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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Orbital Express

The defense department and NASA have had a long history of collaborating -sometimes unintentionally- on black programs. A classic example was the "X-wing" project. NASA's portion was the ["Rotor System Research Aircraft"], an aerodynamic testbed for for stopped rotor flight. The idea here was the have a rotary wing aircraft (helicopter) whose rotor would stop in mid flight and act as another set of wings, which would enable the aircraft to fly faster than helicopters can. Having the rotor go from a hundred rotations a minute to zero was the least of NASA's problems. The defense department conducted a program simultaneously that created a flying testbed for the radar defeating capabilities of an X-wing aircraft and conducted it's flight test program in Nevada.

Now for some reason, the [DART] program is listed as being a part of the [Orbital Space Plane] (OSP) that NASA is developing to supplant and eventually replace the Shuttle. What on-orbit automated resupply has to do with the OSP is anyone's guess. DART is the unclassified half of the [Orbital Express] program that has been underway at DARPA for several years. The military clearly has the most to gain from DART/Orbital Express - it would enable them to service their satellite assets remotely, which is something that the Shuttle was originally designed to do. The dimensions of the Shuttle's cargo bay were determined by the Air Force and NRO's KH-12 satellite - which depended on Shuttle missions for refueling and refurbishment. Eventually the KH-12 launches slipped and with the Challenger accident in 1986, the world's most advanced reconnaissance satellite was shelved after being in storage for 7 years, at a cost of over $100m a year.

With DART/Orbital Express, military satellites could be refueled and upgraded without an expensive, risky, and visible Shuttle mission. Currently, when a KH-11 satellite runs out of fuel it's placed into a parking orbit, where it remains essentially useless until it falls out of the sky. With DART/Orbital Express, a single satellite could be used indefinitely.

Of course, much of the same technology developed for DART/Orbital Express could be applied to a small kinetic-kill [antisatellite weapon]. Currently, [China] is believed to be developing a new ASAT capability, and Russia's is inactive. The US had a limited ASAT weapon that was launched from an F-15 fighter in the 1980s, and there were rumors that both the Air Force and Army were developing new ASAT interceptors in the late 1990s.

1/10/2004 03:46:03 PM ] [  ]


Friday, January 09, 2004


The nice thing about the Newton is that I'm finding more and more uses for it. Lately I've been using [ newtToDo] quite a bit. It's probably the most functional organizer I've used thus far, and it's simple and easy to work with. It's helped me keep on top of my life considerably, and for that I'm extremely grateful to the author. There are few things I would like to see added to it - it's well thought out and functional, and does exactly what it should and no more.

[NewtSync] is another very useful app. It allows you to sync your Newton to your MacOS X applications (iCal, AddressBook). Using NewtSync, iCal, and our corporate scheduling system (which can import into iCal), it's a lot easier to keep on top of meetings and events. It's still a bit rough around the edges in some places, like syncing some of the event details from iCal (like the location of an event), but otherwise it works very well.

1/09/2004 07:36:17 PM ] [  ]


How to Set Up a Linksys WET11 Bridge from MacOS X

Linksys's documentation for the [WET11 Wireless Bridge] only provides directions for setting up the device using Windows client software on a PC - which in my case didn't even work. It can be set up using any web browser, though Linksys doesn't make this obvious in their documention. Here's how to get into the WET11 using MacOS X. The steps beyond these are pretty well covered by the WET11 manual and user guide.

Set up your Mac's network configuration for "DHCP with manual address" as shown below. The easiest way to do this is to create a new Location to switch to it easily when you are connected directly to the WET11. Set your IP address to and make sure what you're editing is for ethernet, not your internal modem.

WET11 Network Setup for MacOS X

With that done, click Apply Now and close System Preferences. Connect your WET11 directly to your ethernet port, then open up a web browser (Safari and Camino should work just as well as IE for this - some "Web GUI" application for embedded systems require IE, but Linksys's don't seem to). Go to, the username is blank and the default password is... listed in your manual (5 letters, very obvious, though you would expect it to be the username and not the password). I won't list that here, though really there's no reason not to. Make sure changing that password is a high priority!

