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Using Outlook From Orbit

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the how-rms-uses-outlook dept.

Communications 268

Pigskin-Referee writes with this excerpt from Office Watch: "On the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station they use Microsoft Outlook 2003, but not quite in the same way that us earthbound Earthlings do. The space shuttle Atlantis is orbiting the earth right now and the crew exchange emails with the ground a few times each day. Bandwidth is a constraint and you don't want the busy crewmembers bothered with spam or unnecessary messages so NASA has a special system in place. The crew use fairly standard laptops running Microsoft Outlook (currently Outlook 2003) with Exchange Server as the email host, but they don't link to the server using any of the standard methods."

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268 comments

I have avatar depression... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755246)

how can I fix it?

Re:I have avatar depression... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755378)

Feeling blue?; just wake up!

Re:I have avatar depression... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755728)

You must mean: go to sleep.

Yeah (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755260)

First exchange! oh wait...

mail (-1, Troll)

belmolis (702863) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755268)

I bet it would down on their power usage if, instead of that fancy GUI, they just used mailx from the command line like I do.

Re:mail (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755364)

No one cares. Honestly.

Re:mail (2, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755396)

Oh Man Oh Man Oh Man, You're still using the command line? You gotta, I say you just gotta teach me that Arcane forgotten art!

Who needs a GUI when you've got the command line!

Re:mail (0, Offtopic)

multisync (218450) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755510)

Who needs a GUI when you've got the command line!

+1 Insightful

Re:mail (4, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756082)

It would be insightful if it were talking about something else.

Using the command line to read email is hardly a 'good' way to go about it.

It works and is usable for some, but even most shell users use 'a gui' like Pine or the like.

Its cute that you think you're bad ass cause you and the parent suggested the command line, but it just shows you're trying too hard to be something you aren't.

There are times to use the command line, and times when it is more efficient. Reading your daily email isn't one of those times, regardless of how cool you think it makes you to do so.

You aren't old school, you're just dumb and inefficient.

Re:mail (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756166)

whoa, pine has a ui not a gui (graphical user interface).

the way most geeks talk, the things that the curses library can do come under the phrase "command line", like the text w3m or lynx interface

Re:mail (2, Funny)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755970)

You and your command lines, I receive my email as boxes of punched cards!

Re:mail (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755988)

You may jest, but you can do a lot more, more easily, from a command line than a GUI on any platform. Even Windows. Try to

ren antique???.jpg desk???.jpg

in File Manager (or whatever they call it these days). If you have 500 pictures of antique desks named antique001, antique001, etc it would take forever to rename them desk001, desk002, etc in a GUI.

Re:mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30756036)

Ah, renaming your porn archives. The reason I learned Ruby.

Re:mail (1)

suso (153703) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756142)

Porn of antique desks? Whatever floats your boat I guess.

Re:mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30756148)

You mean CTRL+A, right-click, rename, (type filename), enter takes forever?

Re:mail (2, Informative)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756232)

You may jest, but you can do a lot more, more easily, from a command line than a GUI on any platform. Even Windows. Try to

ren antique???.jpg desk???.jpg

in File Manager

In Windows: CTRL+A, F2, "desk", ENTER.

Admittedly that gives you names like "desk (01).jpg" and not "desk01.jpg" but it's close enough. If you want a significantly higher level of control, try something like Flexible Renamer [vector.co.jp] (somewhat prone to crashing, but the most versatile and powerful I've found).

Re:mail (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756236)

ren antique???.jpg desk???.jpg

mmv "antique*.jpg" "desk#1.jpg"

Owning an in dash car mp3 player since roughly the millenium, which only really understands 8.3 filenames, I've gotten pretty handy at renaming downloaded audiobook mp3 files ...

Re:mail (1)

suso (153703) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756116)

Oh Man Oh Man Oh Man, You're still using the command line? You gotta, I say you just gotta teach me that Arcane forgotten art!

