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Space Station BSOD

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the reinstall-life-support-[Y/N]? dept.

Space 254

Lostman writes: "CNN has an article that details a computer glitch that has occured at the international space station. The problem disrupted all communication from the command computers on the station. Although NASA knows that this was because an onboard server had crashed, the cause of this was not immediately known." See also space.com, the BBC, or NASA's status update. NASA is using Windows for most of their computing functions, as mentioned here.

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254 comments

Read the logs! They also use UNIX (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#264461)

If you read the logs that the post links to, you see the mention of "wrestling" with Unix commands. I don't see any indication of blame, Windows or Unix.

Re:Screenshots! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#264463)

And how exactly would you get a BSOD screenshot unless you were using VMWare or something? Seems rather impossible to me.

Erm - with a camera? Sounds like you need to take a little Away From Keyboard time. Computers aren't the only reality, dontcha know.

Re:Why it crashed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#264464)

Yeah.... heh.. just imagine if it was Win XP and they needed to do a re-install. They would have to wait until moring to talk to an MS help desk moneky to get the authorization code to install it. Good job MS :)

micheal! great troll! (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#264473)

considering that we have NO idea what servers actually crashed!

This just gives credence to my theory that the Troll High Council is the Slashdot editors themselves.

I want to know what region their DVD players are! (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#264474)

It was in the news a while back that they took a plyer and DVDs abord the ISS. What region were they? Or did only the US crew get to watch movies?

Well.. (2)

Mike Hicks (244) | more than 12 years ago | (#264475)

I wouldn't want to oversimplify whatever situation is going on up there. Somehow, I doubt that they are running Windows on their main computers, but stranger things have happened. A quick skim through the crew logs shows that they have had problems with the network before. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if some of the computers are among the cheapest bits on the station.

At least there is a separation for life support and some of the other more critical systems (though you'd think that satellite tracking and rudimentary communication would be separate as well..)

This reminds me of a couple of things. I recall that one time, the space shuttle didn't launch because a bunch of computers (8 or 9) detected some sort of fault, and called the launch a `no-go.' There was another computer made by a different company that was looking at the same data, but it put up a `go' status. It turned out that the other computers were wrong -- the situation had indeed been a `go.' The parallel here is that the station has three command and control computers that are basically identical, and apparently running the same software. The software is probably a single point of failure..

I wonder if the problem is because they are running some sort of monolithic application that can pretty much do everything. It's probably better to have a number of individual processes -- that way, if one thing crashes or goes completely nuts, the operating system can prevent them from knocking out other processes.

I also heard from one report or another that the issue was with connecting to the database -- another potential single point of failure.

Hmm.. Maybe we can still blame this on Microsoft ;-) I think a lot of people have succumbed to the idea that software failure is normal, and that there isn't anything you can do about it.. That's definitely an attitude that should change..

Of course, if you have mostly-good software interacting with mostly-good hardware, some really bad things can occasionally happen, as we've seen with the hard disk corruption problems that have been cropping up with Linux 2.4 and VIA motherboard chipsets..
--

"reinstall-life-support-[Y/N]?" (2)

abischof (255) | more than 12 years ago | (#264477)

For those young-uns in the audience, I can explain Michael's reference in the department ("reinstall-life-support-[Y/N]?"). It's an allusion to DOS's Choice command [easydos.com]. To get the prompt he gave as an example, you'd use:
  • CHOICE /T:Y,5 Reinstall life support
The question mark and the key choices of [Y/N] appear by default (though the key choices are configurable). And, the "/T:Y,5" bit configures CHOICE to automatically default to "Y" if no key is chosen within 5 seconds (I figured that would be kinda helpful, given that it is life support we're talking about here).

P.S. I'm looking for a new job in Web Development. I invite you to check out my portfolio [vt.edu] of hand coded HTML / JavaScript / CSS.

Alex Bischoff
---

Fast Company on NASA software (1)

Tim Doran (910) | more than 12 years ago | (#264479)

Here's a great article by Fast Company about the decidedly unglamorous world of programming for space flight purposes: They Write the Right Stuff [fastcompany.com]

It kinda answers the question "what could software look like if somebody tried to do *everything* right?"

Re:Linux? (2)

johnnyb (4816) | more than 12 years ago | (#264483)

The Linux machine they were using was only for a single experiment, studying plant growth, I believe.

Marketing .. (2)

AftanGustur (7715) | more than 12 years ago | (#264486)



Can you imagine what MS marketing will make out of this if this turns out to be a Linux box ? (they have been aboard shuttles, so why not on the station).

