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Updated: 37 min 32 sec ago

SpaceX Falcon 9 ocean landing video

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 05:24

Here’s video of the SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage landing in the ocean after the last launch. Good video this time, but they need wipers for the camera lens. I can’t wait to see them bring one back to the Cape.

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One small step

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 13:35

July 20, 1969.

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Free ebooks from Scriptorium

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 19:09

As well as offering various content strategy services, Scriptorium Publishing have been publishing a series of books about aspects of technical communication. Several of these are now available as free ebooks in EPUB format. You can download copies of Technical Writing 101, DITA Style Guide and a couple of others. Print versions are available for some of the editions through Amazon and other vendors.

Kudos to Scriptorium for making these available for free.

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Been there, done that

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 05:28

In Why I hate negotiating my telecom package, Rob Carrick describes the annual ordeal of trying to shave a few dollars off his cable bill by spending hours online with a cable company customer retention representative. Honestly, I could have written that article – it’s uncanny how his experiences mirror mine.

If you enjoy buying new cars and setting up mortgages at the bank, then you’ll love nego (more)

Digital First Aid Kit

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 05:29

It’s nasty out there: malware, trojans, botnets, drive-by phishing sites, viruses – and that’s just the stuff from the bad guys. (The good guys, NSA, CSIS, etc. deserve a separate post).

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and a group of NGOs have created a Digital First Aid Kit to help you cope with all the nastiness.

The Digital First Aid Kit includes a secure communications layer, as well as sections on hacked accounts, DoS, seizure of devices and malware attacks on your site and network. You can (more)

Displaced Persons preview

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 05:23

Several years ago, I was an advance reader for Derek McCulloch’s Displaced Persons, a graphic novel that spans three generations in San Francisco. I’ve enjoyed Derek’s other books (Stagger Lee, Pug, (more)

Google Docs and Sheets update

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 05:51

Google has added some important new features to their Docs and Sheets applications, including the Android version. Perhaps the most important is the ability to edit .docx and .xlsx files directly. Lifehacker has a summary of the most significant changes.

The new apps also brings a host of new features and changes. You can now create Microsoft Office files, spell check has been improved, you can now choose to save or open files from local storage, and many of the formatting and edi (more)

Sony MP3 Walkman NWX-E385B review

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 05:25

I’ve been looking around for a new MP3 player to replace my wonderful but aging (5 or 6 years old) Sansa E280. There used to be a flourishing market in MP3 and media players but not any more — Apple has obviously cornered the market. You can find some low-end junk (Hipstreet, Colby) but very little that’s halfway decent.

I’d use my phone but it lacks one essential feature – an FM tuner, a feature which Samsung removed from the S4. After quite a bit of searching, I finally settled on a (more)

How Cosmos made its case for science

Sat, 07/05/2014 - 06:06

The recent reboot of the classic science series, Cosmos, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, was a landmark in science broadcasting. As well as painting a vivid picture of the universe and our place in it, Tyson went head to head with creationists and climate change deniers. This article from AlterNet is an (more)

Writing with Scrivener

Fri, 07/04/2014 - 05:30

Most technical writers use Microsoft Word, Adobe FrameMaker, or MadCap Flare. But there are other tools that aren’t well known in the technical communication field that might be worth investigating. Scrivener is one of those. It’s mainly used by novelists and screenwriters, but from the description in this article, I wonder if it would work for technical documents?

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New stuff from Google

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 05:09

Last week Google held its I/O development conference and announced a lot of new products, including a new version of Android, several APIs, and car and home entertainment software. As an Android user, I’m especially interested in the new “L” release (probably to be named Lollipop). MobileSyrup has a detailed summary of what they announced. If you have a recent Android phone, you’ll want to have a look at it.

This is the big one. Android “L Release, (more)

The most expensive typo?

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 17:21

In 1962, the rocket carrying Mariner 1, the United States’ first Venus probe exploded shortly after launch. The cause was eventually traced to a typo in code that controlled the booster’s guidance system. In today’s dollars, that was a $630 million dollar typo – a missing hyphen. I can’t prove it, but it seems likely to be the most expensive typo in history.

