Welcome to the future

SpaceX

A private company’s prototype reusable rocket made its highest leap to date last year on June 14, 2013, soaring 100 stories into the air before landing softly back at its launch pad as planned.

In its sixth-ever test flight, SpaceX’s experimental Grasshopper rocket hopped to a maximum altitude of 1,066 feet (325 meters) on June 14. It then made a slow and controlled descent back to Earth at the company’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

SpaceX released a 95-second video of grasshopper’s amazing flight on July 5, showing the action from above as seen by a small robotic “hexacopter” drone.

Most rockets are designed to be expendable, burning up in Earth’s atmosphere after reaching outer space. SpaceX wants to develop fully reusable launch vehicles, which would effectively reduce the price of their rockets to around $64,000  a launch, a breath taking figure considering currently rockets cost them a fraction of what NASA pays.

The 10-story-tall Grasshopper is a big step in this direction, company officials say. The rocket takes off and lands vertically, touching down on four metallic legs back at its launch pad.

Grasshopper incorporates the first-stage tank of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which launches the California-based firm’s Dragon capsule on unmanned cargo missions to the International Space Station for NASA. But Grasshopper uses just one Merlin engine while the Falcon 9 sports nine (as its name suggests).

SpaceX’s Grasshopper has been leaping higher and higher with every successive test flight. Its previous launches took place in September, November and December of 2012, and March and April of last year. Those hops reached peak altitudes of 8.2 feet (2.5 m), 17.7 feet (5.4 m), 131 feet (40 m), 263 feet (80 m) and 820 feet (250 m), respectively.

In addition to reaching unprecedented heights, the most recent flight also incorporated new navigation technology, company officials said.

“For the first time in this test, Grasshopper made use of its full navigation sensor suite with the F9-R closed loop control flight algorithms to accomplish a precision landing,” SpaceX officials wrote in a description accompanying the flight video. “Most rockets are equipped with sensors to determine position, but these sensors are generally not accurate enough to accomplish the type of precision landing necessary with Grasshopper.”

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Welcome to the future

Star Citizen reaches $38,000,000 and counting…

Star Citizen is an upcoming space trading and combat simulator video game for Microsoft Windows. A passionate homage to space simulations of old and the past glories of pc gaming in a market dominated by consoles. The consoles of course are a primitive and somewhat arbitrary representation of what is capable with the modern technology. Star Citizen aims to capitalize on this, a pc exclusive set to push the boundaries of what is conventionally believed to be possible with a game. Led by the beloved chairman Chris Roberts, Star Citizen quickly surpassed its original monetary goals.

Star Citizen will consist of two main components: first person space combat and trading in a massively multiplayer online universe(over 115 star systems) with a branching single player and drop-in co-operative multiplayer campaign (known as Squadron 42). The game will feature Oculus rift support and a host of the kind of mind boggling features only its exponentially grandiose budget could support. The stretch goals need to be seen to be believed. https://robertsspaceindustries.com/funding-goals

Having just raised over 38 million star citizen is easily one of the most ambitious and far reaching crowd funded projects. A valiant victory for the og pc gamers. Currently the team seems focused on adding sleek streamlined ships, diverse and expansive star systems and the possibility of alien life. Its expected release date is sometime in early 2015 and I among many others will be intently anticipating the result of such a colossal budget, unchained from the stifling shackles of the corporate  game industry.

Anyway… it already looks a treat.

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Welcome to the future

Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift is an upcoming virtual reality, head mounted display, being developed by Oculus VR, which has raised $91 million, of which $2.4 million was raised via Kickstarter.

Through MTBS’ forums, Palmer one of the companies founder developed the idea of creating a new head mounted display that was both more effective than what is currently on the market, and inexpensive for gamer’s, the market until recently has been inundated with toys for rich kids and few products that were aimed  at the humble budget of your average gamer. Coincidentally, John Carmack the companies other founder had been doing his own research and happened upon Palmer’s developments. During the 2012 Electronics Entertainment Expo, Carmack introduced a duct taped head-mounted display based on Palmer’s Oculus Rift prototype, which ran Carmack’s own software. The unit featured a high speed IMU and a 5.6-inch (14 cm) LCD display, visible via dual lenses that were positioned over the eyes to provide a 90 degrees horizontal and 110 degrees vertical stereoscopic 3D perspective.

Following the demonstration of the Oculus Rift prototype at E3 in June 2012, on 1 August 2012 the company announced a Kickstarter campaign to further develop the product. Within four hours of the announcement, Oculus secured its intended amount of $250,000, and in less than 36 hours, the campaign had surpassed $1 million, eventually ending with $2,437,429.

The Oculus developer kit was an initial version financed by a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign sought to get the initial Oculus Rift into the hands of developers to begin integration of the device into their games and get a wider range of feedback.

