Friday, March 13, 2015

A Human Colony on Mars?

One of the issues in starting a Mars colony that hasn't had a lot of press is this: "Can humans survive in 38% of earth's gravity?" Astronauts staying aloft in the International Space Station for extended periods have many physical issues like eye problems.
We spend a lot of time and money planning on sending people to Mars to preserve our species without thinking if humans could even survive there for a few years.

But for the long term survival on Mars, the big question is whether a human fetus can develop normally in 38% gravity to maturity. I doubt it. Many, many questions need to be answered, like "Since Martians would probably be taller with thinner bones, would the volume of marrow make the appropriate amount of blood?"  

We need to fund something like the Mars Gravity Biosatellite before spending any more money on a manned trip to mars.  We put mice with food and water in a 55 gallon drum, set it in low earth orbit and set the drum spinning so the mice experience .38% earth gravity.  Have a live video cam to watch their progress and let's see if the mice can reproduce two generations.

This needs to be done before spending any more effort on a manned Mars expedition.  I personally would rather NASA be spending our precious dollars on sending robotic space craft to all the moons in our solar system instead of a project which may be doomed from the start. (see Scotland's failed colonization of Panama for an example of spending a fortune without proper planning).

Json.NET Error: Could not create an instance of type IAmAnInterface

While using NewtonSoft's excellent Json.NET library, I was trying to deserialize a dictionary containing interface objects and got this error message:

"Could not create an instance of type IAmAnInterface. Type is an interface or abstract class and cannot be instantiated. "

Fortunately Json.NET has a very easy way around this by telling it to save the type metadata in the output.  To serialize the dictionary:

        static readonly Object Locker = new object();
        public void Save()
            lock (Locker)
                    JsonConvert.SerializeObject(_dictionary, Formatting.Indented, new JsonSerializerSettings
                        TypeNameHandling = TypeNameHandling.Objects,
                        TypeNameAssemblyFormat = System.Runtime.Serialization.Formatters.FormatterAssemblyStyle.Simple

To bring the objects back:

         public void Load()
            _dictionary = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject>(File.ReadAllText(reportFilePath),
                new JsonSerializerSettings
                    TypeNameHandling = TypeNameHandling.Objects

This does make the json file larger, but for us, it's well worth the price.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

How Governments Secretly Borrow from Employees

While talking with my Dad about his time in the Air Force, he mentioned that during the Vietnam War, wages for pilots were a fraction of what commercial pilots earned. He said the understanding was that the pay was low now, but you can retire early with a great pay in 25 years.

Friends who work for the city of Austin echo this sentiment as well - the pay for city employees is lower than the private sector, but the retirement is great - good monthly checks and subsidized health care.

What the government is actually doing is covertly borrowing money from its employees.

Promising hefty retirement benefits for low pay now is bad for because it masks the true cost of the government, so people don't know how terrible the public finances are.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Estimating Sprint Story Effort with

For our next sprint, our Argentinian developer suggested we use Mountain Goat's to do our story estimation. To my surprise, using it was very easy. I had an account in 30 seconds (thanks Ken for not making me retype my password when creating an account - that always annoys me - if I mess it up I'll do the "forgot password" link). I emailed our team members the link that PlanningPoker gave me and we were off and running.

I was a little skeptical that it would be worth our while, but estimating was easier using the tool.
I'd recommend it.  We didn't create a story entry for each story, just used the first one and then overlaid a list of stories entered into emacs on the webex screen, everyone discussed the story and we re-voted on the "original" one.  The stories will then go into Jira with the estimated effort.
Best of all it's free.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

MacOS Finder Window Not Refreshing

I'm running MacOS 10.10.1 Yosemite and the Finder window is not refresing to show new files I programmatically put in the directory.
Switching to the parent directory and coming back didn't work. Closing the Finder window and re-opening did not work.
Finally I had to open a terminal and entered "killall Finder". This finally worked.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Windows 7: Getting a Black background with White Text

A normal Windows 7 screen with a white background and black letters is way too bright for my tender eyes. After a while it will give me a headache.

I've tried setting the Theme (right click on desktop background and select "Personalize") to a HighContrast black. This works to a degree. Microsoft Word acts correctly, but many products do not look at the theme colors to display text.

And I've used Firefox's excellent "Blank Your Monitor" plugin to change websites to a different color theme. The major problem with this is that some commands on a page are drawn in such a way that you don't see them at all.

I've starting using Microsoft's Invert Color program. It's similar to the Mac's invert color (Control-Option-Command-8), but a little clunkier.

To invert the color you have to run the Magnify program by pressing Windows and "+" key, then unmagnify by pressing Windows plus the "-" command (you must release the Windows key in between). Then the real command is Ctl-Alt-i to invert the colors. Then everything is beautiful.

One issue is my favorite background image is reversed colored which looks awful. The solution? Fire up Paint.Net, grab you favorite image and invert its color. Then save it and use it as your background.

You get bonus points if you can identify the picture shown below.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

In Firefox 34 Error Console Popping Up All the Time

Ok, for a few days now whenever I launched a new Firefox window on my Windows 7 box, I'd get the Error Console window pop up. This was tres annoying.
The "All-in-One Gestures" add-in was being too helpful. I disabled that and used FireGestures instead.
Now the Error Console only shows up when I enter Ctl-Shift-J.