Linked by Eugenia Loli on Mon 9th Oct 2006 01:31 UTC
QNX Most people haven't heard of QNX Software, though they've likely come in contact with it. The real-time operating system is used where software failure can lead to catastrophic consequences, even death - from high-speed trains to air traffic control towers to highway toll systems. It's also used in more than 100 different types of cars on the road.
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air-traffic is not on QNX
by Hae-Yu on Mon 9th Oct 2006 06:31 UTC
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I work on Air Traffic systems and have since 1995. Standard Air Force and FAA equipment. Systems run on a mix of Windows 3.11, DOS, Windows NT 4, Windows 2000, Windows 95, AIX, and Solaris (various versions). That's the recorder systems, switching systems, radar mosaic (terminal and air route), and so forth. I know of no air traffic system that runs QNX, unless it's on ROM for a specific functionality inside modems, monitors or some such. All of the primary systems are PC-controlled.

Every system that does just one thing and one thing only is a very reliable system. They aren't "upgrading all the time either." I'm surprised the jokers interviewed here didn't make that distinction between critical systems and office environments.

These systems are designed and tested as one unit. It takes years to test a new upgrade and so the OS is largely locked when it's released to service. People scoff when they hear that space shuttle laptops run Win 95, but that's what was tested and approved for a specific set of purposes. And each and every system will usually work perfectly. The amateurs in IT depts sign off at the drop of a hat, but mission critical systems take years, sometimes over a decade to approve. After they're in operation, they aren't patched or upgraded except on extremely rare circumstances. Like a cash register, the UI is locked down so the users can't create mischief. The applications on top of the OS are patched occasionally (like biannually for the real frequent ones). They have never had software issues, except for occasional application issues. In my experience, we've never had software issues so severe they took the system down. The one incident in LA 2 years ago was because of poorly written applications (that system ran Win 95/ NT 4) and poor maintenance. Virtually every problem I have had was because of hardware failure - hard drives, DATS (!!!), DAT Drives (!), keyboards, trackballs, video cards with fans, etc - the moving parts or the parts most touched.

They aren't connected to the internet, the Controllers aren't playing solitaire or Quake on them or writing their resumes. There's very little file manipulation and that is abstracted so the users don't even know it. Except in troubleshooting, floppies and CD-ROMS aren't introduced. Single-purpose built and designed systems.

The STARS system runs Solaris, but it's regarded as a failure by virtually every FAA technician who ran the older ARTS or EARTS systems. It isn't Solaris' fault - it's because Raytheon's applications on top of it are poorly written. The MEARTS system is a Lockheed Martin system that runs on almost the exact same configuration, but is extremely stable. Guess which one is being standardized on?

Edited 2006-10-09 06:33

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