Readers' letters Houston, we have a problem

A white-knuckle tale of MS-DOS, coax and chewing gum

In space no-one can hear you boot
Thinkpad space drama hots up

We've been following the saga of the International Space Station Thinkpad pretty closely over the past few days.

First we discovered that the thing's hard drive had gone titsup. Then came the revelation that a new drive was duly being delivered by space shuttle. No big deal, surely, since they can be using the notebook only for the occasional bit of word processing. Or are they? Thanks to Peter Leskovar for this illuminating ditty:

Please check out this link on space.com and you'll find the text which says: "Laptop computers that will control key life support systems - such as those used to generate oxygen, purify water and remove carbon dioxide and humidity - were set up along with data handling, video switching and audio communications equipment."

So much for playing "Space Invaders"! 8->

Ok, not to worry - they've probably got a back-up clockwork ticker-tape machine lying about somewhere that'll do the job. Then when they get the new HD slapped in, all will be well. Assuming, that is, that the cabling holds out:

Is that clanky thin Ethernet linking everything together (to the right of the Thinkpad)? Surely they can stretch to a reel of fibre or at least a hub and some cat 5!?

Hasn't NASA heard the phrase 'single point of failure'.

Thanks to Nigel Kendrick and everyone else who expressed their dismay at the network coax bodge by which slender thread the future of space exploration appears to hang.

We are, however, aware that NASA will commonly use tried and tested 'archaic' technology where the robustness of newer kit might be questionable. Failing that, they can always use some insulating tape and chewing gum to hold the spaghetti together. It works for the Vulture Central LAN.

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