Who needs a GUI when you've got the command line!

This is just like how someone was telling me it was 2009 and wondering why I was still using vim. And he was telling me this on an IRC channel. Pot, meet kettle.

Re:mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755478)

You waster!

I only transmit messages via telepathy!

Re:mail (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755752)

You waster!

I only transmit messages via telepathy!

You didn't really think about the security issues, did you? How do you know if some unauthorized third person listens tro your telepathy stream?
Don't tell me you're able to do real-time RSA encryption in your head!

Re:mail (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755856)

Don't tell me you're able to do real-time RSA encryption in your head!

DjEU3D*c.A893DK56GIXCmxk35DQd9Am5F(2FGvn.S1@d(Ak3DFmCx*(FkdAi3AKCqA83JMDwq

Re:mail (2, Insightful)

Bai jie (653604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755888)

Thats the beauty of telepathy! You only have to think about security to use it.

Re:mail (4, Funny)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755726)

They have to be very careful in a close environment such as the shuttle or the space station to keep the air healthy. Using mailx like you do would give off too much smug for their filters and cleaners to handle.

Re:mail (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756210)

parent post++

Re:mail (2, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756186)

Whys that? Because the terminal window on your monitor takes less energy to display? Nope, thats not true without using an LED display (not LED backlight, the entire thing has to be LED or it doesn't make a difference).

You think that just displaying a GUI consumes energy? Please provide a citation. Any GUI on a modern OS doesn't require any processing power for displaying something on the screen that is static. You update the screen to current and it sits there.

Outlook isn't constantly drawing the entire display for each frame of your monitors refresh, the video card is, and it works the exact same way regardless of using the command line or a gui app, especially since you probably would end up using a terminal client on a system running in GUI mode and not traditional text console mode anyway.

Then couple in the additional wasted time from the incredibly niave and out of touch with reality since you have the idea that YOUR mail client is some how more efficient than theres.

Its cute that you have tunnel vision and are a retarded fanboy rather than having any sort of logical thought on the issue.

Good job, you've once again reassured my previous experiences that contrary to popular belief, MIT produces nothing but ignorant douche bags who think they know a lot more than they actually do.

Bandwidth constraint? (1)

Seriousity (1441391) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755288)

Pah! In soviet spacestation we constrain bandwidth!

Re:Bandwidth constraint? (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755424)

When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that Mozilla thunbird would not work in zero gravity.
To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a drunken weekend and $12 billion on Microsoft Outlook and Exchange licensing to develop a mail server that works in zero gravity, upside down, covered in stale beer, and old pizza boxes, and at temperatures ranging from below 10 to 25 degrees Celsius.

The Russians used Mutt.

Re:Bandwidth constraint? (3, Informative)

skirtsteak_asshat (1622625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755456)

In space, no one can hear you throw a chair.

Re:Bandwidth constraint? (1)

gnutrino (1720394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755754)

Surely this is a latency rather than bandwidth issue

You have it wrong (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756250)

In Soviet space station, bandwith constrains YOU!

(was that the first "in soviet russia" joke that was actually factally correct?)

80's tech (5, Insightful)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755316)

They are using Outlook/Exchange like a BBS that sends in digest mode only.

Re:80's tech (2, Funny)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755422)

They are using Outlook/Exchange like a BBS that sends in digest mode only.

Actually the comparison is pretty much spot-on. When they're in transmission range, they download the day's messages as a QWK file...

Re:80's tech (1)

Neon_Mango (143057) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755932)

QWK :). Thank you for making that reference, ah, memories.

Re:80's tech (2, Insightful)

Jawn98685 (687784) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755452)

Can you say "FidoNet"?
BTW, what's ZMH for Earth Orbit?

Re:80's tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755984)

I'd be more interested in what the zone *number* is. FIDO itself uses 1 to 6, of course, so it'd be natural to use 7, but there were many other FIDO-style networks that used other zone numbers, and needless to say, most of the lower ones in particular were taken (just like many of the "cooler" higher numbers; the highest I remember seeing personally was 2000, which was taken/claimed by a network called "NightNet" or so, IIRC).

