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Space The Internet Science

Kermit Alive and Well on the Space Station 356

Posted by michael
from the i-don't-want-to-go-on-the-cart dept.
An Ominous Cow Erred writes "Spacedaily.com reports on the use of the fantastic Kermit "program" being used to communicate with devices on the international space station. While the article's author doesn't seem to have a quite perfect grasp on what Kermit is (and effuses about how Kermit is being used to help war-torn Bosnia and advance AIDS research) it brought a smile to my face to imagine the old protocol from my BBS days (which was scorned in favor of Zmodem) being used on the greatest technological achievement of humankind."
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Kermit Alive and Well on the Space Station

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  • by pheared (446683) <kevin@@@pheared...net> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:20PM (#7684323) Homepage
    (which was scorned in favor of Zmodem)

    With good reason. :)

    IceZmodem rocked.
  • Hmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pingular (670773) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:21PM (#7684335)
    the greatest technological achievement of humankind
    I think 'debateably' should be added to that.
  • Zmodem rules. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by conner_bw (120497) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:21PM (#7684341) Homepage Journal
    Zmodem allowed asynchronous communications which provided faster data transfer rates and better error detection. In particular, Zmodem supported larger block sizes and enables the transfer to resume where it left off following a communications failure.

    In the BBS days, where the goal was to leech files... there's a reason why other protocols where replaced.

    Kill the spammers. [si20.com] Let the irony of this sig sort em' out.
  • The line of Kermits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shura57 (727404) * on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:21PM (#7684344) Homepage

    After Kermit 95, there probably will be Kermit 98, followed by Kermit NT, Kermit ME, Kermit 2000, and finally Kermit XP.

    But somehow, I can't imagine Kermit Longhorn as a species... :-)

    Seriously, it definitely was (is?) a great program, especially when communicating between less common platforms. It saved my day more than once when I needed to transfer files between the VAX and Amiga, both quite ancient, and without ethernet hardware on Amiga. Many thanks to the creators!


  • by tcopeland (32225) * <tom&thomasleecopeland,com> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:23PM (#7684360) Homepage
    ...outlined here [columbia.edu].
    Quantity Discount Unit Price
    100-249 84.38% 10.00
    250-499 86.72% 8.50
    500-999 88.75% 7.20
    1000-2499 90.63% 6.00
    2500-4999 92.19% 5.00
    5000-9999 93.75% 4.00
    10000-19999 94.84% 3.30
    20000-39999 95.23% 3.05
    I wonder how many bulk orders they get these days...
  • by NickDngr (561211) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:27PM (#7684400) Journal
    Talk about flash back

    I still use Kermit almost daily. I intereact with my casino's slot system with a VT100 terminal emulator. If I want to download reports to use in another application, I have to use Kermit to get them.
  • by Tet (2721) * <slashdot.astradyne@co@uk> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:28PM (#7684422) Homepage Journal
    Kermit's downfall was the defaults with which it shipped. People (myself included) switched to zmodem simply because by default it gave faster transfer speeds. Yes, by messing around with window sizes, you could get just similar performance out of kermit. But no one could be bothered when zmodem "just worked". To be fair, kermit had a different set of design goals, which probably influenced the default settings. But IMHO they should have shipped kermit with default settings optimized for the common case, rather than for older, slower connections. Oh, and not being fully open source really didn't help its cause, either...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:30PM (#7684444)
    Never forget the ultimate in thieving scum protocols.
    It was a mutation of the Zmodem transfer protocol that never sent an acknowledgment packet at the end of a transfer, allowing you to download an entire file, yet signal to the bulletin board system that you'd never received the complete file. End result: your file credits don't change.
    I doubt NASA cares, though.

  • ah the memories (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KDN (3283) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:31PM (#7684462)
    Kermit, it wasn't fast, but I swear that protocol could almost talk through mud. I used it through terminal servers, over X.25, over DECNET, over a freaking IBM 7171 converter (anyone else remember these monsters?). I even used it to stress test a Sun to DECNET comm program (keep signing on back and forth between a and b back to a back to b back to a), and then doing a kermit file transfer. Easy way to simulate 40 people using the system simultanously. But a friend of mine has me beat, IP over kermit over a satellite bounce from the south poll.
  • Re:Zmodem rules. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Krellan (107440) <krellan.krellan@com> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:36PM (#7684509) Homepage Journal
    That's true. The purpose of ZMODEM is to transfer data as fast as possible, on a fairly modern system with clean phone lines, plentiful memory for buffering, and fast I/O that doesn't block. On a modern system, ZMODEM is the best character-based protocol out there (there were a few that were more advanced or had special purposes, like BiModem, but they are irrelevant now that everything now uses packet-based data and TCP/IP).

    The purpose of Kermit is to be 100% compatible with pretty much every piece of technology, going all the way back to the earliest mainframe computers!

    Different character set (ASCII, EBCDIC, UTF-8, etc.)? Kermit will translate the data as it is transferred.

