Big cable-backed broadband bill soars through NC House, one step closer to stifling ISP competition

via Engadget by Darren Murph on 3/30/11

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Time Warner Cable is made up of some insanely shady folks. And frankly, it’s not just TWC to blame here — CenturyLink, Embarq and a smattering of other big telecom companies are banding together in order to push the ironically-named H129 “Level Playing Field” bill straight into law. Unfortunately, said bill sailed through the clearly oblivious (or “persuaded”) North Carolina House this week, with just 37 sane individuals voting against 81 delusional proponents. For those outside of the loop, the bill effectively suggests that commercial entities — municipal ISPs like Wilson’s own Greenlight that provide greater levels of service with lower costs — are unfairly competing against for-profit monoliths. In short, that’s an absolute joke. Rep. Bill Faison nailed it with this quote: 

“This bill will make it practically impossible for cities to provide a fundamental service. Where’s the bill to govern Time Warner? Let’s be clear about whose bill this is. This is Time Warner’s bill. You need to know who you’re doing this for.” 

Yours truly just so happens to reside in the wonderful state of North Carolina, and knows first-hand what it’s like to live in a major metropolitan area with a single high-speed broadband carrier. TWC has only recently announced impending DOCSIS 3.0 coverage, but early installations in the heart of Raleigh have been fraught with latency issues and router difficulties. Oh, and it’s charging $99 per month for a service with 5Mbps up; for comparison’s sake, Greenlight gives customers 10Mbps internet (in both directions), home phone and expanded basic cable for the exact same fare. So, NC lawmakers — how exactly do your constituents gain access to that “level playing field?” 

[Image courtesy of IndyWeek]

Ocean Circulation Explorer, the Formula 1 of satellites

via DVICE by Charlie White on 8/26/08

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Those hip Europeans. They make the sleekest cars, and now they’ve taken that chic design sense into space with the Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), perhaps the most badass satellite to ever ply the cosmos. This shiny space ornament is set to blast into orbit on September 10th, and will be using its Electrostatic Gravity Gradiometer to measure the earth’s gravitational fields. Its main mission is to figure out the speed and direction of ocean currents, and along the way maybe even determine when the next big volcano is going to blow.

Powered by an electric motor charged up with solar panels, it will get its readings of Earth’s gravitational field by flying in a relatively low orbit of around 167 miles. Because there’s still some wispy remnants of the earth’s atmosphere at that altitude, this baby has those streamlined fins like a ’57 Chevy to fly straight and true. This snazzy bird is sure to be the envy of all the other satellites, not to mention that clunky-looking International Space Station.

European Space Agency, via AstroEngine

ESA’s Autonomous Space Truck Blasts Off Tomorrow

via Gizmodo by Wilson Rothman on 3/8/08

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The European Space Agency is launching the first Automated Transfer Vehicle tomorrow in French Guyana. Though it looks like a satellite, the ATV, christened Jules Verne, is really an unmanned cargo-hauling robot capable of carting 7.6 tons of supplies and other astro-crap up from earth, and even tow the International Space Station itself to a higher orbit. And it’ll do a lot of this stuff with no guidance from the carbon units:

The most notable is the ATV’s automatic rendezvous and docking technology – the ship can find its own way to the station and attach itself without any human intervention.

Other vehicles are manually driven in—optical sensors on the ATV steer and line up the truck for docking, as you can see in the images below (taken from the amazing BBC News video you can jump to below). Yes, the ESA refers to this automated linkup of ATV and ISS as “mating.”
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Note to self: Space stations are not safe hideouts during robot revolts.

Tomorrow’s launch will be carried off by an Ariane 5 rocket, and the double-decker-bus-sized ATV will be the heaviest payload ever carried by one. The maneuver will be trickier than usual, with the upper stage of the rocket igniting twice, to get it up there and then again to boost it safely over the Pacific Ocean.

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[BBC News]

Ulysses Spacecraft Dying Alone in Space

via Gizmodo by Haroon Malik on 2/23/08

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The Ulysses spacecraft, which was launched way back in 1990, has been visiting the planets of the solar system for some 17-years, but now the Ulysses looks like it is doomed. A critical error has occurred in the mechanism that prevents the fuel from freezing, and that means the Ulysses is soon to be heading to spacecraft heaven.

The Ulysses was the first spacecraft to ever pass over the north and south poles of the Sun, but amazing feats of pole to pole traveling were nothing compared to the three comet tails it successfully navigated. The lessons scientists have learnt regarding solar wind and interstellar dust have proven to be invaluable. Unfortunately then, the circuitry has now become defective, which means there is no way to supply power to the machinery that prevents the hydrazine power source from freezing. Once the hydrazine falls below the 2° Celsius freezing point, it’s going to be game over for old Ulysses, as there will be no way to control the sky skipper. We imagine it’s showing a RROD as we speak, which makes us unbearably sad. We just wanted to say thanks for all the indispensable scientific information, great times, good laughs and the terrific name. Cheers, you will be missed, Ulysses.

[New Scientist]

Japan’s Kizuna Satellite to Beam Souped Up Internet Connection Back Home

via Gizmodo by Haroon Malik on 2/24/08

Kizuna%20Launch%20GI.jpgJapan is launching the Kizuna satellite, which will bring high-speed internet access to Japan’s remote territories and neighboring countries, as well as providing continuous networking in case of emergency. The $342 million project, spearheaded by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), is expected to culminate in internet connections reaching speeds of 1.2Gbps, dwarfing current ADSL connections that typically allow data transfer to occur at below 8 Mbps. Users will need to install an antenna to be able to receive a signal, but for those speeds, I’d be willing to trade in a pound of my very own flesh.

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Kizuna is expected to go live in July following a setup process once it is in position, but a speed boost is not the only aim of the game. Having a satellite in space means natural disasters on Earth are not going to have any ramifications on the country’s connectivity, which can be imperative in disaster zones. If all should go well, expect such an infrastructure to hit the mainstream. Does that mean everyone will have a 1.2Gbps connection? Will outages become a thing of the past? Does Simba eventually become a good leader? The answers come in July, when the service rolls out.

[JAXA via Yahoo News; AP]