Technology

Quacking idea: Could duck sounds replace car honks?

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The pleasant-sounding horn is designed to alert people to danger while not stressing out others within the vicinity.

A quacking sound was chosen after different sounds were tested on 100 volunteers and it was found to be the most friendly for pedestrians passing by.

The research was conducted at Soongsil University in Seoul, South Korea, and looked at the development of the vehicle klaxon since it was first introduced in 1908.

The classical car horn’s “ah-oo-gah” remains a famous sound in early motoring, but it came to be replaced by other attention-grabbing sounds.

Some of those klaxons have come to be found very irritating, however. The team of scientists set about trying to find less distressing sound for passers-by.

Lead researcher Professor Myung-Jin Bae said: “In our study we used the existing historic Klaxon sound source, but made some modification concerning its volume and rhythm with duration time by adding a power controller.

“Our new Klaxon sound can immediately alert the pedestrians of the danger while also reducing the unpleasantness and stress of the sound.”

The 100 listeners were asked to rate potential car horn sounds for perceptual qualities including stress and loudness.

Their answers were combined to create a “mean option score” which ranked the candidate sounds from bad to excellent on a five-point scale.

The researchers found that quacks were less startling and could contribute to road safety by being less distracting to drivers.

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Dozens of Parliamentary email accounts hacked

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On Saturday hackers attacked the email server for Parliament. This prompted the digital security team to shut down external access to MPs and peers’ email accounts, which are still unavailable.

While the attack has now been contained, preliminary investigations suggest that there may have been a compromise of a large number of communications, potentially including those between constituents and their elected officials.

Parliament’s digital security team is continuing to investigate the attack.

But a statement from a parliamentary spokesperson confirmed claims by Sky sources and stated that “significantly fewer than 1% of the 9,000 accounts on the parliamentary network” have been compromised.

Those 9,000 accounts belong not only to senior ministers and other MPs and peers, but also to their staffers and to many civil servants. Sky sources have suggested that dozens of accounts have been identified as compromised at the moment.

It is not yet known whose accounts may have been compromised, how much information may have been stolen from them, or who was behind the attack.

Sensitive details in government ministers’ emails should not have been compromised, Sky has been told, as ministers are expected to carry out confidential work from their departmental email accounts.

These are hosted on the gov.uk domain, rather than the potentially affected parliamentary accounts which are hosted on the parliament.uk domain.

The parliamentary spokesperson said the accounts which have been compromised “did not conform to guidance issued by the Parliamentary Digital Service” regarding password strength.

They added that as the affected accounts are identified, the individuals who operate them are being contacted and additional investigations will be conducted to identify whether any data has been stolen.

An earlier statement described the attack involving hackers “carrying out a sustained and determined attack on all parliamentary user accounts in an attempt to identify weak passwords”.

Sky sources have confirmed that the attack was not targeted against particular accounts, but rather attempted to probe the email server used by Parliament.

“Parliament’s first priority has been to protect the parliamentary network and systems from the sustained and determined cyber attack to ensure that the business of the Houses can continue,” added the parliamentary spokesperson.

“This has been achieved and both Houses will meet as planned tomorrow.”

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How to delete yourself from the internet

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Data breaches. Identity theft. Bank fraud. It seems like every week we read a fearsome new headline about cybercrime … about reputable services falling victim to anonymous hackers … about ransomware holding random computer users’ files hostage.

And then there are those websites that track your every move, targeting you with personalized advertisements.

If you’ve considered the unthinkable — removing yourself from the internet — well, there’s bad news and good news.

The bad news: You can’t erase yourself from the digital universe completely. Courts and government agencies have been posting public records online since the mid-1990s. Your motor vehicle records, voter files, property tax assessments, professional licenses and court files are all on the digital books, and they’re not going anywhere.

Tip in a Tip: If you’d like to see what’s online about you or someone you know, click here to learn how to do a free background check.

