Windows for Warships nears frontline service

#1
The Register - Windows for Warships

Big step forward

All that may be so. However, the sad fact is that Windows will probably be a big step forward for the Royal Navy (RN). Anyone who has spent time in an RN warship is entirely accustomed to seeing equipment on which he may depend for his life occasionally throw a double six for no good reason. Windows may be unreliable, but it's hard to imagine it being as failure-prone as the kit which is out there already.

Again, Windows platforms may be troublesome to maintain, but most civilian sysadmins simply wouldn't believe the resources the navy can throw at problems. A present-day Type 42 destroyer carries at least four people who have absolutely nothing else to do but care for the ship's command system. As of just a few years ago, this was still a pair of antique 24-bit, 1MHz machines each with about 25KB of RAM.

Two of the seagoing sysadmins will be senior technicians with at least five years' expensive general training and months of courses specifically tailored for the kit they are minding now. Their assistants will be less skilled, but still useful. They can take care of drudgery – minor bumf, safety checks, making tea – freeing the real techs for serious work. And the on-board team would seldom be expected to cope with anything as complex as a software update. That would be done in harbour by more advanced specialists, probably including vendor reps. Nor do the combat sysadmins get lumbered with general IT desktop support; there are other people to do that, also lavishly trained. If any organisation can keep Windows functional, it's Her Majesty's navy.

There may also be perfectly valid criticisms to be made regarding Windows useability. When triggering missile decoys with seconds to spare, one doesn't need a superfluous pop-up box saying "Do you want to use soft kill?" with "Confirm" and "Cancel" buttons. But this kind of thing isn't going to faze you if you're used to entering instruction sets such as "PE L5414.10N L00335.67E R6000 TMDA [INJECT]" from memory without backspace or delete. During combat, mind. The one group of users to whom Windows 2000 might look pretty marvellous are RN warfare operators.

In fact, the navy is easily impressed by almost any modern technology. As another example, the RN is only today getting used to the avant-garde notion of display screens which can be read with the lights on. Her Majesty's warships still have a lot of crazy old circular-sweep CRTs – essentially, modified 1940s-style radar scopes – whose image is so dim they can only be used in darkness. On the bridge during daylight you often need a hood or blackout curtains just to check the radar.

Many of these aged displays have refresh rates measured in deciseconds, not milliseconds. To this very day, RN navigators typically have to track the ship's position in pencil on a paper chart. There is normally no moving-map display of the sort found in every merchant ship – or even minicab. The results of this luddism are often expensive and embarrassing.
Sounds familiar
 
#2
polar said:
There is normally no moving-map display of the sort found in every merchant ship – or even minicab. The results of this luddism are often expensive and embarrassing.

Not as embarrassing as not knowing where you are if your screen crashes.

Chinagraph might be low tech, but it is robust and survivable.

Anyway, I worked on a couple of Frigates last year and some of the kit on there was quite Gucci.
 
#4
I do believe that they do, just like ourselves.....but their version dies if you put a laptop lid down!
We are indeed blessed (sort of)
 
#5
If any organisation can keep Windows functional, it's Her Majesty's navy.
The author must be on acid. :plotting:

SkiCarver said:
puttin my nerd hat on for a moment. If they want a robust system, they should use UNIX. (Linux)
Do you base that claim on experience? Surely a system is as secure as you make it, determined by the functionality you require. Remember training and support requirements too - lots of civvy companies went open source a couple of years ago but have gone back to MS because it's a known quantity.

Unix/Linux has a squillion different flavours, so could you suggest which flavour you believe would be a suitably 'robust system'? And why?
 
#6
Does this mean that Mr Gates will become even more wealthy?
Do the Americans use Windows based systems?
Will we have to upgrade every 4 to 5 years just so we have latest operating system?
Yours etc awaiting the Blue Screen of Death
 
#7
bigbadjimmyp said:
I do believe that they do, just like ourselves.....but their version dies if you put a laptop lid down!
We are indeed blessed (sort of)
Now who told you that???? :shock:

A lot of that article is factually incorrect but hey, why let the truth get in the way of a good story???
 
#8
the_matelot said:
bigbadjimmyp said:
I do believe that they do, just like ourselves.....but their version dies if you put a laptop lid down!
We are indeed blessed (sort of)
Now who told you that???? :shock:
Everybody! :yawnstretch:
 
#9
Microsoft's software always seems to have a disclaimer when you load it saying it should not be used in mission critical applications. Am I alone in thinking this is the case?
I don't see why you would need huge computing power to run a warship anyway. Seriously.
 
#10
EX_STAB said:
Microsoft's software always seems to have a disclaimer when you load it saying it should not be used in mission critical applications. Am I alone in thinking this is the case?
I don't see why you would need huge computing power to run a warship anyway. Seriously.
Command systems & weapon systems for a start. I don't think an open internet forum is the right place to discuss anymore.
 
#12
leveller said:
Great, so new terrorism front opened up, just send the RN a virus, and lo and behold the entire navy brought to a standstill! :crazy:
I think you'll find that viruses are a threat across all of the MOD. Hence the need for what some perceive to be killjoy measures on the RLI.
 
#14
Retd_crab said:
Me thinks you think anyone in the big wide world thinks the same or even cares. Alas what our masters think is different.
I think you should learn to spell and grasp the concept of grammar.
 
#15
polar said:
As of just a few years ago, this was still a pair of antique 24-bit, 1MHz machines each with about 25KB of RAM.
Sheer bloody luxury.

First time I saw one of these new fangled computer things on a warship it had 1K of memory in a box the size of a telephone kiosk ("Integrated circuits have no place in a warship. They are too susceptible to electromagnetic pulse").

The 'keyboard' consisted of 16 white flip switches with a red button at the end of the row. You 'programmed' the machine one bit at a time then pressed the red button to send your word to memory.

As for the display - what display? The only output that could be generated was a hex dump of the memory to a line printer (like a laser printer except you needed ear defenders to stand near it).

No surfing the internet during the middle watch in those days.
 
#18
polar69 said:
At least Captains will now have a rock solid excuse for "crashes"
"Captain, we're heading for those rocks"
"Aaaarghhhh......somebody press control-alt-delete"

Imagine, about to fire a cruise missile at Iran (okay - we're probaby looking ahead by a couple of months). The help assistant paperclip thingy comes on.
 

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