The odd bit

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

The odd bit - Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is an enemy action.

Game demos: do they really need to be so big?

I’m browsing through forums and the game sections are really filled with posts about a game named Bioshock. I’ve always been cautious with hyped games, especially since the Doom 3 fiasco. A lot of posts also mentioned a demo being available for Bioshock. Well isn’t that a great way to know if you like the game or not before you actually buy it?

So I started looking for the demo and when I found it, I fell off my chair (so to speak of course 😉 ). The size of the download is 1850 megabytes. Yes, that’s right… nearly 2 gigabytes. A normal internet subscription with my ISP has a monthly download cap of 12 gigabytes. This demo equals 15.1% of that monthly volume. Just to try the game…

I agree that download caps are about the worst thing in broadband land and I’m of the opinion they should be abolished. But I’m also of the opinion that a demo of 2 gigabytes is really over the top. Not too long ago, complete games were smaller than that. The job of a demo is to convince you to buy the full game, but what’s the point if the download size is similar to a full game?

And I’ll turn this into a teaser for my next post: the ever increasing download sizes for demos are not a sign of increased quality, but an attempt to cover up the downwards spiral that PC gaming is in right now. Stay tuned for that post :-)

Landing day for Endeavour

Today is homecoming day for space shuttle Endeavour. The crew has been given the go for deorbit. The deorbit burn will take place in about 2 minutes at 17:25 CET. The landing at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Shuttle Landing Facility will take place around 18:32. If anything important happens, you’ll read it here.

The vehicle was cleared for landing earlier in the mission after NASA engineers and managers spent a week analysing one damaged area. The area got hit by a piece of foam from the external tank during the launch. Thermal assessments of the damaged tiles revealed that they don’t pose a threat to crew and vehicle safety during re-entry. A final post-docking inspection of the Thermal Protection System revealed no other damaged areas.

Updates (all times CET):

  • 17.24h: Good config for the burn.
  • 17.25h: Deorbit burn started!
  • 17.30h: Deorbit burn complete! The 1-hour trip to Earth’s surface has started.
  • 18.01h: Endeavour is now at the point called Entry Interface.
  • 18.04h: Mission Control warned the crew about a period of intermittent communications around the point of the first roll reversal.
  • 18.07h: First banking maneuver happens about now. This is used to bleed off excess speed.
  • 18.17h: As it just crossed Central America, Endeavour is now heading towards Cuba as it enters its first roll reversal.
  • 18.20h: Communications have been restored as the shuttle passes over Cuba.
  • 18.26h: And there she is! Visual contact at an altitude of over 80000 feet about 7 minutes from touchdown.
  • 18.29h: We just heard the famous double sonic boom.
  • 18.31h: The crew just reported the runway being in sight. She sure looks beautiful gliding down to the runway!
  • 18.32h: Gear down and locked.
  • 18.33h: Main gear touchdown… and nose gear touchdown!
  • 18.34h: Wheel stop!
  • 18.42h: The crew and Mission Control are now going through the procedures to put the vehicle in a safe configuration.

These are the official times given by NASA:

  • Main gear touchdown at 18:32:16 (Mission Elapsed Time [MET] of 12 days 17 hours 55 minutes 34 seconds)
  • Nose gear touchdown at 18:32:29 (MET of 12 days 17 hours 55 minutes 47 seconds)
  • Wheel stop at 18:33:20 (MET of 12 days 17 hours 56 minutes 38 seconds)

NASA Launch Day: STS-118 (Endeavour)

Space shuttle Endeavour is about to lift off from Cape Canaveral in about 1 hour and 40 minutes. It’s the first flight for Endeavour in years as it has gone through an extensive modification period. STS-118 is another mission to the International Space Station and will deliver the S5 truss segment and cargo.

The weather conditions are remarkably good for today’s launch. About 6 hours before the launch, the weather officer reported only a 20% chance of weather preventing a liftoff. 3 hours later, isolated showers were removed from the forecast dropping the chance of weather preventing a liftoff to just 10%.

At this time, the crew is seated in the space shuttle and comm checks are complete. The big orange fuel tank is fully loaded with liquid hydrogen and oxygen. The launch team is tracking no issues at this time. For people in Europe, the launch time will be 9 August 0.36h.

Status updates after 22.50h (CET):

  • 22.52h: The Closeout Crew reported an issue with what they call “micro-switches” on the crew hatch. They will reopen and close the hatch again to try to get a good seal.
  • 23.08h: The Mission Management Team have had a discussion about a small crack in the external tank foam near the liquid oxygen feedline support bracket. The conclusion is that there’s no debris issue and the tank is safe. The Closout Crew continues to work on the hatch, trying to verify that the hatch is indeed closed.
  • 23.15h: Two technicians are now in the White Room to verify that the orbiter’s crew hatch is indeed closed.
  • 23.21h: We’re at T-20 minutes and holding for 10 minutes.
  • 23.23h: The launch team has verified that the orbiter’s crew hatch is closed! Cabin leak checks are now in progress.
  • 23.31h: T-20 minutes and counting. We’ll have another hold at T-9 minutes which will last about 45 minutes.
  • 23.42h: T-9 minutes and holding. The hold will last exactly 41 minutes and 52 seconds.
  • 0.11h: The weather is “green” for all TAL-sites (Transoceanic Abort Landing).
  • 0.27h: T-9 minutes and counting!
  • 0.34h: T-2 minutes!
  • 0.36h: Liftoff of Endeavour!
  • 0.39h: Good SRB separation!
  • 0.41h: Negative return. This means Endeavour can no longer return to KSC in case of an emergency.
  • 0.44h: Endeavour’s looking good. Approaching MECO…
  • 0.45h: MECO (Main Engine Cut-Off)
  • 0.46h: Clean external fuel tank separation

Endeavour is in its preliminary orbit after what appeared to be a very smooth ride to space. Rendez-vous with the ISS is scheduled for Friday.