First Astronauts Launched to Space Station from U.S. Since 2011
Wednesday, May 27, 2020 by Tatiora | Discussion: Life, the Universe and Everything
The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft roll to pad 39A during its first test flight in February. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
Today, American astronauts will launch on a rocket from American soil to the International Space Station, marking a new era of human spaceflight. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, chosen for their experience on several previous missions on the space shuttle and extensive test pilot and flight experience, will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT May 26th from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. The astronauts will remain on the International Space Station for an extended stay for the Demo-2 mission.
This historic moment has been a decade in the making thanks to a groundbreaking public-private partnership that finally returns the United States to the business of human spaceflight for the first time since NASA's space shuttle fleet retired 2011. After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon, which was built by Elon Musk's SpaceX company and funded by the US government under the Commercial Crew Program.
According to NASA's website for the mission: "Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station. Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things. In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station. The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary."
The Demo-2 mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit. The mission website also states that, "This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024."
Want to watch the launch? You can see it live here on NASA's YouTube channel, plus visit their website to see what other upcoming events might be worth watching. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Tuesday, May 26, 2020 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News
It's hard to believe we're already heading into June! While we're slowly getting back to normal, the beach still may be a place that some of us cannot get to just yet. If that's the case at least consider putting a tropical beach theme on your desktop until you can get there!
"Stardock released a public beta for its new customization tool today. Curtains™ allows users to apply new styles along the lines of Dark Mode and Light to Windows® 10.
Taking advantage of the groundwork built to support light and dark mode, Curtains includes several new styles including Fluent, Cairo, and Crystal mode that enhance the look and feel of the Windows UI along with apps that already support light and dark mode. "
Community Posts You Might Have Missed:
New Skins and Wallpapers:
One by SysInternals Mark Russinovich
Saturday, May 23, 2020 by DrJBHL | Discussion: Personal Computing
Saw this article on MakeUseOf (linked above) offering five powerful alternatives to MS's improved Task Manager.
Right now I'm trying SysInternals Mark Russinovich's Process Explorer which looks best to me for my needs. If you like Process Explorer, it's landing page is here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/downloads/process-explorer . If not, there are four other good ones in the MakeUseOf article.
Thought you'd be interested in this tool which has good explanatory notes in the zipped download and on its page.
Have a great weekend!
IKEA releases creative fort diagrams to build with your kids during quarantine - so I built one for myself
I met with...mixed results.
Thursday, May 21, 2020 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog
I don’t know about you, but I’m a little stir-crazy at this point.
The days are starting to blend together so much that I can scarcely keep track of what day it even is anymore, which becomes especially difficult during the work week since I’ve lost the routine of leaving my house and getting in my car to drive there every day. One of the cool things I’ve seen come out of this quarantine period, however, are the numerous people and companies who have come up with some pretty creative ideas for fighting the cabin fever.
Recently, IKEA Russia shared some photographs of cool new ways to build blanket forts - and, of course, in true IKEA fashion, they all look a little something like this:
A lot of the articles I saw covering the forts say that “if you have kids, these are great ideas” and that you should do them together as a family. I absolutely agree with this! However, I am a firm believer in the adage “Growing old is required, but growing up is optional,” which leads me to the question: do you really have to have kids to enjoy this idea?
Nope, definitely not.
I admit, I have a few pieces of IKEA furniture in my home, but for the most part I’m still rocking out a lot of the free handouts I got from friends and family when I first bought my house, with a couch and a table or two that I inherited from grandparents thrown in. So, obviously I couldn’t follow the instructions to the letter, but I did my best to stay within the spirit of things while I decided to turn my living room into a nice little gamer’s getaway for me and my cat.
Let me start by ruining the punchline for the piece and telling you what I learned from this process right now:
I suck at building forts.
I tend to visualize things very vividly in my head, but when I actually try to execute (like drawing something, for example), it turns out pretty disastrously. Which explains a lot about why I’m a writer.