My point here is that mentioning MS now, should absolutely not be considered MS bashing, but rather just mentioning the obvious. That MS server *do* crash for no apparent reason, a fact that you can't find mentioned anywhere on this site. [microsoft.com]


--
Don't use nuclear weapons to troubleshoot faults. [cryptome.org]

Windows, it's worse than that! (3)

Dino (9081) | more than 12 years ago | (#264490)

I intervewied at Boeing for doing Space Station networking work.....here's the surprising part, the Space Station is all run off of 386s!!! They do most of the low level programming in assembly to squueze out as much performance as possible.

It totally blew my mind. This was about 14 months ago.
---------------------------

Re:Why it crashed (2)

malkavian (9512) | more than 12 years ago | (#264492)

Let's just hope they have the original 'install disks' ready and at hand when they come to swap out anything that breaks.
And a good comms method to get their new install key.

Window Cleaning? (1)

panda (10044) | more than 12 years ago | (#264493)

NASA is using Windows for most of their computing functions,

In that case forget it. I'm not setting foot on that death trap! I think I'd rather take my chances on Mir! Oh wait, too late....

Re:Operating Systems (1)

rnturn (11092) | more than 12 years ago | (#264495)

``I should think it's safer and considerably cheaper to use a system that has been tested in the real world for a while, has been debugged already and has a reputation for uptime, than to write your own code and have to do all the debugging from scratch.''

That only makes sense if you choose an operating system that's been tested by the public and has actually had the bugs fixed. :-)


--

Sig (1)

rnturn (11092) | more than 12 years ago | (#264496)

I believe that's:
Gort! Klaatu barada nekto.

But I'll have to dig out my tape of ``The Day The Earth Stood Still'' to be absolutely sure. (I am positive about ``Klaatu'', though.)
--

Sort of predictable... (2)

rnturn (11092) | more than 12 years ago | (#264497)

There was a bit of news a couple of years ago about some weenie at NASA who issued an edict that only Windows systems should be used. Of course, all of those tried-and-true applications that were successfully running on Macintosh, UNIX, and other systems were destined for the trash can after that order was issued. Looks like our space program is now beginning to see the fruits of that wise decision.


--

Re:Operating Systems (1)

elmegil (12001) | more than 12 years ago | (#264507)

tested in the real world for a while, has been debugged already and has a reputation for uptime

What the hell are they using Windows for then?

Linux? (1)

Jethro73 (14686) | more than 12 years ago | (#264512)

Wasn't there a big stink about how they were using open source (esp. Linux) on board?

Jethro

Re:Screenshots! (2)

Peyna (14792) | more than 12 years ago | (#264514)

There is no indication of an actual BSOD, since there is no indication of MS Windows being used. And how exactly would you get a BSOD screenshot unless you were using VMWare or something? Seems rather impossible to me.

Re:Deep link (2)

Peyna (14792) | more than 12 years ago | (#264515)

I'm curious what/if any Linux document editing programs can display all the Russian characters? It sounds like that is part of the reason for using Windows at least on some of the systems that the Astro/Cosmonauts use for workstations.

Re:Bad form, Slashdot... (2)

HiThere (15173) | more than 12 years ago | (#264516)

Gee, and I was going to speculate that the missing Martian Lander was using Windows.

Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.

Re:Windows bashing (1)

Smitty (15702) | more than 12 years ago | (#264517)

Windows 2000 BSODs on me whenever I try to run RealPlayer. The latest NVidia drivers for my TNT2 M64 haven't helped.. So much for a solid M$ OS.

Operating Systems (2)

blinx_ (16376) | more than 12 years ago | (#264518)

I find it quite weird that they operate a space station on a normal consumer point and click OS.

I would have though that with the resources needed to build an orbiting spacestation they'd have enough human resources to either build their own specialised OS, or customize some existing one (perhaps something like QNX).

One can only fear what happens when they upgrade to one of the new microsoft leases based licenses so when their link goes down and they can't contact microsofts license server the entire space station shuts down :)

Unknown crash (2)

KFury (19522) | more than 12 years ago | (#264523)

Perhaps it was a Mir sympathy crash...

Space Stations of the World, Unite!

Kevin Fox
--

Comment on Redundancy (1)

dnxthx (22324) | more than 12 years ago | (#264525)

Redundancy (or voting) does not necesessarily imply increased stability. For example, if in a voting system, if the majority of systems happen to be installed wrong, then the majority vote could still result in incorrect behavior, such as attempting to turn your plane upside down as you cross the equator. (Actually happened, see the book "Doing Hard Time.")

Windows bashing (2)

Webmonger (24302) | more than 12 years ago | (#264526)

There's going to be a lot of Windows bashing on this story, but folks, remember we're not talking about the Windows 9x kernel here.

