Sunday, July 24, 2011

Space: it's just not our thing

I saw a very nice and sentimental video of the Space Shuttle launches.




Really nice, nicely done.

Let me give you my perspective on the Space Shuttle. I love NASA and what they have done with the Shuttle and Apollo before it. However, the time for those has passed and we should not replace them with anything that takes humans into space. Ever.

Space is simply not a human thing. We are far too fragile to survive out there for any meaningful duration, and I think the space shuttle proved that fact. Over the last 30 years, we've accomplished launching a telescope, several satellites and some erector sets from the Shuttle. Furthermore, the Shuttle has enjoyed a 1 in 25 chance of death -- meaning you are 365,000x more likely to die on a Shuttle than a commercial flight.

I'm not trying to diminish the accomplishment, I think putting humans in space is hard. What I am trying to ridicule is the idea that we should keep doing it. It really is too expensive for where it gets us. We cannot do much with the limited opportunity we're given to be in space, and to give us more would be cost prohibitive and risk too many lives.

No, something else needs to take space from here. Either it will be artificial intelligence or some sort of engineered organism that can do it. We're the first species in the history of the world that can create a being that can explore for us. It's time we start focusing on that. Automata will get us to the next level, not more Shuttle-like stuff.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Apple is now Microsoft

You know why? Because I've become a Mac person. That would be impossible if they weren't now Microsoft.

The Mac is the path of least resistance. It comes with software that gets the job done (iPhoto, iMovie). It's rare to worry about drivers. You won't worry about support. Apple is ubiquitous. There's an Apple store near every major city. Your iPhone works with it. Your iPod works with it. It has iTunes. It connects to all of your Windows stuff. It's supported by everything you pretty much will care about except some games.

And, having just gone to Best Buy to look over the competition, Apple has the best hardware for the buck. I thought for sure we'd walk out with a PC for my mother-in-law. Instead we walked out planning to buy a Mac. PC laptop makers have completely lost the plot. They've gone from making reasonably priced good hardware to making crap that, while it appears cheap, is actually expensive for what it is. The most egregious problem is the crazily offset trackpad. Whoever thought that laptop users needed a number pad starting at 15" is an idiot. Protip for PC laptop makers: JUST COPY WHAT APPLE DOES. It's not that hard.

You won't find $300 wonders from Apple, but you also won't have computers that die after 6 months. I already learned that lesson by buying my in-laws a netbook. First the wi-fi driver was busted. Then wi-fi died. Then the whole thing died after 13 months. I'm now recommending they get a Macbook Pro 13", and will be ordering them one here shortly.

Maybe I've changed my tune on this because I don't work on software that targets the desktop anymore. I can't possibly fathom making a case for having a Windows laptop at work, where my actual work is on Linux. A Mac is a seriously imperfect solution because it's not Linux, but least with a Mac I can reasonably do my work and still have a desktop experience with commercial applications -- without virtualization.

Or maybe I've changed my tune because the desktop is just that irrelevant. But at the same time, I'm about ready to start recommending to normal people that the buy an iPhone instead of Android.

Or maybe it's just because I'd rather be a normal person, than jumping through hoops to get stuff to work just to save a couple hundred bucks.

Anyway, bottom line: Apple is now Microsoft. They control the consumer market. I think they're making inroads into the enterprise simply because most of the enterprise has started running on the web. I think Apple still has a problem with sunsetting OSes too quickly, but that will eventually change as they reach deeper into Microsoftdom.