I started by loosely attempting to follow the “Castle” diagram provided by IKEA. That went south pretty quickly, and I went rogue almost instantly, cobbling together any little bit I could to just make it work. The general idea behind the design was fine, I just couldn’t execute it efficiently with what I had on hand.
My biggest issue was the blanket drooping in the front. The goal for this fort was for me to be able to see my TV so I could play video games, but with the way it sagged I couldn’t see past the blanket even when I was laying down on the floor. Another issue I tend to have is that when I start thinking about how to solve an issue, I go with the first solution I come up with and tunnel vision on that. Frequently, I end up over-complicating things, and it helps to have someone else to point out, “Hey, you know it’d be easier if you did it this way, right?”
Well, my cat definitely isn’t that person, so I was flying solo on this.
You can see Miza watching in the background. She does NOT approve of my methods.
I grabbed one of my little 3M hooks and stuck it to the ceiling. My plan was to run a thread down from it, loop the thread through the blanket, and tie it off so it hung just enough above my line of sight. It worked!
For about .5 seconds.
That...did not last long.
I abandoned that idea, shuffled some stuff around some more (incidentally, NOT having clothespins on hand made keeping the blankets in place about 10x harder), and eventually decided that it was good enough, I’d just post a picture of a collapsed fort, giggle about it, and tell you all what a terrible architect I am.
Except, the fort stood. And while it certainly isn’t what I envisioned, I have enough imagination to see past it and enjoy my little “cave” for the weekend. I tried one more time to re-run the thread from the 3M hook, and by giving it a little extra slack, it stayed intact.
I used my papasan mattress and a beautiful hand-crocheted blanket my friend made me to make things cozy.
The sides felt a little bare, so adding a blanket helped make it feel more enclosed. Again, something that would have been made so much easier if I actually had clothespins handy. My task complete, I excitedly ran off to get some fort essentials.
I also definitely grabbed the chocolate, because duh.
I got some books to read (and some source manuals for D&D 5E to brush up for running some campaigns soon), popcorn, a NERF gun to keep out any intruders (let me just remind you that I'm in quarantine alone), and made sure to charge my controllers. A few extra pillows made things pretty cozy, and when it got dark enough I turned off all the lights for added mood. Miza (my 10 year old Siamese cat) was a little dubious about it, but when I accidentally knocked the blanket down and just decided to put them away, she was quick to claim the newfound "giant catbed" on the floor, so I couldn't clean up completely just yet. Never move a resting cat, you know!
I moved back into my chair because, as I've discovered, laying on the floor for long periods
of time isn't as comfortable as it was when I was a kid.
What about you - will you build a blanket fort with your kids soon? Heck, forget the kids, build one for yourself and play some video games.
May your building endeavors go much more smoothly than mine. Have an awesome weekend!
Build sessions began on May 19th and will run through May 21st
Wednesday, May 20, 2020 by Tatiora | Discussion: Personal Computing
The Coronavirus pandemic has forced a lot of events to cancel or adapt to an online format. Cancellations from GDC, E3, GenCon, and many more have been rolling in since March, and there doesn't seem to be much of a sign of it stopping anytime soon. Microsoft's annual conference, Build, was cancelled and moved to a free online format, which began yesterday.
Aimed mostly at software engineers and web developers using Windows, Microsoft Azure, and other Microsoft technologies, Build was first held in 2011 and tends to sell out very quickly. Microsoft typically uses the event to discuss new features for Windows and Office line of apps.
Microsoft's registration website for Build says that users can "Choose from 48 hours of continuous content to create your own digital event experience. Registration is free and is required to get full, interactive access to the digital event." Users can curate their schedule however they like by picking from one of the many available sessions during a time slot and adding it to their agenda. Sessions include topics such as "Azure: Invent with Purpose," "Power Platform for developers," "The Future of Tech," and more.