I wouldn't want to trust windows 2000 with my life, but I haven't yet seen a BSOD on it

I think the odd thing is that they have three systems, but they're all the same OS. Usually, these control systems are implemented three different ways, so that whatever bugs are present don't affect all of them.

Windows 2000 would be a much saner choice, IMHO, if backup #1 was linux and backup #2 was another unix.

Official reports of mundane activity (4)

Webmonger (24302) | more than 12 years ago | (#264527)

Man, it is really bizarre to see a press release about an oranization cold booting into safe mode. The way they write it up, you'd think it was rocket science. . .

Summary (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 12 years ago | (#264529)

CNN [cnn.com] and the BBC [bbc.co.uk] report that all three Command & Control computers on International Space Station Alpha failed yesterday. They either weren't working or not communicating, although life support and navigation were not affected.

Apparently a single server is malfunctioning. Problems include not being able to communicate with the Station, command the new robot arm, nor turn off the Station navigation system. The Shuttle also cannot lift the orbit while the Station navigation system is flying the Station.

A NASA page [nasa.gov] says:

The primary result of today's computer problem was a loss of communication and data transfer between the Space Station Flight Control Room and the station. Communication capability was routed through Endeavour enabling the crew and flight controllers to talk to one another.

Despite the difficulties encountered with the computer system today, all systems on board the spacecraft continued to function properly.

We discussed some of the ISS computers in an April 4 article about ISS logs [slashdot.org], although not the C&C computers. Apparently there is a malfunction of the Control & Data Handling [erau.edu] C&C MDMs, not merely communications to the PCS C&C laptops. The 6MB PDF NASA ISS overview [nasa.gov] describes CDH in Section 2.

Not MS-Windows (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 12 years ago | (#264530)

The PCS C&C laptops run Solaris. The CDH MDMs do not run MS-Windows. This was not a BSOD problem in orbit. (Some other laptops do use MS products, but not these)

Re:Back online (2)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 12 years ago | (#264531)

A href="http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/space/04/25/shu ttle.spacestation.02/index.html">CNN; and the BBC [bbc.co.uk]; report that all three Command & Control computers on International Space Station Alpha failed yesterday. They either weren't working or not communicating, although life support and navigation were not affected.

Apparently a single server is malfunctioning. Problems include not being able to communicate with the Station, command the new robot arm, nor turn off the Station navigation system. The Shuttle also cannot lift the orbit while the Station navigation system is flying the Station.

A NASA page [nasa.gov] says:

The primary result of today's computer problem was a loss of communication and data transfer between the Space Station Flight Control Room and the station. Communication capability was routed through Endeavour enabling the crew and flight controllers to talk to one another.

Despite the difficulties encountered with the computer system today, all systems on board the spacecraft continued to function properly.

We discussed some of the ISS computers in an April 4 article about ISS logs [slashdot.org], although not the C&C computers. Apparently there is a malfunction of the Control & Data Handling [erau.edu] C&C MDMs, not merely communications to the PCS C&C laptops. The 6MB PDF ISS overview [nasa.gov] describes CDH in Section 2.

In other news (4)

overshoot (39700) | more than 12 years ago | (#264538)

Of course, the fact that NASA had just installed a bunch of critical hotfixes from Microsoft's FunLove-infected update site is purely coincidental.

Re:Windows bashing (1)

cxreg (44671) | more than 12 years ago | (#264549)

Maybe "everyone would want to try and figure out what went wrong" because.. THEY CAN!

You may or may not have seen W2k BSOD, but what do you do when it finally does? What choices do you really have? I hardly think they are dying to do a system reinstall in mid-orbit

On a side note, imagine what would happen if they were using a subscription version of windows (say a couple years from now when that's the norm) and they didnt have their registration key ;)

A little ironic, no? (2)

cxreg (44671) | more than 12 years ago | (#264552)

The opperation of the 386 is well known, and studied, any bugs in the chip are well documented and can be programmed around.

And yet these are the same people who chose a Microsoft product as their OS... Scary.

New definition for BSOD (1)

laetus (45131) | more than 12 years ago | (#264554)

Big Station, Orbit Decelerating!
----------------------------------

read the log: Screwups "with help from NT" (1)

lperdue (46135) | more than 12 years ago | (#264555)

FROM:

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/crew/exp1/ex p1 shepmarfeb.html

SHIP'S LOG 22 FEB

The day really gets off to a bad start. The server connection to the net is down hard. We worked on it last night until 0100 and could not bring it up. We were doing the file server part of network
reconfiguration yesterday. This moved the FS to the lab-we also extended the Ethernet lan from the
Node into the lab (not part of the procedure). This allowed the server to rejoin the network without delay, rather than waiting much later when the RF access points are set up. The plan was working well, and the server was online from mid afternoon. At about 2200, we were reconfiguring some mail files which, with a lot of help from Windows NT, got put in the wrong place during the backup procedure. When we finished restoring the files, the network was down and would not come back up. We worked this for several hours. Finally, jiggling some cables brings just a part of the net back.
(that really instills confidence in the stability of your network).

