According to this story in the Globe, being Russia's 'humble servant' is a job with some very nice perks. There's obviously more to Mr. Putin than meets the eye. Just in case any of us were wondering why he worked so hard to get back into the top job.
Scientists have discovered a form of sugar in a gas cloud near a young star about 400 light-years from Earth. Here's the story on it. And that, dear readers, brings us to today's Question Everything: "What if our expanding universe is actually part of something growing?"
Perhaps I ought to rephrase that a little bit: "If our solar system was merely one atom in something vastly bigger, how could we tell?"
This almost looks like something out of one of Hollywood's famous 'dusters', rather than a telephoto image from Mars showing the kind of landscape which is the eventual destination of Curiosity, on its trip to show us that Mars was once very much like Earth at the same age. The accompanying story with this image can be found here and is well worth reading. The only point in it with which I disagree is the comment about sending people there. The complications of keeping them alive and well in such a hostile environment, basically a sub-zero desert, are both large and expensive. As we are proving with robots like Curiosity, it is much cheaper and safer to send our machines. And it's becoming obvious that those machines can tell us plenty.
The local rag has news about freebie browsing online and the news isn't good. This is probably the wave of the future, because more and more of us are doing our reading on our computers instead of buying a hard copy that we then have to recycle, sometimes not conveniently.
Here's an Eagle cruising around looking for lunch, and I apologize for it not being a very sharp image, but it was quite far away, and this was taken at 24X optical, on the Pentax X-70, shooting freehand, because I had to be quick.
This was a fire that might easily have gotten out of control yesterday on one of our north shore mountains, but was caught in time by a helicopter crew, using a water bucket, sometimes called a bambi bucket, beneath it.
The helicopter was similar to this, but the line carrying the bucket was much longer than the one shown here, because they don't want the prop-wash to fan the flames while they are aiming the water drop.
Samsung was told it owes Apple a billion or so for patent violations, according to this article in today's Globe, and that's going to make waves for others using virtually the same systems, such as Google's Android perhaps, say the experts.
All of which means that those of us poking fun at Microsoft's late arrival in the tablet market may have to change our tune. If Microsoft saw all of that coming, then they are a lot smarter than we gave them credit for being. And nobody's suing Microsoft over its Windows 8 system, because that's basically Windows 7 with further enhancement of its touch features. I say "further enhancement" because Windows 7 has always had touch features built into it, but not quite as much as Windows 8.
However, as in my previous rants about this, I still think Windows 7 is an easier system to use on most standard desktops that have a keyboard and mouse and a monitor that doesn't have touch capability. And these good folks are still saying that over 90% of computers are desktop models, in spite of the writing on the wall, or the spin-doctors down the hall.
I came across this interesting article this morning, which challenges some of our assumptions about older people driving, and comparing them to pedestrians.
Evidently, older drivers are no more likely to have accidents than younger ones, and under some circumstances, may be better. For example, on a day when the weather is nasty, older drivers can choose to stay home, whereas younger ones must get to work, or take the kids to school.
And something not mentioned in the article is that older people may find that driving is a lot easier and more convenient than other methods of getting around. There may not be a bus route nearby, for example. I'm living in Canada's third-largest metropolitan area, and yet it's about four and a half blocks to the nearest downtown bus route, or nearly halfway from here to the supermarket. And how many old people enjoy packing home bags of groceries while on foot in the traffic? None that I know. So this isn't just a convenience issue, it's also about taking care of one's self and trying to stay alive and well.
Yesterday, with great fanfare, Mighty Microsoft proudly announced a new logo, shown above.
Today's Question Everything asks: "How is this significantly different from the logo they've been using for years?"
Personally, I liked the old one better. It had more pizzazz, more get up and go. This one looks like it's dead from the ass in both directions. It's pale, plain, and wishy-washy. It needs to be more vibrant and alive.
You know summer's about over when your milk carton's date shows September on it. But this is still August, and this morning here, it's only 54 F, and in one of the suburbs of Seattle this morning earlier, it was only 37 F, and that's c-o-l-d. Should we finish up the month with a trip to Sears for new snuggies? I hope not.
The Washable Keyboard, from Logitech, and well worth forty bucks. They say it works with XP, Vista, and Windows 7, which also means Windows 8, because it is built on the Windows 7 framework. Now we can replace our 'dirty Qwertys'.
You may have noticed that only the first couple of them will get really large after you click on them, while the rest appear larger than before, but only the default size of 800 by 600 pixels. That's because I've used up the storage allowance on Google's Picasa Web Albums, which they use for handling photos on your blog.
I also made another discovery: deleting several months of the earliest blog posts and their pictures doesn't seem to free up any space, because apparently that isn't how it works. The alternative is to either pay a monthly fee for more space, or settle for the basic free size allowance of 800 by 600 pixels for photos.
That basic size will show the image alright, but it's no good if you wanted to enlarge it into a monitor background, for example, because the image quality will suffer. Shrinking an image is OK, but enlarging one creates problems.
