NASA lab rethinks Unix
- By Brian Robinson
- Jul 31, 2000
The Solar System Visualization Project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
in Pasadena, Calif., is as much of a power-Unix shop as there is. It takes
data collected from NASA's plan-etary missions and uses workstations to
turn that data into visual images and map projections, as well as into animations
that can be broadcast around the world.
The project has a legacy set of tools developed on old IBM Corp. mainframes
and Digital Equipment Corp. computers that were laboriously converted to
Unix. The project does use some Microsoft Corp. Windows NT systems. "From
an academic point of view, I like the NT operating system," said Eric De
Jong, the principal scientific investigator with the visualization project.
"But, realistically, it just doesn't do anything for us."
However, De Jong said the Intel Corp. and PC architecture works well
now, and PCs do have a large installed base. Even if Windows NT is not the
right operating system to use with Intel-based workstations, something such
as Linux, which also has the advantage of being based on Unix, may be. And,
just like the Intel workstations themselves, the open- system Linux has
one major advantage over other operating systems: It's cheap.
"That's now the name of the game," De Jong said. "These days, cost really
is the only driver."
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.