Re:80's tech (3, Insightful)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756052)

We also would have accepted 'UUCP'.

Re:80's tech (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755464)

Just seems like it could be done a lot easier shuttling around gzipped mbox files.

Re:80's tech (2, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755554)

Yeah, but it works. Don't see an issue here.

Re:80's tech (1, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755824)

The question then is why use Outlook for such an awkward, for that tool, setup?

Familiarization with it and therefore minimizing training needs? Hm, I guess Orion might use webmail (or generally web 2.0) UI...

Re:80's tech (5, Funny)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755924)

The question then is why use Outlook for such an awkward, for that tool, setup?

It came pre-installed on the shuttle computers?

Re:80's tech (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756198)

Why pay for an exchange license if practically all you need is mailman?

Re:80's tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755936)

NASA spent my tax dollars to buy Microsoft products to run on the Space Shuttle and ISS?! Fuck, shoot those fuckers down, anyone relying on Microsoft products in space deserves to go down in flames! Fuck, don't shoot them down, they'll crash on their own, just prevent them from rebooting every 3 days.

Re:80's tech (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30756078)

They are using Outlook/Exchange like a BBS that sends in digest mode only.

In that case, UUCP would be more appropriate since it is designed for burst-mode delivery of messages usually queued into a digest.

If you scream... (2, Funny)

terminalhype (971547) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755402)

In space, no one can hear you scream at Microsoft Outlook...

Re:If you scream... (5, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755564)

Ground control to Major Tom,
your laptop's dead, there's something wrong!
Can you read me, Major Tom?
Can you read me, Major Tom?
Can you ...
Here, I'm sitting at my laptop
far above the world.
My laptop's screen turned blue,
and there's nothing I can do ...

Re:If you scream... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756218)

Best... post... ever... Wish I had mod points.

Wouldn't standard solutions be cheaper and easier? (4, Insightful)

Rix (54095) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755408)

Why not just run a normal mailserver with a simple script to deliver any messages in the files uploaded? No need for the astronauts to mess with weird outlook files, just hit "check mail" on whatever client they prefer.

Mail Server on both ends (5, Interesting)

jfried (122648) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755522)

mail server on the ground, mail server on the shuttle.

The mail queues up and you open up the connection between them certain times of day. Queue empties.
GZIP the link and your gold.

Re:Mail Server on both ends (4, Insightful)

topham (32406) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755636)

yeah, no shit.

seriously, their method is on crack. SMTP supports queue of mail, use the god-damn feature and us a compressed link for the exchange.

put quotes on the uplink as necessary to prevent flooding (size, or number of messages) if it's an issue, but otherwise, where;s the problem to solve? SMTP worked when people used 1200bps modems for internet links.

Re:Mail Server on both ends (5, Funny)

tangelogee (1486597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755836)

...I can understand the link, but why would I want to GZIP my gold?

Re:Mail Server on both ends (1)

jfried (122648) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755920)

Its obvious, I want my gold to take up less room :)

Re:Mail Server on both ends (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756182)

Or use it the same way I used it when I was on dial-up.

Re:Mail Server on both ends (1)

joey (315) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756214)

Solved problem from the 1970's. Answer: UUCP.

I suspect that NASA doesn't run servers on the ISS though. Their computer model seems to be ancient, proprietary, space-hardened embedded stuff for mission critical needs, and a pile of disposable laptops for crew needs. That's probably crippling their network infrastructure in many ways.

Re:Wouldn't standard solutions be cheaper and easi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755542)

Why not just run a normal mailserver with a simple script to deliver any messages in the files uploaded? No need for the astronauts to mess with weird outlook files, just hit "check mail" on whatever client they prefer.

