Apollo Flight Controller 101: Every console explained

By Lee Hutchinson, Ars TechnicaOctober 31, 2012 at 09:45PM

Ars recently had the opportunity to spend some quality time touring the restored Apollo “Mission Control” room at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. We talked with Sy Liebergot, a retired NASA flight controller who took part in some of the most famous manned space flight missions of all time, including Apollo 11 and Apollo 13. The feature article “Going boldly: Behind the scenes at NASA’s hallowed Mission Control Center” goes in depth on what “Mission Control” did during Apollo and how it all worked, but there just wasn’t room to fit in detailed descriptions and diagrams of all of the different flight controller consoles—I’m no John Siracusa, after all!

But Ars readers love space, and there was so much extra information that I couldn’t sit on it. So this is a station-by-station tour of Historical Mission Operations Control Room 2, or “MOCR 2.” As mentioned in the feature, MOCR 2 was used for almost every Gemini and Apollo flight, and in the late 1990s was restored to its Apollo-era appearance. You can visit it if you’re in Houston, but you won’t get any closer than the glassed-in visitor gallery in the back, and that’s just not close enough. Strap yourselves in and prepare for an up-close look at the MOCR consoles, Ars style.

The layout

For most of Project Apollo, MOCR 2 had a fixed layout. Each station handled a specific, related group of functions; some watched over the spacecraft’s hardware, or its software, or its position in space, or over the crew itself. Here’s how things were laid out for most of Project Apollo:

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Instant Inspiration: Watch Steve Jobs’ Greatest Ever Speeches

By Dave Parrack, MakeUseOfOctober 30, 2012 at 08:31PM

steve jobs speechNot everybody is a fan of Apple. Nor was everybody a fan of Steve Jobs, one of the two Steves who founded the company, and the one who turned it from an also-ran into the cash-gobbling behemoth that it is today. However, even those who dislike Apple and who disliked Jobs felt his passing, and also miss his style of delivery whenever he made a speech.

The speeches below are arguably the greatest ever made by Steve Jobs. They’re a mixture of those made to organizations and universities – in which he tries to inspire youngsters setting off into the world – and Apple keynotes and product launches – which may not contain particularly great individual lines but proved important in the life of Jobs, of Apple, and of the technology industry.

Academy Of Achievement – 1982

The Academy Of Achievement is a non-profit organization which recognizes outstanding achievement and tries to pair those people responsible for it with promising youngsters. In 1982 Steve Jobs received the ‘Golden Plate’ award at the tender age of 26, though by this time he had already founded Apple alongside Steve Wozniak.

This is an audio recording of the speech he gave to those in attendance, and it’s noteworthy because the advice Jobs dishes out probably wasn’t what most present were expecting. That isn’t a bad thing, and in hindsight a lot of what the young Jobs preached at this stage of his life was (and still is) well worth listening to.

The Return To Apple – 1997

In 1985 Steve Jobs resigned from Apple after the board of directors sided with CEO John Sculley in a battle of wills between the two men. Jobs went away and both founded NeXT and bought Pixar, but his heart still belonged to the company he founded. In 1996, Apple bought NeXT, and Jobs made his return to Apple.

This is a video of his keynote at Macworld Boston in 1997, made after Jobs was named interim CEO and charged with turning around the fortunes of the failing company. This speech can be seen as the start of a new era for Apple, and in the 15 years that have followed it has surpassed the competition. Including Microsoft, which makes a cameo in this video in the form of one Bill Gates.

Apple iPod Keynote – 2001

In 2001 Apple introduced the iPod to the market. It wasn’t the first personal media player, and it could be argued it also wasn’t the best, but it captured the hearts and minds of consumers like no other had, and begun Apple’s transformation into the company it is today. It was also the first piece of Apple hardware to be given the ‘i’ moniker.

This is a video of Steve Jobs unveiling the iPod to a room full of assembled guests. This product launch was timid compared to what was to follow over the next decade, with the amount of interest increasing exponentially from this point forth. But all the hallmarks of an Apple launch are here to see, including Jobs’ trademark showmanship.