So why don't I buy the extra storage space? Because it's a monthly rental and I'm not comfortable giving out my credit card number for monthly debits just for something like that. Google bunches several things together when allotting its storage, and I don't like that, because I'm not interested in those other storage items as much as I am the photos portion. This system works well for Google, but it isn't much help to those who don't want to use every aspect of it. For example, I don't need storage for my Gmail, because if it's something I want to keep, I will file it on my own computer, where I can control access to it. And that's the other aspect of all this - when something's stored on others' equipment, you don't have control of the access to it, in case you wanted that. Those who are storing it for you are controlling access to it, and may be using that for their own purposes.
The news from Mars is good news, and you can read it here for yourself, about the first test of Curiosity's laser for analyzing rocks. And there's pictures...
I think this whole thing is just amazing, and I can hardly wait until it gets to the spots where it really wants to do its investigations.
When I was a kid, away back when, we read comics about Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, and we never really thought anything like that would ever actually happen in real life. And here we are, seventy years later watching it happen. It makes me wonder what the next seventy years might bring.
Now that Curiosity's 'brain transplant' has been completed, and all is well, it is preparing to try out its laser rock-zapper on a nearby rock, as a test of the system, and then it will be trying a short drive, to confirm it's OK.
I'm sure we're all counting on this rover to confirm our suspicions that early Mars was much like early Earth, until it met with a cosmic catastrophe which changed it forever, and left it as it is now. The sad part of that story is that we can't restore it to its former condition no matter how we wish.
While we're thinking of such things, perhaps I ought to remind us that in our solar system, over 98% of the whole thing is contained within the mass of the Sun, and all the rest of it, all our flying parts, make up less than about one and a half percent of the total mass of the system. And as we know, the smaller terrestrial planets in the inner orbits are rather insignificant compared to the bigger gas giants further out beyond the ecosphere. We tend not to think of that because we're in the habit of thinking of our Earth as being practically the center of our own personal universe. But of course, in reality, it isn't. It's just one tiny speck flying around a huge ball of superheated gases forming a vast nuclear reactor which we call the Sun.
And the fact that one of those tiny specks flying around that huge ball of fire once got hit and virtually destroyed by another flying object from deep space shouldn't really surprise us.
Yes, you too can have your very own sample of the Enterprise version of the new Windows 8, but only for a 90-day trial, after which you have to wipe it out and re-install another licensed version of Windows. So why bother?
As you can see in the above, I'm already running the Release Preview of Win-8, and I'm used to it, and I don't want to change it just for 90 days. This version is good until well after the final retail versions will be available, and so I'm going to stick with what I've got. There's an article elsewhere on the web [ please click here for it ] which talks about 8 changes from this Release Preview, one of which mentions more Desktop Backgrounds. I just want to mention that you can still make your own and install them in much the same way we do in Windows 7, so you don't really need more standard-issue ones unless you'd rather not make your own with your own pictures.
There's an article in the L.A. Times which you can see here with a long strip of image showing where Curiosity landed on Mars. In the upper parts of it, showing Curiosity and the area above it, if a portion of that is enlarged,
in the upper portion of the Curiosity frame and the one above that, (shown) there are some marks or lines that almost resemble symbols or writing or something not naturally made. So today's Question Everything would be "What are these?"
This is an artist's conception of Curiosity on Mars, and I've included it because there aren't any recent fresh images available since the software updates.
Now that the rover is preparing for its actual roving, and the spectacular landing is now history, there will probably be many days when there won't be much to report or show us. The truth is, the landscapes of Mars are all rather similar and not terribly exciting.
This rather naturally leads us to wonder what's next. Assuming they find evidence of past life there, then what? We can't restore it, and without an adequate atmosphere or sufficient water supply it's not very habitable for humans. Particularly not on the outer fringe of the ecosphere around our sun where temperatures are less than comfortable, to put it mildly.
But it would be very interesting to be able to confirm our suspicions about what really did happen there long ago causing Mars to be left as it is now. And it's quite likely that we're getting close to that.
After waiting over the weekend for the software updates to the Mars Curiosity rover, there isn't a whole lot of exciting news, other than to tell us that the updates were a success, and it is now ready to start the actual roving.
But we shouldn't be impatient, because when it does move, it will be slowly. It will move at a speed of only feet per hour, rather than anything like earth vehicles. And there will probably be many days like the past couple, when there aren't a lot of interesting pictures.
For those who don't know, you can watch a live feed from NASA on their website, which is here.
There isn't a lot of fresh information today, because this weekend they are giving Curiosity's computers some upgraded programming for its ground work. The computers have a limited amount of memory, so they will be removing the programming used for the landing sequences, and installing new updates for the coming work on the surface. So do 'stay tuned' as they say.
View from Husband Hill on Mars looking toward Earth (those four marks in center screen) with simulated earth atmosphere.
The same view from Husband Hill, but with the atmosphere removed, to show the details in the sky this evening as viewed from Mars. This is an example of what you can do with Stellarium, the planetarium program for your computer.