back to article Russian computer failure on ISS is nothing to worry about – they're just going to turn it off and on again

It's never a nice feeling with your computer keels over, wiping out work, sometimes requiring hours of maintenance and basically ruining your day. But spare a thought for the three astronauts currently in the International Space Station who discovered earlier today that one of the three computers in the station's Russian …

  1. Dwarf Silver badge

    Failure is not an option

    Its a standard feature of any computer system.

    For those who don't get the reference - see Failure is not an option

  2. Andrew Commons

    Re: Failure is not an option

    Indeed, "Build Failure In" is the current paradigm. Fits nicely with the "Fail Fast, Fail Often" methodology.

  3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Re: Failure is not an option

    Having worked on fail-safe systems (for London Underground - for the Signals and Mechanical Departments), the more appropriate phrase would be:-

    Wrong-Side Failure is Not an Option

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Re: Fail Fast, Fail Often

    Well, you gotta admit that's working.

  5. Peter Mount

    Which computers is this?

    I presume this is a core system. The 100+ laptops on the issue were switched to Debisn 6 years ago

  6. Peter Mount

    Re: Which computers is this?

    I meant iss bloody autocomplete & can't edit a post on mobile whilst in the pub, nor select the beer icon

  7. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Re: Which computers is this?

    The computer which failed is a part of the ISS, and not a laptop.

    The laptops interfacing with the ISS systems are Linux based, both the American and Russian ones. Then there are some European and Japanese laptops. The rest are running Windows:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2013/12/05/how-are-laptops-used-on-the-international-space-station/#41ef24317e5d

  8. onefang

    Re: Which computers is this?

    "The 100+ laptops on the ISS were switched to Debian 6 years ago"

    Oops, does that mean they are relying on systemd now?

  9. onefang
    Coat

    Re: Which computers is this?

    "The rest are running Windows"

    I would think the last thing you want to do in space, is open Windows.

    I'll get my spacesuit.

  10. LeeE Silver badge

    Re: Which computers is this?

    "The 100+ laptops on the ISS were switched to Debian 6 years ago"

    > Oops, does that mean they are relying on systemd now?

    Nope - systemd wasn't made the default on Debian until Debian 8 Jessie

  11. onefang

    Re: Which computers is this?

    "Nope - systemd wasn't made the default on Debian until Debian 8 Jessie"

    Yeah, but they might have upgraded some of those laptops.

  12. The Count
    Trollface

    Re: Which computers is this?

    Are you gonna blame autocomplete for "Debisn" instead of "Debian" as well?

  13. Kabukiwookie Bronze badge

    Re: Which computers is this?

    Moving to a version that uses systemd can hardly be called an 'upgrade'.

  14. The Oncoming Scorn
    Boffin

    Re: Which computers is this?

    Space:1999 - Opening windows on Moonbase Alpha.

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-_RroBm1BXU4/VK9KtHr5bQI/AAAAAAABAqU/ZBPiOUI3jFI/s1600/space1999-8.jpg

    To be fair there were a couple of scripted\deleted scenes regarding the replacement of the normal windows for ones that allowed them to be opened & refitting afterwards (Can't figure out why they had factory made replacements to hand, nor would I want to be testing the seals by being in Main Mission as the atmosphere leaked away again).

  15. Deadly_NZ

    Or is it Windows for Waaaaayyyyy out in Space?

  16. simonb_london

    It should finish booting by the time the ship gets to the Heliopause.

  17. JetSetJim Silver badge
    Coat

    I imagine it failed with some form of buffer overflow considering all Russian controlled computers in the world are currently tasked with skewing various elections

  18. TRT Silver badge

    "Where the one place in the world you don't want your computer to fail?"

    Or, indeed, off the world.

  19. Big John Silver badge

    It's the second one that's scary...

    This is why triple redundancy is the rule outside the atmosphere.

  20. Agamemnon

    Re: It's the second one that's scary...

    I grew up in a military environment (Navy AND Air Force), and at NASA in the 80s. I also sail (badly). Rules of thumb:

    * If you need it carry two.

    * If you Really need it, carry three and lash one to your effin' body.

    Tripple Redunancy is SOP.

  21. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Re: This is why triple redundancy is the rule outside the atmosphere.

    So long as the machines are not voting on which one to trust, (without human oversight).

    Hmm, how very topical.

  22. Stevie Silver badge

    Re: lash one to your effin' body.

    Paging Captain Cyborg!

  23. aregross

    So 3 HALs walk into a bar...

  24. 45RPM Silver badge

    And the bar man starts singing Daisy, Daisy?

  25. Admiral Grace Hopper

    "So 3 HALs walk into a bar..."

    ... and the barman says, "Why the long int?".

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Dave came back in through Windows"

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Autumn update ?

