Monthly Archive for February, 2007

Private Spaceflight Taking Off

Private Spaceflight is defined as a flight above 100km conducted by an entity other than a government. Government organizations have driven the industry but the major problem with spaceflight is funding. NASA is funded by taxpayers and makes no profit. Imagine the endless possibilities of commercialized spaceflight. Cash flows would enable more R&D, materializing as new innovations and industry growth.

This is one of the key points of Burt Rutan’s presentation (Feb 2006, Monterrey, CA). Rutan is a legendary spacecraft designer who won the $10M Ansari X-Prize for SpaceShipOne and is now collaborating with Virgin Galactic to build the first rocket-ship for space.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic (check out the promo video) is among the leading players. The company’s SpaceShipTwo is expected to start launching in late 2007 and commercial operations should start by 2009 with a price tag of $200,000 per passenger. Time Magazine published an extensive article about Branson and Virgin Galactic last week (really good overview of the renaissance period of space exploration).

Conceptual SpaceShipTwo flight

SpaceShipTwo interior mockup

The field is quite crowded with most of the companies operating in the US. Unlike Virgin Galactic’s two-stage launch system, Benson Space Company’s Dream Chaser is based on simple vertical takeoff and is targeted to launch by the end of 2008. Other major players include Blue Origin (financed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos), Rocketplane Kistler, Armadillo Aerospace & XCOR Aerospace to name a few.

New Shepard’s (Blue Origin) test flight on November 13, 2006

If interested in the latest private spaceflight news Space Liberates Us! forum is a nice one to follow (only a couple updates per week).

Dubai Taking Shape

A desert city with superb infrastructure only 6 hours from Finland. Dubai is definitely on of the best places to visit during winter for shopping, sunbathing and fine dining.

40 years ago there was nothing else than the Dubai Creek and H H Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Oil was discovered in 1966 and the change has been rapid since then.

Dubai Aerials 1973-2006

The present ruling emir of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is maintaining the same effort and the current aerial master plan looks like following:

Dubai Master Plan

The Palm islands and Dubai Waterfront can be clearly seen in the picture. The scale is huge: for example the Palm Jebel Ali (the first palm island from the left) measures 7.5km by 7.5km. The projects go on. World’s largest airport, the longest fully automated rail system with a women and children only section (70km in total), tallest building…

So who are the players behind this? Government owned Dubai World is a holding company that manages and supervises the portfolio of businesses and projects for Dubai Government. Nakheel Properties is a real estate developer owned by Dubai World and its main competitor in residential development in Dubai is Emaar Properties which is a Dubai-based Public Joint Stock Company and one of the world’s largest real estate companies.

Nakheel Promotionvideo of Dubai Waterfront

And finally a few words about Burj Dubai, soon to become the tallest building in the world. The final height is kept secret due to competition but initially it was planned to be around 800 meters. However a more recent articles have stated a final height over 940 meters i.e. 195 floors. Up to date information can be found from a site, which is following the construction almost daily.

If you are interested in skyscrapers in general a good place to start is SkyscraperCity, a forum full of photos and discussion what is happening all around the world.

Burj Dubai Concept

I visited Dubai in 2000 and fortunately I had to possibility to refresh the experience this January. Next I’ll write a few lines about places worth visiting but this time only in Finnish.

Finally Winter

I just got home from playing squash (twice per week from November). It’s freezing. Earlier the sun was shining and the weather looked really beautiful, however as the picture below shows it was a little cold:

During the first days of November it seemed that the winter might be a good one this year as the photo shows: the sea was already covered with ice. However after that it was continuously +7°C – every single day for two months.

Helsinki 4th of November, 2006

But a positive thing is that the dark and short days are once again behind: over 2 and a half hours more light today than a month ago!

Helsinki 23th of November, 2006

The Future of Symbian

Back to mobile. Anyone using Nokia S60 device probably agree that there is something wrong with the software. There has been some speculation in the mobile industry that Nokia would abandon Symbian and move to another OS like Linux. Now there is some more evidence as “Sources close to Nokia say that Symbian is secretly regarded inside the company – even among high level senior executives – as a “peace-of-shit-OS” in an article titled: Readers Write About Symbian, OS X and the iPhone.

While speculating on this I found an article from All About Symbian including interesting facts about what went wrong with N-Gage and what is different in Nokia’s second attempt with Next Gen gaming platform: Nokia Next Gen: Learning the lessons from N-Gage.

Enough of mobile and IT; the next few posts will be about marketing, space and Dubai.

Jobs on Music Distribution & DRM

Apple posted Steve Jobs’ open letter entitled “Thoughts on Music” on Public statements from Jobs are very rare and in this he places the blame for the existence and continuing reliance on DRM squarely on the music companies.

Timing is right as Apple is being challenged once again to open up its DRM by consumer organizations in Europe (Finland, Norway, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands). Basically the countries are asking Apple to allow the protected songs purchased from the iTunes Store to be played on other music players besides the iPod. Jobs answers this requests with stating the difficulties when trying to maintain a working Digital Rights Management.

In this very clearly built letter Jobs examine the current situation and look at three possible alternatives for the future:

1. The first alternative is to continue on the current course, with each manufacturer competing freely with their own “top to bottom” proprietary systems for selling, playing and protecting music.

2. The second alternative is for Apple to license its FairPlay DRM technology to current and future competitors with the goal of achieving interoperability between different company’s players and music stores.

3. The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely.

Protecting intellectual property is a hard task and the legistaltion is always behind. Oh, and the Apple hype has finally reached Finland as all the major Finnish news agencies have already quoted the article (like HS).