So as of 0700, we have to use the OCA machine for daily planning. Fortunately, ground has uplinked
everything to the OCA's directories, so at least we have what we need onboard. But when we try and
print, the printer locks up. It is not happy with the net now either. So Shep and Sergei start trying to figure out what is going on. After trying lots of other computer tricks that don't work, we put another network card in the server and that seems to fix the server problem. We power cycle the printer and that comes back. We are having a hard time understanding the how and why, but everything is working.

Re:Let's play "Bet Your Life" (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 12 years ago | (#264557)

If I *had* to make a choice, I'd choose QNX. AFAIK, it's actually used in certain life support systems in hospitals.

Re:Let's play "Bet Your Life" (1)

haggar (72771) | more than 12 years ago | (#264574)

I second that, no matter how unpopular this view might be on these boards. I started with NetWare 3.11, right after my graduation. I have gone a long way after that, dealing mainly with HP-UX andSolaris now. I still have to see a server with the stability (in overcoming utilization surges) and uptimes of NetWare 3.1x.

It was actually a bad thing for Novell: almost noone wanted to upgrade!

Why it crashed (1)

selectspec (74651) | more than 12 years ago | (#264575)

The station runs on VBScripts running in MTS talking to an Access database. Complex vector analysis computations are done in Excel. Commications with station are via IM and IIS. The station arm talks to the rest of the station via DCOM.

All in all, the computer system is extremely robust, and expected to last for 25 years with only the occassional microsoft patch.

Re:Official reports of mundane activity (1)

Digital_Quartz (75366) | more than 12 years ago | (#264577)

Actually, that's exactly what it is; rocket science! This is *NASA* we're talking about here.

:P

Re:micheal! great troll! (2)

Camel Pilot (78781) | more than 12 years ago | (#264578)

Then Katz would certainly be the high priest to this council.

The majority of rants . . . er articles on slashdot are often incorrect, biased, pure propaganda, reactionary, immature and half-baked.

Well, it's April 26th today... (2)

frankie (91710) | more than 12 years ago | (#264591)

...maybe they were really Really REALLY stupid and got infected with Chernobyl [yahoo.com]. The articles say the crash happened Wednesday in USA time, but what time zone does the ISS use for its computer clocks?

Plus there's that M$ support site infected with FunLove [theregister.co.uk]. Or maybe it was just a hardware failure...

heh (1)

daevt (100407) | more than 12 years ago | (#264595)

thats what you get for buying closed source products. i wonder if a site license for a spacestation is more than for an office...

Re:Let's play "Bet Your Life" (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 12 years ago | (#264596)

Any OS can crash, even linux has kernel panics. The only OS that I would be willing to trust on something like the space station would be something custom built for it.
=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\= \=\=\

Re:Windows, it's worse than that! (2)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 12 years ago | (#264598)

I'd much rather use a 386 then a new 1.33Ghz machine. Those 386 chips were build like tanks, you cun run over then with a car and still use it. The fan could die and it would run months without it. The opperation of the 386 is well known, and studied, any bugs in the chip are well documented and can be programmed around.
=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\= \=\=\=\=\

Forget the BSOD, what about that fresh fruit? (1)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 12 years ago | (#264608)

I mean, how are you to defend yourself if you are attacked by an astronaut armed with a piece of fresh fruit? [nasa.gov] To whit:
  • Can't shoot him
  • Can't just release a tiger on him
  • Can't drop a 16-ton weight on him, zero gravity and all
So that leaves the perennial question: What about pointed sticks?

--

Re:Scary stuff? (2)

friscolr (124774) | more than 12 years ago | (#264609)

how about a heterogenous OS environment.

Set up your main e-mail server to be Sparc Solaris running sun's sendmail, your secondary e-mail server as Alpha Linux running sendmail, and your tertiary e-mail server to be Intel OpenBSD running qmail.

No trivial task for the ISS people, but if they had 3 programming groups working on 3 implementations of the same communications code, but each for 3 different platform/OS's, your redundancy wouldn't be as restricted to software issues.

Going 3 times over budget isn't bad, is it?

-f

Re:Window Cleaning? (1)

R.Caley (126968) | more than 12 years ago | (#264610)

I'd rather take my chances on Mir! Oh wait, too late....

