s.s. nautilus
slashdot le : 18/08/2022 23:00:17
It turns out that JavaScript had a hand in delivering the stunning images that the James Webb Space Telescope has been beaming back to Earth. From a report: I mean that the actual telescope, arguably one of humanity's finest scientific achievements, is largely controlled by JavaScript files. Oh, and it's based on a software development kit from 2002. According to a manuscript (PDF) for the JWST's Integrated Science Instrument Module (or ISIM), the software for the ISIM is controlled by "the Script Processor Task (SP), which runs scripts written in JavaScript upon receiving a command to do so." The actual code in charge of turning those JavaScripts (NASA's phrasing, not mine) into actions can run 10 of them at once.

The manuscript and the paper (PDF) "JWST: Maximizing efficiency and minimizing ground systems," written by the Space Telescope Science Institute's Ilana Dashevsky and Vicki Balzano, describe this process in great detail, but I'll oversimplify a bit to save you the pages of reading. The JWST has a bunch of these pre-written scripts for doing specific tasks, and scientists on the ground can tell it to run those tasks. When they do, those JavaScripts will be interpreted by a program called the script processor, which will then reach out to the other applications and systems that it needs to based on what the script calls for. The JWST isn't running a web browser where JavaScript directly controls the Mid-Infrared Instrument -- it's more like when a manager is given a list of tasks (in this example, the JavaScripts) to do and delegates them out to their team.

slashdot le : 18/08/2022 00:00:19
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: It sounds like something out of an urban legend: Some Windows XP-era laptops using 5400 RPM spinning hard drives can allegedly be forced to crash when exposed to Janet Jackson's 1989 hit "Rhythm Nation." But Microsoft Software Engineer Raymond Chen stands by the story in a blog post published earlier this week, and the vulnerability has been issued an official CVE ID by The Mitre Corporation, lending it more credibility. According to Chen, CVE-2022-38392 was originally discovered by "a major computer manufacturer," and it can affect not just the laptop playing the song but adjacent laptops from other PC companies as well.

The specific hard drive model at issue -- again from an unnamed manufacturer -- would crash because "Rhythm Nation" used some of the same "natural resonant frequencies" that the drives used, interfering with their operation. Anyone trying to independently recreate this problem will face several obstacles, including the age of the laptops involved and a total lack of specificity about the hard drives or computer models. The CVE entry mentions "a certain 5400 RPM OEM hard drive, as shipped with laptop PCs in approximately 2005" and links back to Chen's post as a primary source. And while some Windows XP-era laptop hard drives may still be kicking out there somewhere, after almost two decades, it's more likely that most of them have died of natural causes.
The PC manufacturer was able to partially resolve the issue "by adding a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playbanck," says Chen. However, these HDDs would still crash if they were exposed to another device that was playing the song.

slashdot le : 05/08/2022 06:00:21
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A photo tweeted by a famous French physicist supposedly of Proxima Centauri by the James Webb Space Telescope was actually a slice of chorizo. Etienne Klein, research director at France's Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission posted the photo last week, claiming it showed the closest star to the sun. "This level of detail," Klein wrote. "A new world is revealed day after day."

But a few days later, Klein revealed that the photo he tweeted was not the work of the world's most powerful space telescope, as he had in fact tweeted a slice of chorizo sausage. "According to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth," he said after apologizing for tricking so many people. "Like an idiot, I got screwed," tweeted one French user. "Same," replied another, "the source was so credible" Klein told French news outlet Le Point that his intention had been to educate people about fake news online, adding that "I also think that if I hadn't said it was a James Webb photo, it wouldn't have been so successful."

slashdot le : 02/08/2022 04:00:30
The Raspberry Pi 4 has hit a major graphics milestone, adding support for a more modern Vulkan 3D APIa. Ars Technica reports: Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton announced the Pi 4's Vulkan 1.2 conformance on Monday. Support isn't available yet in downloadable Pi-friendly operating systems but should be coming soon. For most people using their Pi as a server, a DIY controller, or a light desktop, Vulkan 1.2 conformance won't be noticeable. Desktop graphics on the standard Raspberry Pi OS are powered by OpenGL, the older graphics API that Vulkan is meant to replace. There is one group that benefits, says Upton: games and other 3D Android applications. Android uses Vulkan as its low-overhead graphics API.

As with most Raspberry Pi advancements, there could be unforeseen opportunities unleashed by this seemingly tiny change. Vulkan 1.2 support gives developers the same 3D-graphics interface (if not anywhere near the same power) as 2019 NVIDIA graphics cards, 2020 Intel chips with integrated graphics, and dozens of other devices. With a Vulkan 1.0 driver installed, developer Iago Toral was able in 2020 to get the original Quake trilogy mostly running on a Pi 4, with not-too-shabby frame rates.

slashdot le : 29/07/2022 10:00:29
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) hope to take custody of the samples Perseverance has been patiently collecting and return them safely to Earth, and they'll need the help of two more helicopters. IFLScience reports: NASA and the ESA are collaborating on putting a lander on Mars that is capable of taking off again and making a rendezvous with an orbiter which will then bring the cargo back to Earth. Rather than collect its own samples, the return mission will take over those collected by Perseverance, and the biggest change to the plans lies in how that transfer will occur. The project has not got funding yet but the space agencies are refining their plans. In a quest for the backing they need new details have been announced, along with a return date -- 2033 -- only slightly further off than 1969 was when Kennedy promised a Moon landing "before this decade is out."

Previously the Sample Return Lander was planned to carry a Sample Fetch Rover and its associated second lander. Instead, NASA and the ESA are now proposing to equip the lander with two helicopters based on the phenomenally successful Ingenuity. They will be able to traverse the gap between the Mars Ascent Vehicle and where Perseverance left them much more quickly and having two offers redundancy if one fails. There's also a possibility that Perseverance could deliver the samples directly to the Mars Ascent Vehicle if it is still operating when the ascent vehicle lands.

If everything goes to plan the Earth Return Orbiter and Sample Retrieval Lander will launch in 2027 and 2028 respectively. Although delays are common for space missions, the fact Ingenuity has continued to operate -- and even set records for its flights -- well beyond its anticipated mission time has increased the sample return team's optimism.