Related link: http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994607
Reporting on a “grassroots campaign to save the Hubble telescope,” the New Scientist runs through
multiple proposals to save Hubble needing little or no Shuttle involvement.
Included is the idea, previously suggested here, that the same sort of custom “unmanned robotic vehicle” that was going to ditch Hubble in a controlled reentry could instead be enhanced to fix Hubble.
Other ideas include enlisting Russian help or using a space tug or rocket to move Hubble to a more easily Shuttle-serviceable orbit, closer to the space station.
My money is still on a robot — ideally, the winner of a groundside simulated-repair competitive event, much like Battlebots or the DARPA Grand Challenge.
Except instead of a $1 million prize, the winner gets their entry launched into orbit to rendezvous with Hubble — and fix it for real.
Where’s Andy Griffith and Salvage One when you need them?
Someone brought it to my attention that Nomadix has been granted a patent on their implementation of a captive portal for wireless hotspots. This might seem troubling for projects (such as NoCatAuth) that have been providing captive portal services for years. After all, where’s the prior art? If you Google for “captive portal”, you can’t miss us, or about five other well-known implementations.
I think the critical phrase from the press release is: “This redirection takes place regardless of the host computer’s settings and without altering the user’s browser settings.” Reading the full text of the patent makes it pretty clear that while they might like to make it sound like they’ve patented the idea of a captive portal, they’ve really only patented their wacky arp implementation.
Nomadix boxes look for any machine being ARP’d for that doesn’t receive a reply, and issue an ARP reply using the gateway’s MAC address. Combined with some DNS strangeness, this lets the gateway bring up a splash page even when the client requests a private intranet page, or even if they are using static IP address settings rather than DHCP.
NoCatAuth does none of that. We considered it for a while, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort, as it’s really easy to confuse both the client and the gatway. I still think that software patents are detrimental to innovation, but this one doesn’t seem to pose an immediate threat to our project.
Still, it is interesting that they’ve gone and patented it. Imagine if someone had gone and patented DHCP as “a method for automatically obtaining network configuration”. Or maybe if ARP had been patented as “a method for finding the hardware serial number of a network communications device”. Where exactly would that leave Nomadix?
How do you feel about software patents?
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Shuttle service missions to Hubble Space Telescope cancelled. Hubble destined to degrade into uselessness.
That’s what’s been reported and lamented.
But is the shuttle the only imaginable way to service Hubble? I can’t tell exactly how big the two items that had been scheduled for installation are, but the failing gyroscopes which seem most critical to replace are downright tiny.
This AP story uncritically reports that Hubble is doomed, while containing a passage hinting that custom robots could alter Hubble’s fate:
[NASA Chief Scientist] Grunsfeld said the Hubble control team will attempt to extend the life of the telescope, but the gyros will degrade. He also said that while the batteries on the craft are constantly recharged, they eventually “will run out of juice.”
The Hubble will eventually fall out of orbit and crash to Earth, probably in 2011 or 2012. To make that event safe, Grunsfeld said, NASA will design and build a small robot craft that will be launched and guided to the Hubble.
The robot craft would “grab the Hubble and bring it into the atmosphere in a controlled manner,” he said, guiding the school-bus-sized craft to harmlessly splash into a remote part of an ocean.
I may be way off base, but if a custom robotic craft can grab Hubble and guide it down, a more complex robotic craft ought to be able to swap Hubble’s gyros and batteries. Even Honda’s anthropomorphic concept-robot ASIMO has grasping hands with four fingers and a thumb.
NASA should challenge leading outside robotics/teleoperation outfits to propose novel solutions. Test the proposals competitively against the same groundside Hubble replica(s) that astronauts use for training.
And if any entries have a credible chance of success, send the best one on a free ride to Hubble.
It’s worth a try!
Astromech droids have been used since a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Could one work here?