The good news: You can remove a lot of online information and significantly reduce your digital footprint. Here are several ways to effectively delete yourself from the internet.

More on this…

Delete your online accounts

Like most of us, you probably have more online accounts than you realize. We sign up for all sorts of services, from Netflix and Amazon to Groupon and Twitter. Even if you haven’t downloaded an app in years, Apple, Facebook, Google and so many other virtual services still possess a lot of your private information.

If you really want to terminate your internet presence, you’ll want to eliminate these accounts, especially the ones you don’t use anymore.

This may sound like an uphill battle, since each service has its own policies and deactivation process, but the easiest method is Account Killer, a website that provides direct links to your most popular accounts and instructions on how to wipe the slate clean. Click here to find out how Account Killer works.

Maybe you just want to clean up your digital tracks. Does the idea of Google knowing your every search creep you out? Click here to erase everything you’ve ever searched for on Google.

If you’re not careful, you’re probably exposing more of your life than you want to on Facebook. Click here for checking and setting essential Facebook privacy settings. Certainly, you can delete your Facebook account; I have the steps on how to do that on my site. But if all you need is a Facebook break, there is the option to deactivate your account. Click here for steps on how to deactivate or delete your Facebook account.

Remove yourself from data broker sites

Are you sitting down? You’ll probably find this creepy: Almost anyone can learn your phone number, home address and criminal record in a matter of minutes. All they have to do is pay a little money to a “data broker,” also known as a “people-search site.” Often, the information is free.

Primary data brokers like Intelius collect information from public records. Secondary data brokers, like Spokeo, aggregate information from primary brokers and usually add data collected from social networks and other online sources.

Letting this information float around on the internet can be dangerous, especially if you attract internet “trolls.” A troll might nab your name, phone number, address or online accounts, and the harassment that results could go on for years.

If you want to have your information removed from data broker sites, you need to contact them and request to opt out. Click here for the insider secret on how to remove yourself from people search sites.

Shut down your email accounts

This is a very big step. Most people will turn back at this point, deciding that internet abstinence is not for them. Email is still the most popular method of communication in the world, and email addresses are used for all kinds of digital transactions, including online banking.

It’s not enough just to stop using email. If you leave an account open and fail to monitor it, your account could get hacked without you even realizing. At the same time, each email server is different, and closing your account varies from system to system. I’ll focus on the two biggest companies out there.

Gmail is the most popular service out there, with more than 1 billion users. Before you close your account, make sure you’ve downloaded and saved all of your old data, because you never know when this archive of old correspondences might become important.

Log in and visit the “Account Preferences” page, then Delete Products >> Gmail. Follow the instructions, and finally hit “Delete Gmail.” Click here for full details and instructions.

If you delete your Gmail and later feel weird about it, you may have a chance to reactivate your account. According to Google, if you deleted your account “recently,” you “might be able to recover your old emails.” But it doesn’t say how long this option is available, so be sure before deleting this account.

Yahoo is still a popular choice, despite widespread data breaches. Go to the “Terminating your Yahoo account” page. Read the information under “Before continuing, please consider the following information.” Confirm your password. If you forgot your password, you can recover it with the Yahoo Sign-in Helper. Click Terminate this Account.

But remember … If you close your Yahoo account, you will not be able to use services associated with it, such as Flickr and Tumblr. So be sure this is what you want before closing it.

Use a VPN

Giving up the internet also means giving up online banking, online shopping and online photo-sharing. Most of us are accustomed to web-based conveniences. They have become so intertwined in our lives that we can’t imagine living without them.

So if you’re not ready to end your virtual activities, you can make your browsing a lot more private, thanks to a “virtual private network,” or VPN. You can use this secure network to encrypt your connection, making it difficult to hack. In the business world, VPNs let employees working remotely create an encrypted connection with the company network so they can work safely. But ordinary consumers can use VPNs too. Click here for a very in-depth look at safe browsing and how to use a VPN.

