This week @ULSF we’ll have a look into open engineering since 1962.  That was the year in which Richard Hamming published his book, “Numerical Methods for Scientists and Engineers” complete with the most interesting appendix, “N+1: The Art of Computing for Scientists and Engineers”.  Hamming’s premise for “Numerical Methods” is “the purpose of computing is insight, not numbers”, following the standard “garbage in, garbage out” caveat for data processing.  In “N+1″ Hamming develops the principle into “The open shop philosophy” via an epistemological “What do we know?”.  As in “What is the input?” and therefore what is the computation that describes the output.  Hamming wrote, “If we believe that the purpose of computing is insight, not numbers, then it follows that the [person] who is to get the insight must understand the computing”. “If he does not understand what is being done, he is very unlikely to derive much value from the computation”.

These principles extend into the more practical applications of computing that are common and familiar today.  What are the choices necessarily made by the programmer, and how were those choices implemented?  The open source software movement responds with, here is the code reflecting the choices made and available to inspection as well as alternative design and implementation.  For example in the realm of computer operating systems, is this code making the user vulnerable to resource or even identity theft.

Of course NASA has long been a leading member of the openness that has differentiated the US from most of the world throughout our brief history.  For example, the NASA Technical Reports Server contains millions of person-years of scientific and engineering knowledge and information (that statistic is simply my own guess at a conservative minimum bound).

NASA Nebula Montage

This week NASA Nebula pushed forward in the exemplary OpenStack initiative for cloud computing, an application computing infrastructure for NASA on par with that of Google or Amazon.

This week Alex @Csete has taken more steps forward into opening up Gnu Radio, detailing the decoding of the RS0ISS message board.

ISS Packet Downlink Decoding

The wide strong peek at 145.82 MHz is the ISS FM packet radio downlink in AX.25, shown in the neighborhood of VO-52.

I’d like to take this opportunity to admit that not since childhood have I been so close to reaching for an amateur radio operator’s license.  Apparently it’s pretty easy.  Alex is saturating my head enough that I’m starting to get some framework in mind to comprehend radio waves and their creation and propagation.  For me, RF is the weirdest area of Physics that I’m aware of.

Plus, the software defined radio is an FPGA application, like JOP that I’m also interested in for ULSF JFlight.  Although electrical engineers should feel free to jump in to help with Sagittarius.