Day: July 12, 2016

Empirical proof that Terms of Service are "the biggest lie on the Internet"


In The Biggest Lie on the Internet: Ignoring the Privacy Policies and Terms of Service Policies of Social Networking Services, a working paper by a pair of university communications professors, students were asked to try out a new social networking site as beta-testers; in reality they were being evaluated to see whether they reviewed the site’s terms of service and privacy policy in any detail.


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Planet purchases three launches from Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab Electron

SAN DIEGO — Rocket Lab, the U.S.-New Zealand company developing the Electron small launch vehicle, announced July 12 that it has won a contract for three launches from remote sensing satellite company Planet.

The contract covers three dedicated launches of Dove satellites built by San Francisco-based Planet, formerly known as Planet Labs, on Electron vehicles. The companies did not announce terms of the deal, although Rocket Lab quotes a list price of $4.9 million per Electron launch on its website.

Mike Safyan, director of launch and regulatory affairs for Planet, said in an interview during the International Space Station Research and Development Conference here that the number of satellites that each launch will carry is still being determined, but will likely be between 20 and 25. Each Dove is a three-unit cubesat with a mass of about five kilograms.

The schedule for the launches will depend on the development of Electron, which has yet to make its first flight. Safyan said that if the Electron test program goes well, the first Planet launch, likely to sun-synchronous orbit, could be as soon as the second quarter of 2017.

Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, said in an interview that the company is finishing up the commissioning of its launch site on the North Island of New Zealand while working on its first set of launch vehicles. “The vehicle is coming together nicely,” he said. “We have three coming down the production line.”

Rocket Lab announced earlier this year that the company planned to carry out its first test launch this summer, but Beck would only say that the first launch would take place “in the coming months.” “We’re working hard to get a couple of flights away this year,” he said.

The delay, he said, was not due to any specific issue with the vehicle, launch site, or regulatory issues, as the U.S.-headquartered company works to get a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. “We’re anticipating a few teething issues” when everything comes together on the launch pad, he said, hence the uncertain launch schedule.

In addition to Planet, Rocket Lab has a contract for three launches, with options for two more, with Moon Express, a company developing commercial lunar landers. Rocket Lab won a Venture Class Launch Services contract from NASA last year. Spire has also signed a contract for launching some of its satellites on Electron launches, although those will be manifested as secondary payloads.

For Planet, the contract represents its first dedicated launch deal. Its satellites have previously been launched as secondary payloads, primarily from the ISS. An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle launched 12 Dove satellites as secondary payloads in June.

The dedicated launch contract, Safyan said, gives Planet flexibility in launch schedule and orbits it previously lacked as secondary payload customers. “That’s a big deal for us,” he said.

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Frustrated pranksters change sign for accuracy


I am unsurprised to find long time friend of Boing Boing, Howard Rheingold is in part responsible for changing this street sign. I pass it all the time.

Via the Marin IJ:

Three Tam Valley pranksters fed up with the tooth-grinding, serenity-shaking, bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway 1 took matters into their own hands this weekend.

They changed the “Welcome to Tamalpais Valley” sign near the Holiday Inn Express to “Welcome to Traffic Jam Valley” on Friday afternoon, getting approving thumbs-ups and cheers from the host of motorists inching westward past the sign on congested Highway 1.

“We put it up to improve the quality of public information in a reversible and non-destructive way,” said Howard Rheingold, a 68-year-old Tam Valley resident and former editor of the Millennium Whole Earth Catalog.

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Kendall says OCX meeting was a “mixed bag” of results

Raytheon's work on a new ground control system for GPS 3 satellites has been delayed by several years and faces additional scrutiny from the Pentagon. | Credit: Raytheon

The DoD’s top acquisition official said meeting on a new GPS ground control system produced a “mixed bag” of results.

