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Windows For Warships Nearly Ready

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the like-windows-for-workgroups-with-guns dept.

Microsoft 387

mattaw writes "The Register is carrying the sanest and balanced article on Windows deployment in UK warships that I have read to date in the public domain. As an ex-naval bod myself we have long considered that this is potentially a REAL problem. The main issues are the huge amount of unrelated code that is imported with the kernel and the need for incredibly fast response times."

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Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (5, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153870)

...this is probably a positive step, in many ways. As the article shows, the previous software was terrible already. Military research and development may seem high tech and modern, but they are one of the most inefficient organizations imaginable -- tons of ancient embedded programs trying to integrate with one another. I can't imagine being a "new" programmer in the military and trying to comprehend what decades of previous programmers were trying to do, let alone keep it working.

Sure, there are many options out there -- Linux, continuing to use a proprietary OS, Windows, whatever. Yet with technology changing as fast as it does (even military hardware), it does make sense to use an operating system that has some base support for almost everything. In this case, it is Microsoft.

Does Windows crash often? For many users, I think the answer is yes. But in my experience, you can tailor a Windows installation to just the most basic requirements and it runs fairly well. I highly doubt that warships would be connecting to the public Internet with the users downloading any number of buggy apps to conflict with mission-critical applications. Since that is the case, there are a number of long term installations that I have familiarity with that have been running Win2K (and some WinXP) that have been running flawlessly for years for my client base. None of these installations are on a public IP, none of them allow end-user application installation, and all of them have been extremely rock solid AND easy to maintain when necessary. As the article shows, their main connection is a unidirectional 300 baud ship-to-shore link.

We're not talking about a machine running everything, just specific software for a specific purpose. Anything is a step in the right direction when you consider what a Luddite the military can be in terms of support applications versus the modern hardware they're running. Training new users on ancient system is very inefficient and dangerous (read the article on their ancient interface hardware!), giving them an interface they recognize makes sense from many angles, including safety. The interface to enable weapons firing won't rely just on Windows to approve or disapprove a launch -- there are always old-fashioned hard key-based turn-locks that override whatever the software does. If they want to launch a missile, the physical keys must be turned, and THEN the software must be approved. If there's a glitch after this hard-approval is turned, it can't be in grave error.

The bottom line is that I liked Win2K towards the end of its supported life. I had many customers who were unhappy about moving to Windows XP, and we still support numerous servers running Windows 2000 for mission critical (not THIS critical, though) applications that are running strong and haven't had to be restarted in over a year or longer (one customer hasn't rebooted their Win2K installation in 3 years). The software works, the API interface is known by most modern programmers, user interface is comfortable for almost everyone, and as long as you don't connect it to the public Internet or try to install a variety of conflicting/buggy applications, you're in good shape.

I think this option is better than Linux or F/OSS operating systems that would possibly require MORE training for their programmers and users to learn. My biggest frustration with F/OSS operating systems is that the user interface is counter-intuitive for a lot of Windows-friendly users, and even worse, trying to find an "old but stable" operating system is a mess as the F/OSS operating system support-base seems to be more focused on the latest stable builds rather than what mission-critical users would want: older software that has a longer history of running well for a given situation.

Blue Screen of Death? (5, Funny)

Erioll (229536) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153968)

How long until the "Blue Screen of Death" (BSOD) has a somewhat more ominous (and literal) meaning?

Re:Blue Screen of Death? (5, Funny)

IdleTime (561841) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154772)

I'm looking forward to Clippy and "Where do you want to attack today?"

Not sure how to launch the latest megaton H-bomb? Let Clippy guide you...

But It's Still Software From Another Country (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154106)

I think this option is better than Linux or F/OSS operating systems that would possibly require MORE training for their programmers and users to learn.
You must not be a resident of the United Kingdom. I find it interesting that any country's government or military would rely on a foreign proprietary piece of software to reach mission critical goals.

Who cares about training when you're now dependent on a company in another nation? What happens when there's another nutcase in the white house who orders Microsoft to cut off updates or support to foreign military customers?

I believe prior to BAE's sole recommendation that AMS, a company that specializes in Combat Management Systems, recommended Unix [theregister.co.uk] . There was also criticism [theregister.co.uk] of a lack of third party external review for this decision (not sure if that's linked in the original article or not). If it's the case that BAE up and said "We're going with Win2K" and the government said "ok," I would be a bit concerned.

I do not think the United States Navy would willingly rely on any foreign proprietary software.

Re:But It's Still Software From Another Country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18154308)

You must not be a resident of the United Kingdom. I find it interesting that any country's government or military would rely on a foreign proprietary piece of software to reach mission critical goals.

Seriously. What about the rumoured NSA backdoors in Windows?
I guess it's ok because the UK and USA tend to be on the same side. right.

Re:But It's Still Software From Another Country (4, Insightful)

imdx80 (842737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154720)

> What about the rumoured NSA backdoors in Windows?


even if there is a back door, what good is it if the machine is not connected to anything that the NSA could practically get too.

unless I'm missing something obvious?

Re:But It's Still Software From Another Country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18154444)

And yet your economy and military depend on oil? I think software from a US-based corporation is the least of your worries as far as dependency goes.