Actually Mir was fine until they installed Windows on it as a trial run for ISS. 10 minutes later it got a virus and burining it up in the atmosphere was the only way to prevent it infecting the entire solar system.

Sudden geek migration to Houston (1)

nick255 (139962) | more than 12 years ago | (#264615)

Hummm, from the BBC article was this quote

"You can rest assured that everybody that knows anything about a computer is now at Johnson Space Center"

Guess that means those of us left reading this must be completely computer illiterate!

Fortune's upgrade? (1)

cefek (148764) | more than 12 years ago | (#264619)

Well, looks like some1 at slashdot has just recently upgraded fortune... or maybe f**ed something up in slashcode: Usage: fortune -P [-f] -a [xsz] Q: file [rKe9] -v6[+] file1 ... cefek

Re:New definition for BSOD (2)

spinfire (148920) | more than 12 years ago | (#264620)

That is incorrect. As an orbiting object decreases speed, it falls in its orbital path.

This is why satellites eventually lose their orbit and burn up in the atmosphere. They experience decceleration due to air resistance.

Re:Assembly language on ISS (5)

revbob (155074) | more than 12 years ago | (#264624)

You were either misinformed or you misunderstood what your interviewer said.

Real time software for mission critical systems is written in Ada. That's a no-brainer. If there is any assembler, it's tiny, of severely limited scope, and meticulously tested. In fact, having worked with some very low level networking code for ISS (in Ada), I doubt there's any assembler in there at all.

As to the 386's, they're rad hardened and known reliable. And, unlike the home computer I bought a couple of months ago that's state of the art, whether I need state of the art or not, the jobs these CPUs had to do simply didn't require anything faster than a 386, even given a hefty allowance of spare cycles and memory for future growth.

We bought what we needed (in space, rad hardening is not optional) and we didn't buy what we didn't need. That's not $400 hammers, that's the definition of responsible stewardship of the public's money.

Re:Scary stuff? (3)

tibbettsatmit (157338) | more than 12 years ago | (#264627)

It is not particularly scary. Software systems don't benefit from redudancy in the same way that hardware systems do. Most software bugs are systemic (ie, an uncommon code path that just doesn't work). So redudant software systems (even ones that are multiple seperate "clean room" implementations) frequently go down at the same time when in the same operating environment. For more information check out the work of Nancy Levison [mit.edu] and the other people in her group.

Re:Great idea! (2)

Misch (158807) | more than 12 years ago | (#264628)

Maybe there is a reason that the MSnbc article doesn't mention anything about Operating Systems... Have you forgotten what the "MS" in MSNBC stands for? (Here's a hint: Microsoft!) Though the last line of the /. article says: NASA is using Windows for most of their computing functions, as mentioned here. [nasa.gov]

Re:geee (1)

pug23 (167080) | more than 12 years ago | (#264630)

Hmmmm..... Is somebody here not familiar with the concept of portable code? It can be done, ya know. On the other hand, I think the author's point was that if you have three separately implemented systems with the same functionality, they are not likely to have the same flaws, which makes your redundancy more valuable. Even if you just use one code base and port it, at least the OS of your back-up system is not subject to the same problems as your main system. A back-up is of little value if, as soon as you fail over, it fails due to the same condition that crashed the first one. Since NASA's running on a shoe-string budget (compared to the support they once had) these days, and I imagine that the support from the other nations involved with ISS is not much better, however, I'm not surprised that they didn't go that route.

WHAT?! (1)

bruthasj (175228) | more than 12 years ago | (#264633)

They put this together before M$'s code sharing idea. I wonder how they audited the systems for safety. Anyone got any ideas?

I thought NASA actually went through and proved their code before they sent things up. How can they do that with M$?

Re:New definition for BSOD (1)

ibirman (176167) | more than 12 years ago | (#264634)

Decelleration will put you in a HIGHER orbit - you must Accelerate to go lower. How about Big Station, Orbit Descending?

Great idea! (1)

tritiumsys (176498) | more than 12 years ago | (#264635)

Hey guys, let's all bag on Windows while we got a chance, or wait, let's all just grow up here. The MSNBC article says nothing about the OS, it just says a software problem. I'm not the biggest MS fan, but it infuriates me to see everyone on /. get on the bashing-bandwagon everytime an article mentions MS. -Rick "Long live Solaris!"

Re:Operating Systems (1)

sydb (176695) | more than 12 years ago | (#264636)

enough human resources to either build their own specialised OS

I should think it's safer and considerably cheaper to use a system that has been tested in the real world for a while, has been debugged already and has a reputation for uptime, than to write your own code and have to do all the debugging from scratch.