Frank Kendall said he has not yet decided if the Operational Control Segment program needs to be recompeted or if Raytheon can fix technical and scheduling issues that have sidetracked the program. [Defense News]

More News

Legal questions have slowed a U.S. Air Force project to develop new ways to buy commercial satellite bandwidth. Under the Pathfinder 2 program, the Air Force proposed buying a transponder on one commercial satellite, and then use that to access capacity on the satellite operator’s entire fleet. However, questions raised within the Pentagon about its legal ability to barter that transponder for access to other satellites have stopped the Air Force from issuing a request for proposals, making it unlikely it will be able to award a contract before the next fiscal year begins. [SpaceNews]

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has resumed normal operations a week after going into safe mode. JPL said Monday that the rover, which landed on Mars nearly four years ago, returned to normal operations after a software problem July 2 put the spacecraft into safe mode. The most likely cause of the safe mode, according to project officials, is a “software mismatch” in how the rover’s computers transfer image data. [NASA/JPL]

The commander of the final shuttle mission says he feels “right back in the fight again” working on Boeing’s commercial crew vehicle. Chris Ferguson, who commanded the STS-135 shuttle mission five years ago this month, left the agency shortly afterwards and jointed Boeing, where he is leading development of the CST-100 Starliner vehicle. Ferguson hasn’t said if he plans to fly on the first crewed CST-100 mission, planned for early 2018, which will include a Boeing test pilot as well as a NASA astronaut. [Spaceflight Now]

Sierra Nevada Corp. said Monday it has completed the first milestone on its commercial cargo contract with NASA. The company said the milestone involves the NASA approval of a program plan covering the development and testing of the Dream Chaser vehicle that will transport cargo to and from the International Space Station. The company expects to make the first of at least six missions to the ISS under that contract in the second half of 2019. [SpaceNews]

Orbital ATK announced a new contract with Thales Alenia Space for a major component of its Cygnus cargo spacecraft. The contract, signed Monday, covers the delivery of nine pressurized cargo modules built by Thales Alenia Space to Orbital ATK. Those modules are a key element of the Cygnus spacecraft that Orbital ATK uses to transport cargo to the ISS under its current contract with NASA, as well as a follow-on contract that begins in 2019. [Orbital ATK]

China is planning a new satellite to study the Earth’s water cycle. Chinese officials said Monday the Water Cycle Observation Mission, scheduled for launch in 2020, will provide “unprecedented, accurate observations” of water …read more

Beloved sports coach ignored sexual abuse of children

Jerry Sandusky, L, and Joe Paterno, R.  [Reuters]

Court documents show that famed Pennsylvania State University football coach Joe Paterno knew that convicted child molester, and former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing children, Paterno turned a blind eye as he had football games to lose.

The college has taken down a statue of Paterno, but a library remains named in his honor.

The then-14-year-old victim told Paterno that the assistant coach — who was convicted in 2012 of molesting 10 boys and is serving 30 to 60 years in state prison — touched him while attending a football camp at the university, penetrating his rectum with his finger as he showered, the Washington Post reports.

John Doe 150, according to the newly unsealed court documents, testified that he told Paterno of the sexual assault and the coach ignored his complaint.

“Is it accurate that Coach Paterno quickly said to you, ‘I don’t want to hear about any of that kind of stuff, I have a football season to worry about?’” the victim’s lawyer asked him in 2014, according to the Washington Post.

“Specifically. Yes … I was shocked, disappointed, offended,” the man replied. “I was insulted… I said, is that all you’re going to do? You’re not going to do anything else?”

(NY Daily News)

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Bernie Sanders concedes Democratic race, endorses Hillary Clinton


Talking Points Memo:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) gave an impassioned speech endorsing Hillary Clinton on Tuesday at a joint rally in New Hampshire, saying “she must become our next president.”

Sanders officially conceded the race, saying Clinton fairly “won the Democratic nominating process” with far more pledged …

“Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her here today,” he concluded, as they embraced one another.