How else can you protect yourself on the Internet? Be sure to listen to or download my podcasts, or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

Copyright 2017, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved. Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

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Parliament hit by ‘sustained’ cyber-attack

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Houses of ParliamentImage copyrightPA

Parliament has been hit by a cyber attack, officials at Westminster say.

The “sustained” hack began on Friday night, prompting officials to disable remote access to the emails of MPs, peers and their staff as a safeguard.

The parliamentary authorities said hackers had mounted a “determined attack” on all user accounts “in an attempt to identify weak passwords”.

Government sources say it appeared the attack has been contained but it will “remain vigilant”.

A parliamentary spokeswoman said they were investigating the attack and liaising with the National Cyber Security Centre.

She said: “We have discovered unauthorised attempts to access accounts of parliamentary networks users…

“Parliament has robust measures in place to protect all of our accounts and systems, and we are taking the necessary steps to protect and secure our network.

“As a precaution we have temporarily restricted remote access to the network.”

‘Not a surprise’

IT services on the parliamentary estate are working normally and a message sent to MPs urges them to be “extra vigilant”.

But a number of MPs have confirmed to the BBC they are not able to access their parliamentary email accounts outside of the Westminster estate.

It comes just over a month after 48 of England’s NHS trusts were hit by a cyber-attack.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: “We have seen reports in the last few days of even Cabinet ministers’ passwords being for sale online.

“We know that our public services are attacked so it is not at all surprising that there should be an attempt to hack into parliamentary emails.

“And it’s a warning to everybody, whether they are in Parliament or elsewhere, that they need to do everything possible to maintain their own cyber security.”

The latest attack was publicly revealed by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard on Twitter as he asked his followers to send any “urgent messages” to him by text.

Henry Smith, Tory MP for Crawley, later tweeted: “Sorry no parliamentary email access today – we’re under cyber attack from Kim Jong Un, (Vladimir) Putin or a kid in his mom’s basement or something…”

The government’s National Security Strategy said in 2015 that the threat from cyber-attacks from both organised crime and foreign intelligence agencies was one of the “most significant risks to UK interests”.

The National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of intelligence agency GCHQ, started its operations in October last year.

The National Crime Agency said it was working with the NCSC but the centre was “leading the operational response”.

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UK Parliament investigates cyberattack on user accounts

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LONDON – British officials were investigating a cyberattack Saturday on the country’s Parliament after discovering “unauthorized attempts to access parliamentary user accounts.”

A spokeswoman for the House of Commons said the incident affected lawmakers and other parliamentary staff’s ability to log on its system and use their emails. It was not immediately clear how many people were affected or what the extent of the damage was.

A statement said that remote email access for members has been disabled in order to protect the network.

“We have systems in place to protect member and staff accounts and are taking the necessary steps to protect our systems,” it said.

Liberal Democrat Chris Rennard said on Twitter that urgent messages should be sent by text message because parliamentary emails may not work remotely.

The National Cyber Security Center and the National Crime Agency are looking into the incident.

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Tech Q&A: Apple Pay, Craigslist alternatives, Facebook quizzes and more

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Smartphone payments

Q: Is it safe to pay for things using Samsung Pay or Apple Pay on your phone? How do you set it up?

A: Every time a new method of payment hits the mainstream, customers panic for a few months. It happened with debit cards. It happened with PayPal. Now, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are giving smartphone owners anxiety with their newfangled technology. Where do you swipe? Where do you sign? This is perfectly understandable: Like anything, these new services take some getting used to. But if you guard your information closely and follow the instructions, both systems can be real timesavers. Click here to find out how to pay for things using Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

More on this…

Smart Craigslist Alternatives

Q: I hate using Craigslist. Is there another site I can use?

