eg whether its polite to talk into the microphone in your lapel, or twril yours arms to power the dynamos in your armpits etc.

In fact it probably dates back to this old Wired article.

It looks like we're going...

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It looks like Bush is announcing a return to the Moon, and a trip to Mars next Wednesday. All the media are full of it. Newsnight even interviewed Michael Foales onboard the Space Station. Five had a documentary on tonight and is showing Red Planet next week. It really is going to be the year of Mars - well until we land there.

Talking about it with the girls today I realised that Ruth is exactly the same age now (8) as I was when Niel Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969.

I trust the "Moon" bit though is only as a test bed. Reporting keeps on about going to Mars via the Moon which makes no sense.

The one thing that's always struck me, well since seeing The Dish, is that any trip to Mars (and maybe even back to the Moon), won't have the old style Saturn 5 launch. Any Mars probe is likely to be sent up in bits, built in orbit, and then have a crew flown up, probably in stages, to join it.

Well, looks like it could be an interesting week.

Hey I've Moved to MovableType

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After 6 months on blogger I decided it was time to upgrade to Movable Type. The primary reason was to be able to use categories. The secondary was too see how far I could push it as a generic content management systems for some future projects. Not bad at all so far....

Stardust

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Also good to see that Stardust successfully completed its rendez-vous with Comet Wild 2 and got some great pictures of the core, as well as picking up the dust samples in the aerogel. These are now due to return back to a parachute landing above Utah in Jan 15, 2006.

When they launched Stardust they invited the public to submit their names to go on a microchip, both on the satellite and the return probe. I put the family on, and just checked at the NASA site and we're still listed. Maybe we get to send our DNA up next!

There are some great pics on the Stardust site of the recovery tests in a very snowy Utah. The whole satellite comes hurtliing towards earth, spins up and ejects the probe (just like Beagle) only a couple of hours out, and then the rest of the spacecraft is manouvered into a flyby trajectory and sent hurtling off into deep space.

Spirit On Mars

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Good to see that the Americans got to Mars safely with Spirit. Will be great to see what it finds as it roams around. Let's hope that Opportunity lands safely as well.

The rover itself stands just over 5 ft tall to the top of its camera mast. Interesting that they've put an omni antenna on it that will get low data rate signals directly back to NASAs Deep Space Network, as well as a steerable antenna for more routine comms with the orbiters. If Beagle 2 had had those we maybe wouldn't be having so much trouble getting hold of it.

The landing site for MER Spirit is in the Gusev crater. Opportunity is going to Meridiani. The landing site for Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars was near the Viking/Pathfinder sites. Beagle 2 has hopefully landed in Isidis Planitia, which was also a prime MER. Isidis Planitia is the crater that looks like an inlet half-way and just north between the two MER landing sites. There's a good map at a cracking space reference site called Windows to the Universe.

NASA has an excellent press kit giving all the key data on the MER mission.

Interesting that it'll be a week or so before the rover rolls off the lander. Then they expect to cover about 20m a day for up to 92 earth days (or 90 martian Sols). That's only 2km. The rover is solar powered so only runs during daylight - let's hope there are no dust storms. Operators also have to contend with the 10 minute plus one-way lag, 20 minutes round trip, in communications.

The press kit also describes the 3 Ages of Mars currently accepted by Areologists.


  • Noachian - 4.6 bn to 3.6 bn - warm, wet, volcanic

  • Hesperian - 3.6 bn to 3 bn or 2 bn - ice and floods

  • Amazonian - 2 bn or 3 bn to present - dry and dessicating

It also describes the current missions as "following the water", and the missions of the next decade as being about the "search for the building blocks of life". The missions slated for the rest of the decade are:

  • 2005 - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter - hi res 1m photos
  • 2007 - Phoenix Mars Scout - north polar lander and soil analysis
  • 2009 - Mars Science Larboratory - large rover with nuclear power, a range measured in tens of kilometres and 2 yr life
  • 2009 - Mars Telecommunications Orbiter - comms support for other misions

New Year in Snowdonia

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Another good New Year meet with family and the MAM in the Glan Dena hut in Snowdonia. Only one really good day weatherwise - best views I've ever had from the top of Moel Siabod. That's Ruth on the summit with Snowdon in the background.

Finished Altered Carbon

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Finished Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. Pretty good book with a well established mind-copy/sleeving/ghost technology that lets people move form body to body. "Real Death" is only when your backup is days behind your experiences. To wipe both your "archived" self and the "cortical stack" is unheard of for the rich - for whom immortality is a real possibility. Towards the end it looked like it would really play with our perceptions of wht is truth - by killing off the version of the protagonist we'd been following and make us follow the "virtual" self - but it ducked it a bit by just creating two of him, and the "original" won out. 4.5, otherwise it would have been a 5.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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