As you mention, a modified version of an existing system would seem more reasonable, say, to add N-version to it at critical points.

geee (1)

Capt. Beyond (179592) | more than 12 years ago | (#264640)

Ya think it might actually be those massive solar flares we experienced this month, and not necessarily the OS? (naa, that'd be too smart) Or maybe it might actually be software not necessarily the OS? 3 computer systems going down at the same time means there's something more going on than just the OS. And as for backups being other operating systems- now that wouldn't really be a backup now would it? They'd have to write three complete software systems. (You know they use custom software right?)

Let's play "Bet Your Life" (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#264641)

This reminds me of the US Navy ship that had it's operational systems running on WIN NT. When they had a BSOD, the ship was dead in the water, and had to be towed in. There is this government news article [gcn.com], which has the details of that old story.

We simply cannot have peoples lives being dependant on software that can crash. In a business context, we can get used to crashes, after all it is only data, and it is only the livelyhood of the bussiness at stake. It is only maybe millions of dollars. In space, it is lives.

Which OS would you be willing to literally bet your life on?

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

Re:Screenshots! (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#264642)

There is no indication of an actual BSOD, since there is no indication of MS Windows being used. And how exactly would you get a BSOD screenshot unless you were using VMWare or something? Seems rather impossible to me.

You use a camera. Check out this short Register story [theregister.co.uk], which has a link to a very high rez photo where you can sorta make out the error messages, especially if you are familiar with the system.

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

Re:Bad form, Slashdot... (2)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 12 years ago | (#264650)

Just an addendum... according to the article at The Register (posted elsewhere), the fault was possibly due to the actual IBM Thinkpads used... so the implication that it's Windows is even related to this problem is probably wrong.

Bad form, Slashdot... (5)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 12 years ago | (#264651)

I'm no fan of Windows... frankly, I use Linux whenever I get the chance. And it's great that Slashdot is evangelical about my favorite OS. But that's no excuse for bad reporting. There's *nothing* in the CNN article (or any of the others, for that matter) implying that Windows is the reason for the server crash. Implying that it is related (with the little tagline "NASA is using Windows for most of their computing functions"... why add this, except to add sensationalism to the article?), is just bad, bad form. If any other publication did this, I'm sure people here would be complaining about poor journalism, bias, etc, etc, et al, ad nauseum. Frankly, I think that little line should be removed, and the post should be allowed to stand on it's own. Please, don't put these little editorial comments into the stories. There's no need. All it does is damage Slashdot's (already shakey) credibility.

Re:Bad form, Slashdot... (5)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 12 years ago | (#264652)

I totally agree. Slashdot posts stories with the author's opinion thrown in. However, an opinion is one thing... warping the facts, implying something that's not true... that's entirely another. The comment (and the title of the story) implies that Windows was the reason for the crash... however, not even NASA knows why the crash occured. Now, if we'd had a confirmation that, yes, Windows caused the problem, and then we had a little MS bashing comment in the story, well, so be it. Or if the title of the story was "Severe server crash on ISS", and the comment was something like "I wonder if Windows had anything to do with it...", that'd be fine, too. But this isn't the case... the author tried to imply causation when there is no proof of it. That's irresponsible.

Now, I've been around Slashdot for a long time, as well... like you, before the Andover buy-out. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to be objective. The author fscked up here. I'm not saying /. should praise M$... frankly, M$ has absolutely NOTHING to do with it. I simply think that Slashdot should try to report *true*, *accurate* stories. Is that so much to ask? A little journalistic integrity (I know, I know... naive... :)

Re:Operating Systems (3)

Tyrannosaurus (203173) | more than 12 years ago | (#264658)

One can only fear what happens when they upgrade to one of the new microsoft leases based licenses so when their link goes down and they can't contact microsofts license server the entire space station shuts down :)

The worst part is that whenever they upgrade a piece of hardware, they have to re-register with Microsoft. Since their comm is no longer working, they have to use Morse Code by blinking a flashlight out the window.

---

Was it even Microsoft? (3)

micromoog (206608) | more than 12 years ago | (#264660)

Everyone seems to be jumping to the conclusion that this is somehow Microsoft's fault. Where's the article that even says the systems were running NT/2000? If that is known, is there anything stating that the problem was caused by an OS defect?

I mean really, people. Sure, we've all had bad M$ experiences, but blame the NASA engineers for a poorly designed redundancy, and let them blame their supplier.

The question is... (2)

Cardhore (216574) | more than 12 years ago | (#264664)

would this be news (here) if it had been Linux...or BSD...or XFree that had crashed?

