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ISS switches to Linux and the Terminator's 'SkyNet' is imminent

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  • Thad Floryan
    http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/155392-international-space-station-switches-from-windows-to-linux-for-improved-reliability International Space Station
    Message 1 of 1 , May 9, 2013

      International Space Station switches from Windows to Linux, for
      improved reliability
      By Sebastian Anthony May 9, 2013 at 9:21 am

      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.
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