Posts Tagged ‘research’


Linux Desktop Options

by adminadam in art, articles, home, videos

Last I wrote about Linux I summarized my findings from my research into the distributions of Linux with the longest-term stability and best customizability. I also looked at the variety of architectures (i.e. older hardware, older mac’s, etc.) on which these distributions could run.

I started with 12 distros and then narrowed them down to my top 7, mostly eliminating newer, more unstable, or less user-friendly distributions, such as Arch Linux, which, while popular, does not have a graphic installer, meaning you must know how to decipher the code and what to type into the console in order to get it installed in the first place.

The top 7 I ended up with were what I called the Most Extropian Linux Distributions available. They are resilient to internal (political) and external (economic and security) threats or disturbances. They are open and have strong communities of support. They are likely to last a long time and make it easy for new users to transition into Linux. They also play nicely with others and do all their homework daily. They are, in reverse order:

7. Slackware Linux (because it is old and still popular)
6. Puppy Linux (because it is small and can be run effectively from a USB stick)
5. Linux Mint (because it is popular, beautiful, and easy)
4. CentOS (because it is rock-solid and supported for up to 10 years)
3. Debian (because of its huge community, myriad customization options and supported architectures)
2. Fedora (because it is popular, beautiful, versatile, and fairly easy)
1. openSUSE (because it is easy, beautiful, popular, well-supported, and KDE-tastic*!)

Where I am at now in regards to this list is not much different from when I first summarized all the above-mentioned research I did. At this point I am making determinations of which desktop to invest my time in mastering — both for myself and for the purpose of being able to recommend an easy-to-use and nice-looking distro/desktop to my family and friends. You see, I have many family members with ailing PC’s. I have a friend with a PowerPC Mac that hardly runs a thing, and a grandfather with an old XP dinosaur. Both of their machines could be reinvented by utilizing any one of the above distributions (although I have serious doubts about my ever helping non-techie acquaintances to install Slackware or Puppy Linux). I will most likely push CentOS, Debian, Fedora, or openSUSE. While Linux Mint is great, as I’ve discussed, I worry about their small development team and their dependence on Ubuntu (and its mother-corp Canonical).

I have four distros in mind. Of these I have tried only Fedora (either as a hard-install or virtualized), and it’s been a while since I last touched them. I have my sources for reviews, however, namely Linux Outlaws, Everyday Linux, and Going Linux (the audio podcasts). I listen to these podcasts everyday driving to and from work in my commute and also read a wide assortment of Linux-related news from Hacker News, Slashdot, and Reddit.

With my current knowledge I lean towards Debian and openSUSE the most as my likely Top Two recommendations for friends and family. I love how Fedora 18 and 19 look. I also love CentOS’s 10-year support cycle — it is simply amazing. What I cannot get behind completely with Fedora is its rapid release cycle of only 18 months. The support term is concomitantly too short, around 12-13 months. CentOS is solid but looks a bit clunky and is a bit behind the times with many of its preinstalled packages, however, so I still hesitate about it too, sadly.

Debian and openSUSE, on the other hand, have 2-to-3-year support cycles. They both also support PowerPC processors (old mac’s), and of course old PC’s! They both offer multiple desktop options: GNOME, KDE, and XFCE at least. Also, both have very large development communities or dev teams. Debian’s default desktop is GNOME (although you can download a pre-wrapped version with either KDE or XFCE as well as LXDE). I will most likely use KDE or GNOME as they are the best known, most popular, and best supported desktop environments. openSUSE, inversely, comes by default with KDE but can be downloaded locked-and-loaded with GNOME or XFCE too.

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65 mya: An Explosion of Life

by adminadam in articles

This just in…

New simulations and research from Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan are showing that the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago likely ejected so much life-bearing material from the surface of our planet that it has been delivered not only to Mars and Venus, our celestial neighbors, but also to Europa, Enceladus (of Saturn), and even Gliese 581, an Earth-like world some 20 light years away.

By some estimates, the mass of ejected material could have been nearly equal to that of the asteroid that hit — over one trillion tons, that is, which began to spread in all directions upon impact.

Space rocks would have taken around one million years to reach as far as Gliese 581, researchers say.

Panspermia, the idea that life arrived here via life-bearing comets and other bodies, is seeming more likely, but now the reverse (shall we call it Pan-Ovia?) now appears to be true as well!

I am left in amazement pondering the possibility that we will one day fly to Gliese 581 and find lifeforms similar to ours living there…

MIT’s Technology Review
arXiv Study by Tetsuya Hara, Kazuma Takagi, and Daigo Kajiura


Extropy +16: Space (Research) Tourism

by adminadam in home

Space Tourism for Scientists

The New York Times ran an article yesterday on space tourism for scientists and scientific purposes:

“If all goes as planned, within a couple of years, tourists will be rocketing into space aboard a Virgin Galactic space plane — paying $200,000 for about four minutes of weightlessness — before coming back down for a landing on a New Mexico runway.

Sitting in the next seat could be a scientist working on a research experiment.

Science, perhaps even more than tourism, could turn out to be big business for Virgin and other companies that are aiming to provide short rides above the 62-mile altitude that marks the official entry into outer space, eventually on a daily basis.”

Why (and Can’t I Get a Better Price)?

Xcor Aerospace has offered the lowest ticket prices at $95,000 a person, which makes it reasonable (or at least a bit more reasonable) for scientific research budgets. I personally like pondering the outcomes of regular short-interval experiments being done in low-earth orbit, in addition to the falling prices after the practice has been established well enough.

So, what is the draw for the scientific community over such short trips? One slashdot user (Nyeerrmm) had the following to say and mentioned metallurgy and composite materials experiments, and equipment testing for later installation into the International Space Station:

“…There are some metallurgy applications. You can make some alloys out of otherwise immiscible metals. Melt them on the ground, stir quickly at the start of the free fall period and quench the mix.

There’s also some composite materials that consist of a metal and gaseous component. For example, you might have some sort of hollow beads with a metal binder. The radical density differences make this a hard material to build in normal Earth environment. Or you might be trying to make a solid metallic foam.

Another zero gee favorite is large protein crystals (for crystallography). The five minute period might be enough to create fairly large and relatively flawless crystals in some cases.

There’s one final reason even when zero gee processes take much longer than five minutes. It’s a cheap way to test the equipment before you put it in a really expensive environment.

For example, if you have a kit for making proteins in a week, it would suck to put that on the ISS and find out that you have a horde of technical problems that need to worked out by very expensive astronauts. Even five minutes is enough to get the gear running and find problems that manifest quickly.”

Any Takers?

The biggest researcher so far looks to be Southwest Research Institute, who specialize in chemistry, space science, mechanical engineering, and a number of other fields. Southwest plans to study how soil and rocks settle on the surface of asteroids, in addition to testing a refurbished ultraviolet telescope from 1997 and trying out a biomedical harness that monitors scientists’ vitals during space flight. Let’s wish them luck so that other potential early adopters may also be encouraged to join in on these new space research endeavors.

According to the Times, “even if only some of these companies succeed, the prospect is that in a few years, hundreds of suborbital flights could be taking off every year”. Wouldn’t that be cool…


NY Times article: Space Tourism May Mean One Giant Leap for Researchers
Slashdot discussion: Scientists, Not Just Tourists Are Getting Tickets to Ride Into Space