Stanford Commencement Speech – 2005

Stanford University holds a commencement event each and every year, and yet there is really only one that has stood out for more than those lucky enough to be in attendance. That was in 2005 when Steve Jobs took to the stage to deliver a commencement speech that has inspired more than just the students present on the day.

The speech was delivered a year or so after Jobs was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but though he looks a little older than he had previously, he doesn’t look ill or emaciated as he did in the years afterwards. Jobs discusses family, college, Apple, love, life, and death. His words of wisdom on the latter meant this speech became more powerful after he passed away in 2011.

Apple iPhone Keynote – 2007

In 2007 Apple introduced the iPhone to the market. If the iPod represented Apple’s return to greatness, the iPhone cemented the company’s position. The iPhone was originally to be a tablet (later to be revisited as the iPad) and changed not only the course of the company but also the course of mobile phones. Smartphones had arrived.

This is a video of the full, unedited keynote for the original iPhone, and it’s regarded with reverence by Apple fans. Although Jobs had already suffered severe health problems by this stage he was at the height of his powers, delivering a product launch that is fascinating to watch even years after the product itself has been superseded.

Jonathan Ive – Tribute To Steve Jobs

The last speech featured isn’t actually from Steve Jobs himself, but about Steve Jobs, and delivered by Jonathan Ive. Ive is the design guru whose eye for detail has shaped all those Apple products you own and no doubt love. He was also close friends with Jobs, and this is his tribute to Jobs made during the ‘Celebrating Steve’ Apple event held after the company founder’s death.


I am far from an Apple fanboy, and I was somewhat cynical (and often downright critical) of Steve Jobs while he was alive. But his passing had an impact on me as a lover of technology, and I have since read the Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs in order to more fully understand the man he was. Whatever you may think of him he should be remembered as an innovator and visionary who changed the world.

These speeches have solidified the view of him I already held. He was an orator with an extraordinary power to inspire, to move, and to excite that few others have matched. This helped him sell products to the masses, and helped to cement his legend for generations to come. As always let us know your thoughts on the subject at hand in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Lightsurgery

Disney acquires Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, plans more Star Wars movies

By Donald Melanson, EngadgetOctober 30, 2012 at 04:53PM

Disney acquires Lucasfilm for $405 billion, plans more Star Wars movies

Disney is already one of the biggest media companies around, and it’s now set to become even bigger. The company announced late today that it’s acquiring Lucasfilm Ltd., currently 100 percent owned by founder George Lucas, for $4.05 billion in a cash and stock deal. That of course includes the rights to both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film franchises, as well as Lucasfilm properties like Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound. What’s more, the press release announcing the deal also confirmed that Disney is now targeting 2015 for a release of Star Wars: Episode 7, and that its “long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years.” No word yet on a proper release of the original, original trilogy.

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Powerful Command Line Tools For Developers

By Ben Dowling, Smashing Magazine FeedOctober 29, 2012 at 10:38AM


Life as a Web developer can be hard when things start going wrong. The problem could be in any number of places. Is there a problem with the request you’re sending, is the problem with the response, is there a problem with a request in a third party library you’re using, is an external API failing?

Good tools are invaluable in figuring out where problems lie, and can also help to prevent problems from occurring in the first place, or just help you to be more efficient in general. Command line tools are particularly useful because they lend themselves well to automation and scripting, where they can be combined and reused in all sorts of different ways. Here we cover six particularly powerful and versatile tools which can help make your life a little bit easier.

(Image credit: kolnikcollection)


Curl is a network transfer tool that’s very similar to Wget, the main difference being that by default Wget saves to a file, and curl outputs to the command line. This makes it really simple to see the contents of a website. Here, for example, we can get our current IP from the ifconfig.me website:

$ curl ifconfig.me

Curl’s -i (show headers) and -I (show only headers) options make it a great tool for debugging HTTP responses and finding out exactly what a server is sending to you:

$ curl -I news.ycombinator.com
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
Cache-Control: private
Connection: close

The -L option is handy, and makes curl automatically follow redirects. Curl has support for HTTP Basic authentication, cookies, manually setting headers and much, much more.


