Java-Based JPL Small-Body Database Browser ‘Orbit Diagrams’ (For Solar System Bodies) Working Again With Ver. 8 Update 31.

.java831aaAnura Guruge December 2014 thumbnail
by Anura Guruge

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Click to access an example, asteroid 357439 (2004 BL86) that passed by Earth earlier this week. See how close it got.

The only reason I have bloody Java on my PCs is because of this JPL Orbit Diagram tracker.

To say that I used it often would be an understatement. Whenever I am writing a book on astronomy (and I have written 6) or even a post about comet or asteroid I use the orbit tracker incessantly. It is a wonderful, interactive tool. It allows you to look back in time or into the future. It is magical. I love it. It is UNIQUE. Nothing else that even gets close.

The orbit tracker to my enormous distress stopped working last October with Ver. 8 Update 25. I had to upgrade because the applet refused to run with the older version. I upgraded and it stopped working. I was beside myself. I tried all the tricks. I included the exceptions. I checked the Windows updates. I waited a few days. Nothing. I contacted JPL. I contacted NASA. I contacted Java support and that was a damn waste of time because they are a bunch of idiots on dope! I contacted Oracle. Another waste of bloody time. It really upset me.

With the tracker I felt lost. I was actually too distraught about it even to write about it! Yes, I am strange. Very few things in life upset me. But not having the orbit tracker really did a number on me. The very observant among you may have noticed that I have, atypically, done NO posts on comets or asteroids in a month. Why? Without the tracker I do not feel I can write about comets or asteroids. I need to see their orbits. Unless I can see the orbit, I can’t relate. If I can’t relate, I wouldn’t insult you by writing about it. I actually STOPPED paying attention to comets and asteroids! I thought about getting a Linux machine or Mac JUST to run the tracker. That was how serious it was.

I updated to Java 8 31 last week on my backup PC just to see if the tracker would work again. It didn’t. I was crushed. When Shane Selling was here a couple of weeks ago we tried installing Java 7 71 to see if that would help. It didn’t.

Then this morning I got an e-mail from JPL. It said: “Hello,
In the latest versions of Java, Oracle is requiring applets be ‘signed’, or they will be blocked from running.
We’ve purchased a security certificate and signed our orbit applet, and installed it today. Give it another try and let me know.”

I powered up my backup in a jiffy. It already had the latest, viz. 8 31. I did a quick Java version check to make sure. I then loaded my bookmarked JPL page. BINGO it worked. To say I was happy would not capture it. It was such a relief. I felt whole again. I felt that I could again pay attention to the Solar System. It was BIG.

I thanked the JPL person profusely. He was very nice. It cost US, i.e., U.S. taxpayer, $400 to buy that security certificate from a U.S. company. Seems strange. You would think they would make an exception for entities like JPL. Never mind. All the matters is that IT WORKS.

I just hope it does NOT break with the next bloody Java update — which, per their record of not being able to ever get it right, might be next week.

Thank YOU, JPL.

About Anura Guruge

See 'The Blogger' on my blog.

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