"Science" Archives

July 26, 2005
Return to Space

Today might be a good day to remember the courage it takes to board a spacecraft... any spacecraft.

If you've never read Bill Whittle's eulogy for the Columbia astronauts, read Courage. If you have read it, do so again.

It may just be the single finest piece of writing ever published on the web.

Posted by Russ at 01:12 PM
July 04, 2005
Fireworks for the Fourth

The impact portion of NASA's Deep Impact cometary probe mission appears to be a complete success:


"See what free men can do!" — Burt Rutan

Lots more at Speed of Thought.

Posted by Russ at 02:36 AM
January 12, 2005
Profound Wallop

Sending a mission to examine — and punch a hole through — a comet: pretty dang cool.

Naming it after the chick-flick version of the Bruce Willis vehicle Armageddon: not quite so cool.

Posted by Russ at 07:07 PM
September 29, 2004
Reflections on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Part 6

The real Sky Captains:

SpaceshipOne Pilots

and the real World of Tomorrow:

SpaceshipOne - captured carry

SpaceshipOne - to the moon!


Posted by Russ at 10:42 AM
August 26, 2004

Bad science doesn't stand a chance when it meets a guy named "Beaker."

Posted by Russ at 08:50 PM | Comments (1)
July 20, 2004

I'm just old enough to remember it well. 35 years ago today, the pinnacle of scientific achievement was reached.


We haven't been back to the Moon since 1972. It's long past time we go again — to stay.

Posted by Russ at 07:52 PM | Comments (1)
June 21, 2004
Quote of the Day

Congratulations to the folks at Scaled Composites and all involved with today's successful flight of a man into space.

Wretchard of Belmont Club:

The stars were never made for those who refuse to look up; nor are they vouchsafed to those enslaved by ancient hatreds.
Perhaps that is why Americans are leading the way into space. This is what free men can do.

Posted by Russ at 06:29 PM
February 16, 2004
Wireless Printing

Glenn Reynolds asks:

SO DOES ANYBODY HAVE EXPERIENCE with this wireless printer from HP? I'd like to set up wireless printing, but from what I've heard it's not really ready for primetime, and the reviews on this thing's Amazon page are, um, mixed.

What I'd like is a printer that will simply print from any wi-fi computer in range without any networking setup at all. I don't think that such a beast exists. Am I wrong?

Having spent the bulk of the last 4 years working on wireless networking, maybe I can provide something like an answer.

Printing is typically done one of two ways. The classic way to do it is to use a directly connected printer on your parallel port. This can be awkward if you have more than one computer from which to print, unless you buy an automatic switchbox.

The more modern way is to send your print job across the network to a print server which then feeds the print job to the printer. Modern network printers eliminate the separate server (it's built in, like on this one) and accept the print job directly.

But that's neither here nor there. The question is, can a network printer be used without any networking setup?


Specifically, to use a wireless printer like the HP referred to in Glenn's post, you must have the same networking configuration you would have if you were on a wired Local Area Network. Wireless networking itself requires some additional configuration, but only because you're using radio to replace the copper wire, and radio can be notoriously fickle.

[Aside: an old joke from my Electronic Warfare days:

Newbie: "How does radio work?"
Old-timer: "You've heard of AM and FM, right? Well, radio works because of FM."
Newbie: "FM?"
Old-timer: "F***ing Magic."]


So once you have a wireless network established, it should act like any wired LAN. Printing configuration is then layered on top of that, just like any other network application -- browser, e-mail, instant messaging -- you name it. Every such app requires some degree of configuration; it can be hidden (like with most browsers) but there's no escaping it completely.

To print without any networking setup at all (well, minimal setup) would depend on the existence of a wireless link from the computers' parallel ports to the printer in question. Those computers would have to link to a wireless equivalent of something like an automatic switchbox.

Is it possible? Sure. It could be done right now - and for all I know, it's already been done.

Is it cost effective? Probably not. In addition to the cost of the printer (already a given, of course), you would need to buy the peripherals: the switchbox, and a parallel-port wireless "dongle" for each computer that would be originating any print jobs. And then you would still have to do a bit of configuration on the parallel wireless connection -- you'd have to set the radio frequency, for instance. If it were to operate in one of the existing bands (such as the 2.4GHz range, where 802.11b hangs out) you'd have to worry about interference issues.

In sum, there's no easy way to do it.

When I buy my next printer (I think it's time to make the leap to a laser printer) I'll probably just set up a linux box to do print serving for the rest of the network. Adding wireless into the mix is an extra layer of complexity that, for me, isn't really necessary.

Oh, and... I'm not keen on "all in one" boxes like the HP Glenn point to. Call me a stodgy old traditionalist, but I like a scanner to scan, a fax machine to fax, and a printer to print. I've always had a deep suspicion that a "jack of all trades" box would be master of none. The cliché could be wrong, but that's not the way to bet.

UPDATE: There are likely to be many possible alternative methods. One occurred to me just five minutes after I posted this. Why not have a wireless-capable printer simply sniff the airwaves for anything that looks like a print job? I can think of one main reason why not; it's that nasty cost factor again. You'd have to, in essense, build an Access Point into the printer, and add the software to do the sniffing. Manufacturers would balk, I think, because there'd be no profit margin on adding that capability. But that's just a guess.

Posted by Russ at 04:08 PM | Comments (3)
January 22, 2004
Quote of the Day

With regard to computers:

Interfaces are ok for newcomers, but people who actually know what they're doing use a magnetised needle and a steady hand.
Mike MacCana, on the linux-elitists mailing list

Posted by Russ at 08:18 AM
January 04, 2004
Another Giant Leap

The Martian missile launchers must have been on the fritz tonight:

NASA Rover Lands on Mars, Signals Earth

I just finished watching the NASA/JPL press conference a little while ago. The mood of exuberance was palpable.

Good job so far, lads.

Posted by Russ at 01:26 AM | Comments (1)
July 29, 2003
Ghoulishness Slightly Averted

Well, this is a relief:

Edinburgh bans dead skinless child show from festival
Whether the dead skinless adults will be displayed, or not, remains to be seen.

Posted by Russ at 01:55 PM | Comments (1)