For serious network packet analysis there’s Wireshark, with its thousands of settings, filters and configuration options. There’s also a command-line version, TShark. For simple tasks I find Wireshark can be overkill, so unless I need something more powerful, ngrep is my tool of choice. It allows you to do with network packets what grep does with files.

For Web traffic you almost always want the -W byline option, which preserves linebreaks, and -q is a useful argument which suppresses some additional output about non-matching packets. Here’s an example that captures all packets that contain GET or POST:

ngrep -q -W byline "^(GET|POST) .*"

You can also pass in additional packet filter options, such as limiting the matched packets to a certain host, IP or port. Here we filter all traffic going to or coming from Google, using port 80 and containing the term “search.”

ngrep -q -W byline "search" host www.google.com and port 80


Netcat, or nc, is a self-described networking Swiss Army knife. It’s a very simple but also very powerful and versatile application that allows you to create arbitrary network connections. Here we see it being used as a port scanner:

$ nc -z example.com 20-100
Connection to example.com 22 port [tcp/ssh] succeeded!
Connection to example.com 80 port [tcp/http] succeeded!

In addition to creating arbitrary connections, Netcat can also listen for incoming connections. Here we use this feature of nc, combined with tar, to very quickly and efficiently copy files between servers. On the server, run:

$ nc -l 9090 | tar -xzf -

And on the client:

$ tar -czf dir/ | nc server 9090

We can use Netcat to expose any application over the network. Here we expose a shell over port 8080:

$ mkfifo backpipe
$ nc -l 8080  0<backpipe | /bin/bash > backpipe

We can now access the server from any client:

$ nc example.com 8080
uname -a
Linux li228-162 ##1 SMP Tue Jun 21 10:29:24 EDT 2011 i686 GNU/Linux

While the last two examples are slightly contrived (in reality you’d be more likely to use tools such as rsync to copy files and SSH to remotely access a server), they do show the power and flexibility of Netcat, and hint at all of the different things you can achieve by combining Netcat with other applications.


Sshuttle allows you to securely tunnel your traffic via any server you have SSH access to. It’s extremely easy to set up and use, not requiring you to install any software on the server or change any local proxy settings.

By tunneling your traffic over SSH, you secure yourself against tools like Firesheep and dsniff when you’re on unsecured public Wi-Fi or other untrusted networks. All network communication, including DNS requests, can be sent via your SSH server:

$ sshuttle -r <server> --dns 0/0

If you provide the --daemon argument, sshuttle will run in the background as a daemon. Combined with some other options, you can make aliases to simply and quickly start and stop tunneling your traffic:

alias tunnel='sshuttle --D --pidfile=/tmp/sshuttle.pid -r <server> --dns 0/0'
alias stoptunnel='[[ -f /tmp/sshuttle.pid ]] && kill `cat /tmp/sshuttle.pid`'

You can also use sshuttle to get around the IP-based geolocation filters that are now used by many services, such as BBC’s iPlayer, which requires you to be in the UK, and Turntable, which requires you to be in the US. To do this, you’ll need access to a server in the target country. Amazon has a free tier of EC2 Micro instances that are available in many countries, or you can find a cheap virtual private server (VPS) in almost any country in the world.

In this scenario, rather than tunneling all of our traffic, we might want to send only traffic for the service we are targeting. Unfortunately, sshuttle only accepts IP address arguments and not hostnames, so we need to make use of dig to first resolve the hostname:

$ sshuttle -r <server> `dig +short <hostname>`


Siege is a HTTP benchmarking tool. In addition to load-testing features, it has a handy -g option that is very similar to curl’s -iL, except it also shows you the request headers. Here’s an example with Google (I’ve removed some headers for brevity):

$ siege -g www.google.com
GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.google.com
User-Agent: JoeDog/1.00 [en] (X11; I; Siege 2.70)
Connection: close

HTTP/1.1 302 Found
Location: https://www.google.co.uk/
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
Server: gws
Content-Length: 221
Connection: close

GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: www.google.co.uk
User-Agent: JoeDog/1.00 [en] (X11; I; Siege 2.70)
Connection: close

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1
X-XSS-Protection: 1; mode=block
Connection: close

What Siege is really great at is server load testing. Just like ab (an Apache HTTP server benchmarking tool), you can send a number of concurrent requests to a site, and see how it handles the traffic. With the following command, we’ll test Google with 20 concurrent connections for 30 seconds, and then get a nice report at the end:

$ siege -c20 www.google.co.uk -b -t30s
Lifting the server siege...      done.
Transactions:                    1400 hits
Availability:                 100.00 %
Elapsed time:                  29.22 secs
Data transferred:              13.32 MB
Response time:                  0.41 secs
Transaction rate:              47.91 trans/sec
Throughput:                     0.46 MB/sec
Concurrency:                   19.53
Successful transactions:        1400
Failed transactions:               0
Longest transaction:            4.08
Shortest transaction:           0.08

One of the most useful features of Siege is that it can take a file of URLs as an input, and then hit those URLs rather than just a single page. This is great for load testing, because you can replay real traffic against your site and see how it performs, rather than just hitting the same URL again and again. Here’s how you would use Siege to replay your Apache logs against another server to load test it:

$ cut -d ' ' -f7 /var/log/apache2/access.log > urls.txt
$ siege -c<concurrency rate> -b -f urls.txt


Mitmproxy is an SSL-capable, man-in-the-middle HTTP proxy that allows you to inspect both HTTP and HTTPS traffic, and rewrite requests on the fly. The application has been behind quite a few iOS application privacy scandals, including Path’s address book upload scandal. Its ability to rewrite requests on the fly has also been used to target iOS, including setting a fake high score in GameCenter.

Far from only being useful to see what mobile applications are sending over the wire or for faking high scores, mitmproxy can help out with a whole range of Web development tasks. For example, instead of constantly hitting F5 or clearing your cache to make sure you’re seeing the latest content, you can run

$ mitmproxy --anticache

which will automatically strip all cache-control headers and make sure you always get fresh content. Unfortunately it doesn’t automatically set up forwarding for you like sshuttle does, so after starting mitmproxy you still need to change your system-wide or browser-specific proxy settings.

Another extremely handy feature of mitmproxy is the ability to record and replay HTTP interactions. The official documentation gives an example of a wireless network login. The same technique can be used as a basic Web testing framework. For example, to confirm that your user signup flow works, you can start recording the session:

$ mitmdump -w user-signup

Then go through the user signup process, which at this point should work as expected. Stop recording the session with Ctrl + C. At any point we can then replay what was recorded and check for the 200 status code:

$ mitmdump -c user-signup | tail -n1 | grep 200 && echo "OK" || echo "FAIL"

If the signup flow gets broken at any point, we’ll see a FAIL message, rather than an OK. You could create a whole suite of these tests and run them regularly to make sure you get notified if you ever accidentally break anything on your site.


© Ben Dowling for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

Watch Hurricane Sandy Slam the East Coast Through These 5 Live Webcams

By Eric Limer, GizmodoOctober 28, 2012 at 08:00PM

So you want to watch the vicious Hurricane Sandy do her thing, but you don’t actually want to be out there in the thick of it. Maybe you aren’t even anywhere near the East Coast. Well in this Internet age, there’s still a chance for you to get your voyeuristic jollies. Here are five live-streaming webcams you can use to watch the storm roll in. More »

Five Best Drive Enclosures

By Alan Henry, LifehackerOctober 28, 2012 at 11:00AM

Five Best Drive Enclosures If you have a spare hard drive lying around, a great way to get some extra life out of it is to drop it into an external drive enclosure and connect it to your computer for some fast, portable storage. However, drive enclosures vary widely based on price, size, available connections, and features. This week, we’re going to take a look at five of the best external drive enclosures, based on your nominations.

We asked you which single hard drive enclosures you thought were the best earlier in the week. You responded with some great suggestions, but we only have room for the five most popular out of your nominees, and here they are.

