This is another edition of my now regular articles about the crew changes on the International Space Station – so much has happened since I posted the last one back in July and not all of it was good. With the loss of a Dragon freighter at the end of June the third supply flight in a row had not reached the ISS, causing some major concern – but since then both a Progress transporter and a Japanese HTV have arrived without problems and both SpaceX and Orbital/ATK are working hard on returning to flight soon. On a more positive note, the first space-grown vegetable was served on the ISS and there was also a successful spacewalk by Russian cosmonauts. The crisis seems to be mostly over, but in September it is going to get very crowded on the station.
Continue reading »
In 1986, the Commodore 64 got its own graphical user interface system, capable of running only on 64 Kilobytes RAM and a 170kb floppy drive. GEOS, the Graphical Environment Operating System, was like having Windows on an 8-bit computer. At that time, the venerable machine had already been on the market for about four years and was starting to get overshadowed by its 16-bit successors like the Amiga – but the computer was still popular, because it was now very inexpensive and lots of games and software were still being released for it. There were many good serious programs, but most of them limited themselves to the C64’s text mode and only few graphical interfaces like Commodore’s own MagicDesk had emerged. But this was all about to change in 1986 and it was all the fault of the airline industry.
Continue reading »
It’s that time of year again – the Perseid Meteor Shower Lottery is upon us! Will we see some meteors, or a LOT of meteors? Or will the curse strike us again? This year, we don’t have the almost-full Moon making things worse and the weather might even play along in our location here in Midwest Germany. The Perseids will peak on August 12 in the early Evening CEST, so the night from the 12th to the 13th will probably be the best chance to look for meteors, but generally the few days around the peak date are usually good too.
It looks like we might at least be able to watch, because it isn’t so unseasonably cold at night like last year, but there is some light cloud cover that might get in the way. Although I have a new camera this year, I’m not sure I will be able to catch meteors with it – but if the sky is clear, I might try it. The only time I ever caught a Perseid meteor was in 2008 – I’ve been using that particular photo for all my Perseid posts.
[Update 8/16: The weather has now completely turned and there is no chance anymore of seeing the sky in the next days. We actually saw a tiny handful of shooting stars on the night of the 12th, which was a considerable improvement from the last year, but nowhere near the spectacle promised by the media!]
If your weather looks good and you want to try watching, here are the usual links: If you want to know more about the Perseids, Universe Today has a really good Observer’s Guide written by David Dickinson and Fraser Cain’s short explainer video about meteors in general is also very recommended. In short, if you have a reasonably clear view of the sky to the east and northeast, you are all set to go! You don’t even need any fancy equipment, just your eyes are enough :-).
After buying my first smartphone – the Huawei Ascend G610 – this spring, I noticed how much faster it was than my old tablet, whose battery was slowly dying after more than two years of heavy use. So I was in the market for a new tablet in the sub-€100 category and after some research I decided to abandon Odys in favour of Lenovo. The A7 series of 7″ tablets ideally suited my requirements and my budget – the A7-40 (A3500-FL) and A7-50 (A3500F) to be exact, with a difference of 8 and 16GB storage space and an additional back camera on the A7-50. I chose the latter because the price difference was only €10 – and this is the device I’m reviewing in this article, although the A7-40 is in every respect identical save for the storage space and the back camera. At the time of my purchase the tablets cost €79 and €89 on Amazon.de, but this varies a little bit. With a list price of originally €110 and €150, those devices are bargains in any case.
Continue reading »