Re:But It's Still Software From Another Country (1)

markxz (669696) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154458)

You must not be a resident of the United Kingdom. I find it interesting that any country's government or military would rely on a foreign proprietary piece of software to reach mission critical goals.

Given Britain exports a lot of defence technology, use of foreign machenary is not that big a problem to many nations

Re:But It's Still Software From Another Country (1)

rilister (316428) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154756)

Those subs we're talking about are the mainstay of Britain's Trident nuclear defense system:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trident_missile [wikipedia.org]
As Wiki confirms, these are made right up the street from me at:
Contractor: Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Sunnyvale, California

It's an Amerian system that Britain coughed up 5% of the R&D costs. Britain has no independent nuclear systems.

Re:Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154124)

But in my experience, you can tailor a Windows installation to just the most basic requirements and it runs fairly well. I highly doubt that warships would be connecting to the public Internet with the users downloading any number of buggy apps to conflict with mission-critical applications.
In my experience, you don't need to download any buggy apps to conflict with mission-critical applications in order to have problems. Microsoft has plenty of annoying bugs without any Internet connection at all.

Sure, once you get all of the bugs ironed out and the system well-integrated and everything disabled except for what you need, it can run well. But that's true of virtually any modern OS -- Linux, OS X, *BSD.

However, security holes, which are huge in Windows, still represent a huge issue, even with machines that aren't attached to the Internet. Consider that the vast majority of serious attacks on system security come from within your network, not from the outside. Without an Internet connection, security patches must be applied by systems people (who, of course, inevitably download the patch from the Internet, but....) and usually well behind the normal release dates for the patches. And this still discounts the THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of undiscovered security bugs that will inevitably crop up, mostly due to Windows' very poor security architecture.

Re:Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (4, Informative)

tomknight (190939) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154128)

Well, it looked like you read the article - until you stated that "As the article shows, their main connection is a unidirectional 300 baud ship-to-shore link." The artcle did not state that this is the case for the type 45 destroyers, merely for the Vanguard class subs. It *did* say that the destroyers had many network links and that RN base security can be rubbish (and gave a link to a BBC article on a Sun reporter gaining access to an aircraft carrier - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/5032516.s tm [bbc.co.uk] ). While I agree that W2k can be hardened when used properly, I have doubts that it's necessarily the best option.

Re:Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (1)

A_Non_Moose (413034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154404)

"As the article shows, their main connection is a unidirectional 300 baud ship-to-shore link."

And there it is, the hidden reason:

They've got to support win-modems!

Wonder how long the phone cord holds up in salt water?

Re:Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (3, Insightful)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154148)

Regarding the crashing though, I found that on my Windows system, most crashes can be attributed to either

(A) Bad hardware
(B) Bad drivers - usually the graphics driver.

The more complicated 3D stuff an app does, especially a game, the more problematic it is in terms of stability, though this is not always the case - many professional apps put a lot more time into getting aroudn these bugs.

On one machine I had, regardless of the OS, if I had high network IO with either high CPU use or high 3D use, it crashed. Changed the mobo, problem went away.

On another, it had not only one of the worst SATA chips out there, but probably one of the worst implementations of said chip. Linux and FreeBSD solved the stability issue by not installing on anything except IDE drives, Windows on the other hand installed, but had issues. A new SATA controller card fixed that.

Yes Windows has issues. But in my old Windows 2000 box, with a Tyan Trinity S1598 based box, K6-III 450 and 512MB of memory, I was regularly getting multi-month uptimes. And I even gamed a bit, though not much.

The point is, as you stated, you /can/ make Windows stable, it just takes a bit of effort because

(1) Driver quality is more relevant - I don't know the details but a bad driver is less likely to crash the whole system, in my experience, in FreeBSD or Linux.
(2) Windows is more likely to load up on bad hardware. It's also more vulnerable to issues related to bad hardware.

Note: this is just for 2000 and later (really, in my experience XP is a downgrade on stability, and I can't say much on Vista, though mileage may vary). 9x variants of Windows were crashmonsters.

Re:Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (1)

Twanfox (185252) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154312)

I wonder what happens when hardware that was good gets pounded by a shell through the hull and becomes bad. Does Windows have the capacity to comprehend that it just lost a component and not crash? While it'd be silly for the design of a system to be dependent on hardware that is not physically attached to the computer controlling it (a missile launcher, for instance), I can't say as I would trust Microsoft to do the right thing and use proper modular programming techniques. Even on XP, with it's modularity for changing basic configurations, why do I have to restart to change the name of the machine? If it was so modular, simply shutting down that aspect and restarting it should be easy.

Re:Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154532)

I've had hardware die on a Windows machine without crashing it a lot.

Windows would have one definet disadvantage of *NIX though. Because of the ways you can run various *NIX systems, if something knowcked out the system disk, you could possibly still get a few seconds to minutes of run time out of the system (and if it were specifically planned for, even hours). Windows would be gone in miliseconds.

You do have a point there. And I agree, I'd rather see something than Windows on a military ship (I'd vote BSD myself). I was just saying that Windows may not be as bad as some people would think, especially in these non-DOS days.

Now try maintaining a lot of them. (2, Informative)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154340)

Regarding the crashing though, I found that on my Windows system, most crashes can be attributed to either

(A) Bad hardware
(B) Bad drivers - usually the graphics driver.

While that may be your experience, if such were the case with the majority, Windows would be far more reliable than it is.

