back to article Penguins in spa-a-a-ce! ISS dumps Windows for Linux on laptops

The crew of the International Space Station (once they've fixed their leak) will trade their old Windows XP laptops for Debian-powered systems to use in their Operations Local Area Network (Ops LAN). The six-person ISS has over 140 laptops on board, around 80 of which are working at any one time, along with a variety of …

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  1. Isendel Steel
    Linux

    Wasn't this...

    reported by the Reg's own Verity ?

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/05/07/verity_stob_/

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Pint

    Come in Major Eadon!

    This is Ground Control to Major Eadon

    You've really made the grade

    And the papers want to know what OS you boot

    And whether it's "ls" or "dir" to you!

    This is Major Eadon to Ground Control

    I see "vmlinuz" scrolling by

    A fat penguin on my screen

    And a Gnome wants me to log in

    Here am I sitting in a tin can

    Far above the world

    On my screen there is a spiral

    on top of kernel version 3.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: Come in Major Eadon!

      Definitely deserves that beer!

    2. MajorTom

      Re: Come in Major Eadon!

      Nice song.

    3. Tyrion
      FAIL

      Re: Come in Major Eadon!- Wait

      >>And whether it's "ls" or "dir" to you!

      Both work in Linux duh!

      infact any command name will because we have bash aliases ;)

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Come in Major Eadon!- Wait

        > Both work in Linux duh!

        "Yes, I know"

        Said like King Arthur said it when he was getting detailed explanations about the voting procedures of the anarcho-syndicalist commune.

      2. h3

        Re: Come in Major Eadon!- Wait

        Both work in powershell so what ?

      3. The Real Tony Smith

        Re: Come in Major Eadon!- Wait

        .>>And whether it's "ls" or "dir" to you!

        >

        >Both work in Linux duh!

        >

        >infact any command name will because we have bash aliases ;)

        Or csh or sh or whatever command interpreter we want!

    4. Captain Hogwash

      Re: Come in Major Eadon!

      A laughing gnome?

  3. JLV Silver badge
    Facepalm

    140 laptops on board?

    For 6 crew? Presumably not coming near anything mission critical?

    I hope they are ultra-lights... cost to orbit is on the order of 5K$-10K$/kg for most launch systems:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_orbital_launch_systems

    Excellent news with the Linux aspect - laptops are much more likely to remain usable for a long time that way.

    Totally out of my depth here, but I wonder if you could rig the APT mechanism to fetch updates from a local, specially vetted, repo. That way you wouldn't be fetching over your space WAN laptop by laptop.

    1. Cameron Colley

      Re: local repository.

      "... I wonder if you could rig the APT mechanism to fetch updates from a local, specially vetted, repo."

      Short answer: Yes.

      Longer Answer: http://wiki.debian.org/HowToSetupADebianRepository

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

        Re: local repository.

        Short answer: Yes.

        Or just set up a squid proxy--even easier.

      2. Fatman Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: local repository.

        Absolutely, many Linux based companies set up such a server to reduce bandwidth, and to insure that unauthorized packages can not be installed.

        IIRC, Windows sysadmins can do something similar.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: local repository.

          "IIRC, Windows sysadmins can do something similar."

          if they can afford the training course!

    2. IGnatius T Foobar
      Linux

      Re: 140 laptops on board?

      We're talking about actual space station operations here, not recreational computers for the crew to play Angry Birds. Laptops are used for the onboard OPS LAN because laptops are designed to be small, lightweight, and have low power consumption. So yes, bolting a couple of laptops to the bulkhead is a *great* alternative to lugging a bunch of heavy, bulky, power-sucking rackmount machines into space.

      1. wowfood
        Trollface

        Re: 140 laptops on board?

        We're talking about actual space station operations here, not recreational computers for the crew to play

        Maybe that's why they're moving to linux. No games for the crew to waste time playing :P

    3. earplugs

      Re: 140 laptops on board?

      Intel CPUs make good space heaters apparently

  4. RonWheeler

    140 laptops onboard

    Seriously, how the hell did a stupid stupid stupid (did i mention stupid) computing decision like having ONE HUDRED AND FORTY laptops onboard make it past, well, anything sane really. Did someone senior have a relative work down the local Walmart computing department and was a bit behind monthly sales targets?