This story hurts me in so many ways. Ow, stupidity... ow Microsoft... ow Twitter...

Wow (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755426)

For all those years i wanted to shoot outlook into outer space, and they already did...

What about something a bit more immediate, but... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755430)

...not quite realtime or important?

Yeah, I wonder what kind of IM they are using, if any (I know there were some sessions with Packet Radio and its "IM" functionality, though I'm not sure if that counts)

PS. Thinkpads aren't ordinary laptops! ;)

Re:What about something a bit more immediate, but. (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755794)

CB radio?

Not simply webmail? (2, Interesting)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755470)

Is it actually cheaper to upload all the e-mails in a burst instead of using a webmail system where only the mail the receiver wants to receive would be opened? Wouldn't work if they want to read offline I guess but the concern mentioned is bandwidth not connectivity.

Any mail experts comment?

Re:Not simply webmail? (1)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755732)

Is it actually cheaper to upload all the e-mails in a burst instead of using a webmail system where only the mail the receiver wants to receive would be opened? Wouldn't work if they want to read offline I guess but the concern mentioned is bandwidth not connectivity.

Any mail experts comment?

If you read the article you notice that mails sent there are pre-filtered so everything is critical to read and contains no spam.

So yes, uploading all mails neatly packaged together ONCE takes way less bandwidth than a webmail interface, even if it's a very lightweight one (think about it, Hotmail or Gmail probably transfers the same amount of data than 20 or more email messages just to display their fancy interface).

Re:Not simply webmail? (1, Flamebait)

jfried (122648) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755812)

But NASA doesn't not have to break SMTP to enable filtering. This is some insane system thought up by some no talent microsoft consultant.

There is no reason for the solution that is currently in place, the only explanation is that the person who came up with it did not understand email at all.

Re:Not simply webmail? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755912)

The web interface would waste more bandwidth than it saves.

Yikes! (4, Funny)

serutan (259622) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755482)

Just knowing Windows is running in space kind of gives me the willies.

Re:Yikes! (0, Redundant)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755512)

They couldn't use a competing product, of course, because chairs fly a lot farther in zero-G!

Re:Yikes! (1)

k3vlar (979024) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755688)

I just had this incredible vision of Steve Ballmer in zero-g whipping a chair hard enough that it falls into a stable orbit. One of those plastic, foldable brown ones... maybe with the word "Microsoft" embossed on the back.

Re:Yikes! (3, Funny)

mlush (620447) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755634)

Just knowing Windows is running in space kind of gives me the willies.

Would you open Windows on the ISS???

Funny thing is, they got infected once (2, Interesting)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755930)

In fact, you should be surprised that Windows is _STILL_ running after a Virus has hit the ISS orbiting the planet.

No kidding, Google it.

It is particularly sad that NASA IT guys aren't obviously that pathetic to license Outlook from MS. Something really going on there, a lot of open source software/operating systems has NASA contributed excellent code in them.

PS: I remember they also had Norton Utilities with "rescue diskettes" back in 1990s, it leaked while I was trying to find a way to manually uninstall norton...

Re:Yikes! (1)

lewp (95638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755980)

Really? I would think that's the safest place for it.

Re:Yikes! (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756282)

Just knowing Windows is running in space kind of gives me the willies.

No joke. This seriously hampers any efforts to nuke it from orbit.

Architecture? (3, Interesting)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755488)

It's too bad the article didn't address the architecture behind all this. I would be curious to hear what kind of network they use, and what sort of relays (satellite?). If it is satellites, why is the bandwidth so low? (Hmmm... maybe they really should have made that ethernet cable just a little longer after all...)