That would be because it should be easy to identify the buggy drivers (your "B") or to use a diagnostic program to stress test the other components (your "A").

In my experience (supporting 100+ workstations), Windows is just arcane. Following the exact same install process with the exact same install CD's will give you different results on different machines (same make and model) ... and if you do it often enough you'll get different results on the same machine.

Then we get into the whole concept of the Registry and DLL Hell and so forth. Un-installing an app may not get rid of all of the crap from that app and so you'll have stuff just sitting around waiting to trigger a crash. And different versions of DLL files overwrite each other so re-installing may fix app A, but break app B.

Troubleshooting on Linux is so much easier and faster. Which is one of the reasons I prefer Ubuntu (or vanilla Debian).

Re:Now try maintaining a lot of them. (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154468)

I've found library hell to be worse on Linux, even with Ubuntu, in my experience than in Windows. Still, Ubuntu's package manager in conjunction with they way they handle their repositories the is leaps and bounds ahead of some of the competition (especially RHL/YUM). Registry, I'll grant you that is a magnet for problem-causing garbage.

As for (B) and stress tests, The trick isn't so much to put a high load in all the time, but to trigger the wrong event in the wrong state, stress tests can easily miss this one.

I've done hundreds of system installs on similar machines with the same disks, and not had the problem you mentioned. *shrug* Everyone has had their own experiences.

How is it worse? (2, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154582)

I've found library hell to be worse on Linux, even with Ubuntu, in my experience than in Windows.

Okay, but now explain HOW it is "worse".

Under Ubuntu, if the library isn't in the repository, that single app won't install so you know it won't work.

With Windows, installing a new app causes one or more existing (and previously working) apps to stop working.

As for (B) and stress tests, The trick isn't so much to put a high load in all the time, but to trigger the wrong event in the wrong state, stress tests can easily miss this one.

Which would indicate that it was a software bug if that behaviour was documented or known.

Such would be a hardware bug if such was not documented and behaved differently in different pieces ... or if it was documented but not correctly implemented in any of those pieces. Either way, it should be very easy to troubleshoot. And with Linux, it is very easy to troubleshoot that.

Re:How is it worse? (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154728)

Typically in windows I install an app, it just works, regardless of what else I install. In the rare cases that doesn't happen, it simply asks me to uninstall the old version, and viola, it works. I don't think I've ever seen a case of a different application causing a problem.

With apt and yum, I've often seen
Package A requires Library X version Y
Package B requiers Library X version Z

and they would *NOT* install simultaniously without fiddling and telling the updaters to ignore dependancies, etc.
Or, alternatively, Package C requires Library W. Cannot find Libarary W in repositories. And of course various searches, including several online repositories, leads me to dead ends.

I have not seen those things in Windows, even with hundreds of program installs. Not since the 9x days at any rate.

Yes, a software bug, such as the driver. I was just saying that stress tests wont find everything.

I've never had an easy time troublshooting Linux myself. One of the reasons I stick to FreeBSD and Windows. Again it's my own experience. I understand your experiences almost certainly differ, it comes to different mindsets and approches to debugging, and not one of us being right, and the other wrong, so please, lets skip that argument (if you weren't going to start it, I appologize, but I've goteen it enough here).

Re:Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154180)

As the article shows, the previous software was terrible already.

I think you're missing the point. These are systems that control nuclear weapons. Not to mention, perserve the lives of sailors in both combat and non-combat situations. They've kept the existing systems because they work, not because they impress anyone. The prudent solution is to upgrade these systems cautiously, with an eye toward a zero possibility for failure. Which not only excludes the use of Windows, but excludes the use of Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, or just about anything else that the military hasn't either built themselves or gone over with a fine-tooth comb.

Consider the case of NASA. The Space Shuttle still runs on IBM's AP-101 computer systems from the 1970's. The only upgrade was a move from TTL circuitry to a semiconductor design. (The AP-101S.) Astronauts still pull out the flight manual and punch in program codes to execute computer-controlled flight maneuvers. More sophisticated systems are available today, so why hasn't NASA upgraded the computers?

The answer is "because it works". The shuttle actually has 5 AP-101 computers, four of which are redundantly in sync to catch failures, and one which runs software written by a completely different team. Should any of the computers start giving different answers, NASA will immediately take measures to determine what is wrong, why, and how they can fix or work around it in whatever time window is available to them. (Obviously, some situations are tight on available time, and may require that manual control be established.) Just try getting that sort of reliability out of a Windows-based flight computer!

I know this is Slashdot, where nerds like their OSes. But there are times when the best solution for the job does not involve your favorite OS, hardware, or even your design philosophy. People's lives are on the line. It's best that the right choice be the one that provides the absolute best chance of preserving those lives rather than taking the chance (however infinitesimal) in exchange for some pretty buttons to click on.

I'm not saying that Her Majesty's Navy shouldn't upgrade her systems to ones with better combat effectiveness, but I am saying that Windows-based systems are not it. Not the software, not the hardware, and not the overall design. It's the wrong solution to the problem. I can only pray that it doesn't get someone killed.

Re:Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (2, Informative)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154202)

I'm not really a fanboy of any particular piece of software, but most of the problems I have noticed with various Linux systems relative to Windows revolve around either the unavailability of an application I needed or the ass brained process of actually installing an app once found. That goes double for hardware.