Multiple theories emerged surrounding the reasons behind the craft’s failure, largely stemming from a bevy of (more)

The documentation that saved Apollo 13

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 11:13

The crew of Apollo 13 almost didn’t make it back to Earth alive, because of carbon dioxide buildup in their LEM module. What saved them was a hack – a jury-rigged device to adapt carbon-dioxide scrubbing canisters from the Apollo capsule to the air supply of the LEM.

The only problem with this plan was that the Lunar Module was designed for only two people for a 36-hour period, not three astronauts for 96 hours. They quickly discovered that carbon dioxide was building u (more)

Hottest May on record

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 19:36

May wasn’t a particularly warm month in this part of the world. The last few months, especially in the winter, have been quite a bit colder than the last few years, although even the winter was more like what was normal 20 or 30 years ago.

Now it turns out that May is the warmest May on record when you look over the entire globe, largely due to the oceans being warmer than normal.

Since New Year’s Day, even as the U.S. shivered through the polar vortex, the planet as a whole exper (more)

Another SpaceX reusable booster test

Thu, 06/19/2014 - 20:32

SpaceX conducted another test of their reusable Falcon 9R test vehicle this week, taking it up to about 1,000 metres and bringing it back down. The test showed a new feature – small extendable fins that presumably are used to control roll.

The cows remained blasé  (watch until the end).

Tomorrow, they should be launching a Falcon 9 from the Cape and trying to bring back the first stage for an ocean soft landing – this time closer to the Cape.

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Sunburst Award finalists announced

Mon, 06/16/2014 - 18:38

The finalists for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic have been announced. This is a juried award with a $1,000 honorarium. These are the Adult fiction finalists.

  • Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson (Grand Central Publishing)
  • River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay (Penguin Group Canada)
  • This Strange Way of Dying by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Exile Editions)
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Penguin Group Canada)
  • The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper (Simon & Schuster)
  • (more)

No, natural gas is not clean

Thu, 06/05/2014 - 19:08

There seems to be a meme going around, probably spread by the Koch brothers and in Canada, companies like Enbridge, that natural gas is a clean fuel. Well, if you take it on its own, it is cleaner than coal. But there’s a problem, in that you can’t take it on it’s own. When you produce and distribute natural gas, you’re also releasing methane into the atmosphere, and methane, as a greenhouse gas is far more potent than carbon dioxide – I’ve seen varying figures on just how much more potent, but it’s anywhere from 20 to 80 time worse.

A recent (more)

6 online editors compared

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 19:47

If you want to start a heated discussion in a group of programmers, ask them what their favourite editor is. Then step back.

Now the editor market has gotten even more fragmented with a new set of online tools. On SitePoint, Jacco Blankenspoor looks at six of these new tools. I haven’t been following the area very closely, so I’ve only heard of a couple of them, and we can’t use cloud-based tools at work, so I haven’t had a chance to use any in a production setting. I do find it in (more)

Privacy in the age of the Internet

Tue, 05/27/2014 - 19:44

Here’s a must-read article from SF author and Internet activist, Cory Doctorow, focused on the subject of privacy and what you can do when there really is a Big Brother watching everything you do online and too many criminal organizations to count trying to hack every computer on the Internet.

You’ve probably heard a bunch of news about Edward Snowden and the NSA. Last June, Edward Snowden, an American spy, fled to Hong Kong and handed a group of American journalis (more)

It might be worse than we think

Thu, 05/22/2014 - 19:57

As if the news about climate change wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that the predictions being made by climate scientists tend to be too conservative, and the actual pace of climate change, and its effects, is greater than the official reports indicate. For example:

The total carbon contained in permafrost [in the form of frozen methane] has been estimated at 1672 gigatons, more than twice the amount of carbon in the atmosphere (Tarnocai et al., 2009). This means that th (more)