There is a live chat stream in each session where users can pose their questions for the presenters, who do their best to interact with and engage their viewership. If you're interested in joining some Build sessions, you can register here. Although the digital conference started yesterday, sessions will still continue through tomorrow, so there's plenty of time to join in.
Tuesday, May 19, 2020 by Island Dog | Discussion: WinCustomize News
Master skinner Neone6 has been busy getting some premium IconPackager themes delivered to the WinCustomize gallery! Some of these are icon packs that were bundled but are now available separately.
See these and many more in the IconPackager gallery here.
Friday, May 15, 2020 by Island Dog | Discussion: Software Blog
SkinStudio doesn't get as much attention from the general skinning consumer since it's primary focus is the creation of skins, but lets not forget its importance as it plays a big role in bringing us skins for WindowBlinds.
Over the years we've tried to make SkinStudio easier for new users to start creating skins, while keeping the advanced editing available for our experienced skinners. With SkinStudio, you can skin as much or as little as you want of the interface. You can then use the skin for yourself, or share with thousands of others in the WindowBlinds gallery on WinCustomize.
SkinStudio takes on a task-oriented design where users can go step-by-step through each section of the skin and either edit the existing skin template, or replace them completely with an image you created in Photoshop or any other graphics program.
Now we know with all the changes to Windows and WindowBlinds itself over the past few years, that SkinStudio could use some attention. That's why we want to hear from our talented skinning community on what they would possibly like to see updated in future versions of SkinStudio.
Let us know your suggestions on what you'd like to specifically see updated in the comment section below.
Facebook/Instagram is hosting a virtual graduation for the class of 2020
Thursday, May 14, 2020 by Tatiora | Discussion: Stardock Blog
Image credit: TechCrunch
A few weeks ago, my dad and I had a conversation about how, if we have to weather a pandemic, we’re sure glad it’s happening in 2020.
Don’t get me wrong - obviously, we wish we weren’t living through this craziness at all, but to deal with it now versus in, say, 1990? We’re all way better equipped in certain areas. For one thing, the internet has come a long way since its dial-up days and is commonplace in most homes and businesses, so staying connected through technology is very possible. Online board gaming certainly has saved my sanity (what little I have left of it anyway) these last two months.
One of the things that crosses my mind frequently is how difficult this must be for our youth, too. Sure, most of them don’t have the same worries as we adults do - things like bills, mortgages, food on the table, and so on - but it’s still a really tough world for them to navigate, even with supportive families. I know a lot of high school seniors who are really disappointed that they’ll be missing their “big year” - the parties, the farewells, the excitement of what comes next. We can promise them all we like that the years get better, that there’s much more to life past high school, and while that may be true that isn’t what they want - or need! - to hear right now.
Some schools are hosting virtual graduations for their students in an effort to celebrate their accomplishments in the best way they can right now, which is pretty great. Facebook/Instagram has recently jumped on that trend as well, announcing earlier this week that they would be launching #graduation2020, a series of online events meant to celebrate this year’s seniors.
In addition to all of the Instagram filters and hashtags debuting this week, Facebook is pulling some major celebrities into the mix for a big commencement celebration on Friday, May 15th at 2:00pm ET. According to the statement on their website, the commencement address “will be given by Oprah Winfrey. Awkwafina, Jennifer Garner, Lil Nas X, Simone Biles, and more, will share words of wisdom for the class of 2020. Miley Cyrus will do a special performance of her hit song, “The Climb.””
It’s not a replacement for a real graduation, and it isn’t going to offer seniors a sense of accomplishment or let them feel the swell of pride as their family watches them take a big step out of youth toward adulthood. Nothing can replace that, but it is still nice to see areas of the Internet rally around these kids and try to give them a little offering of joy.
They’re certainly going to have one heck of a story to tell to their own children someday, that's for sure. Do you have a graduating senior in your life this year? What are you doing to celebrate?