Re:Bad form, Slashdot... (2)

CrayzyJ (222675) | more than 12 years ago | (#264667)

Putting "BSOD" in the title falls under this too. I concur this was bad form. An aside, most of the crashes I have seen in Windows are from non-Microsoft drivers. Iff the crash was in Windows, whose fault was it? If the driver that crashed was nasa.sys, then maybe their engineers accessed pageable mem at an elevated IRQ or something. no, I'm not trolling...I am quite serious.

Re:Was it even Microsoft? (2)

Mytzle (238134) | more than 12 years ago | (#264672)

How amusing. If the hardware is 386 (as stated in an earlier thread) or even 486, then umm, 2000 won't run on it. NT would be so slow as to make any RT computing useless. just my 2 cents

Re:Scary stuff? (2)

RareHeintz (244414) | more than 12 years ago | (#264674)

three redundant computers going down at once just should NOT happen

That is odd. Unless they all started at the same time and suffer from some sort of OS-induced clock bug that crashes them every 49 days...

OK,
- B
--

Crashed computers don't use Windows (5)

ec_hack (247907) | more than 12 years ago | (#264675)

The ISS computers that have been crashing (the MDMs) don't use Windows. The MDMs and other embedded computer systems are based on Intel 386 chips. If they have a kernel, it is probably VxWorks or other commercial RTOS. AFAIK, the only ISS computers that use Windows are some of the laptops, however, some use the Intel version of Solaris.

Why 386 chips? Because they have been tested and been found to be relatively radiation tolerant. More current chips are likely to be subject to more radiation-induced faults due to smaller transistor size.

Re:Windows, it's worse than that! (1)

imipak (254310) | more than 12 years ago | (#264677)

IIRC this is because (1) they do *real* regression testing, and (2) I believe more modern processors are more vulnerable to cosmic ray glitches, due to the components being closer together.
--
If the good lord had meant me to live in Los Angeles

Scary stuff? (3)

imipak (254310) | more than 12 years ago | (#264680)

It sounds really rather scary to me. Apart from the fact that three redundant computers going down at once just should NOT happen - if Endeavour hadn't happenedto be docked, they'd have no voice/date uplink /at all/.

As far as I can see, wouldn't that put the crew into a really hairy position? Without support from the ground, how they'd have no way to know how to try diagnosing / fixing the problem. And if they couldn't get it going... well, perhaps they'd all just goof off for a while, like when the boss takes a day off sick ;) ... but wouldn't they have serious problems, say, preparing for the next shuttle or Soyuz docking?
--
If the good lord had meant me to live in Los Angeles

Re:Linux? (1)

ocbwilg (259828) | more than 12 years ago | (#264682)

Wasn't there a big stink about how they were using open source (esp. Linux) on board?

Dunno. But The Register had a story awhile back that had pictures of the astronauts. They were using old IBM Thinkpads running DOS. Or at least that's what it looked like.

Re:Scary stuff? (1)

ocbwilg (259828) | more than 12 years ago | (#264683)

Apart from the fact that three redundant computers going down at once just should NOT happen

From what I've read elsewhere around the web, it sounds like the server crashed. The three redundant systems were actually the clients. If the server goes down, it doesn't matter how many redundant clients there are.
Which of course begs the question, why didn't they have a redundant server or cluster or something?

In space, nobody can hear you scream... (1)

Shoten (260439) | more than 12 years ago | (#264684)

The day really gets off to a bad start. The server connection to the net is down hard. We worked on it last night until 0100 and could not bring it up. We were doing the file server part of network reconfiguration yesterday. This moved the FS to the lab-we also extended the Ethernet lan from the Node into the lab (not part of the procedure). This allowed the server to rejoin the network without delay, rather than waiting much later when the RF access points are set up. The plan was working well, and the server was online from mid afternoon. At about 2200, we were reconfiguring some mail files which, with a lot of help from Windows NT, got put in the wrong place during the backup procedure. When we finished restoring the files, the network was down and would not come back up. We worked this for several hours. Finally, jiggling some cables brings just a part of the net back. (that really instills confidence in the stability of your network).

This is so strangely reminiscent of a past job. It's just fascinating to realize that, unlike the place where I ran into these problems, this happened miles and miles above earth, in the vacuum of space. The good thing though...in space nobody can make off with your full set of TechNet CDs :)

Re:Bad form, Slashdot... (2)

lordvolt2k (301516) | more than 12 years ago | (#264687)

I dont agree. I see slashdot as a place to find out what's going on with the author's opinion thrown in. Slashdot isn't an online magazine in my opinion. They rarely write full stories, rather, they post links to stories that are usually submitted by readers. I have read slashdot for a long time, before it was bought by andover (and then va..). It has pretty much been a community of linux/bsd/open source users, and probably will always have that twist. I find slashdot very resourceful and useful, it filters out the crap. If you dont like the way it works, there are plenty of other news sites that kiss up to microsoft daily.

