International Space Station dumps Windows XP for Linux

Until this year, the astronauts who worked on board the International Space Station used Windows XP laptops. Now there's word that Windows XP has been discontinued on the ISS in favor of a version of Linux.

ExtremeTech.com reports that NASA and the United Space Alliance made the decision to switch from Windows XP to the Linux-based Debian 6 OS so that they could make updates and patches to the laptops on their schedule. Keith Chuvala of the of the United Space Alliance stated, "So if we needed to patch, adjust or adapt, we could." The Linux Foundation is offering to train the astronauts on the ISS on how to use the new Debian 6 OS on their laptops.

Of course, ditching Windows XP was inevitable as Microsoft already plans to cut off its official support for the 11-year-old OS less than a year from now. The dozens of laptops that will make the move from Windows XP to Linux will be ThinkPad models made by Lenovo. The PC maker says that the ThinKPad is the only laptop that has been certified by NASA to work on board the ISS.

Source: ExtremeTech.com | Image via NASA

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^^^^ ---- i'm just gonna just leave this here

Hehe, Thinkpads baby!

I have a ThinkPad 760ED that still works to this day. Even had an older one but sold it to a collector. 760ED came out in 1995 and built like a tank. It's about 2.5" thick so it feels like a tank but still

/me goes back to my nerd hole

The first pieces went up in 1998, and it's been occupied for about 13 years. I'd wager the hardware is probably at least half that age, perhaps all of it. Sending physical equipment (even computing equipment) to space isn't cheap or easy, so I'd guess replacing the aging hardware wasn't an option, but replacing the OS was. The complaints made about stability and patching definitely have their place on XP, perhaps, but not the newer variants of the OS (especially the embedded versions). It makes sense, as using a *nix or Linux on that older hardware will probably be a lot easier to manage than sending up new hardware and re-testing it with the entirety of the systems they need to interact with on the ISS.

Good, now they shall deal with cumbersome terminal windows and bs lines of codes buried deep in the system. Switching to embedded Windows would have been a far better choice.

Have you used Linux since 1997? Doesn't sound like it really, and sure Windows is great for grandmothers who want to play Bejeweled but these are astronauts and scientists. I don't think using terminal windows would be a difficult task for them.

TRC said,
Have you used Linux since 1997? Doesn't sound like it really, and sure Windows is great for grandmothers who want to play Bejeweled but these are astronauts and scientists. I don't think using terminal windows would be a difficult task for them.

If you really think terminal dependence ended 16 years ago for Linux, then you're the one who hasn't been using it.

Unless you were exaggerating to prove a point. If that's the case, here's a tip: exaggerating WILL NEVER prove a point for you. EVER. All it does is open you up to smartasses who'll use your exaggeration to call you wrong.

where will linux end up next? Linux in space! sounds like a movie right? Maybe just one day it might be installed on one of my Pc's as a main OS... Second thoughts naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa lmao no chance i would rather use a mac or vista running on old hardware.

Get me more gaming titles on Linux and I will follow suit. I can only dream!

"After Windows 7 gets long in the tooth in a few years, please dear god let there be good software support on Linux, Amen!"

i cant wait to check on this topic in a few days and count the number of windows fanboys and all the Excuses they come up with. this is not the site you would come to and read about positive linux topics this has to hurt some members really bad. lol

Probably about as many as the *Nix fanboys who have the need to justify their decision to the world. So what? You're on Neowin, fanboy/troll central... probably the last place you'd come to read about *anything* positive.

You're on Neowin, Microsoft's fanboy/troll central... probably the last place you'd come to read about *anything* positive for Linux.

FTFY

0--JLowzrif said,
You're on Neowin, Microsoft's fanboy/troll central... probably the last place you'd come to read about *anything* positive for Linux.

FTFY

Actually, considering this is mainly Microsoft, there is an alarming amount of Microsoft haters in the comment section. Sad people that have nothing better to do with their sad lives. I may be a fan of some sort, but I don't go around to competing companies fan's websites to troll just because I have nothing better to do. The Linux/Android crowd has become worse than the Apple fans in that regard.

Windows XP is dying soon, and using Linux will probably require less hardware investment than using Windows 7 or Windows 8. A move I can imagine becoming more popular as XP nears closer to it's EOL date

Ubuntu with its Unity interface is just as a hardware monster as Windows 7/8.
To say Windows Xp is dying, it is a little over-reacted. Sure, it is out of support, but does Xp just drop dead the moment Microsoft stops supporting it? not at all.

It is not without challenges though. I'd imagine there is still a little bit of learning curves with the switch to a different OS.

Javik said,
Windows XP is dying soon, and using Linux will probably require less hardware investment than using Windows 7 or Windows 8. A move I can imagine becoming more popular as XP nears closer to it's EOL date

Only popular amongst organizations that can afford (and need) to develop for of their software in house, such as NASA. Those organizations are vey limited.

CaptainBeno said,

ignorant reply just saying

please... show me where in the desktop computing market does Linux have a majority share? because that is what this is, the desktop market, not tablet, not smart phone, , not embedded devices... desktop

Tpiom said,
And on supercomputers... and on a lot of devices... And-- Have you been paying attention lately?

um desktops/laptop class? did you read what I wrote?