A consumer-oriented version of the Rift is in development, which will be aimed at a general market and feature improved head tracking, positional tracking, 1080p resolution,and wireless operation. In June 2013, a 1080p version of the Rift was shown at E3. At Consumer Electronics Show in January 2014, an updated prototype codenamed “Crystal Cove” was unveiled, which uses a special low-persistence of vision OLED display, and includes a new motion tracking system that uses an external camera which tracks infrared dots located on the headset. The new motion tracking system would allow the system to detect actions such as leaning or crouching, which should help alleviate sickness experienced by users when the software didn’t respond to these actions.

Games and game platforms must be specifically designed to work correctly with the Oculus Rift. Oculus is producing a software development kit (SDK) to assist developers with integrating the Oculus Rift with their games. The SDK will include code, samples and documentation. According to Oculus, game integration will begin with PCs and smartphones, and be followed by consoles at a later date. Since its introduction, many developers have been working on integration.

I for one await the dawn of virtual reality gaming with excitement, the possibilities for seamless communication and interaction on a global level will be unparalleled…. and more weird stuff like this…

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Welcome to the future

europa

NASA’s recent 2015 budget proposals and requests weren’t revealed without a surprise. Under their objectives 15 million dollars had been set aside for “pre-formulation work for a potential mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa.” The plan is to aim to launch a probe sometime in the 2020’s, which would arrive in the Jovian system in the 2030’s.

The announcement may be a bit premature as current spacecraft technology is far from capable of dealing with the levels of radiation and extreme environment around Jupiter, not to mention that it’d take years to even get there. Europa missions have been talked about for decades, but these obstacles have always stopped them in the past.

Though this small fund, the first time a Europa mission has been included in a Federal budget request, is a strong indicator that NASA may go ahead with it this time. Europa has often been a destination in the public eye, frequently making it into science fiction films and literature. So the more intriguing question is not whether the mission will come to fruition, but how NASA expects to achieve.

Their current candidate for the trip is the Europa Clipper, an orbital probe designed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to take the place of ESA/NASA’s EJSM Laplace collaboration. The Clipper would be put into a very wide rotation around Jupiter to protect it from radiation damage. From there, it would conduct 45 close-up flybys of Europa at varying altitudes—some projected to be as close as 25 kilometers.

Travelling all that way without a lander may seem sadistic to some, but the 2 billion dollar price cap renders ground probes impossible.  The likelihood that fissures on Europa’s surface erupt in water geysers is a huge reason this mission is gaining traction and might mean it’s possible for Clipper to collect valuable data without ever touching down. If scientists could pinpoint the moon’s active geological regions, the Clipper could fly right through one of these plumes , collecting liquid samples from deep in the interior. That would be a major step towards unraveling the mystery of the moon’s subterranean ocean, especially its potential to support life.

While space enthusiasts hoping for a pricey Europa lander complete with a drill and a submersible are sure to be disappointed, the net news is good. We are finally making some tangible steps towards the mysterious moon.

Mission To Europa

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Welcome to the future

Android vs Ios

The android vs ios debate is the mobile markets take on the seemingly unending battle between proprietary and open source software.  What is interesting to note is that both proprietary and open source software have their limitations in certain areas. The choice of the right approach can be a difficult decision. The rapid innovation in the open source community forces iOS  to adapt and grow and loosens there grip on the market. I for one am glad to see open source software keep proprietary software developers on the edge of their seat. The competition between the two gaurantees a quality driven outcome for the end user.

Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are operating systems used primarily in mobile technology, such as smartphones and tablets. Android, which is Linux-based and partly open source, is more PC-like than iOS in that its interface and basic features are generally more customizable from top to bottom. However, iOS’ uniform design elements are sometimes seen as being more user-friendly and attract a buyer who is content to keep things simple and not tinker with the OS.

iOS and Android both use touch interfaces that have a lot in common – swiping, tapping and pinch-and-zoom. Both operating systems boot to a homescreen, which is similar to a computer desktop. While an iOS home screen only contains rows of app icons, Android allows the use of widgets, which display auto-updating information such as weather and email. Ios has a massive app ecosystem and a deeper integration with social networks like twitter and facebook. Android has a massive hardware selection, a large number of devices are available at various price points with varying hardware capabilities, screen sizes and features

The speed at which innovation happens in the open source community is far larger in comparison to proprietary software. This is both a blessing and a curse. Although Google does update Android frequently, some users may find that they do not receive the updates on their phone, or even purchase phones with out-of-date software. Phone manufacturers decide whether and when to offer software upgrades. They may not offer an upgrade to the latest version of Android for all the phones and tablets in their product line. Even when an upgrade is offered, it is usually several months after the new version of Android has been released. This is one area where iOS users have an advantage. iOS upgrades are generally available to all iOS devices. There could be exceptions for devices older than three years, or for certain features like Siri, which was available for iPhone 4S users but not for older versions of iPhone. Apple cites hardware capability as the reason some older devices may not receive all new features in an upgrade.