  28. 45RPM Silver badge

    @Admiral Grace Hopper

    Have an upvote! That is inspired - and I'm soundly kicking myself for not thinking of it.

  29. Muppet Boss

    Translation quality matters

    "We confirm that the so called program readiness of one of the three ISS computers was lost, in other words there was a program fault. In order to restore the computer to a working state, system reboot is required.

    This fault will in no way affect ISS normal operation. The default cyclogram permits indefinite flight time using two available channels. To ensure reliable docking procedure with the Progress spaceship, the reboot will be performed on 8 Nov 2018."

  30. Chozo

    Just going to to turn it off and on again

    Tovarish, get me the hammer...

  31. Serg

    In Russia...

    ...computer reboots you.

  32. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Re: In Russia...

    presumably they too the time to make it the red screen of death too!

  33. smudge Silver badge

    Could be worse

    It could have been reporting imminent failure of the AE-35 antenna-steering unit...

  34. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Re: Could be worse

    In space no one can hear you making meringue!

  35. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Re: Could be worse

    HAL's behaviour wasn't a malfunction as such, it was the result of secretive humans adding orders at a late stage; the result would have been the same had there been three HALs on board.

    Arthur C Clarke stressed the importance of triple systems in Rendezvous with Rama.

  36. smudge Silver badge

    Re: Could be worse

    Dave, you're back! Where have you been?

  37. ChrisC

    Re: Could be worse

    "Dave, you're back! Where have you been?"

    Outside, waiting for the pod bay doors to open?

  38. 4whatitsworth

    Re: Could be worse

    Now that was a great series of books. I cannot believe it hasnt been made it into a movie.

  39. Spazturtle Silver badge

    Re: Could be worse

    Yeah HAL was performing exactly as he had been instructed to, he was programmed to answer all questions 'without distortion or concealment' and also to ensure that the crew did not learn of the true purpose of the mission.

  40. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Re: Could be worse

    I would ask that the movie version of Rama doesn't mention the Grand Oral Disseminator; it really spoilt it for me.

    ISTR that there was some effort towards a film version of some sort, but don't know what came of it.

  41. onefang

    Re: Could be worse

    "ISTR that there was some effort towards a film version of some sort, but don't know what came of it."

    The books where a trilogy, but someone thought it would be best to make a trilogy out of each book, then someone pointed out that to be true to the source, things should be done in threes, so each trilogy had it's own set of sequels. Then they noticed the other three books. At this point the projected cost of making the films got so astronomical even the first Rama spaceships couldn't keep up. So they canned the entire deal.

    Somewhere deep in Hollywierd, there are people thinking of trying a second time, then a third time, just to be consistent.

  42. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    "It's running NikitaOS 2.5"

    Any good info on that gear??

  43. Andy Taylor
    Coat

    Re: "It's running NikitaOS 2.5"

    I hope NikitaOS has a voice interface so you can ask it what the temperature is.

    Hey Nikita - is it cold?

  44. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Boffin

    Food prep failure

    "Comrade, computer is on the blink."

    "Nyet, comrade, computer is on the blini."

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doh !

    Roscomos - It isn't rocket science !

    Cosmonaut - Oh yes it is....

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear Power Plants use quadruple redundancy.

    I worked for a NPP, where everything that related to critical gear was quadrupled, if possible. It's the philosophy:

    "One working, One backup, One broken, One in maintenance."

    Things like reactor cooling, switchgear feeding power to those cooling pumps, etc... Now THOSE you don't want to fail, as well. And the design was German, not Russian.

    I'm pleasantly surprised they used triple redundancy, however.

  47. 4whatitsworth

    Re: Nuclear Power Plants use quadruple redundancy.

    But, if one is broken and one is in maintenance....surely thats just single redundancy.

  48. Killing Time

    Re: Nuclear Power Plants use quadruple redundancy.

    'But, if one is broken and one is in maintenance....surely thats just single redundancy.'

    That's pretty much how it works out in practice. My experience of TMR controllers is that when one unit fails, invariably the general reaction is not - OK we are just down one level of redundancy, we have time to investigate and plan. It's - What if another one fails! lets panic and make a poor decision.

    Triplication of sensors gives less than triple redundancy in practice. Three simultaneous measurements of a single process parameter are never exactly the same due to general measurement principles i.e. there is always a factor of uncertainty. As a result, voted inputs are compared within bounds. On the complete loss of one sensor and any deviation between the remaining two exceeding bounds, which one is the correct value? Default reaction is - Shut it down!

    It does little for resilience or redundancy to extend uptime significantly, at best it will prevent you operating on significantly false input data.

  49. Wiltshire

    Shirley comrades, Dave Akerman and Vulture Aerospace must be sending them a triple-pack of Raspberry Pi's?

  50. steviebuk Silver badge

    Poor joke incoming

    At least it wasn't Windows 10 as you'd have no choice of when it fing reboots.

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