In the case of military systems I would think both of those problems would be avoided as they are going to be running hardware and software designed specifically for the application and none of it would be user installed.


As for the interface I suspect it would take some digging to figure out that a finished battleship control system was running Windows. I doubt there will be a Start -> Games -> Pinball menu choice next to the window running the radar console. Most popular HMI [citect.com] packages for manufacturing equipment run on Windows and any good setup will hide any component of the OS that isn't needed to run that machine. Or if an intuitive UI really is a big deal, there is always OSX.


The biggest advantage Windows has over everything else is that it will generally work with any hardware or software a person might pick off the shelf of any podunk software store anywhere on earth. For desktops that trumps all its disadvantages. For installing on a battleship I don't see how that gives it a leg up.

Re:Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (2, Interesting)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154488)

Did you just mention OSX? As a military option for an in-ship workstation? This isn't an iShip... I don't think that's possibly unless they're using the new NuclearPod.

I think an embedded(or even non-embedded) Windows solution would be fine for low-performance systems that aren't driven to the needle's edge hardware-wise. They're certainly more practical for secure development on the available frameworks.

Whoever mentioned that these systems would be driving nuclear weapons is really looking at this the wrong way. The nuclear weapons console will not be in anyway networked to the navigation system- unless they're insane. They're likely using high-performance embedded RTOS for that.

Re:Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (3, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154354)

"I think this option is better than Linux or F/OSS operating systems that would possibly require MORE training for their programmers and users to learn. My biggest frustration with F/OSS operating systems is that the user interface is counter-intuitive for a lot of Windows-friendly users"

Okay we are talking about embedded systems! The user interface to an advanced missile defence system will not be the same as Word!
Also I pray to God that they don't hire your typical Windows VB programmers for these jobs so that extra training for the programmers is bunk.

The simple truth is that no "off the self" software should be run on these systems. You are not going to run Word or the latest version of Photoshop on your Command and control systems. You can put a great looking user interface on any OS if you want to so the user friendliness of Windows doesn't really matter. The other issue is going with W2K is you are stuck using X86. Unless they want to move to Vista they are stuck using 32 code.

Seems like a bad plan to be stuck with one type of CPU and a near end of life OS.

Solars, QNX, OpenBSD, VMS, Linux, are any number of secure, actively developed, and or real-time capable OSs seem like better choices.

Nothing "sort of" about it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18154698)

Judging by your past "articles" (oh, I'm sorry, comments) I think that you are astroturfing for M$.

Re:Sortof a Microsoft fanboy, but... (1)

liliafan (454080) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154708)

Okay I am certainly not a microsoft fan, I use Unix and Linux almost exclusively, however, you made a number of reasonable points.

I don't agree that linux of F/OSS is a bad option, I almost entirely disagree with your last paragraph, however, this is one of the best arguements I have seen in a long time on /. in favour of an operating system.

Personally I would like to see opensource used more within military and government facilities, I especially think something like rtlinux would be good for this kind of purpose, but you do put forward a convincing point of view on this, so kudos to you.

Windows... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18153878)

Windows might not be appropriate.

How long until someone says Linux is?

USS Yorktown & Blue Ridge (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153888)

I'm sure we all remember how well things went for the U.S.S. Yorktown [wikipedia.org] ; an Aegis Class missile destroyer that ended up dead in the water after a crew member entered a zero into a database. Obviously, this was caused by the fact that the Yorktown's control software was of a really bad design. Critical systems should have never been so tightly linked that a failure in one area would cause a cascading failure across the ship. Still, it raised a lot of questions about the wisdom of using consumer software for life and death situations.

Two years after that, the Navy had still not learned their lesson. The flagship of the seventh fleet, the USS Blue Ridge, was deployed in 1999 with Windows-based Command and Control systems [linuxtoday.com] . The result? The ship was infected with the Melissa Macro Virus. (Source - Section 12.4 [packetstormsecurity.org] )

I'm sorry, but when you're taking men into combat, you want equipment that has been designed to do what needs to be done, not pretty features that let the GIs open their email attachments. There's a reason why the current military setup in the US is for the crew to have their own laptops for personal use. Using a consumer OS in a battle-critical system is nothing but a recipe for disaster. It's too bad that Her Majesty's Navy has failed to learn from the mistakes of others.

Re:USS Yorktown & Blue Ridge (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18153960)

Exactly only a moron will use a consumer Operation system for a military use. Windows is a CONSUMER OS. yeah businesses use it but at it's heart it is not designed for critical apps, life dependant apps, etc... Infact the EULA specifically states you CANT use it for such tasks.

Nice to see that someone at the navy is a complete and utter idiot.

If you'd read the article (1)

wiredog (43288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154108)

You'd know that Win2k, however bad, is far better than what they have now.

Re:If you'd read the article (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154228)

You'd know that Win2k, however bad, is far better than what they have now.

How so? Because the old system requires training to use? Shock and horrors. :-/

The old system worked. It was difficult to use because of the technology of the time, but it's not like they can't upgrade that (or design a new system) rather than trusting the lives of their sailors and country to a yank system that the US Navy couldn't even get working.

That's always a lie. (4, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154660)

You'd know that Win2k, however bad, is far better than what they have now.

