N. Korea develops operating system with Windows-like GUI, Linux guts

Bundle includes thinly disguised versions of Firefox, OpenOffice.org

The North Korean government appears to have developed its own graphical Linux-based "Red Star" operating system, though its people still prefer that symbol of Yankee high-tech imperialism, Microsoft Windows.

That's according to the blog of a Russian college student, 'Mikhail,' studying at a university in North Korea's capital city, Pyongyang.

According to translations of the blog by Russian satellite news channel, Russia Today, as well as Google's Translate tool, installation DVDs of Red Star can be freely purchased in Pyongyang for $5 and come in both client and server versions.

Red Star requires, at minimum, a Pentium III 800 MHz CPU (state-of-the-art in developed countries about ten years ago), 256MB of RAM and 3GB of hard disk space.

Installation takes 15 minutes, and users may only choose to run it in the Korean language. A more serious quirk: The clock on the bottom right shows the year in both the standard international Gregorian calendar, and the North Korean "Juche Idea," in which 2010 is the year 99.

Local North Koreans told Mikhail that Red Star is not stable, and that they still prefer Windows XP, Vista or 7.

Mikhail did not comment on what version of Linux that Red Star may be built upon. Cuba released its own version of Linux last year called Nova that is based on Gentoo, a Linux variant that is run by a foundation based in New Mexico.

Red Star includes applications such as a thinly disguised version of the Mozilla Firefox browser, an OpenOffice.org-like productivity suite, an e-mail client called 'Pigeon,' and a number of other utilities.

Two programs that were apparently developed by North Korea include a firewall program called "Pyongyang Fortress," and an antivirus application called "Woodpecker."

The browser's search engine defaults to the North Korean government's official Web site, Naenara.

Read more about operating systems in Computerworld's Operating Systems Knowledge Center.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld (US)

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