A: There is nothing inherently wrong with Craigslist, but the free classifieds page is often overrun with scams and embarrassing personals ads. The go-to directory for free listings and cheap commodities isn’t what it used to be, and millions of online customers are actively pursuing alternatives. So what happens when you have an old bicycle in good condition and you want to unload it? Where do smart vendors meet responsible shoppers, and vice versa? Luckily, there are now many quality options. Click here for the best way to sell things online without Craigslist.

Keep track of Alzheimer’s patients

Q: My father has Alzheimer’s. Is there any tech I can use to keep tabs on where he wanders?

A: As a caregiver, there is nothing scarier than losing track of someone with severe memory issues. (If you are asking about this, I can only imagine the scenarios you have had to deal with already.) You will be relieved to know that there are many devices on the market that can help you keep track of a loved one, and nearly all of them are quite affordable – especially compared to 24-hour monitoring by an in-home nurse. Most of these devices are no more intrusive than a wristwatch. Some can even be inserted into a shoe. Click here for five products that can help the Alzheimer’s patient in your life.

Skip the Facebook quizzes

Q: I heard you say it’s a bad idea to take those quizzes on Facebook. Why is that?

A: They seem so harmless, don’t they? And when the quiz is about world capitals or your favorite TV show, how can you resist? Well, these quizzes often require you to share a lot of your personal data. This might not seem like a big deal at the time, but imagine if a stranger walked up to you in the park and said, “Let’s play a game of chess, but before we do, could I take a picture of your Social Security card?” If you really want to take a quiz, you will find plenty of games and apps in your preferred online store. Click here before you take your next Facebook quiz.

Eyes on the new nanny

Q: I have a new sitter for the kids over the summer. Can you please recommend a hidden cam?

A: Just so you know, the vast majority of hidden cameras are designed to protect your house from burglars or unwelcome guests. That said, you can use a digital surveillance camera however you wish. You could even set one up in front of a fishbowl or front yard, if you felt like it. If you are suspicious of a new babysitter and your kids are too young or shy to express their discomfort, affordable cameras are everywhere. Many can be checked remotely, and most are motion-sensitive. Once you have vetted your nanny’s behavior, you might consider using one of these services to monitor your house while the whole family is away. Click here to find a list of the best nanny cams.

What questions do you have? Call my national radio show and click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

Copyright 2017, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

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7 amazing things your smartphone’s camera can do

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Camera phones are changing the landscape of photography. Professionals are carrying them instead of hefty DSLRs, and indie filmmakers are using them to shoot everything from music videos to feature-length dramas. With advanced features and tons of free editing software, they are becoming more sophisticated every year. Your smartphone may contain the lens of the future.

Tip in a Tip: Apple’s camera app is good, but there are better free apps to capture and share your memories. Click here for nine great photo apps you’ll use time and time again.

But that little camera in your phone is useful for so much more than snapshots and videos. If you ever dreamed of having a scanner, game system and universal translator in your pocket, these apps have made that fantasy a reality.

Here are seven amazing things your smartphone can do.

1. Consult a virtual decorator

A few years ago, IKEA developed a wild new feature that lets customers raise their phones or tablets in a room at home and then plant a piece of furniture in the picture. The 3D image adjusts to the screen’s POV, looking extremely realistic, even though the furniture isn’t really there. This “augmented reality” feature helps customers imagine how an item will look before they buy it.

Hot on IKEA’s heels is Amikasa, an iOS app that not only helps you design interior spaces, but also inserts imaginary décor in real-life settings. You can add faucets and cabinets, and even change the wallpaper. Click here to try the future of interior design now. Not an iOS user? Try Home Design 3D for a similar design experience (minus the augmented reality).

2. Scan documents

Scanning paper documents as PDFs is convenient, but using scanners themselves can be a real ordeal. The ones on traditional printers can be slow and cumbersome, and scanning large bundles at a print shop can cost you a pretty penny. But there are apps, such as Genius Scan and Evernote Scannable, that use your smartphone’s camera to convert hard copies into a digital format. You can even scan multiple pages and include them in the same document, a convenience that used to be nigh on the impossible.