I find this hard to believe. This sounds like something that you'd hear from someone who had already decided to upgrade.

Their current system works; therefore, it is inherently superior to any new, unproven, new system. There should be a huge barrier to upgrading with anything, because you're replacing a devil you know with a devil you don't. The new system should have to have demonstrated credentials in other similar situations, proving that it's at least as capable as what it's replacing. Things like ease-of-use and training should all fall under the system's core purpose.

I've seen companies replace "legacy" systems because some manager walked out onto the production floor / cube-pit and was horrified to see green-screen terminals sitting around. To them, terminals = old, old = bad, end of discussion. So they would come up with reasons to upgrade, and say things like 'well, it couldn't be worse than what we have!' with complete neglect for the fact that the old systems, by virtue of having been there for a long time, clearly did their job.

And, bottom line, it's a lot easier to train someone on a complicated green-screen system that always works, than on an unpredictable new system, where you have a ton of gotchas and error modes. Generally, once you get everything worked out, and people know what things they just can't do because it'll crash the system, you haven't really simplified anything. I have personally seen tens of millions of dollars wasted on 'upgrades' like this, where the result was so much worse than the beginning, that it immediately rolled into a new cycle of upgrades -- the executives believing, like deranged poker players, that as long as they had tossed that many millions into the pot, that they would surely solve it with a few million more.

This sounds like the same thing is happening; someone freaked because the equipment and software is old, but didn't realize that there's no logical reason why something that's old is necessarily bad, if it's still doing it's job. "Anything is better than this" is always false if what you have right now gets you through the day and does its job. Unless the system you're implementing has a strong track record of doing the same job elsewhere, you have nothing besides a salesman's promise that it's going to be better. And remember: at the end of the job, that salesman is going to disappear, and you're going to be stuck using whatever is left.

Re:USS Yorktown & Blue Ridge (1)

jb.hl.com (782137) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154120)

I'm sorry, but when you're taking men into combat, you want equipment that has been designed to do what needs to be done, not pretty features that let the GIs open their email attachments.

Which is why they're presumably using a heavily locked down version of Windows 2000 Server with no Internet access.

Re:USS Yorktown & Blue Ridge (2, Insightful)

Twanfox (185252) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154436)

No internet access is irrelevant. The fact that a system like that is vulnerable AT ALL to common viruses is a recipe for disaster. Consider: Someone who doesn't like the current direction the ship is going bringing in his USB pen drive and launching a virus across the ship, taking control of it or just disabling it. While this could potentially happen with a custom designed OS, without the specs, interface calls, and knowledge of the system and how to compile for it, you aren't going to be writing many viruses at all for it. Even the potential for ACCIDENTAL infection makes it highly undesirable to have a common OS at the core of your battleship.

Re:USS Yorktown & Blue Ridge (1)

jb.hl.com (782137) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154748)

Your scenarios (and AKAImBatman's) are all examples of failed offline security policies. If someone is able to physically plug a pendrive into a mission critical computer or even physically touch the thing without appropriate credentials, you may as well blow up the damn warship yourself.

These aren't corporate desktops. The military are not stupid enough to make such attacks easy.

Re:USS Yorktown & Blue Ridge (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154448)

And that's going to stop someone from accidently running into another divide by zero bug? Or from the system being compromised by a tech who decided to interface his laptop for convenience of system administration, and accidently carried a virus from shore? Or even foreign agents installing sophisticated spyware* because the OS is designed to run user programs? And that's assuming that situations don't arise where the Windows Task Scheduler is busy, and fails to respond fast enough in combat situations! (Never a problem in RTOSes, where they're designed with such situations in mind.)

There are just so many things that can go wrong here, that it's not even funny. This simply is not a wise move. Not by a long shot.

* Brings new meaning to the term, doesn't it? :P

Galactica doesn't use intra ship networks (1)

Quevar (882612) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154300)

This is exactly the reason that Battlestar Galactica doesn't have any networks on board. If a a virus (or Cylon) does attack electronically, they can only take down one system. Diversity and separation are good things, even in terms of computers.

Safeguards intentionally disabled, it was a test (3, Insightful)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154456)

Obviously, this was caused by the fact that the Yorktown's control software was of a really bad design.

You are mistaken. Safeguards were intentionally disabled.

The truth is that a server app corrupted it's data, a client app tried to use that bad data, and the client app failed to control equipment. Can happen with any OS. Add to this the fact that the ship was a test platform not an operational ship and they were trying to break things.

"Others insist that NT was not the culprit. According to Lieutenant Commander Roderick Fraser, who was the chief engineer on board the ship at the time of the incident, the fault was with certain applications that were developed by CAE Electronics in Leesburg, Va. As Harvey McKelvey, former director of navy programs for CAE, admits, "If you want to put a stick in anybody's eye, it should be in ours." But McKelvey adds that the crash would not have happened if the navy had been using a production version of the CAE software, which he asserts has safeguards to prevent the type of failure that occurred."

http://www.sciam.com/1998/1198issue/1198techbus2.h [sciam.com] tml

"McKelvey writes that the failure, "was not the result of any system software or design deficiency but rather a decision to allow the ship to manipulate the software to stimulate [sic] machinery casualties for training purposes and the 'tuning' of propulsion machinery operating parameters. In the usual shipboard installation, this capability is not allowed.""

http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/20.37.html#subj1 [ncl.ac.uk]

well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18153892)

Just have your CC# ready when you call in for support.