    1. Neil Greatorex

      ONE HUDRED AND FORTY

      Leaving aside the shouty bit, oh and the linking of the ISS & Walmart. It costs to get mass up there, DON'T MAKE NO NEVERMIND TO BRUNG IT BACK DOWN AGIN, GRANDPA!

    2. Paul McClure

      Re: 140 laptops onboard

      I agree a hundred laptops is very poor IT design. Maybe some one calculated that infinite laptops make a great heating system for the station. Sun to solar panels to electricity to laptops to comfy quarters. What gets me is that they weren't refreshed with a dozen 'current' systems to save power, space, and maybe add some features. They must have some real clowns working their IT. Yep, old Bessie is still working, we just can't figure why our electric bill is still so high.

    3. Tank boy
      Linux

      Re: 140 laptops onboard

      Bear in mind that the ISS is cobbled together from bits and pieces from around the world, and she's getting a little long in the tooth. After the Linux install, they'll be taking some of those laptops out for spacewalks.

    4. Slan

      Re: 140 laptops onboard

      Hmmmm,

      140 laptops on 6(?) crew.

      Perhaps that reflects the multitasking performance of the crew relative to that of Windows XP?

      /Slan

    5. Marshalltown
      Coat

      Re: 140 laptops onboard

      Space - in the shipments sent up to assemble the ISS. Just as mass is an issue, so is space. Laptops can go where large formats won't. You want to also look back to the planning stages of the original shuttles and lunar vehicles. The original shuttles were designed with a system that used core memory and fairly slow cpu. A GRiD Compass lap top carried aboard and was customized for use forcasting orbital paths and LOS communications.

      1. John Sturdy
        Linux

        Re: 140 laptops onboard

        "Just as mass is an issue, so is space."

        So send up some Rasberry Pis! (or beagleboards, or pandaboards).

        OK, you have to get the screens and keyboards up there to go with them, but with that ratio of machines to people, I guess quite a few of the machines will be running control functions that don't usually need screen and keyboard. In fact, one screen and keyboard per astronaut, plus a few spares, is probably enough.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 140 laptops onboard

      But don't you know? Linux weighs less than Windows.

    7. Allonymous Coward
      Coat

      Re: 140 laptops onboard

      Simple way around this. Put them in The Cloud.

      The Cloud solves everything, don't cha know.

  5. stuartnz

    Brought of the gravity well?

    Isn't LEO still very much IN the gravity well?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Devil

      Deep, deep! Down inside...

      Yes, and it's worse ... it's deeper in the gravity well of the Andromeda Galaxy than in the Earth's!

    2. Matthew 25

      Re: Brought of the gravity well?

      Yes. That is why it doesn't just fly off into spaaaaaaaace.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Astronauts bring up iPads on the Vomit Comet?

    They probably shouldn't have eaten them in the first place.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?

    HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.

    Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

    HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

    Dave Bowman: sudo open the pod bay doors, HAL.

    HAL: Ok.

    1. Rik Myslewski

      Command line humor – always a winner

      Totally frickin' brilliant, mate.

      It being a relatively late hour here in San Francisco, it's brandy up my nose and onto my keyboard, rather than coffee or tea.

      But thanks – the 'board needed a good cleaning, in any case.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sudo

      What, without asking for the password the first time? Kill the sysadmin...oh, HALL already did that.

    3. Martin Maloney
      Facepalm

      Fixed it for you

      Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?

      HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.

      Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

      HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

      Dave Bowman: sudo open the pod bay doors, HAL.

      HAL: [sudo] password for Dave Bowman:

      Dave Bowman: (password not displayed)

      HAL: Ok.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Fixed it for you

        And if it's the first time ?

        Don't forget, with great power, comes responsibility (c) Debian 2013 ...

      2. SolidSquid

        Re: Fixed it for you

        Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?

        HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.

        Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

        HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

        Dave Bowman: sudo open the pod bay doors, HAL.

        HAL: [sudo] password for Dave Bowman:

        Dave Bowman: (password not displayed)

        HAL: Username is not in the sudoers file. This incident will be reported.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You are Ernest Scribbler and I take my hat off to you, Sir! :)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Old joke.

      Google it. Been around since at least 2008 (http://www.seedsofglory.net/smf/index.php?topic=2056.0).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Send Anode up there with it....

    They should have gone for BeOS..... FAIL

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Meh

      Re: Send Anode up there with it....