    Strange record length requirement (data must be transferred in units of 80 bytes or so, and can't be addressed as individual characters)? This was common on mainframes. Kermit will pad data as required to make this work.

    Limited I/O that can't use the comm port and storage device at the same time? This was common on old DOS PC comm programs that could not multitask. Kermit will delay as needed in order to let data be stored before continuing with the communications, and synchronize this with the other side so that data is not lost.

    Noisy phone line? Kermit will do complete error correction, without stalling or aborting the transfer (as ZMODEM was known to do).

    Low memory for buffering? Kermit will do handshaking to ensure that the other side doesn't send data until the current data has been fully processed, minimizing the need for memory to buffer data.

    Alien directory structure (VAX, etc.)? Kermit includes a mini-OS that can be used interactively to browse directories and initiate file transfers, and it abstracts the local storage conventions of the system's OS into a simple hierarchy that is the lowest common denominator. As an example of what this means, have you ever done a "ftp" into an old DOS system, and found yourself unable to change drive letters, because FTP (being a UNIX-based program) has no concept of drive letters? Kermit to the rescue here.

    Now that computers and protocols are beginning to become standardized, thanks in part to the popularity of the Internet, the need for Kermit is fading. Still, it's good to read about interesting uses of Kermit such as this. Kermit joins the old DOS shareware program "Compushow" as having The Right Stuff.... :)
  • Ah Kermit... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xchino (591175) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:39PM (#7684555)
    I found my introduction to the BBS community when I was 8 or so and going through everything that came with our new computer. While playing with lotus 1-2-3 I came across a bunch of options I didn't understand, but one said Kermit, like the frog, so I checked that out. This brought me to the (horrible) built in terminal and gave me some options for dialing numbers. That's what gave me a clue as to what that one weird shaped port was on the back of the computer, so I hooked up the phoneline and dialed PKWare's BBS, which was the first BBS I ever connected to. After hours of long distance charges all over the country, much to my parents displeasure, I had a good terminal program (Terminate FYI :) and a decent list of local BBS.

    So I guess kermit played a crucial role in my life, as now I'm a network engineer :) Of course I ditched kermit for Zmodem, and a few other nutty protocols. Anybody remember the ones that would let you play tetris and such? Those were great back in the days of 2400 baud and single tasking operating systems.

    And since I'm feeling nostalgic I'll just throw these in at random.

    -Annoying people by creating insanely large and annoying ANSI sigs.
    -ANSI Bombs
    -Legend of the Red Dragon
    -TradeWars 2002
    -Horrible misconfigured MajorBBS sites.
    -Wardialing (ToneLoc!)
    -Can I have Co-Sys?

    If you understand anything in that list, you're probably a geek. If you understand everything in the list, you were probably as annoying of a punkass as I was :)
  • Kermit's origins (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:55PM (#7684694)
    Just a bit of somewhat ancient info for the kids around here. The Kermit protocol was written by Frank DaCruz in 1981 at Columbia University while his son Peter (now an adult studying in Johannesburg) was a very young child. Frank (presently the Director of Communications Software Development Academic Information
    Systems at Columbia) asked young Peter to name the now ubiquitous transfer protocol. Looking up from Sesame Street on the TV, Peter chose "Kermit".

    So, yes, it *is* named after Kermit the Frog.
  • Ahh, yes... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OneFix at Work (684397) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:59PM (#7684744)
    Kermit...I used that as a download protocol over our campus network back in college...it was an old system, only active for a couple of semesters while I was there...but the network was "8-bit unclean" and would garble characters and such over anything but kermit...then kermit decided it wouldn't work, so I had to use UUEncode...even devised a little script to resend only the packets I needed...but then again, that was back when I had my Amiga and 14.4Kbps was something great...
  • by way2trivial (601132) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:05PM (#7684788) Homepage Journal
    this might shock the hell out of you
    I work for a cendant hotel..
    cendant recently put in one of four PMS systems at every hotel in the chain.

    the one at my location uses linux for the terminal, and uses k95 for windows clients..
    when it runs, it identifies itself as part of a 10,000 piece license to cendant.

  • memories (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:09PM (#7684820)
    Wow, glad to hear it's still going strong. To all who talk up Zmodem: my roomate in college did the same thing....until my kermit file tranfer out performed it AND picked up again after he switched my modem cable during a transfer (by mistake supposedly).
    Kermit is the universal translator of all times for computers. Keep sendin' bits!
  • why? it works (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ftide (454731) <nickwinlund@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:13PM (#7684857) Homepage Journal
    Kermit always sends, receives data, always did with my Tandy and 300 kbps modem and later 1200 baud US Robotics. Do you think a competent NASA engineer or contractor would let a server running NT with MS TCP, RADIUS, etc. loose in space? Seriously, now. Lives are at stake.
  • Re:ah the memories (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @07:25PM (#7684968) Homepage Journal
    It's trivial to make a protocol reliable. You just increase the overhead A LOT by one or more of mechanisms such as ack's, checksums/hashes to verify integrity, resends, small packet sizes etc. The reason X/Y/Z modem got popular was exactly because they threw a lot of the overhead out, increased packet sizes etc. because for almost all uses it won't buy you anything.