My 1/5 of a dime...

Re:WINDOWS!!!! (con't) (2)

tb3 (313150) | more than 12 years ago | (#264693)

Control: Microsoft tech support suggests standard recovery procedure: re-format your hard drive and re-install the OS.
ISS: Uh, roger.
Control: And don't forget the service packs...
-----------------

One word: reliability (2)

Ubi_NL (313657) | more than 12 years ago | (#264697)

It's not worse

NASA uses old computers because they know how they work (they've had years of experience). When you change to new hardware you also change to new hardware problems (i.e. the pentium floating point bug). It is therefore a lot safer to stick to obsolete (but familiar) stuff than to keep on getting the hottest new hardware all the time

Re:Official reports of mundane activity (3)

Cranston Snord (314056) | more than 12 years ago | (#264698)

What really gets me is the following quote...

The computers were running, but were unable to access data in their memory banks because of the downed server.

Danger Will Robinson! Danger Will Robinson! Memory banks unreachable!

Re:Windows, it's worse than that! (1)

rgbscan (321794) | more than 12 years ago | (#264701)

MAN do I love government projects! I bet they paid a bunch of money for those thinkpads too... some "space certified" models. (the whole $400 hammer scenario all over again)

Looks like its Windows - at least part time... (2)

rgbscan (321794) | more than 12 years ago | (#264702)

Found this excerpt from the station logs (the Nov 27th One) "Sergei notices that the Russian PCS laptop has locked up. He tries to reboot, but the Sun application software won't load. Lots of messages on the screen noting data errors. Sergei thinks that it may be the hard drive. He boots up windows to see if the windows partition runs OK--it does. So at least some of the hardware is functional. Troubleshooting starts right away with TsUP. Without this PCS, we don't have a laptop interface to the central post computers." The entire link is: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/crew/exp1/exp1 shepnov.html

Deep link (5)

sllort (442574) | more than 12 years ago | (#264707)

The link that specifically mentions Windows, for those of you wondering, is here [nasa.gov].

Now what do you guys make of this?

"Used the startup disk in the onboard software suite, but could not find a particular file while hunting around with DOS. This would have been much easier with some bootable media (CD-ROM?) that could run Windows. (Or if Shep was not indoctrinated by that "other" operating system). We may need an emergency boot capability again. After 5+ attempts, finally got the hard drive to take an image off the ghost CD. One of the Autoloader floppies went down, but SSC 2 is now running normally. ( 3+ hours troubleshooting). "

Guesses? Bets?

Re:Official reports of mundane activity (1)

SlickMickTrick (443214) | more than 12 years ago | (#264709)

For them it is. If the little Windows box starts acting up, they could be in serious problems very quickly.

WINDOWS!!!! (1)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 12 years ago | (#264710)

WTF....you would think that NASA would have the smarts to install a unix/BSD/Linux system on the space station considering the mission critical nature.

ISS: umm control, we have a problem, the windows box is dumping the air tanks out into space.

Control: well guys you will have to do a hard boot
of the system because it crashed.

ISS: roger, rebooting windows......

Control: what's your status on the reboot.....

Control: hello.....comback ISS.......

Re:I want to know what region their DVD players ar (1)

anonymous cupboard (446159) | more than 12 years ago | (#264711)

They were Sonys modded to be region-free and to work with the station's power. Modified by a British company called Technomatic. They have a story on their site (sorry, I can't chase the address at the moment)about this.

The mod was made outside the US to remain DMCA compliant. Of course the crew only watch DVDs in the Russian part of the station.......

Is this really Win? (1)

anonymous cupboard (446159) | more than 12 years ago | (#264712)

The Command Post computers provide command & control functionality. If this is running on anything other than a proper OS with RT capability, I would be very suprised. I know they use Win elsewhere, but for the CC?

What really sucks is that if this is true then someone forgot the lessons of that USN ship, dead in the water.

As a side note, I was amused to see from the crew logs that even NASA get the same Backup/MS Exchange problems that everybody else seems to get.

Re:Windows, it's worse than that! (1)

Aieeeeeee! (446955) | more than 12 years ago | (#264714)

Also, in space there is tons more damaging radiation. The very thing that makes the newer processors faster (ever smaller circuits) is a liability in space. Stray high energy radiation is more likely to damage smaller circuits than larger ones, therefore NASA uses "obsolete" off-the-shelf circuit components mainly because they are more robust than the latest, greatest.
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