Greetings Earthling! (4, Funny)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755538)

I am a Martian prince from the Splugorthian region of the Xylerom. I have inherited a bountiful estate worth 1.8345E8 drow'xlian that I must hide from the ruthless Prxyzzilic crime family. I am willing to share 20% of my fortune with you will allow me to deposit fund in your account. Please send me your account information if you wish to do business. Live long and prosper! Prince Ryzzriwz

Re:Greetings Earthling! (5, Funny)

Whalou (721698) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755784)

I am a Martian prince from the Splugorthian region of the Xylerom. I have inherited a bountiful estate worth 1.8345E8 drow'xlian that I must hide from the ruthless Prxyzzilic crime family. I am willing to share 20% of my fortune with you will allow me to deposit fund in your account. Please send me your account information if you wish to do business. Live long and prosper! Prince Ryzzriwz

It's a trick! He's Vulcan.

Direct TV Satellite Internet...... (0, Troll)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755566)

I can get this is the middle of futt buck Kansas but they can't get it on the freaking ISS? Maybe someone shoudl call DirecTV and ask them to send some installers up and mount a few dishes on the damn thing.... Even if you you had to put a tracking dish on the thing it is doable and would provide a nicer link to the ISS plus DirecTV could use it for all sorts of Free bragging rights for their commercials,.

Re:Direct TV Satellite Internet...... (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755846)

Direct TV's satellites are geosynchronous the space station is not- so I would think it is feasible in part of the orbit where there is line of sight- Otherwise, just upgrade the worldwide systems that already talk to the station for a thicker connection.

Re:Direct TV Satellite Internet...... (1)

f8l_0e (775982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755960)

Except the shuttle isn't in a geosynchronous orbit, like the DirecTV satellite. Try redirecting your dish to something that's moving at over 17,000 mph.

Re:Direct TV Satellite Internet...... (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756200)

Honestly, it sounds like a pretty fun grad level dynamics problem. The orbital mechanics to track an object in orbit from the ground are calculated all the time, tracking an object in geostationary orbit from an orbiting object, i'm not sure if that has been done before- probably but not sure. Just because it is moving "fast" doesn't mean is isn't doable.

Re:Direct TV Satellite Internet...... (1)

ubercam (1025540) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756100)

A couple problems...

1) Due to the fact that the ISS orbits Earth very quickly, with an orbital period of 91 minutes, you'd barely get your receiver up and running and locked onto the signal before it disappeared again. DirecTV doesn't work on the opposite side of the planet to the USA, and the planet definitely makes a better door than a window in this case.
2) TV birds are generally spot beamed. Yes the ISS orbits much closer to Earth than satellites in geostationary orbit, but regardless, if you're outside of the spot beam, you might not get much of a signal. Also, as in my first point, the planet tends to get in the way.
3) The astronauts presumably have much more important things to do, like trying not to screw up and kill everyone on board, science experiments, station maintenance/building, etc, than to goof around with some stupid satellite TV service.

UUCP? (3, Interesting)

shutton (4725) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755590)

UUCP worked quite nicely in the days when links were ephemeral, slow, or generally unreliable. This seems like a lot of effort to solve a problem that existed 30 years ago, solved, and even adapted for RFC821 and its successors. There's a reason that Sendmail knows how to rewrite addresses!

The lengths they go to... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755618)

...to use Microsoft software.

Because there’s limited bandwidth up to the shuttle it’s important to keep the OST fairly small so occasionally you’ll hear NASA controllers ask the crew to clean out their Outlook files

They ask them, over a realtime voice connection, to clean out their Outlook files to save bandwidth. That's like sending "You've got mail" as a WAV file after transmitting a 1kB mail file.

Re:The lengths they go to... (2, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755708)

Except that the realtime voice connection is an old-fashioned radio. The bandwith needed for a staticky radio connection is effectively low.

Re:The lengths they go to... (4, Insightful)

joey (315) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756244)

The ISS crew time needed to deal with mundane crap caused by their poorly designed computer infrastructure is, however, absurdly expensive.

