archive for December, 2004

7-Zip

I’ve just switched my main file compression/decompression application to 7-Zip. I’ve used WinZip and PowerArchiver over the years, but they’re both commercial and you need to either pay for them or be prepared to be nagged every time you open a zip file.

So far, 7-Zip has done everything I’ve needed it to. It’s interface is… what’s a good word… minimalistic, but hey… it’s free. I’m not sure why, but the version I installed (4.12 beta) doesn’t associate itself with compressed files automatically when you install it. That’s easy enough to remedy though — just open up the 7-Zip File Manager from your Start menu, then go to Tools->Options. You’ll be given a list of file types with check boxes so that you can easily associate your files with 7-Zip.

I think this project (7-Zip is open source) is going to really take off, and we’ll see a very beautiful, polished, piece of software after not too long. Just as a recap, here’s a list of the free and open source desktop software that I use quite frequently: 7-Zip, CDex, Ethereal, Gaim, Filezilla, Firefox, Nvu, OpenOffice, Thunderbird, TurboPad, and PuTTY. Not too shabby. Now, I’d be set if I only had a good replacement for Norton Anti Virus and WinAmp (AOL is taking over, and I’m worried that it’s going to fill up with ads like AIM and ICQ).

MythBusters

We’ve just started watching a lot of the Discovery Channel‘s MythBusters. It’s really entertaining (much better than certain home re-decorating and make-over shows), and surprisingly educational.

It’s not so much that it goes into the details of the science, but it sure promotes the spirit of science by questioning beliefs and putting them to the test. CSI has been thought to promote science, and MythBusters doesn’t an even better job. (Of course, CSI is on network TV and is a lot more popular.)

In short, if you get the Discovery Channel (and I bet most of you do), go ahead and watch an episode and see what you think. If you have a PVR, even better, you can record a whole pile of episodes. Enjoy.

ApeJet Games

I’ve created an ApeJet games mini-site for ApeJet. The first game is for kids learning the keyboard. It’s a re-creation of the first game I remember playing as a kid (I think my dad wrote it). Okay, okay. It doesn’t look at all like that old BASIC program, but it works about the same (from what I remember).

Lunar Space Elevator

A few weeks ago, slashdot covered this article on the idea of a lunar space elevator.

A space elevator is typically thought of as a long cable that hangs down from space that provides a very energy efficient way to transport materials from the ground into space. On Earth, it would work by putting a spool of cable in geosynchronous orbit, and then slowly lowering the cable down to Earth while extending a counter weight away from the Earth.

Geosynchronous orbit is an orbit that takes 24 hours to make it all of the way around. This type of orbit will keep a satellite exactly above the same point on Earth. This is a very common orbit for satellites. For example, TV satellites are kept in this type of orbit.

The problem is that to stay balanced like this, the center of gravity of an Earth-based space elevator would have to be 22,236 miles above the surface. That would mean you’d need almost as much cable as what it would take to reach all of the way around the Earth (24,859 miles). That’s a lot of cable, so we’d need to to be lighter and stronger that any materials we currently have available (carbon nanotubes look promising though).

This is where the Moon comes in. The force of gravity on the Moon is only 1/6 that of gravity on Earth. We couldn’t really put a space elevator in geosynchronous orbit over the Moon because the Moon rotates so slowly, but we could balance a lunar space elevator at a Lagrangian point. This would be a great way to test out the space elevator idea, and even get some use out of it by providing a cheap way to get stuff off of the surface of the Moon. I think NASA should seriously keep this in mind if we’re ever going to build a permanent lunar base.

This is Not a Hoax

Need a chuckle? Check out the Museum of Hoaxes. My favorite is The Great Rose Bowl Hoax. I’d love to see video of that event.

Jury Duty

I have a summons for jury duty this week. I haven’t actually been called in, and it looks like I won’t this time. I was doing some reading on the California Courts website. According to their Facts About Jury Service, about 10 million people receive a juror summons, but only 180,000 actually serve on a jury. That works out to about 1.8 percent. Why are they sending so many summons and wasting so many people’s time?

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