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International Space Station switches from Windows to Linux

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#1 f0rk_b0mb

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 17:08

The United Space Alliance, which manages the computers aboard the International Space Station in association with NASA, has announced that the Windows XP computers aboard the ISS have been switched to Linux. “We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable.”

In specific, the “dozens of laptops” will make the change to Debian 6. These laptops will join many other systems aboard the ISS that already run various flavors of Linux, such as RedHat and Scientific Linux. As far as we know, after this transition, there won’t be a single computer aboard the ISS that runs Windows. Beyond stability and reliability, Keith Chuvala of the United Space Alliance says they wanted an operating system that “would give us in-house control. So if we needed to patch, adjust or adapt, we could.” It’s worth noting that the ISS laptops used to run Windows XP, and we know they’ve been infected by at least one virus in their lifetime: in 2008, a Russian cosmonaut brought a laptop aboard with the W32.Gammima.AG worm, which quickly spread to the other laptops on board. Switching to Linux will essentially immunize the ISS against future infections.
The laptops that were upgraded belong to the station’s OpsLAN. The crew use the OpsLAN to perform day-to-day activities, such as viewing stock inventory, controlling scientific experiments, or checking their current location. Presumably the laptops used to run bespoke Win32 apps on Windows XP, and now those apps have been re-written to work on Linux — hopefully they’re not being emulated in WINE. To get the astronauts and cosmonauts up to speed, they will be trained by the Linux Foundation.

To be honest, we shouldn’t be too surprised at the ditching of Windows. Linux is the scientific community’s operating system of choice. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is controlled by Linux. NASA and SpaceX ground stations use Linux. DNA-sequencing lab technicians use Linux. Really, for applications that require absolute stability, which most scientific experiments are, Linux is the obvious choice. The fact that the entire OS is open source and can be easily customized for each experiment is obviously a very big draw, too.

In other news, the first humanoid robot in space, Robonaut 2, which also runs Linux, is due for an upgrade soon. Robonaut 2 (pictured above) was delivered on Space Shuttle Discovery’s final mission in 2011, and at the moment it’s just a torso with two arms — but later in 2013, some climbing legs and a battery pack should be delivered. The ultimate goal is to see whether humans and robots can operate peacefully in zero gravity, with Robonaut eventually performing menial tasks (vacuuming, changing filters), and possibly dangerous tasks during space walks, too.
http://www.extremete...ved-reliability


I don't know about you guys, but Linux is getting better every year. I'm currently considering jumping ship from Windows...

Edit: Beaten to it by 6 min. http://www.neowin.ne...ws-xp-for-linux


#2 +Mindovermaster

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 17:15

All companies are going from Windows to Linux, as well as Linux to Windows. That's 1 company out of a million.

I moved from Windows 7 to Ubuntu 12.10 since last November. I never looked back. And now, I'm testing Debian Wheezy on my virtual box. Possibly moving to that.

#3 OP f0rk_b0mb

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 17:17

All companies are going from Windows to Linux, as well as Linux to Windows. That's 1 company out of a million.

I moved from Windows 7 to Ubuntu 12.10 since last November. I never looked back. And now, I'm testing Debian Wheezy on my virtual box. Possibly moving to that.


I'm looking to move to Debian Wheezy myself. I'm playing around with it now making sure it will suit my needs. :)

#4 Dashel

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 17:22

Good for them.

#5 Roger H.

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 17:34

Wait so they are complaining that Windows XP sucks and that's why they moved to (i'm guessing a newer) Linux? :rofl:

Even Windows fanboys will say how much Windows XP sucks (today). LOL. Why didn't they move to Windows NT 3.51 while they are at it, much more stable for doing nothing!

Obviously if your needs change then your platform needs to change. Windows XP is like 12yrs old now and probably can't do what they need it to do (Not to mention RAM requirements). I'm guessing Linux was the cheaper choice not that Windows 7 wasn't "good enough" or something like that.

I love Linux in certain situations myself, my router and (file) server at home run Linux and stable as hell! LOVE IT. Then again it's not doing much though other than just doing it's tasks it's setup to do. IMO where Linux falls flat (for ME) is when your needs are changing often or you require something that doesn't work on Linux (just the sameway my friend works in govt offices in DC and she's required to use XP, the (custom) software they use doesn't run on Windows 7).

#6 +Karl L.

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 17:37

I'm actually a little surprised that they didn't do this sooner. Like the article mentioned, most scientific research systems run Linux. In particular, RHEL and Debian are very widely used because of their extreme stability and support. Scientific Linux is a CentOS-based distribution that is focused on providing a common base for scientific research, and there is a very active team within Debian devoted to packaging and maintaining scientific software in the mainline distribution.

I would also comment on the fact that they are deploying Debian 6 instead of the newly minted Debian 7, but considering that the ISS is a government operation I'm guessing that it will take some time to certify the new release. At least the oldstable release will still be officially supported for a few more years.

#7 BajiRav

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 17:38

Switching to Linux will essentially immunize the ISS against future infections.

Good for them but I hope this is not their "IT guy" saying that.

#8 Growled

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 18:06

I'm glad to see that they finally wised up.

#9 Max Norris

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 18:10

Good for them but I hope this is not their "IT guy" saying that.

Ditto that.. Linux has a lot of strengths but "malware immunity" doesn't exist.. it has an advantage as the overwhelming majority of Linux malware targets server applications instead of the desktop so much less likely to download random crapware due to carelessness, but that's about it. Not badmouthing, just a realist.

That said, I'm not surprised, probably dealing with older hardware, they have absolute control over everything, lots of support from the scientific community.. probably the better tool for the job.



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