Bernie’s participation was successful beyond expectations and had serious, positive results that counterbalance all the Trump bullshit. He forced Hillary to a more progressive manifesto—and hopefully convinced her for good that the smarmy centrism that comes naturally to mainstream Democrats is cooked. Cheers, Bernie!

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Road rage attacker could avoid jail by proving she is an "expert knitter"


A road-raging Scotswoman who tailed her victim for miles before hauling open her door and punching her in the face could avoid imprisonment if she can prove she can knit.

Amanda McCabe told the judge that her apparent pursuit was “a simple coincidence, as she was a “keen knitter” and planned to visit a specialist wool shop,” reports Mark Mackay of The Courier.

On hearing that, Sheriff Rafferty laid down a challenge – one that he said could be the difference between liberty and prison.

He told McCabe she would return to court on December 14 with “multiple knitted items” capable of being sold in a charity shop and raising money for good causes.

Put on the spot, she claimed she could knit a jumper in two-to-three-days at a cost of £6 to £7.

It seems odd that having a legitimate reason to be in the area would make any difference as to sentencing over boxing in and physically attacking another driver. But the Courier is quite clear: “sentence was deferred until December for her to be of good behaviour and to produce the knitted items requested by the court” and she will avoid prison if she can “prove she is an expert knitter.”

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Make pizza at home? You want a baking steel


I like crispy, Neapolitan-style pizza. The single biggest improvement to my pizza and bread baking, in the last year, has been the addition of a baking steel.

Pizza should be crispy on the bottom, but chewey, with great hole structure just above, and poofy edge crust sporting a few charred bubbles! My pizza stone got me close, but I was never really getting restaurant quality pizza at home.

The trick to getting your crust that perfect, I found, wasn’t just making great dough and rolling it out well. It is not even so much about an exact temperature, but a question of heat transference. Stone holds a lot of heat, and but steel holds more and conducts it far, far faster. A crispy bottomed, well risen crust is formed by the rapid vaporization of water in the dough. The faster and more evenly that happens, the better. You want bubbles and holes? You need a baking steel.

Clearly one should use a metal surface, rather than stone. The baking steel is a 15″ x 15″ square of seasoned carbon steel. It is 1/4″ thick and weighs in at 15 lbs. You were wondering where it stored all that heat? In mass. My oven rack takes the weight just fine, and the plate heats up quickly.

Slide your pizza on to the steel with your peel, and bake for about 1/2 the time you would on a stone! The increased heat transfer cooks the pizza much quicker than on a stone! I find the crust comes out perfectly in about 4 1/2 minutes, I used to bake at 500F for about 8-9 minutes.

I still use my old pizza stone. I keep it on my 2nd rack and place it about 4″ above the baking steel. This creates a nice radiant heat source directly above the baking pizza, and helps char the taller crust bubbles. I get pretty close to a wood-fired pizza.

The carbon steel comes pre-seasoned, and you reseason it just like cast iron, naturally I love it.

The recipe for dough I use is here.

Dough-Joe® Pizza Steel Baking Sheet–The Samurai™–15″ x 15″ x 1/4″ via Amazon

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Moon Express takes over Cape Canaveral Delta 2 launch site


WASHINGTON — Moon Express, a Florida company developing commercial lunar landers, announced July 12 an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to take over a former Delta 2 launch site at Cape Canaveral.

The company said it reached an agreement with the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, which operates Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, to use Launch Complex 17 as a research and development facility, including tests of the company’s lunar landers. The agreement also covers adjacent Launch Complex 18, used for Vanguard launches in the late 1950s but inactive for the last several decades.

Moon Express also announced an agreement with Space Florida, the state’s space development agency, to renovate building at Launch Complex 17 for use by the company. Space Florida will contribute up to $1.85 million for that work, an amount Moon Express will match.

“We are honored to be residents at Cape Canaveral and look forward to our expanded presence,” said Bob Richards, chief executive and co-founder of Moon Express, in a statement. Richards planned to formally unveil the deal in a July 12 speech at a National Space Club Florida Committee luncheon.

