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12.13.14

Time to Take Microsoft Out of British Aviation Before Planes Crash Into Buildings

Posted in Microsoft, Windows at 7:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fault-intolerant systems with back doors a recipe for disaster

Takeoff

Summary: London’s mighty Heathrow Airport among those affected by a Microsoft-reliant air traffic control system which is not being able to properly recover from an outage, and not for the first time either

BRITS were aviation pioneers and arguably the fathers of aviation (depending on which version of history and definitions one picks). But British aviation, which is well beyond just British Airways in this globalised world, lost the confidence of much of the world yesterday. That’s for two reasons. First, an incident was reported where a drone came just 6 meters away from physical collision with a civilians-filled commercial plane (high capacity with many passengers) and simultaneously there were reports like [1, 2, 3, 4] about the computer system in of of the busiest airports in the whole world malfunctioning or altogether failing to operate while planes come (or are supposed to leave) at a pace of about one per minute. Everyone keeps asking, who is responsible for this? Curiously enough almost nobody calls out Windows. The press should know that a Windows error is not “computer error” (even The Independent, which is relatively decent British press, failed to note this). London must have been nuts to have chosen NATS, which heavily relies on Microsoft and Windows. National Air Traffic Services (NATS) is, according to a Microsoft booster, a huge Microsoft client:

Gavin Clarke writes: National Air Traffic Services (NATS) at Swanwick in Hampshire, is a major customer of Microsoft with Windows on PCs and servers, and Office 2010 under a volume Enterprise Agreement.

NATS has upgraded to Windows 7 from XP on the desktop. It also has a load of RISC boxes and IBM gear, we’re told. There’s no indication what component of the network was at fault at this time.

Air traffic services are run by a relatively small IT team with knowhow and support from Lockheed Martin. Common-or-garden tech is outsourced to Serco, Capgemini, Amore Group Attenda, BT and Vodafone.

So blame everyone except Microsoft, right? This has become an International embarrassment for London, a tourists magnet that truly helps the British economy, and it’s due to dependence on Microsoft Windows. This is the second time it happens in about a year, so how safe are tourists going to feel? There is no need for terrorists to crash planes into buildings when Microsoft Windows crashes, leaving pilots and ground control unable to properly navigate in very busy skies (many planes fly over London all day long). NATS “is a major customer of Microsoft Windows on PCs and servers,” based on a person close to Microsoft, so what can one deduce from this? NATS has no technical skills for having chosen a platform with back doors and no resilience/error recovery comparable to that of Linux (and GNU). London’s airport authorities should take a lesson from LSE (London Stock Exchange) and move to GNU/Linux. “In December 2013, a computer problem at Swanwick took 12 hours to fix,” says one of the articles above, so it’s a recurring issue, much like LSE’s issues, which used to fall offline repeatedly for long periods of time because of Microsoft (there is no news about LSE crashes since it moved to GNU/Linux). Windows is clearly not fault-resilient, just like in LSE’s case, as the Windows-based systems failed to recover from a short outage. Microsoft’s file systems are ancient and there are other factors that make Windows too immature for real-world applications. Pilots reportedly lost persistent contact with staff on the ground, for the second time in about a year. Planes may not run Windows (there is Linux in parts of them), but they depend on what is used on the ground. Each country each its own system/s, but overlap exists,.

“Do we need to see passenger planes falling down on a city with about 10 million people (daytime population is even greater) before action is demanded and change is implemented?”Do we need to see passenger planes falling down on a city with about 10 million people (daytime population is even greater) before action is demanded and change is implemented? Judging by some of the latest news about the latest build of Windows, quality control is still worse than anything. Useds [sics] of Vista 10 are now forced to go back to last month’s back doors, demonstrating that Microsoft Windows is still one of the worst operating systems one can put on a PC (never mind a server):

USERS OF THE WINDOWS 10 Technical Preview have been advised to uninstall Microsoft Office before applying this month’s Patch Tuesday security updates, then to reinstall it.

Testers have been warned since the announcement and release of the Preview to expect complications and irregularities with the operating system as it is in no way considered finished.

It is rather an opportunity for people to feed back on its development before consumer release in the second half of 2015.

Also worthy of note in the December 2014 Patch Tuesday is that none of the seven updates affects users of the Microsoft Surface tablet range.

The seven updates provide fixes for 24 vulnerabilities, four rated critical and three rated important.

Do not let aviation system become on an operation system with NSA back doors (meaning that mission-critical systems can be hijacked and manipulated for sabotage, as in the case of Stuxnet). It is worse than irresponsible and in some circumstances it can put people with suits in jail, just like that boat incident in South Korea. Ignorance is not an excuse and we needn’t wait for a disaster (actual death, not just blue screen of death) before the Trojan horse is dumped. Remember the cause of the Spanair crash and also what sank BP's platform and contaminated the Gulf of Mexico. Then too the blue screen of death meant deaths; Many deaths, not just of people, and not only short-term.

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