Re:well (1, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153978)

Just have your CC# ready when you call in for support.

As long as the problem isn't with the weapons system then I think Microsoft would have a good incentive to provide support free of charge ;)

Re:well (2, Funny)

slashbob22 (918040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154096)

Mod Parent up.
"+1 Direct Hit"

You need responsiveness and stability (1, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153896)

And yet you didn't choose an RTOS? Right. Ok. Gotcha.

At the very least, a DIY linux bundle would be a hell of a lot better than Windows. But even Linux isn't realtime.

Is there DRM for radar/sonar devices?

Tom

Re:You need responsiveness and stability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18154142)

Is there DRM for radar/sonar devices?

MS-RADAR has detected a copy-protected object on the screen. Would you like to attempt to acquire a license so you can see the object?

Re:You need responsiveness and stability (2, Informative)

TERdON (862570) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154186)

Actually, Linux IS realtime [slashdot.org] . But most people don't use it that way, and I'm not sure if there are that many applications really using the realtime extensions...

Re:You need responsiveness and stability (4, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154270)

Actually, Linux IS realtime. But most people don't use it that way, and I'm not sure if there are that many applications really using the realtime extensions...

Realtime support has been included in the mainline kernel for almost a whole four months now. I can't fathom why they aren't already using it on warships...

Re:You need responsiveness and stability (1)

Compholio (770966) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154612)

Realtime support has been included in the mainline kernel for almost a whole four months now. I can't fathom why they aren't already using it on warships...
Realtime support has been included in several distributions (free and paid) for some time, the RTLinux project has been around since 1998. My understanding is that, for the most part, large changes don't get included into the mainline kernel until the've been independently proven to work without significant problems.

Re:You need responsiveness and stability (1)

TERdON (862570) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154746)

I can :)

I only said it was realtime, not that it was currently stable. I'd actually agree on using a tried and tested RTOS, that's specifically has been built to be a RTOS, and not something that has been built to be a generic OS with RT enhancements bolted on afterwards.

Don't forget... (1)

UED++ (1043486) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153902)

To watch out for the international date line!

Praise Windows! (1)

arlo5724 (172574) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153908)

Am I the only one who read "Windows for Worship"? For a second I though /. had really changed.

"and the need for incredibly fast response times." (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18153910)

...So WTF are they using Windows for?

(yes, seriously)

Windows != real-time OS.

Re:"and the need for incredibly fast response time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18154460)

realtime OS != fast and responsive.

realtime OS == always meets deadlines.

You sunk my battleship! (1)

Padrino121 (320846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153916)

5 points...

"Wargames" All over again? (1)

gentimjs (930934) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154554)

I can see it now ... "BY GOD, I thought it was just minesweeper!"

Oh Oh! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18153934)

Hopefully we will not be in the middle of a war when Patch Tuesday rolls around!

Windows on warships? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18153938)

All hands! Brace for impact!

Zzzzzz... (-1, Flamebait)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153940)

I predict this will be the most predictable Windows whinefest we've had on here in a while.

Don't let facts get in your way. Nevermind that they'll use hardened versions and will have testing regimes that will be damn near insane. Nevermind that Windows 2k as a server OS without all the other crap people typically put on it is extremely stable.

I predict countless variations of "Zeke, der puttin Windoze (from M$) on battleships! Yuk Yuk, sure gives new meaning to 'lue screen of (mass) death!'yuk yuk."

Re:Zzzzzz... (4, Insightful)

Lurker McLurker (730170) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154058)

Waht makes me Zzzzzz is everytime I read a slashdot article, I come across comments trying to predict what the other commenters (by implication, those others are less intelligent than the poster- pointing out stupidity in others in an attempt to make him look smart by association). I prefer to read posts about the subject on slashdot, rather than posts about slashdot, especially when they have the irritating smug tone of "Oh, look at all the losers and their oh so predictable posts. I'm glad I'm far more intelligent than the unwashed masses!" And, yes, I am aware that I don't have to read any posts here, and that I have not only read one of these pointless posts but replied to it.

Re:Zzzzzz... (0, Flamebait)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154470)

Oooh, zinger! You have smitten me with your +2 jab of deep insight, kudos to you sir. I like the way you pointed out the obvious (the implication that others are less intelligent). There's a certain kind of irony to your post, which you half-assed alluded to but I'll leave it to the reader.

Re:Zzzzzz... (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154572)

I agree. Look at the parent post, for example.

Re:Zzzzzz... (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154132)

Maybe the fact that windows was not written for this should be some sort of clue as to why people object? Windows is not an RTOS nor is it designed with openess and interoperability in mind (things required for security).

Sane and Register thats a (1)

solitu (1045848) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153946)

..Oxymoron.

Well... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18153948)

at least we know it's already for the Minesweepers.

Re:Well... (1)

Sneakernets (1026296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154500)

"When you die in the game, you die for real!"

Oh noes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18153984)

This is a bad idea! Windows on warships? When things like that happen, the blue screen of death will actually mean death!

"sanest and balanced"? you're joking (5, Insightful)

toby (759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153986)

This article is infantile puffery, something that's obvious from the style.