Re:The lengths they go to... (1)

Nuskrad (740518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755778)

But I assume they use analogue radio transmissions for that, not data

Sounds like a bad idea to me (4, Interesting)

Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755690)

So, once a day they bundle a bunch of emails into a single .OST file and upload it to the shuttle. The astronauts then open that .OST file in their local copy of Outlook. And they have to shut down Outlook while the upload is in progress because of Outlook file locking.

In addition, communication with the ground isn't always possible (you'll hear warnings of LOS - Loss of Signal during mission communications) so standard methods of email transfer like POP/SMTP, IMAP etc might not be reliable.

If a 'Loss of Signal' can interrupt a POP session, wouldn't it also interrupt a file upload? Couldn't they just POP into the server on Earth once a day to grab their emails to be stored in a simple mbox or some such? Wouldn't this also eliminate the file locking issue as mboxes and Maildirs are pretty old and stable solutions that don't have this problem? This just sounds like someone wanted to use Microsoft Outlook no matter what and hacked together a procedure to use it even though there are way better approaches. And isn't the whole point of Outlook that it has a built in calendar and meeting request system and network folders? They're not even using those more advanced parts of it, they just need email.

Re:Sounds like a bad idea to me (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30756012)

Hey they are rocket scientist, not IT techs.

What do you pretend next, that they know how to build a rocket?

Oh, wait ....

Meeting Request (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30756024)

From: Oleg Kotov
To: CC Ops Ground Control
Subject: Check out what the toothpaste does in zero-G!

Location: COLBERT Room
Start Time: 2009-01-13 1745
End Time: 2009-01-13 1800

[Accept] [Decline] [Decline with comment] [Delegate]

Re:Sounds like a bad idea to me (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756130)

I gather that the idea is that the OST stores the messages more efficiently than if you were trying to transfer individual messages. That's an important issue if you're operating with limited bandwidth. Also, the article implies that the messages are basically being hand-sorted into the OST file to prevent any waste in bandwidth.

Beyond that, there's the issue of what protocols are best for this purpose. The article doesn't go into detail about how the OST files are being uploaded, but the protocol may have influenced the decision. For example, how does IMAP compare with FTP or HTTP in terms of efficiency? Does IMAP allow you to resume interrupted transfers? Does IMAP allow you to compress the data before sending it?

This just sounds like someone wanted to use Microsoft Outlook no matter what and hacked together a procedure to use it even though there are way better approaches. And isn't the whole point of Outlook that it has a built in calendar and meeting request system and network folders? They're not even using those more advanced parts of it, they just need email.

Are you sure they're not using the calendar or contact management? That stuff is stored in the OST file too. It doesn't sound to me like they were just fixated on Outlook, since they could have set up Outlook to download the messages through POP or IMAP if they had wanted to.

Re:Sounds like a bad idea to me (1)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756266)

If they have minimal bandwidth, then pop probably isn't ideal because of the back and forth communication. Also, I would suspect that to minimize transfer time, their file transfer mechanism uses compression (email is HIGHLY compressible). As far as I know, there's no way to do pop compression (though if the compression were implemented at the connection/tunneling level, then I suppose that would be transparent)

As for your other question, there are resumable file upload/download methods.

Time Zone? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755722)

Do they have something to automatically change that every 30 seconds?

Old technology is new again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755724)

Isn't this how e-mail worked only 20 years ago? I remember only getting mail two times a day at my university for a year or two because that was the only time the mail server dialed upstream and exchanged mail. Congratulations to NASA for reinventing old technology. Next up, if only there were some kind of small device that would let you add two numbers together and give you the answer.....

Limited bandwidth or bloated files? (1)

RDW (41497) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755762)

'The crew use fairly standard laptops running Microsoft Outlook (currently Outlook 2003) with Exchange Server as the email host...Because there's limited bandwidth up to the shuttle it's important to keep the OST fairly small so occasionally you'll hear NASA controllers ask the crew to clean out their Outlook files'

I say we take off and re-install the entire OS from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Nuke Outlook From Orbit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755780)

It's the only way to be sure.

