Linux in Space

From the BBC:

The technology to link spacecraft to the web is being tested on the current space shuttle mission and briefly turned the Columbia craft into a node on the net.

(…)

To test the technology the Columbia space shuttle was fitted with an embedded PC that has a 233 MHz processor, 128 MB of RAM and a solid-state 144 MB hard drive.

The computer is running Red Hat, a version of the Linux operating system, and is maintaining a connection with the Goddard Space Flight Center which will to try to contact the onboard PC more than 140 times over the duration of the shuttle mission STS-107.

Iraq – al’Qaeda linkage

I swear that not so long ago we were being told that there was no evidence of such a link.

Either:

  1. I’m remembering wrong
  2. There’s some evidence just come to light
  3. The politicians are talking shite

Here’s a quote from the BBC report on Blair’s recent comments on this:

Last week the prime minister said that there were some links between al-Qaeda and people in Iraq, but stressed that there was no evidence of a link between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime.

But on Wednesday his spokesman said there was evidence al-Qaeda operatives were sheltering in Iraq, adding that the nature of the regime meant they could not do so unless Saddam Hussein was willing to have them.

Later, when pressed in the House of Commons Mr Blair did not go as far as his spokesman, but said: “We do know of links between al-Qaeda and Iraq – we cannot be sure of the exact extent of those links.”

Confused?

MPs come out against net data retention

The BBC reports that the All Party Internet Group (APIG) have come out against plans to make ISP’s maintain long-term records of users’ email and web habits.

The APIG suggest that the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act (ATCS), which contains these requirements, wasn’t properly thought out and appeared to be a knee-jerk to the 9/11 attacks in the US. Not only this, but the legislation would result in crippling costs on ISP’s and had received a decidedly lukewarm reception from the public when plans to make data available to third parties were revealed.

The full report is available for download from the APIG website here (pdf). I haven’t read it yet, but thought the report deserved a quick blog. However, the devil is in the details, so we’ll have to see what it says. It certainly sounds like good news though.

The computer virus

This perennial favourite has been back in the news lately with last weekend’s M$ SQL worm which apparently nearly brought the net to it’s knees. Can’t say that I noticed, and I spent a lot of time online over the weekend.

On a related note, the BBC website ran this article on the possibility that as mobile telephone technology advances those pesky viruses will start infesting our handsets. This inspired me to do a little surfing, and although it seems that warnings of this sort of thing on the past have been largely groundless (discussion here and here, via a post at epicycle) , it now appears to be a lot more feasible.

This bout of surfing also brought to my attention vmyths.com, who have this to say about themselves:

Vmyths fights computer security hysteria with a comprehensive A-Z list of popular virus hoaxes. We also tackle persistent virus myths. And we dispel misconceptions about real viruses…

Brilliant. I’m sure that if you’re like me you regularly receive email from people warning you against one or other hysterical virus-related panic and possibly even advising you to delete files like jdbgmgr.exe or sulfnbk.exe. Here’s a potential resource for dealing with that, independent from the anti-virus software vendors who have allegedly behaved questionably in the past. vmyths.com certainly qualify for a spot on my links list, anyway.

BNP gain a Council seat

The British National Party have just won another Council seat, Mixenden Ward at Calderdale Council. It’s always a bit worrying when thugs and bigots win political power at any level, but that’s democracy.

Here are the results:

  1. BNP: 679
  2. Liberal Democrats: 651
  3. Labour: 641
  4. Conservatives: 214
  5. Independent: 142
  6. Spoilt: 6

(From the calderdale.gov.uk website)

That’s a total of 2133 votes cast from an electorate of 7054, so a turnout of around 30% with the BNP getting votes from only 9.6%.

This is what interests me. Whatever it is that is driving people to vote BNP, it’s not driving the majority of people to vote for anybody, and as a result the extremists get in. And they didn’t win by much, the Liberals being 28 votes behind and Labour 38.

I have enough faith in people to believe that a larger turnout would not have yielded the same result. With turnouts at levels like this, groups like the BNP don’t have to convince many people to support them to win, and each win they get will increase their credibility and make it easier for them to gain support – “look, we’re a respectable party with seats on many councils…”.

Right now the BNP have very few seats – 5, according to the BBC. But what with the current media frenzy over asylum seekers there’s plenty of scope for them to gain more converts. I’d argue that a general increase in participation in politics at all levels is one way of reducing their impact.

There are no doubt a host of reasons why people voted BNP in Mixenden, their success can’t all be put down to the low turnout. But turnouts like this are common these days, symptomatic of a growing alienation of the average person from the political process, and that’s what I’m interested in here. This is something I’d like to see the major parties addressing, and not just in the run-up to larger elections when they’re trying to get their supporters out. They could start by offering something different to each other, and not allowing fringe groups of nuts like the BNP appear to be the only people offering a real alternative to the incumbents.

Futurism

In a bizarre story, the BBC reports about a printer adapted to produce 3 dimensional living tissue.

Again via the BBC, President Bush looks set to back NASA’s project to use nuclear propulsion systems in spacecraft. This has the potential to make the exploration of space by either crewed or robotic craft a lot more viable, but is something likely to meet with opposition from anti-nuclear campaigners. Needless to say the news will please those in favour of a human exploration program.

There’s been wide reporting of the discovery of a fossil of a four-winged dinosaur in China. Here’s the New Scientist report and the BBC report.

Researchers at Imperial College London looking into memory and neurofeedback make claims that it might be possible for people to be trained in better recall. Neurofeedback techniques involve showing people their brainwaves on a screen and teaching them how to exert some control over them. (Guess what? via the BBC.)