October 2003 — Monthly Archive
While others are busy hyping Avalon, Indigo, WinFS and XAML, Jason Nadal has the right idea and writes about Monad. This is worth watching since the lack of a good command shell (no, cmd.exe still doesn’t qualify) is one of my biggest gripes about Windows, and a programmable shell would be very useful indeed.
(Via Slashdot) Gator forces site to remove Spyware label. Interesting. I don’t mind if someone installs Gator to hear about shopping bargains. The reason I don’t like Gator is that it arrives surreptitously (no, a IE do-you-want-to-install-GMT dialog is not good enough), and eats up RAM and CPU cycles on the user’s PC even when no browser is running.
For an example of a tracking application done right, check out the Google Toolbar– in its advanced mode, it does send data back to Google, but no sane person would call it spyware.
Did you know that the NASA outspends the rest of the civilian world put together? It had a $15bn budget for 2003, and that’s not counting the $12bn forked out to the US military for its space applications. China apparently spent something around $1.5-3bn a year on its civilian+military space programs combined (source: BBC World). If I were a betting man, there’d be no doubt which one I’d bet on to accomplish more.
To be fair, NASA spends a lot of money on deep space research, with no one else does; however the point of this is that NASA’s manned space programmes have been so ossified by bureaucracy that they are no longer efficient.
Amidst China’s successful launch of its first taikonaut, there have been persistent questions — why space? why now? how can you justify the expense? Patience, grasshopper, there are answers, but they are more apparent to those who take the long view than those who are more worried about their quarterly P&L sheets.
Why Space? If you’re a nation of one billion plus, on a land with diminishing resources, you have only one real option: conquest. Thanks to the vice-like grip the US holds over the rest of the planet militarily (outspending Russia and Europe put together if I recall right), that one is a fool’s errand. The second option is to think out of the box, or in this case out of the geoid.
Why Now? The plan was actually hatched more than 10 years ago, and it was scheduled to come to fruition around now, and that was a very good idea, because it happened around a local maxima for the Chinese economy. This
is not to say that the Chinese economy will tank in the next few years, but the going may not be as good as previous years have been, what with the weak dollar, their dollar-pegged exchange rate, and a hurting US economy.
How can you justify the Cost? Besides the usual blather about minerals and terraforming in space, there is one other clincher. Space Program: $3bn/year. Manned Space Flight: (out of my hat) $400mn. Putting a PLA base where the Americanos find it impossible to touch cleanly: priceless. ‘Nuff said.
Of course, I hope that whoever sets up Earth’s first extraterrestrial colonies is rather more interested in minerals and terraforming than military bases. Earth looks much too beautiful from space, whatever script you use and whatever language you speak. But if it’ll take Star Wars to put man into space, I’ll take it over Star Trek anyday.
Re China’s first manned space flight: Travel agent leaks State secret. The date seems to be 6am local time on October 15.
Things I learnt today:
- Do not run Windows Update’s Service Pack Express over a 802.11b network. Too darn slow and connections can get flaky.
- Trust MS’ Service Pack QA levels and switch off WinXP System Restore before you apply service packs, or be prepared to spend ages waiting for the Service Pack to install. Ditto for downloading almost anything from Windows Update — each hotfix causes a System Restore Point to get created.
Three Arrive for China’s Spaceflight: Three final candidates to be China’s first astronaut in space have arrived at the spacecraft’s desert launch pad, the government said Monday, and suggested that only one will make the trip.
Andrew Duthie has a great tip for privileged file management while running as an ordinary user in Windows. This is important because explorer.exe cannot be launched as another (higher- or lower- privileged) user using its Run As feature. The tip? Use iexplore.exe, which doubles up as a file manager when fed a local path.
On the other hand, what this says about IE’s potential to wreak havoc on a system is best left unsaid. If I were an auditor going over IE code, I would not be a happy man .