1/09/2004 03:23:42 PM ] [  ]


Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Mail, remixed.

I'm back to working on [EvilToaster] after a long hiatus.... some new stuff coming along nicely.
Found a better way to do quote level highlighting after looking over [UKSyntaxColoredTextDocument 0.1.5] , which does realtime syntax coloring very differently than I had been doing.
I'm taking a hard, long look at what the Newton OS and SimpleMail are doing right, and doing wrong, and seeing what lessons from that can be applied in the context of MacOS X.
[Lucene 1.3] is out, and I'm catching up to some of the new stuff. Some of the new features are very cool, though still not quite ready for what I'd like to use them for.
Most of all, I'm learning from the failures of others. iCal is almost unusable, the methods for entering new events are that bad. The Newton got that a lot better. Eudora knows it's an email client, while Outlook, etc. all think they are "suites". I'd rather do one thing and do it well than try to do everything.... poorly.

I've got some very cool new ideas, most of which will probably never get used on this project.

1/07/2004 08:26:26 PM ] [  ]



A new version of iPhoto is part of [iLife 04], announced yesterday at MWSF. Apparently the new iPhoto has some performance enhancements, including fixes for working with large photo libraries (iPhoto's biggest weakness). Unfortunately, from what I am hearing the new iPhoto will only be available as part of "iLife 04", making iTunes the only iLife program available as a free download from this point on.

So if I buy a digital camea, and I want to use it with a Mac, I now have to pay another $50 for the software to use it? Or is Apple going to say "Oh, if you want to use your camera, pay the $50 or use Image Capture in your Utilities folder".

Oddly enough, the often neglected Image Capture has been updated with new features recently. Mere coincidence?

1/07/2004 02:03:57 PM ] [  ]


Tuesday, January 06, 2004


Email done right.

What does the Newton's Mail interface (with [SimpleMail] providing IMAP data) get right? It's very simple and functional. You can see your email arranged by date, select it, and read it. If you're using IMAP, you don't download the message body until you're reading that message, which is how IMAP is supposed to work anyway.

The very simple interface and functionality rarely feels limiting. The only thing that I would like is to be able to change the sort order of the inbox, ie reverse date sorting. If the Newton was my only means of using email I might think differently about it - the account I use with the Newton doesn't get any spam, it doesn't get a large volume of mail, etc. Maybe I'll set it up to be my primary email platform for a week and see what things I miss then!

1/06/2004 05:01:52 PM ] [  ]


Sunday, January 04, 2004

Intensity: The key to sucess

The iPod can be great for training - it certainly beats my Nomad Jukebox for working out in the gym, the Nomad is the size and shape of a portable CD player, and it's pretty clunky to balance on a recumbent stationary bike. My old Rio 500 was small and light, but never had enough music for a serious workout. The iPod is clearly the best portable MP3 player for fitness, even the 5GB models. Until very recently the only other players of it's size were a mere 128mb of storage, or about 20 songs!

A mistake many people who go to a gym regularly (or even just when the mood strikes them) make is to do all of their workouts a constant intensity. Just sitting on a bike, choosing "FAT BURN" from the little menu, and pedalling so lightly that you can read a book will not get you much in the way of results. Here's one was the iPod can pay for itself. Use your music to vary your intensity - these are tricks I use to get more out of my workouts. As always, warm up before you start to push it.

  • Charge up to your max effort during the chorus of the song you are playing

  • Set up a custom playlist for cardio, alternating between lighter songs and heavy. For example, create a playlist in iTunes that has Coldplay, then Rob Zombie, alternating for each song.

  • Set your iPod to shuffle, and when a song you're not that in the mood to hear comes on, pedal/run at your normal pace. When a song you like comes on, push yourself harder.

Stretch before and after, warm up, and train smart. Use heart rate monitoring if it's available, and be sure to know your [training heart rate] beforehand (most gyms are more than happy to help you find it out). If your gym doesn't have heart rate monitors on most of the machines, consider getting one for yourself - a decent Polar A1 monitor can be had for $30 or so.

1/04/2004 02:19:14 PM ] [  ]