Journey through outerspace

Astronomy

Most people know about the solar system : 4 smaller rock-like planets orbiting the sun at small distance, and 4 outer gas giants. An asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is dividing those 2 categories of planets. Pluto, a small planet, circling the outer region of our solar system, was allways considered to be a special case.

Gerard Kuiper, had suggested in the 1940s and 1950s that perhaps Pluto was not a world without context but the brightest of a vast ensemble of objects orbiting in the\r\nsame region. This concept, which came to be known as the Kuiper Belt. Extrapolating from the small fraction of the sky that has been surveyed so far, investigators estimate that the Kuiper Belt contains approximately 100,000 objects larger than 100 kilometers across. As a result, the Kuiper Belt has turned out to be the big brother to the asteroid belt, with far more mass and far more objects (especially of large sizes).

It is now clear that Pluto is not an anomaly. Instead it lies within a vast swarm of smaller bodies orbiting between about five billion and at least eight billion kilometers from the sun.

New Leathermans

Hardware

Some time ago, I noticed that there has been released a new line of Leathermans (Leathermen ?), called Leatherman Juice (warning : Flash enabled). Most obvious detail is that the Juice line is brightly colored, whereas the traditional Leathermans are only available in metal and black. I own a Leatherman Flair myself, and I must say I especially fancy the CS4 'Glacier'.

\r\nFor those who would like to see more info on the Leatherman, check out this site. A Leatherman has allways been some sort of a system administrator status symbol, though many sysadmins prefer some other tool like the Gerber. Anyway, part of the mythical status of Leatherman is that it has a 25 year warranty. Not bad for something that most see as an improved Swiss army knife...

Most famous software bugs

Bugs

Software bugs concern all of us. I'm a developper, so I create them. You're a software user, so you're a victim of them. Most bugs are at most annoying, but in these cases, proof is given that some of them can be devastating. The most famous one I recall is the failure of one of the NASA Mars probes, that crashed into the red planet, because different units were used by different teams.

The Excellent Prismatic Spray

Literature

I was browsing Proxis, just to discover they had nearly nothing available in Dutch of my two favourite writers, Jack Vance and Stephen Donaldson. I ended up ordering Rhialto, the Marvellous. Nice to see that Proxis decided again not to charge anything for shipping.

Anyway, Rhialto is a part of the Tales of the Dying Earth rogue series, a very amusing set of books which tell the tale of Cugel, who tries to survive by his wit and luck - with varying results. I especially recommend The Eyes of the Overworld; pick it up if you find it in your local library.

DyingEarth.com is a site about a RPG based upon these novels. On the site, you'll find different amusing PDF files explaining the scenery in which the game takes place, and provide an excellent introduction to get you in the mood. Part one and three of these PDF files, called The Excellent Prismatic Spray, are free for download, and nicely illustrated.

Tales from the Helldesk

Humor

Helpdesks (or as I call them, HellDesks) stories are the most funniest stories for computer people. Tales of luser programs borken, mouse problems etc are generally a trip down to luser incompetence of working with computers. Even worse is a job where you're a technician, and have to deal with this kind of stuff yourself.

The Chronicles of George is a collection of helpdesk tickets gleaned from the support database. The author was employed there for twenty months, and during that time he had the misfortune of encountering an individual who he will call George.

George is, quite simply, the worst helpdesk technician ever.

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