Android apps are programmed using C,C++ and Java. It is an “open” platform; anyone can download the Android source code and Android SDK for free. Anyone can create and distribute Android apps for free; users are free to download apps from outside the official Google Play store. There is, however, a one-time $25 registration fee for developers who want to publish their apps (whether free or paid apps) on the official Google Play store. The Android SDK is available for all platforms – Mac, PC and Linux.

iOS apps are programmed using Objective-C. Developers must pay $99 every year for access to the iOS SDK and the right to publish in Apple’s app store. The iOS SDK is only available for the Mac platform.

We’ve been hearing for years now about how Android is destroying iOS in market share. Ironically, though, Apple continues to make more money than all of the Android smartphone makers combined. The most recent data from the IDC shows that nearly for out of 5 devices shipped last year were android. Though apple still makes more money.

The most recent data from IDC shows that for Q3 of 2013 Android made up 81 percent of devices shipped. You read that right—four out of every five smartphones shipped in Q3 were built on Android. Meanwhile, Apple’s iOS scraped by with a sad and distant second place figure of only 12.9 percent.

The reality is that Apple is quite comfortable with the market share data, because the profit numbers are all Apple. Data from Canaccord Genuity shows that during that same period—Q3 of 2013—Apple made more money than all of its competitors combined, taking in 56 percent of the profit in the mobile device market.

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outernet-logo

The outernet is an ambitIous project put together by a group of entrepreneurs in New York  who wish to bridge the digital divide and circumvent censorship by beaming the internet from a constellation of nano-satellites in orbit down to every citizen on Earth, free of charge.

Though it won’t quite provide complete access to the web but rather it aims to broadcast a selection of news and educational content to people around the planet. The communication would be only one way at first. Their priority is to reach the billions of people that don’t have access to the wealth of information on the internet, to close the global knowledge gap. Hence, Outernet is seed-funded by the Digital News Ventures, a subsidy of the nonprofit Media Development Investment Fund that invests in news-related startups particularly focused on “frontier markets.” The group is asking for donations and hopes to raise “tens of millions” of dollars to send hundreds of CubeSats into low orbit.

Each satellite receives data streams from a network of ground stations and transmits that data in a continuous loop until new content is received. In order to serve the widest possible global audience, the entire constellation utilizes UDP-based multicasting over WiFi.

MDIF announced  they were incubating the Outernet project on Sunday, The project leader Syed Karem, talked about the venture on Reddit. So far the reaction has been mixed, but most believe the project is too outlandish to get off the ground.

Due to their radical ideas they are gaining some support, with Bitcoin blockchain, Ubuntu, OpenStreetMap, Wikipedia, and Coursera among the websites suggested to be included. Though there still remains a lot of unanswered questions.

It’s questionable whether or not they are capable of raising the money, launching a satellite with spaceX could cost around 57 million. Though this is a dramatically smaller figure than the traditional cost of launching a satellite, it seems as of yet to be far out of their reach.

Secondly, it’s difficult to know which websites are deemed fit to be broadcast. For now, they’re asking users to make recommendations. But you can’t include every user suggestion, or soon you’ve got a few internet editors arbitrarily controlling what information the world gets to receive.

Finally, some governments and corporations may not take kindly to the rogue alt-internet, as Karem said “There will be a constant security threat.” “Outernet will be a prime target for system hacking.”

Nevertheless, the optimistic timeframe for the project is as follows: Develop prototypes by June, begin transmission testing on the International Space Station by September (they’re requesting time on the spacecraft) and be up and running by summertime next year.

https://www.outernet.is/

Welcome to the future

Outernet

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20000 km long undersea telecommunication cable will connect Singapore and Europe

Sea-Me-We 5 consortium, group of 15 telecommunication companies, has awarded a contract worth several hundred million dollars to Alcatel-Lucent for building a 20000 km long undersea cable that will connect Singapore and Europe. Sea-Me-We stands for South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe, and this is the fifth similar project for the consortium. This will bring the 100-gigabit link between the two continents. The consortium consists of the following companies: Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company, China Mobile, China Telecom Global, China United Network Communications Group Company, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications, Orange ,Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications, Saudi Telecom Company, SingTel, Sri Lanka Telecom, TOT, PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia International, Telecom Italia Sparkle, Telekom Malaysia Berhad and Yemen International Telecommunications. Alcatel-Lucent will use “marine plug” which will be located behind a boat, which can set cables to depth of 1500 meters. Possible speed of cabling is between 5 and 35 kilometers per day.

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