Moon Express had previously been doing tests at Launch Complex 36A, a former Atlas launch site several kilometers north of Launch Complex 17, under an agreement with Space Florida announced in January 2015. However, Blue Origin plans to develop a launch complex for its orbital launch vehicle there, forcing Moon Express to seek an alternative site.

In an interview, Richards said Moon Express will take over and renovate several buildings at Launch Complex 17. That includes a former spacecraft integration building and an engineering building. Moon Express will also construct test stands to support work for engines used by its spacecraft.

Launch Complex 18, he said, will be used as a test flight area for tethered and free-flight tests of its landers. “We’ll eventually be building our own little moonscape there for doing sensor development for lunar landings,” he said.

The new site, Richards said, will allow Moon Express to consolidate its presence at Cape Canaveral. The company had been doing lander engineering work, including hover tests, at a site near one end of the Shuttle Landing Facility runway at the Kennedy Space Center, while it had offices at the south end of Cape Canaveral. All those will be consolidated at Launch Complex 17 in September.

Moon Express is developing a series of lunar landers, and is one of the 16 teams competing for the Google Lunar X Prize. Richards said the company plans to unveil its updated lander design later this year, once it moves into Launch Complex 17.

The competition requires the winning team to reach the moon and achieve the other prize requirements by the end of 2017. Richards said the company was on track to launch before the prize deadline, while acknowledging a number of technical obstacles it has to overcome to achieve that date. “There’s a lot that has to go right in the next 18 months,” he said. “We’re still shooting for the end of 2017.”

The …read more

Vandals wage war on San Francisco 'Little Free Library'

Photo: Peter Kupfe

Residents of an awfully tony neighborhood in San Francisco, California can’t keep their Little Free Library open. Of all the asshole things to do, some vandals keep destroying it!

The idea is to encourage neighborhood interaction, but the Little Free Library at Noe and 15th streets has become an exercise in frustration.

“It’s really just been one thing after another,” said Peter Kupfer, another resident. “It was vandalized. It was knocked down. Someone set fire to it. It was knocked apart and in pieces on the street. It was stolen completely, so a neighbor donated a cabinet, which we had painted and refinished.”

Last week, though, was the topper. The sponsors had bolted the Little Free Library to the sidewalk with metal braces.

“And they just ripped it out of the pavement,” Kupfer said.

(SF Chronicle)

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Meet your robot gardener


The FarmBot Genesis is an open-source robot gardener for home food production. You design your mini-farm with their app and then the Raspberry Pi-powered robot handles the rest, from planting to watering, weeding to harvesting. The FarmBot Genesis sounds like the evolutionary descendant of Ken Goldberg and Joseph Santarromana’s groundbreaking 1994 telerobotic artwork, the TeleGarden:


FarmBot Genesis:


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Learn to build, host, and generate revenue on your own website


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The mystery of our 12-hour delay: the Mirage Expedition

Numerous tiny islands seem to float outside Sabang harbor on the island of We, which is just off the northernmost tip of Sumatra.

Previously: Investigating the Great Earthquake of 2012

This year for the 4th of July, I varied my routine ever so slightly by spending the day aboard the R/V Marion Dufresne outside of Sabang harbor on the island of We, which is just north of the tip of Sumatra. For more than 12 hours, from roughly 11 in the morning to almost half past 11 at night, we waited and waited, and waited some more, as the local Indonesian immigration and port officials did whatever it was they needed to do to release eight of their fellow citizens into our care. As you can see, I took a few snapshots of the little islands that fringe the marginally larger island of We, but we were not permitted to go ashore.

The following morning, the mystery of our delay was partially explained. As I understand it, the local Sabang authorities had wanted to send our new passengers’ passports to Jakarta for approval, which would have delayed our expedition by days. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, the passports were returned, and we were allowed to proceed south.