Take non sequiturs such as "Windows may be unreliable, but it's hard to imagine it being as failure-prone as the kit which is out there already." This logic may suffice for a lightweight Register article but it's no way to justify picking the worst available consumer grade O/S over proven systems such as Solaris, OpenVMS, or other far more reliable alternatives.

The Reg ran a better article [theregister.co.uk] in 2004 - which actually quoted dissenting engineers (who were immediately fired, go figure).

Should we laugh, cry, or protest?

Re:"sanest and balanced"? you're joking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18154382)

They were fired because they hate capitalism (MS) and hate their country. Duh.

Re:"sanest and balanced"? you're joking (2, Funny)

Lord An (104249) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154602)

it's no way to justify picking the worst available consumer grade O/S
Actually, Windows is the perfect OS for this task! To wit: it comes pre-installed with Minesweeper for the destroyers and Solitaire for the submarines...

Re:"sanest and balanced"? you're joking (1)

ednopantz (467288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154690)

What's the problem, too much focus on costs vs. benefits? Not enough of those great weasel words like "might", "could", and "possibly"?

Not enough Fear Uncertainty and Doubt for you?

The 2004 article was a piece of crap. "You could get infected with malware by browsing to a nasty web site." Um, yeah, assuming that the security configuration would be completely and totally wide open, and the ship's internal systems would be used for visiting Pr0N sites, then yes, it could.

By the same logic, submarines shouldn't have hatches either, because you could leave them all wide open and then submerge. In addition, you wouldn't want to use anything UNIX based, either, since when you could hand out root access to all sailors, and encourage them to experiment with rm.

You know, not everyone is interested in the Linux Jihad.

Blue Screen! (1)

the dark hero (971268) | more than 7 years ago | (#18153994)

Abandon Ship!

Microsoft War 2007 (5, Funny)

Sneakernets (1026296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154004)

Hi, it appears that you are trying to fight a battle, would you like some help? *shudder*

Re:Microsoft War 2007 (1)

UED++ (1043486) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154064)

They're promoting that damn paper clip to Admiral!

Messenger (1)

onetwofour (977057) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154034)

"HMS Clippy is online" "Are you sure you wish to block HMS Clippy?" Yes "Launching Torpedoes"

I really don't know where to begin... (5, Funny)

Nevtje(hr (869571) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154038)

...with this one

System: Are you sure that you want to go out into open waters? Your ship could be the victim of a denial of territory-attack!

Operator: Yes. Raise the anchor.

System: Double the killer delete select all?

Operator: Enemy ship spotted. Fire at will!

System: Before you can continue, system needs to be rebooted. Restart now?

Operator: Activate sonar.

System: Before you can proceed, we need to ensure that you are running Windows Genuine Advantage. Please proceed. We will send all of your hardware info to Microsoft. Information will be treated anonymously.

Etc etc.

And you think Linux is good enough for warships? (1)

RonaldReagan (112997) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154040)

Linux hasn't ever proven reliable in the open salt seas.

Linux will rust up on you like nothing (unless you buy the rust proofing package.)

New Ship Names (1)

Quzak (1047922) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154046)

USS BSOD USS Blue Screen (Nice ring to it) USS Crashalot (Like Lancealot only retarded)

Nearly Ready? (1)

DeeVeeAnt (1002953) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154068)

Let's SHIP it then!

makes about as much sense as... (1)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154078)

...a screen door for a submarine!

Hot cha cha cha cha!!

Read the Article (1)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154088)

The point of the article is not that Windows is perfect or reliable- The point of the article is that Windows is amazingly better than the current software running on Navy vessels. A specialized, stripped-down, offline version of Windows 2000 is going to be stable and secure enough, especially compared to what they run now.

I can see it now.. (1)

markfleser (940585) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154136)

"Cannot complete request: "shoot enemy" because there was an unknown error, please bring your warship back to drydock and make sure all weapons are seated properly".

we can all breathe easily now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18154174)

we can all breathe easily now! We can be cetain skynet will never take over the world!

Games (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154214)

Yeah it may crash but it has games!

(Microsoft will not be defeated by any competition. They will be defeated by wrongful death lawsuits.)

Not the Win2K you may have (3, Insightful)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154234)

I doubt very much that this is the Win2K that you may have bought for your desktop. Many companies make products for consumers that differ greatly to those made for the military, police, and other services. My suspicion is that this is a highly customized install that will be considerably more limited and specialized. And yes, far more stable. The details of the customization, will no doubt, not be available to the press or public (and nor should they be).

As for the articles description of some of the systems out there that are being used by the militaries of the world. It's pretty accurate.
I had a Vic20 that had more power than some of the systems still out there.

I knew IT! (1)

Herkum01 (592704) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154278)

I would have thought it would have taken longer for Microsoft to get to this point but,

"Now I need a freaking Battleship with a Nuclear reactor to run Windows!"

Einstein (1)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154284)

How do YOU know that unrelated code is imported? It's easy to speculate but the fact is that you know NOTHING about this. Or you think that Windows mobile uses the same features that Windows for desktops. The only thing in common these 2 products have is the word Windows. The same can be the case here. So, do you think that Linuzzzzzzzzz is a better alternative? Wih all it's 2 thousand cooks' spagetti kernel code?

Re:Einstein (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18154676)

No but OpenBSD is better.