Meanwhile, Adobe just launched a stellar app that scans physical documents with your smartphone’s camera uses optical character recognition (OCR) software to save them as PDF files. Click here to check it out.

Android users have another option: The Google Drive app has document scanning capabilities.

3. Shop in three dimensions

When you flip through a magazine, some ads are so vivid and colorful that they seem to leap off the page. With the ROAR app, the ads actually do leap off the page, at least in the display of your camera phone. You can quickly scan a photo of a cute sundress, for example, and within seconds your display will show that outfit in three dimensions.

ROAR also lets you take photos of meals and beverages and instantly find out their ingredients. You can scan items in a store to compare the price with what other retailers are charging. If you pass an eye-catching movie poster, you can capture its image and instantly order movie tickets. Click here to give this amazing app a whirl.

4. Translate language

When the Word Lens app hit the market a few years ago, users were astonished by its ability to “read” signs in foreign languages. The app even used the same font and style in its visual translation.

This magical technology was later scooped up by Google, which has made it part of the broader Google Translate app.

Other services use the same gimmick, helping you translate menus and signage from wildly different writing systems, all using your camera phone. But the standard, for now, is still the free Google app. Click here for more about Google Translate.

5. Learn Your Wines

Wine is a complicated beverage. There is so much to know about a given year, vintner and vintage. In the past, wine aficionados had to memorize all that information or refer to a book. But now you can learn about a particular label at a glance, thanks to the Vivino app.

Just scan the label on a bottle of wine, and you’ll find out everything there is to know, including personalized recommendations. Vivino has a database of more than 3 million wines, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bottle that isn’t included. Click here to learn more about Vivino.

6. Augmented reality games

Unless you were living in a submarine last year, you are probably familiar with the global obsession that was Pokémon Go. This game sent millions of players running through their neighborhoods in search of little creatures, guided by the motto, “Gotta catch ’em all!”

This was just the beginning of the phenomenon known as augmented reality games, which create real-time, real-world backdrops for in-game objects. For example, when you play ARBasketball, you can find a virtual hoop anywhere you go. Or play with the Bowmaster, which inserts targets in your physical surroundings.

If you are a fan of the undead, you will probably get your thrills from Zombies Everywhere!, which turns your real world into an apocalyptic zombie battleground. You will never look at your neighborhood sidewalk or office cubicle the same way again. For Android, check out TableZombies for a similar augmented reality game. Click here to move beyond Pokémon Go with five other augmented reality apps you will love.

7. Security camera

When you upgrade to a new smartphone, you usually face a difficult question: What do you do with your older model? Well, one option is to repurpose it as motion-activated security camera. The Manything app uses your smartphone camera to monitor your pets, your home, your kids or whatever else needs a watchful eye.

Manything has programmable motion detection zones, cloud-based DVR, time-lapse and live streaming. All you need is another device with Manything installed (to use it as your remote viewer

and controller) and you will have a low-cost, around-the-clock surveillance system. Click here for steps on how to set it up.

What are some other nifty tricks you can perform on your smartphone? Be sure to listen to or download my podcasts, or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

Copyright 2017, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved. Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

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Sheryl Sandberg: Tools like Facebook ‘used for evil and good’

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Facebook’s Online Civil Courage Initiative wants to spread the reach of non-governmental organisations tackling extremist and hate speech online.

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg spoke at the launch of the initiative in London, warning of the danger of tools like Facebook being “used for evil and good”.

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Google Will Stop Reading Your Email to Target Ads

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2016 google careers shoot

One of Google’s most controversial practices over the years has been the automated scanning of email contents. Google used that data to target ads inside Gmail, which it places at the top of the list in your social and promotions tabs. Google now says it will end the practice of targeting ads based on email text, but the decision was not made by the Gmail or advertising teams. It comes from Google’s cloud unit, which is responsible for selling G Suite business subscriptions.

