Installed the Russian OS “Elbrus”. What is different from Windows and macOS?

I tested the sensational system up and down. 

Ready to share with readers all the details about the recently closed defense project “Elbrus”. Overnight, it became available to everyone.

But is she needed? For what and for whom?

What is such “Elbrus”?

One of the Elbrus processor family

OS Elbrus (OSL) is a Linux distribution (based on Debian) for the Elbrus 2000 and Elbrus-90 micro processors .

These processors , as well as the system, are developed in Russia in the private company MCST , which turns out to be the only Russian industrial serial production of electronic components at the moment.

The bulk of the Elbrus processors is based on the SPARC architecture , which is fundamentally different from the x86 / 64 we are used to.

Demonstration computer MCST

The closest mass analogue is ARM processors, but instead of high-level languages ​​and commands, simple basic commands are used to control SPARC. In the case of Elbrus, this is its own set called Elbrus .

There are several options for the system based on the unified Common Software (HBR) Elbrus :

  • OS Elbrus: a ported version of Debian 8.11 for Elbrus processors;
  • PDK OS “Elbrus”: the same system with a set of developers;
  • OS “Elbrus” (x86): a system for regular x86 / 64 based on LFS, compatible with the system of commands Elbrus.

Download. Free does not mean affordable

A good “machine” for work

In May 2019, SSTC published on its website the original installation files of several versions of the operating system.

For download opened distribution, a list of packages and documentation for the younger open version, compatible with x86-processors. A more modern version of the system is not yet available.

Perhaps the most interesting are the versions for working on  the MCST processors of the Elbrus and R series (SPARC architecture). But they are only available on request and require a computer on the appropriate architecture.

Therefore, today we restrict ourselves to the usual version of Elbrus OS , compatible with ordinary desktop computers.

However, like everything in Russia, open does not mean affordable. The download process took me a total of almost a month of rare attempts: the developer did not bother to lay out the distribution on the normal exchanger.

The speed of dial-up and constant breaks due to habraeffect dragged on the process until the download mirror appeared on Yandex.Disk.

Installation Nightmare system administrator

Downloading is not the only problem encountered. “Elbrus” was a tough nut to crack.

Installing through a virtual machine Virtual Box looked like a trivial task, but in practice it turned into a few nights of shamanism.

Installation of “Elbrus”

Surprise: the minimum system requirements of the system do not coincide with the stated ones and are clarified in practice by the method of scientific testing.

Official system requirements: 1 GB of RAM and 40 GB of free disk space, compatible VGA-video interface, the presence of a DVD-drive.

For the system itself, 512 MB of RAM is enough  , but unpacking in automatic mode to a disk smaller than 50 GB (split in the screenshot) is impossible.

Without additional sections, every second installation of Elbrus falls into one or another error. How it takes 20 GB, I’ll never know.

Accidentally pressing the keyboard button leads to interruption

Yes, and there is no less trouble with them: the process takes place with obligatory errors, the graphical shell and a number of other packages may not be installed, the accounts fly off.

SATA 2.0 or lower is required for installation on a hard disk , as well as a DVD drive. With USB installation is not possible (at least, I did not work with the default settings).

Joyful environment of the Russian secretary

Start the system. Photos without filters today do not look very

By default, “Elbrus” is installed without a graphical shell in command line mode .

To start the usual desktop will have to enter a couple of commands. Or set the appropriate flag when installing the OS.

In this case, after a successful installation, the user encounters a photo of the mountain peak of the same name.

The famous photo (in a rather lousy quality due to increased compression) offers to enter the system exclusively under the user account.

Part of the desktop is hidden due to the default 4: 3 aspect ratio

And in the “virtual” instantly revealed another glitch with the missing menu. It turns out to be off the screen.

The corresponding setting returns the correct proportions and shows the classic “Linux Start” in the style of Win 98 .

Visually, the system is simplified to a disgrace: it looks a little better than the OS on single-board computers. Everything is in place, everything is familiar – and still somehow not on its own.

The main elements of the visual shell “Elbrus”

Hello, zero?

Programs and utilities. What is?

Libre Office can not always replace MS Office

That is how it is. The OS includes everything for the necessary work packages, a basic set of programs and drivers.

