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The Less-Famous Space Shuttle Disaster

By Dennis E. Powell | Feb 01, 2023 at 5:38 PM

Twenty year ago this morning I was having coffee when I remembered that the space shuttle was landing, so I turned on the television to watch it. Everything seemed yawningly normal. But then I was interrupted mid-yawn — a very unpleasant sensation, though not as bad as a stifled sneeze — when the commander and pilot of the shuttle failed to respond to calls from the flight controller.

The Death of a Whistleblower

By Dennis E. Powell | Feb 01, 2023 at 5:30 PM

As part of Dennis E. Powell’s twentieth anniversary remembrance of the second shuttle disaster, we are republishing this third part of Dennis E. Powell’s late 80’s and early 90’s cover stories on NASA safety practices that he wrote for TROPIC, the magazine of The Miami Herald. In this piece Powell tells the story of former NASA engineer Bill McInnis who cared too much.

Risky Business

By Dennis E. Powell | Feb 01, 2023 at 5:10 PM

As part of Dennis E. Powell’s twentieth anniversary remembrance of the second shuttle disaster, we are republishing this crucial investigation into NASA’s space shuttle safety practices that he wrote for TROPIC, the magazine of The Miami Herald, on April 9, 1989.

Obviously, a Major Malfunction

First came the bang. Then . . . silence. A story about catastrophe and coverup.

By Dennis E. Powell | Feb 01, 2023 at 5:00 PM

As part of Dennis E. Powell’s twentieth anniversary remembrance of the second shuttle disaster, we are republishing his groundbreaking piece on the earlier Challenger disaster that was the cover story for TROPIC, the magazine of The Miami Herald, on November 13, 1988.

A Quarter Century of Linux

By Dennis E. Powell | Jan 25, 2023 at 4:13 PM

The Linux operating system for Intel-architecture personal computers wasn’t exactly new when I switched to it. There were already a number of publishers — I choose the word carefully; you’ll see why — who were offering their own versions, which were similar in some ways yet mostly incompatible with each other.

Beware Regulating AI

By Timothy R. Butler | Jan 11, 2023 at 9:42 PM

The AI revolution is a threat for artist and information gatherer alike. Like a speeding train, machine learning threatens to disrupt the work of a huge number of workers, and thus the “R” word has started to appear with increasing frequency: regulation. Such does not bode well for the futures of any of us.

Getting Nothing for Something

By Dennis E. Powell | Jan 11, 2023 at 8:21 PM

Once per generation, it seems, those who have any money at all go berserk and, soon thereafter, bankrupt. It happened in 2000, plus or minus about three years, and it’s happening again now.

Sometimes the Least Bad is the Best

By Timothy R. Butler | Jan 04, 2023 at 10:09 PM

My good friend and fellow OFB writer Dennis E. Powell and I met years ago on a group that championed Free/Open Source software, much for the same sorts of reasons he advocates for his new phone configuration over Apple’s offerings. OFB itself was founded, in fact, to promote such open software, especially Linux, so why would I defend locked down systems from Apple? That’s a story that started 19 years ago, before the iPhone even existed.

Thanks for the Nudge, Apple!

By Dennis E. Powell | Jan 04, 2023 at 9:55 PM

The IOS update that killed my original iPhone SE was the last straw. I was done with Apple. They’d already skated far out onto the thin ice when they killed the excellent Dark Sky weather application and replaced it with their more-is-less Weather application, which took what was once quick, convenient, easy, and comprehensive — Dark Sky — and replaced it with a jumble of information, often not the information being sought, on a too-busy screen. It would have been forgivable if they had provided a setting that restored the look, feel, and functionality of Dark Sky. They didn’t. They never do. Apple knows best.

The Rotten Fruit in the Apple Barrel

By Timothy R. Butler | Nov 30, 2022 at 11:27 PM

As a friend battled viruses on his brand-new Windows computer this week, I thought again about just how spoiled Apple users are by better security and better privacy than Android and Windows folks live with. Long adept at bringing such advantages to the masses that will never try (much less secure) Linux, Apple has one vulnerability is tech prowess cannot overcome: China.

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