G Suite, or Apps for Work as it used to be known, costs $5 or $10 per month for each user, but larger customers can contact Google for enterprise pricing. G Suite includes additional storage beyond the free 15GB that everyone gets, more security tools, and support for the usual list of Google cloud services like Gmail and Drive.

It’s interesting that Google Cloud was able to affect a change in the way Gmail ads are handled. Diane Greene, Google’s SVP of cloud, says this change was made to offer a more consistent experience across paid and free versions of Gmail. G Suite has doubled its paying users in the last year, so Google seems happy to let Greene make some big calls.

While the free version of Gmail has done automated email scanning for advertising purpose since its inception, that has never been the case in G Suite. If you pay Google for Gmail and other tools, you don’t get those ads in the first place. This change is supposed to put everyone’s mind at ease, even business customers that aren’t affected.

ads

Gmail ads.

So, now no one will see ads based on their email contents. But free users of Gmail will still get ads. Google says it can use data culled from other sources to target ads in a similar ways. After all, many Google users are sharing purchase, location, and personal preferences data with Google. That wasn’t the case 13 years ago when Gmail launched.

There’s another catch, too. Google’s servers will still parse the content of your emails, but it’s not going to use that data for ads. Instead, that data will be channeled into user-facing features like Google’s smart replies and the Google Feed. For example, getting an email with package tracking details will produce a card in the Google app that lets you easily track your package. All that will still work, so you don’t have to take your tinfoil hat completely off yet.

You can expect Google to stop scanning your emails for advertising purposes later this year.

Now read: 25 Best Android Tips to Make Your Phone More Useful

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SpaceX Successfully Launches, Lands Second Reused Rocket

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SpaceX has made a name for itself with its reusable rockets, but the company has only begun putting those rockets back in space for a second time relatively recently. Earlier this week, SpaceX delayed launching its first Bulgarian payload, BulgariaSat-1. Today, the rocket launched and reached orbit without incident.

It was a significant launch for both companies. For SpaceX, this is the second demonstration of its reusable rocket capabilities. For Bulgaria, it’s the first satellite the country has ever launched. BulgariaSat-1 is based on the SSL 1300 satellite platform and will be used to provide HD TV and other fixed-position satellite services. Power is provided via six solar panels, and BulgariaSat-1 is the first satellite to ever sit in geostationary orbit above the country as well. The satellite is expected to remain in operation for 15 years or more.

SpaceX has been live-tweeting the launch and reports that everything has gone well to date. The satellite has been boosted into the proper orbit and is preparing to deploy. Elon Musk reports that the returning rocket was “extra toasty and hit the deck hard (used almost all of the emergency crush core), but otherwise good.” The crush core, again according to Musk, is “an aluminum honeycomb cartridge, so only a couple of hours to replace.”

Multiple people have asked if Musk thinks the rocket will be returned to service for a third time, but he’s declined to answer the question as of this writing. Even if this specific rocket can’t be returned to service, however, the reusable rocket concept has the potential to drastically cut the cost of satellite launches. Just two or three launches from the same vehicle before retiring it for good would be a major improvement over the previous single-use systems. Evidence has also emerged in the last few weeks that SpaceX heavily undercuts the United Launch Alliance in overall pricing, though this was generally suspected given public information and known cost structures.

Proving SpaceX can deliver multiple launches from the same vehicle is also critical for the company, which took a bit of a reputation whack after some high-profile vehicle losses in the past 24 months. The company conducted a full review of its procedures as a result of these issues and believes it has resolved the problems. Overall, SpaceX has pushed the envelope in reusable rockets much more quickly than many people (including this author) thought was possible. Kudos to Musk and SpaceX for another successful launch and recovery, even if the landing was a bit rough.

Today’s launch is the first in a double-header planned for this weekend. On Sunday, SpaceX will use a new Falcon 9 rocket to launch a set of 10 Iridium NEXT satellite telephone stations.

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