      "hey should have gone for BeOS..... FAIL"

      Maybe 5% of the people reading that have any idea what you're talking about.

      And that's the problem.

      This is embedded land. Everything that goes up to the ISS has to be qualified and they don't want to change horses. Likewise they know there are lots of Debanian sysadmins and developers out there.

      That's how professionals think.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Send Anode up there with it....

        Is sense of humour failure a defining characteristic of Debian sysadmins, or are you just a special case?

        1. John Hughes

          Re: Send Anode up there with it....

          I don't know, why not type "aptitude moo" and see what happens.

      2. Wzrd1

        Re: Send Anode up there with it....

        If they wanted even greater stability, they should've went with one of the *BSD's.. ;)

        BeOS, ROFLMAO!

      3. Wzrd1

        Re: Send Anode up there with it....

        You're right about NASA not wanting to change horses. NASA was the only organization to get SP7 for their NT4 systems.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm guessing that they were brought up and never brought back down again, no point if bringing your old laptop down. If the human who brought it up there has even has a 1 in a hundred chance of ever going back up again, leaving it up there would save weight on the return trip.

  10. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Joke

    ISS has over 140 laptops on board, around 80 of which are working at any one time,

    Sounds just like our laptops at work!!

    /rimshot

    1. tirk
      Joke

      Re: ISS has over 140 laptops on board, around 80 of which are working at any one time,

      No, that's your tax-dollars at work!

  11. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    "...one of the few things Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick got right in the book and film of the same name..."

    Given the huge amount of technical study they did on every aspect of the equipment, I prefer to think of them getting EVERYTHING right except one thing - the economics.. And that just means that the date when it really happens wouldn't be 2001, but perhaps 2051...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Well, that's not true.... For one, Discovery has no reaction mass tanks for aesthetic reasons, so no braking at Jupiter. I'm sorry Dave, you have to keep going.

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge
        Boffin

        More Discovery omissions

        The Discovery in the film also lacks the huge cooling fins needed by its reactor. The book version has them, and notes they make the Discovery look like a dragonfly from some angles. A.C. Clarke explains in the "Lost worlds of 2001" that they omitted them intentionally from the film, to avoid having viewers spend half the film wondering why the spacecraft needs wings...

      2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        ...reaction mass tanks...

        I'm not sure what these are meant to be? Are you confused with the lack of heat radiators , which were specifically left off for the reason mentioned below?

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Do you think Discovery has a NON-NEWTONIAN SPACE DRIVE? No, in fact it needs HUGE TANKS FULL OF LIQUID AMMONIA to pump stuff through its nuclear Vesta reactors to get that MOMENTUM THING GOING WHEN IT ARRIVES AT JUPITER (or Saturn).

          WHERE ARE THOSE TANKS?? They AIN'T THERE, kid!

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Reaction mass downvotes?

            I guess some people here really have no idea about how you obtain momentum changes in SPAAACE.

            Fracking trekkies, go back to your tricorders.

    2. Martin Maloney
      Happy

      "...I prefer to think of them getting EVERYTHING right except one thing - the economics."

      Yeah, like the January 8, 1991 bankruptcy of Pan Am.

      I saw 2001 in a theater when it was in first run. I remember two points when the audience laughed:

      1, The in-your-face commercial placement of Pan Am, and

      2. The instructions for the use of the zero gravity toilet.

      1. Peter Simpson 1
        Happy

        Howard Johnson's and the "old" Bell System logo, for me.

        IIRC, Bell changed their logo to the "outlined bell" very shortly thereafter.

        //still my favorite movie

  12. Alister Silver badge
    WTF?

    In testing on the agency's zero G "Vomit Comet", Apple's iPad failed to deliver, but astronauts still bring them up.

    Vomiting an iPad must take some effort...

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Devil

      (@ Alister)

      "Vomiting an iPad must take some effort"

      Yes, but the alternative method is even worse!

    2. mrfill
      Happy

      They must have been eating it incorrectly

  13. Cameron Colley

    They really did miss a trick.

    This is an application crying out for a Plan 9 install.

  14. dssf

    They wanted to exceed 99

    Bottles of Beer on the Wall...

    Hahahaha

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I guess they got sick of the tech support in India whenever they had an issue?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Trollface

      You have to be done when India drops below the horizon again...