    But getting that level of reliability is dead simple - I wrote a custom protocol implementation for data transfer between two GSM handsets many years ago that had to cope with nastyness such as frequently dropped calls (due to one of the handsets being on a ship that was continuously circling over an autonomous submersible, and the other handset being on another ship, both of them well off shore :) ), and small packet sizes and predictive resends (packages would be resent automatically if it didn't get an ack or nack within a reasonable amount of time was all that was needed to make it "rock stable" (except for the delay caused by the GSM phones reconnecting).

    Serial protocols aren't exactly hard to do unless you "need" to squeeze every last byte out of the theoretical maximum transfer speed available.

  • by ScottSpeaks! (707844) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @08:43PM (#7685582) Homepage Journal
    I actually used to use that... but there was no Slashdot then to talk about it on.

    For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure SlashDot bumped packets with a fair amount of Kermit traffic in its early years. I was a sysadmin at Hope College back when CmdrTaco was an underclassman there in the mid-90's, and we used Kermit for DOS (I created a KERMIT.ICO to use for it with Windows) as our standard tool for transfering files between Vaxen and PCs, across the campus ethernet. Heck, young Rob probably used it himself.

  • by pete0t2 (149030) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @09:49PM (#7686030)
    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the site's long rant [columbia.edu] against open source licensing.

    eg. "The very foundation of the free software movement no longer exists."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @09:59PM (#7686096)
    Methinks Slashdotters are showing their age. In the medical industry we were saddled with xmodem and zmodem by the Blues and their little Altos commo servers in the corner of the machine room. Within our own groups we would transfer thru fog, sleet, mud and stone using Kermit w/sliding packet protocol and blow their doors off....I guess Slashdotters grew up and moved on before they found out about slinding packet protocols and using Kermit over TCP/IP
  • by badfrog (45310) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @10:16PM (#7686196)
    Look at everyone coming out of the woodwork with memories of their favorite protocols! I love it!

    The fastest one I could get to work on my Tandy CoCo III at 2400 baud was Ymodem. A Zmodem one came later under OS9, but I already had a PC by then that could do Zmodem.
  • by n9fzx (128488) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @12:29AM (#7687003) Homepage Journal
    Get yer flamewar bits right here [google.com].

    I had no problems getting 0.95 line bandwidth out of Kermit, but then protocols 'r us. Note also the ancient Telebit references, now lost to the mists of time.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11, 2003 @12:57AM (#7687148)
    This is an interesting point, if we didn't farm we would never be able to sustain such huge populations. We would also not need to drive technology to higher and higher levels in order to sustain greater and greater levels of production in order to support greater and greater populations.

    Without farming the women would gather fruits and grains, grubs, haul the water cook and sew. The men would hunt or fish a few hours a day and do some arts. We would live as nomads, following our herds as they migrated.

    If we lived past being a baby, and through child birth, we would live to be 80 years old on average, much healthier and more fit than the average american right now.

    Cancer and most disease would be unknown to us, because we had very little contact with anyone outside the tribe. Drugs would not be used to self medicate because there is so little stress that the desire to do so would be non existant. There would be little tooth decay because we would eat no refined sugars. We would have a sense of wonder about the world that a 4 year old has and be continually astounded at it's beauty.

    So, we would work 4 hours a day, if we lived past being an infant we would live full, long, healthy, fit lives, and we would probably be much happier than modern peoples with the insane amount of stress just dealing with all the people in our lives, like the million people in the lane ahead of us keeping us from getting to work on time. Or the long lines at the supermarket, or the long hours we have to work in order to sustain our life style... and so on and so no...

    If modern life is so bad, why not go back to a simpler life? Imagine America before the europeans showed up... imagine that america was just being discovered right now, with it's rich natural resources guarded by people with sticks. Imagine how long it would take before America was colonized by the rest of the world, they would probably work a deal and each country gets a split.

    If a society did divest itself of all the modern technology and go back to an earlier era, then they would be easy pickings for the ones who didn't, so we are stuck trying to keep up with the jone-skees. Also we already have a huge population, so it would be impossible to sustain ourselves with a tribal society, any attempt to do so would create mass starvation, war and a new society being formed that was technologically based.

    Technology is like an addiction.
  • Re:Anyone else here (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Kingsly (565272) on Thursday December 11, 2003 @04:55AM (#7688029)
    It's actually the other way around...
    From their website [columbia.edu]..
    The Kermit protocol and software are named after Kermit the Frog, star of the television series, The Muppet Show; the name Kermit is used by permission of Henson Associates, Inc.

With your bare hands?!?