Make sure there is a manual override (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154288)

Make sure critical systems are protected from crashes in other systems, and that alternative control mechanism exists if the control computer or its console crash.

VERY critical systems like missile-launch systems should have an computer-independent "off" switch that is KEPT OFF at all times unless authorized. I think they do this already.

HELMSMAN: Captain, my console locked up, again
CAPTAIN: Engineering, take manual control of the help for the next 5 minutes, continue at existing course and speed. Helmsman, you know what to do.
HELMSMAN: Aye, Sir. [reboots computer]
[5 minutes later...]
COMPUTER: Welcome to Windows, ship navigation and radar interface loading....
COMPUTER: Warning, inbound missile approximately 5 seconds away.
HELSMAN: Captain, I think we have a probleBOOM!

Loose coding.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18154310)

... sinks ships [nh.gov] [New Hampshire State Library]

Don't they call them portholes? (1)

aapold (753705) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154344)

On ships anyway.

Well, if this doesn't pan out they could always use that agreement with SuSE and release Naval Linux...

Right (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154348)

So we're going to be putting our trust in a system to which we don't have the source code and which is infamous for the instability of its applications, and the ability of viruses to corrupt. I do grant that the system is likely to be "hardened", but we all know how hardened Windows really is, don't we?

Also, being Windows 2K, there is unlikely to be an easy, inexpensive upgrade path. It'll still be there in about 15 years and look as obsolete as the stuff the article complains about now. Since Windows '98 was obsoleted recently, I can't imagine support for Win 2k continuing for ever, can you?

If ever there was a set of systems that would benefit from a custom Linux or Unix release, this would be it.

but does it run Minesweeper? (1)

TheDrewbert (914334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154368)

just wondering....

This brings whole new meaning to BSOD... (1)

Mizled (1000175) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154372)

This brings a whole new meaning to BSOD...I can see it now...

British Captain: Fire the torpedos!
British Crewman: Umm...Captain...we have a problem...I just got BSOD!
British Captain: What? REBOOT AND FIRE!
British Crewman: I CAN'T...I KEEP BLUE SCREENING!
British Captain: NO TIME TO REINSTALL! ABANDON SHIP!!

Meanwhile on the Russian Submarine...
Russian Captain: We show those punny British who's boss...We run Linux on our Machines and in Soviet Russia Linux runs you! HA HA HA PEW PEW PEW!

War on Piracy (1)

jeremyclark13 (999183) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154428)

I knew Billy was peeved about pirates but I didn't know he went as far as having his on fleet of warships. Come on I know I couldn't be the first to make this connection.

Software is software (1)

jimbogun (869443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154432)

You can whine all you want about how Windows crashes all the time. In the end, all that matters is will it work on the ship? I have seen Unix systems crash before. Even military systems based on Unix crash. The code that the programmers make to run the device must be as solid as the operating system beneath it. If you add crap software to any OS, you get crashes. Even worse than crashes are poorly designed interfaces. What kind of programmer makes the user type in perfectly a 100 character fire assignments, with no chance to use backspace or delete?

The Culture beat the royal navy to it. (1)

palad1 (571416) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154454)

By 5000 years or so...

LSV Your system needs to be restarted
GSV Click here to start

And the latest and greatest:

ROU, Cancel or Allow, psychopath class

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ships_(The_Cu lture) [wikipedia.org] )

Embedded training software: (1)

wideBlueSkies (618979) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154504)

I heard that the install image comes with Minesweeper...for training purposes..

huge amount of unrelated code .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154564)

'The main issues are the huge amount of unrelated code that is imported with the kernel and the need for incredibly fast response times'

I beg to differ, is any kind of server OS suitable to the task. How about a distributed system running on embedded hardware with multiple 'failure modes' and communication channels. And I don't mean code running from a rom, something like small independent devices running as finite state machine with known predictable behavour. That way when a shell blows a hole in your computer, the whole ship don't go dead in the water [wikipedia.org] .

Yikes! (1)

woohootoo (904621) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154574)

That's it. Just.....yikes!

welcome to the weird and wonderful future (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154580)

where script kiddies can defeat navies

one wonders what someone like jules verne or isaac asimov would have thought of such a world

or imagine telling a naval commander in the days of the dreadnought [wikipedia.org] , those undisputed impenetrable ocean fortresses they were, that in the future, some teenager pecking at a typewriter in front of a cathode ray tube type device a continent away could magically disarm his entire fleet

it truly boggles the mind, and yet it is the reality we find ourselves in today

if life seems mundane to you, remember, factoids like this story prove it most definitely is not boring

Forgive the potentially stupid question... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154658)

...but why hasn't the military just employed a hundred or so programmers that just make a custom-built OS that the US military uses all accross the board? That would make communications and data integration much easier, amongst other positives...

Too expensive? Time consuming? Difficult? Why haven't they just done that...?

Windows 2000? Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18154702)

Why use Windows 2000, an operating system with a history of insecurity, instability, leaked source code, etc. ? When they could be using a tried & tested military grade product such as Trusted Solaris (already used extensively by the US government).

What does the UK Navy even do? (0, Flamebait)

gelfling (6534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18154750)

Im sure Windows is fine for troop ship management, slow rides up the Thames past Buckingham and the usual lot of do nothing feather in the hat bilge the UK Navy is up to.
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