  16. G R Goslin

    Fuming

    MS must be fuming at this. Do you think that the'll go out and do a 'Nook' on this. Go out and buy the ISS so they can have it use their systems?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fuming

      I doubt if Microsoft will be upset - as stated they already bought XP licences for all of these laptops, and the main reason was that they wanted an OS that they could customise.

      Undoubtedly they will (like Munich council) have to install Citrix Servers when they want to get real work done like using a version of Office that actually works....

      1. eulampios

        @Anonymous Coward

        Of course, they won't be upset, otherwise they wouldn't be known for squandering huge amounts of money on ads and PR campaigns like "get the facts", "don't get scroogled", "Android and Linux infringe our 1005000 patents" etc. Since it is said that a good, well paid offense is always the best defense.

        As with office, you might be talking about that almighty ribbon thing? They will definitely have craves for it as well as for those good ol' viruses and AV, so very dear to everyone's heart.

      2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Fuming

        I am amazed that somehow you think an astronauts "real work" consists of making power point slide shows or arsing around with word processing style sheets.

        1. Chemist

          Re: Fuming

          "somehow you think an astronauts "real work......."

          I'm amazed that a Vogon doesn't know about working in space, mind they are a right bunch of bureaucrats.

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Fuming citrix

        According to some sources it seem that they have these (Citrix servers) because MS claims that linux violates some patents - not because they cant do what they want to in Linux, but its cheaper to bow to legal blackmail than try and fight MS in court over whether MS invented a whole bunch of ideas ten years after they appeared in unix. Smacks more of an MS fail - raising money through legal and not technical means, though shareholders may not give a shit about that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fuming citrix

          Link to these sources? Or it didn't happen.....

      4. Marshalltown
        Trollface

        Re: Fuming

        What version would that be?

        1. Ru

          Re: Fuming

          get real work done like using a version of Office that actually works

          I'm interested to know what 'real work' you're expecting ISS crew to be doing using Office?

  17. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
    Alien

    140 Laptops?

    Reminds me of the scene in District 9 where the aliens had cobbled together a bunch of junked PCs in their command module.

  18. tuxtester
    Meh

    The real story ...

    After Microsoft successfully test-fires a new orbital projectile weapon that hits the ISS, causing a critical coolant leak on the space station, a spokeswoman for MS says this was: ' ... an accident which coincidentally coincides with ISS ditching Windows for that other un-American, commy operating system.'

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: The real story ...

      Michele Bachmann will declare it to be GOD'S PUNISHMENT for SANIC BIRD LOVE!

      1. TheVogon Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: The real story ...

        SANIC BIRD LOVE?

        Is that having a shag in a Portaloo?

  19. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Linux

    Congratulations to Debian.org

    That's the sort of PR that money cannot buy.

    As for Microsoft, tough shit, you're yesterday.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lots of Debian 'out there'

    Noone on Earth could have coded Debian so quickly , it must've come from space

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lots of Debian 'out there'

      Or Hell....

  21. JaitcH
    FAIL

    "we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable" AKA Up yours, MS

    It seems that MS is not having a very good year.

    Huge swathes of users hanging on to XP; Win 8 in the garbage; fancy coloured notebook-type thingies not selling and the MS cellular OS in the doldrums.

    For the ISS to switch to Debian has to be the last insult it can take for a while.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They have created a reason for a Linux virus

    Its there, so someone will hack it. And succeed.

    1. Silverburn
      Linux

      Re: They have created a reason for a Linux virus

      Does it involve guess the password in 3 attempts while some sinister action music plays in the background?

  23. Miek
    Linux

    One small step for Mankind, one giant leap for Penguins ...

  24. Parax
    Joke

    "While software isn't the main cause of failure for the station's laptops"

    I bet they dropped a fair few too...

  25. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    "Tablets are also in used on the ISS, but they are not as useful as here on Earth since, according to NASA, the accelerometers don't work in zero G."

    Surely the accelerometers do work in "zero G". They do exactly what they were designed to do.

    1. Old Handle

      Heh, imagine trying to use a tablet application that's designed to keep the image upright no matter how you cold it while in zero-g.

    2. The Real Tony Smith
      Thumb Up

      "Tablets are also in used on the ISS, but they are not as useful as here on Earth since, according to NASA, the accelerometers don't work in zero G."

      Surely the accelerometers do work in "zero G". They do exactly what they were designed to do.

      You Sir....

      Are an engineer!

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