Silly, it is your post:

"Finally Linux can claim they have a majority market share somewhere now... space"

What happens on the internet stays on the internet. Forever. :-P

shawncm217 said,
Does anyone else find Debian 6 to be an odd choice? I would have expected Ubuntu.

I think they wanted a bit more control over the OS updates. Debian is pretty bare when it comes to updates from 3rd party forks, such as Ubuntu where Canonical has more control over what goes into the OS and most importantly what is updated on the repositories.
Well tested and known to work gear is probably more important for them then the latest version of Firefox, since they probably don't get a very good wifi signal for the internet in the space station

they're running linux because the laptops are old, like REALLY old, and XP is being retired and the hardware is to old for 7 and 8.

Ubuntu is at least as heavy on resources as 7, these are old thinkpads who's probably been up there since launch or close after, laptops are heavy, and heavy means expensive to get into space. so they put a slimmed down debian on them.

Debian is not an odd choice, considering it is very stable.
For some people wishing a bit faster release cycle with potential bugs, they go with Ubuntu..
And for some really daring individuals wishing even faster release cycle with "bugs vs man" battle, they go with Arch Linux..

Personally, where is the love for OpenBSD?

MrAnalysis said,
2013 will be the year of linux!

Realistically the reason they are probably going with linux is that the HW is so old that it can't run Windows 7 or 8. XP is being retired from support next year and they had to choose something that could run on the existing HW due to the old legacy systems that might require serial/parallel or some other specialized interface.

How many laptops/desktops do you see fresh off of the line with support for these legacy ports? My thought exactly.

Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.

Drewidian said,
Realistically the reason they are probably going with linux is that the HW is so old that it can't run Windows 7 or 8.

Or maybe, regardless of the hardware available, Linux was simply more suited to their requirements?

I find it less surprising that they switched to Linux than that they've used Windows up until now.

Lone Wanderer Chicken said,
It might be with steam being available!

From Steams own stats, Linux Steam usage has actually gone down. It peaked when Steam was released, then everyone see how **** and limited it was and went back to gaming on Windows.

CSharp. said,

Or maybe, regardless of the hardware available, Linux was simply more suited to their requirements?

I find it less surprising that they switched to Linux than that they've used Windows up until now.

I worked at Goddard Space Flight Center in one of their computing facilities. The reason I stated is the more likely. NASA doesn't just change operating systems on a whim. They usually write custom apps for certain systems. If the OS is changing its probably because the HW can't support the upgrade and/or the original team who wrote the app isn't available for a rewrite. The new team who is writing the code felt that they could either do it better on a newer version of linux or it is what they specialize in, not that Windows 7/8 was not capable of the function. Hell. if its original equipment that went up with the station it might have had NT, 98, or 2000 on it and was upgraded to XP, but more than likely its that the system can't be upgraded any further and that the HW would be supported by linux and thus a suitable candidate for replacing XP. Don't get me wrong. I like Linux and use it all of the time, and was a SunOS, HPUX and IRIX admin, but I think you are stretching your wish for linux to be seen as being a superior choice over Windows over mission conditions.

Edited by Drewidian, May 9 2013, 8:58pm :

The original reason is who wants crap tiles like Metro interface on mission critical computer OS. Secondly, with faster release cycle which MS is currently purporting might create some big issues in near future. Most importantly with MS direction in future to kill desktop and subscription based services will be a big issue to space program. Just imagine if MS next decade OS becomes subscription only, the spaceship is heading toward meteoride and by the time astronaut is ready to chance ship course.. BAM message flashes on screen.. your subscription has currently expired. Please dial to call centre in india to renew your subscription. Computer wallpaper goes blank and computer goes in to limited functionality mode with only option is to Call India to renew subscription or press OK to shutdown computer.. LOL

Lone Wanderer Chicken said,
It might be with steam being available!

I don't get why people expected steam to help Linux, when it did absolutely nothing for the Mac. Linux, even with all the different distros added up, still makes only less than 2% of Steam users, even 8 is blowing it away in Steam numbers.

I think people have this assumption that Steam has amazing marketing and market push to create a trend out of whatever they want, which just isn't true.

Auditor said,
The original reason is who wants crap tiles like Metro interface on mission critical computer OS. Secondly, with faster release cycle which MS is currently purporting might create some big issues in near future. Most importantly with MS direction in future to kill desktop and subscription based services will be a big issue to space program. Just imagine if MS next decade OS becomes subscription only, the spaceship is heading toward meteoride and by the time astronaut is ready to chance ship course.. BAM message flashes on screen.. your subscription has currently expired. Please dial to call centre in india to renew your subscription. Computer wallpaper goes blank and computer goes in to limited functionality mode with only option is to Call India to renew subscription or press OK to shutdown computer.. LOL

Your out of touch...

"We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable."

Stable... and reliable... Apparently Windows doesn't live up to that.

well... they are using XP, so its possible. You would think NASA bought these computers back when you couldn't find many Software Engineers, now they must have a lot of them. They could probably fork Linux into their own version.

Tpiom said,

Stable... and reliable... Apparently Windows doesn't live up to that.

Stable, reliable, and supported. XP support is ending, and these very old machines no doubt don't meet the minimum requirements for Vista/7/8.

So why not buy new laptops to replace them? Flying supplies up to the ISS is incredibly expensive, and the old laptops would need to be disposed of... also expensive. And NASA is relying on Russia to deliver people and supplies now.