Stunt pilots for Genesis?

The Salt Lake Tribune — Stunt pilots prepare to catch space probe

DUGWAY PROVING GROUND — Hollywood stunt pilots spent Thursday hovering over the west desert in helicopters to practice for their $200 million catch later this year.

The main event takes place Sept. 8, when the NASA Genesis probe drops a capsule carrying solar wind particles over the Utah Test and Training Range. The tiny payload — the weight of a few salt grains — could help scientists determine our solar system’s origin.

NASA is using stunt pilots? Wow…And Genesis was the first mission that I worked on at JPL to launch. I have an emotional connection. 🙂

Translation problems with Bookcase

Bookcase has some issues with its translation file. First, the couple of menu items that are defined in the bookcaseui.rc file aren’t getting translated because I didn’t have the extractrc script from the kdesdk module in my $PATH. Second, the couple of places that I use the multi-argument form of i18n() in the source aren’t getting picked up by gettext. Turns out, I need a patched version to generate the bookcase.pot file properly. The patched version isn’t need to run Bookcase with the translations, just to write the indices correctly. I’ll make sure to get these issues fixed and I’ll post an updated bookcase.pot file.

Alexandria for GNOME

There’s a new GNOME application for managing your book collection. It’s called Alexandria and looks promising. It already has Amazon import, based on a ruby module. Its data format is YAML, something I’m unfamiliar with, so writing an import or export function would not be easy for me at the moment.

Now maybe everyone who complains that they have to have the KDE librairies installed to run Bookcase can give Alexandria a shot. 🙂

Bookcase Handbook online

Since I’ve actually started writing the help documentation for Bookcase, I figured I could put it online, too. So the Bookcase Handbook is now available. It’s still rather incomplete in several areas, but finishing it up is my primary focus for version 1.0.

I’ll go through the emails I’ve received from Bookcase users to see what type of problems popup a lot, and I hope to make Bookcase the exception to the usual rule of minimal user documentation in most free software applications.

Your Planetary Protection Officer

Slate has a neat article about NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer and what he does. We grouse a lot about the heavy requirements on our Mars landers for thermal bakeout, but it is all for a very good reason: we simple don’t want to contaminate Mars with any of our Earthly microbes.

In addition to setting standards for extraplanetary cleanliness, John D. Rummel is also working on Earthly containment:

Rummel’s other big challenge is designing and building a suitable containment facility for the analysis of Martian samples. Sometime next decade, NASA hopes to complete a mission that can return up to a kilogram of Martian rock to the Earth. Though there’s only a tiny chance that such a sample will contain an organism, let alone one that might cause a nightmarish scenario out of The Andromeda Strain, NASA doesn’t want to take any chances with the future of the human race.

Bookcase 0.9 Released

I’ve made version 0.9 of Bookcase available, code-named “Chasing Frogs“. There are a few fixes since version 0.9-pre1. The Pilot-DB export is more robust. The HTML export now uses filenames based on the entry titles rather than bookcase-entry-*. The Italian and Finnish translations were updated, thanks for FaUsT and Teuvo.

Improvements since version 0.8.5 include:

  • sorting by entry count in the Group View
  • collection merging
  • changing auto-formatting without restart
  • drag-and-drop for images in the editor
  • new Compact and Fancy entry templates
  • piping bibtex citations through lyxpipe
  • changing existing field types
  • printing image fields
  • exporting individual entries to HTML with images
  • filtering by group
  • more documentation

I plan to update the documentation, along with the bug fixes through the 0.9.x series, then release a version 1.0.

The New Sexual Temptation

I just came across an old article by Camerin Courtney in Christianity Today entitled The New Sexual Temptation. She has some good and interesting things to say.

But on the other hand, there have been times when I’ve opted out of a movie outing, quit reading a novel, or decided to stop watching certain TV shows altogether, such as Queer Eye or Will and Grace, because, though popular and often well-written, they’ve had me laughing at or rooting for things that are quite contrary to my beliefs. And, let’s face it, as single people, when we get aroused by certain scenes in movies or in books, there’s not much that’s healthy we can do with those feelings.

Spot on, right there.

This whole topic seems to me just another reason our relationship with God needs to be daily and active, and why we need to allow him into the messier parts of our life. I need his guidance to know how to make these seemingly minor decisions that help form my paradigm about major issues. He knows my weaknesses and areas in which I’m especially susceptible and can help me make wise choices that will protect me from unhealthy thoughts or actions.

Preach it, sister!

Now pitching, the rocket scientist…

My alma mater has its first major league baseball player! ESPN has the story about Jason Szuminski ’00.

He’s a rocket scientist and a right-hander. Ladies and gentlemen, wearing No. 58 for the San Diego Padres, Jason Szuminski, the first MIT graduate to reach the major leagues.

He earned a degree in aerospace engineering in 2000 from MIT, which is much better known for brainpower than ballplayers. He’s a first lieutenant in the Air Force and has worked on satellite programs. On Tuesday, a day after the Padres open the season at Los Angeles, he’ll switch over to the active reserve.

Bookcase 0.9pre1 Released

I just pushed out Bookcase 0.9pre1, code-named “Walking to San Marino,” which has some new functionality, as well as lots of bug fixes. Improvements include:

  • sorting by entry count in the Group View
  • collection merging
  • changing auto-formatting without restart
  • new Compact and Fancy entry templates
  • piping bibtex citations through lyxpipe
  • changing existing field types
  • printing image fields
  • exporting individual entries to HTML with images
  • filtering by group
  • more documentation

The documentation is still incomplete. Parts are done, some parts don’t exist. This is a pre-release version of a beta product, please backup any data you care about before trying it. I’m only a hobbyist programmer, after all.

Bug fixes include:

  • compilation works with gcc 2.95 for real now
  • PilotDB export works again
  • lots of crashing bugs

If you want to update any of the translations, do send me updated .po files. I hope to release 0.9 sometime next week.