Five Best Drive Enclosures

Zalman ZM-VE200/ZM-VE300

Zalman’s VE series drive enclosures are small, portable sleds for 2.5″ hard drives that support any SATA drive you toss into them and connect to your PC via USB or eSATA (in the case of the VE200) or USB 3.0 (in the VE300). You may have to do a little hunting to find them though—technically they’ve been discontinued, but they’re still so popular that you can find them—especially the VE300—in black and silver on Amazon (linked above) or your favorite online PC parts retailer, mostly hovering around the $50 USD mark. What makes the Zalman really special is the digital display on the drive case that provides useful information, and its one-touch backup and locking features. The VE300 model even works as a virtual optical disk drive, allowing you to mount it as a virtual DVD, CD, or Blu-ray drive, and files on the drive as virtual disks, perfect for installing a new OS, for example. Bonus: The enclosure powers itself via USB, so no hefty brick required!

Five Best Drive Enclosures

Patriot Memory Gauntlet/Gauntlet Node

The Patriot Gauntlet series of drive enclosures has been around for a while, and are well known for their rugged, simple design. The Gauntlet 2 (~$20) supports both 2.5″ SATA drives and SSDs up to 9.5mm in height, and is completely powered by its USB 3.0 connection. The enclosure is also backwards compatible, so if you don’t have USB 3.0 on your system just yet, it’s still a good buy. The Gauntlet Node ($~90) on the other hand is a Wi-Fi-enabled drive, meaning you can stream files and media from it to your iOS or Android device (using Patriot’s apps) or to any computer in your house without connecting it directly. It even has an on-board rechargeable battery so you don’t have to connect a brick to keep the data flowing.

Five Best Drive Enclosures

Rosewill RX-358

If you have a larger drive you want to put to good use, the Rosewill RX-358 is a great option. It supports 3.5″ SATA drives, and connects to your PC via USB 3.0 or eSATA. Slap the drive in, turn it on, and leave the drive enclosure on your desk. You can turn the blue LEDs on the front on or off depending on what you prefer, and the enclosure boasts a shiny 80mm top-mounted fan to keep your drive cool. This model is also remarkably affordable, coming in around $40 at Amazon, both for the traditional black model shown here, and the silver special edition that’s also available.

Five Best Drive Enclosures

Thermaltake BlacX Docking Station

Perhaps you’re no fan of keeping a bunch of enclosures on your desk, or you need to swap drives frequently. Maybe you have a mix of 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives to use. If this sounds familiar, the Thermaltake BlacX might be for you. It’s affordable, coming in at $35 at Amazon. Just pop a SATA drive into the top, make sure it’s firmly docked, and connect the dock to your computer via eSATA or USB 2.0. If you want USB 3.0 in your dock, there’s a model for $50 that supports it/a>. The best part about the BlacX series is that the drives are hot-swappable, so pop one out and put in another just like you’re swapping USB keys. Have more than one drive you want to connect? Try the $41 BlacX Duet, which supports two drives. Have a bit more to spend? Grab the USB 3.0-equipped version for just over $60.

Five Best Drive Enclosures

Vantec NexStar TX

If you need the ultimate in portability, the Vantec NexStar TX offers a rugged aluminum case in an incredibly slim and trim sled that’s easy to work with for—seriously—less than $10. One of you mentioned that Vantec is almost a standard in a lot of IT shops, and I can concur—the TX is a popular choice for technicians and minimalists a like looking to make the most of their drives without giving up too much space. The TX supports SATA drives and connects to your PC via USB 2.0. If you need a little more speed or have larger drives, consider the Vantec NexStar 3 NST series, which offer eSATA and USB 3.0 connectivity for your 3.5″ drives. It’ll set you back around $25.

Now that you’ve seen the top five, it’s time to vote for the all-out best.

What’s The Best Hard Drive Enclosure?

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Make your case for your favorite—or alternative—in the discussions below. Even better, show us your enclosure! Drop a picture of the one you use in the discussions so we can see it!

The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it’s not because we hate it—it’s because it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest, but if you have a favorite, we want to hear about it. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at tips+hivefive@lifehacker.com!

Photo by William Hook.