Should be investigated (2, Insightful)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755800)

As there is a new President in the Office and he doesn't really like (it seems) fantasy and unrealistic plans, he should also order his IT guys to start an investigation why standard, documented protocols like IMAP, XMPP aren't used. A visit from a Internet2 academic could be enough...

In fact, it is an International issue. ISS doesn't "belong" to USA, there are several billions of dollars of other countries out there.

While on it, they should also ask NASA about why on Earth "NASA TV is best viewed fullscreen with Windows Media Player", why there isn't a standard MP4 based live broadcast, why it defaults to Windows Media regardless of your setup...

Something really happening over there, trust me on that... These are the guys who had a genius idea of using Kermit as a protocol for communication before these "Outlook", "Windows Media Player" guys took over the job.

If there are people thinking "Oh but MS is an American company", let me remind, Red Hat, Sun Micro, IBM and lots of standards bodies are American too... That is in case the multi hundred billion dollar project should be a billboard for pathetic software setups.

Re:Should be investigated (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756154)

You don't need anything fancy. I was using UUCP to do bulk and batched transfers of email, Usenet feeds and even files back in the early 1990s. It's become obsolete in a lot of cases, because everyone went from low-bandwidth limited connection modems to always-on broadband connections, but back in the day, I got all my email, newsfeed and even the odd file a few times a day via a scheduled UUCP transfers (which also sent any emails and posts I might have). Ah, the good ol' days of bang paths! Still, UUCP has its purposes, and it strikes me that it is a well-established protocol designed just for this sort of environment.

It just goes to show you how much damage has been done to tech by Microsoft, and this pervasive psychological need to use its shitty software, its shitty file formats and its shitty protocols, even with an organization populated by people who should be intimately familiar with Unix and its own much more rigorous and time-tested protocols. I mean, this is nothing more than FTPing mbox files back and forth, which, twenty years ago, would have had anybody with a moderate knowledge of mail systems and communications protocols rolling on the floor laughing.

wec (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30755820)

cewcec

verbs and wishful thinking (2, Funny)

StandardDeviant (122674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755882)

If only that headline used "Nuking" instead of "Using" Outlook from Orbit.

My company recently switched from a really screwball lotus notes install to msexchange and thereby screwed every unix and mac user -- which is to say, 95% of the technical staff. Some of that I can't blame MSFT for, we do have some real chimpanzees on our email team, but the experience does have me shaking my fist in Redmond's direction even more than usual of late.

Hi! I'm Clippy, your ShuttleBuddy Navigation pal (3, Funny)

phonewebcam (446772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755896)

I noticed you pushed a button on your console. Are you trying to steer your spacecraft? Please wait whilst Clippy ShuttleBuddy extensions for .NET 3.0 SP6 is installed, then after a reboot we'll get right on with that.

then how? (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755898)

"...but they don't link to the server using any of the standard methods."

I bet they link to the server using WIFI...

Scary technology... (1)

The Redster! (874352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30755922)

Windows exists above the cloud!

Dr Who ... (1)

electricprof (1410233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756004)

Doesn't the use of Microsoft products in space violate article 3 section 47 paragraph 3 of the Shadow Proclamation?

Congratulations NASA, you've caught up with 1978! (4, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756006)

I was doing this 20 years ago with UUCP and/or sendmail.

HELO mx1.ground.nasa.gov
EXTN
QUIT

Push queued mail on demand to the orbiting mail server. Cron up the EXTN trigger or setup sendmail (which its happy to do) to handle the queuing whever you want.

Guess what, it works with exchange too!

I guess NASA spends its money on aeronautical engineers and not computer system admins. I'd be willing to bet that I could do it cheaper and more reliably even with exchange than there method, in their constraints of bandwidth and available connection time.

Seriously, I ran a FIDOnet hub, its not hard. :)

In Other Words... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30756058)

In other words, it's a really shitty reimplementation of UUCP mail transiting.

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