But even in comparison with lightweight versions of Linux ( Mint , Rosinka , Astra ), it is very small. We are not talking about the possibility of choosing between the options – all that is is presented in a single copy.

Mozilla is appreciated by military developers. Why? Who knows?

Speech about the banal absence of at least some programs beyond the simplest office work: analogue of MS Office , viewers of content and documents, browser and mail.

There are no system utilities — they are represented only by standard packages from the base Debian distribution.

It is worth paying attention to  the software version : they are not all fresh. Some of the packages in the current form are not supported by developers.

Such is the fate of any software approved by law enforcement agencies: each line must be checked, and this is very time consuming.

An exception is the Code :: Blocks development environment (it includes the Elbrus compiler for x86 and SPARC). Also in a single copy, and even with a clearly specific focus.

Unfortunately, there is no unit for working with Elbrus architecture processors.

Even to many programmers the set seems to be a relic of the past.

One can only assume (or search) that the written programs can be recompiled with access and the processor itself.

What is under the hood of the most secure OS?

The system does not contain anything special. Support for fingerprints, no infrared cameras, no crypto containers

Similar delays affected the Elbrus core itself: for the available version 3.0, the Linux kernel 3.14 is used (release 05.2014); for the older open version 4.0 – Linux kernel 4.9 (release 12.2016).

A similar situation arose due to additional security requirements:

  • bugs are known and localized,
  • kernel vulnerabilities are patched
  • features are known to system administrators,
  • Code checked and no bookmarks.

In addition, the kernel, as software and packages from the OS, received permission to use in the most critical systems.

Changing it to something more modern does not make sense: licensing will take too much time, but will not bring any critical changes. Including in terms of security.

Industrial Linux versions of Red Hat 2013-2016 are still relevant and supported – Elbrus has the same purpose.

About protection. A couple of words

Actually protection of the system is based on 3 principles:

  • open source ensures timely localization of bugs and vulnerabilities (they are already localized for used kernels, future ones will be found by free developers of similar systems),
  • memory and hardware access rights are checked before entering the cache (that is, before execution),
  • full verification of system components by security specialists.

To support programs running in protected mode, the compact library libmcst is provided, providing memory functions and input-output support at the level of the libc basic library .

Out of the box, the standard version of “Elbrus” still does not shine with something unique in terms of protection that a regular user could use.

Madness of the brave we sing a song

In fact, everything is convenient and fast. But very clumsy

So, for a simple Russian user, “Elbrus” will be very difficult. And completely useless.

Imagine yourself a routine office work in this system is possible, but why? There are Mint, Ubuntu and many other free operating NIX-systems . Much more user friendly.

Sami MCST offer as a user of the system “Alta” distribution with a nice visualization and used about proc eed equipment. It is also easier to admin it.

The real user of “Elbrus”, however, does not face such tasks. The purpose of these systems is to work for the security of the country: turned on, opened the right package, and not a single step to the left.

A set of components is sufficient. Installing from standard sources is prohibited, have their own repositories

A beautiful handy shell is simply not needed here: it consumes already limited PC resources. From under the window of secret accounting or a package for adjusting the missile complex, beauty is not visible.

However, for beginner developers, Elbrus will become a window to the defense industry (in particular, adaptation of existing programs on it). And in modern conditions it is quite an interesting opportunity.

Why does Russia have its own OS and its own processors

At a competitive price, this board could be the best NAS on the market.

Assuming a terrible HYIP around the topic, I hasten to warn hot readers who are not related to the defense industry and military service: Elbrus is needed, but not for user tasks .

Practical examples of the use of these systems are mentioned in passing: there were references in the media about the introduction of portable “Elbrus” in the missile forces ( diagnostics? Management? Coordination? ), The nuclear industry and radar stations.

Is it really, is unknown. However, it can be said for sure that the Elbrus released in Taiwan in the case of sanctions can be released in Russia, unless the price rises.

One of the military options “Elbrus”

Productivity is enough for any basic tasks. In addition, “Elbrus” should be easily assembled into multiprocessor systems up to supercomputers .

Where reliability is important, even in the West use Fortran , ADA and lamp technology. It is much worse if computers with tabs of unknown Indian developers run the nuclear power plant.

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