Most of the new members of our crew are Indonesian students studying geophysics and other sciences related to our survey of a seismically active section of the Wharton Basin, which is 3 kilometers below the surface of the Indian Ocean. Also aboard are a couple of Indonesian scientists, as well as an Indonesian security officer, who’s a captain in the Indonesian Navy and has been empowered to approve any changes to the expedition plan that’s already been approved by the Indonesian government. Should a question about that arise in the Wharton Basin, at least his answer will be a simple “yes” or “no,” with no need to trouble anyone in Sumatra for confirmation.

To follow the progress of MIRAGE, visit the EOS blog. #MIRAGEcruise




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Woman so deep in prayer that she drove right into a house


A woman in Okaloosa County, Florida was so deep in prayer that she blew through a stop sign and drove right into a house. You can’t really blame her though. According to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, she was so immersed in praying that she had closed her eyes and couldn’t have seen the stop sign or the house.

Police cited the 28-year-old for reckless driving and property damage. Thank God nobody was injured.


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Rose McGowan's trippy, frenetic new video for Yoko Ono song

Punk-as-fuck sorceress Rose McGowan directed this hyperdelic video for Yoko Ono’s “Catman,” a Miike Snow remix/remake of a track from Ono’s 1973 album Approximately Infinite Universe. This version is included on Ono’s latest album, Yes, I’m A Witch Too.

“Yoko Ono has been an ardent supporter of women and modern dance for years and so I wanted to thank her for that,” McGowan says. “Casting women dancers over 60, including one with cancer, was my way of showing that vitality doesn’t die with age. I used color overlays to create my own visual beat. Very proud to be in Ono world, it’s an important one.”


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Sierra Nevada Corp. completes first milestone on ISS commercial cargo contract

A cargo version of Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Dream Chaser vehicle attached to the International Space Station in this illustration. Credit: Sierra Nevada Corp.

WASHINGTON — Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC), who won one of three contracts from NASA in January to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, said July 11 that it is has completed the first milestone under that award.

The company said that NASA approved of its program integration plan for the design, development, test and evaluation of SNC’s Dream Chaser vehicle. The company did not disclose the value of any payment it received from NASA for completing the plan.

The milestone is the first in the company’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) 2 contract it received from NASA in January to transport cargo to and from the ISS. SNC was one of three companies to receive CRS-2 contracts, along with Orbital Sciences Corp. and SpaceX, who won the original CRS cargo contracts in 2008. Each company is guaranteed at least six cargo flights though the mid-2020s.

“The accelerated completion of the first milestone under the CRS-2 contract award marks significant progress for SNC and the Dream Chaser program,” Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems division, said in a statement announcing the milestone.

The CRS-2 contract breathed new life into Dream Chaser, a lifting body design that SNC had been working on as part of NASA’s commercial crew program. The company lost to Boeing and SpaceX in a 2014 competition for contracts to complete development of those vehicles and perform initial crewed flights to the ISS. SNC filed a protest, which the U.S. Government Accountability Office denied in January 2015.

SNC still has work to complete under an earlier commercial crew award it received from NASA in 2012. Sirangelo, speaking at the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace 2016 conference in Seattle June 22, said the Dream Chaser engineering test article, which SNC compares to the prototype space shuttle Enterprise, would be shipped to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California “somewhere in the August timeframe” for a new phase of unpowered flight tests.

Those tests, which will include at least one glide test to a runway landing similar to what the test article performed in October 2013, will help test the design for the cargo version of Dream Chaser under development. “We’re testing a lot of the stuff for the orbital vehicle now,” he said. “We don’t know how many tests we’ll do, but it will be as many as we need.”

SNC is also currently building the first Dream Chaser orbital vehicle that will fly those cargo flights. The first flight of that vehicle is planned for the second half of 2019, Sirangelo said, depending on NASA’s schedule. He added he expected NASA to start making decisions on cargo mission manifests for the CRS-2 contract awardees by the end of the year.

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