Wednesday

Wednesday 29/1/2003Red Hat in orbit! Space Shuttle Columbia is up there right now, flying OMNI -- Operating Missions as Nodes on the Internet.

Wednesday 29/1/2003
Red Hat in orbit! Space Shuttle Columbia is up there right now, flying OMNI -- Operating Missions as Nodes on the Internet. By replacing its various legacy systems with COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) IP-based stuff, and making everything that flies above the atmosphere just another Internet destination, the agency hopes to cut costs and make things work more flexibly. Well, it's worked for us down here on Earth. And NASA is using Linux, thus proving beyond doubt that penguins can in fact fly perfectly well. Vint Cerf, one of the Net's founding fathers, has got there already, of course. He's already fleshed out the specifications for routing packets between planets, and out to distant probes on the edge of the Solar System. It's just a matter of getting the kit out there. Of course, there's no way we'll be allowed to play. If you ever wanted a limited bandwidth system, interplanetary comms is it -- we get stuff back from the most distant stuff a handful of bits at a time. And do we really want the next Mars mission data to come back filled with misspelled swearwords from 'leet doods? Which is a shame for anyone who fancies browsing the backside of the moon. There is an alternative. We already have fleets of amateur radio satellites in orbit, run and used perfectly well by hams the world over. We just need to configure a couple as routers and send 'em on out, as a sort of informal backup to the Nasa big guns. And just like the original Internet, it'll be there when its needed and the Big Grown-Up way of doing things shows signs of not working properly.