Japan from the inside out

Wired in Pyeongyang

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, April 7, 2010

IF YOU’RE KOREAN-LANGUAGE capable and looking for an alternative to the Microsoft-Apple options, here’s an operating system that’s dirt cheap and sold on the street: Red Star, the North Korean OS.

Well, it’s sold on Pyeongyang streets, anyway. A Russian studying there picked up a copy for the equivalent of five dollars, and the South Koreans have been giving it the once-over.

Getting used to it might require a bit of a learning curve. It starts up to the music of the popular Korean folk song Arirang, which is a pleasant tune, but it counts the years with Kim Il-sung’s birthdate as year zero. They won’t have to worry about Y2K problems for some time yet–it’s still just year 99 in that system.

It has an e-mail program called Pigeon, which, come to think of it, might be derived from the country’s air mail infrastructure. The Internet browser is Firefox, and the default home page is the North Korean government website. It’s no surprise that the websites capable of being accessed are severely restricted. There’s no word about whether it has blogging software, but then there are already more than enough sites on the Web insisting that the real name of the Sea of Japan is the East Sea.

Here’s the BBC report. It links to another report from Canoe Technology, which sniffs that the system is about 10 years behind the rest of the world. That’s still plenty of computer power, considering what PCs were capable of a decade ago, and besides, that’s the least of the worries for any North Korean computer mavens.

They’re probably more concerned whether the national power grid is dependable enough to ensure something will happen when a user turns on the switch.

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