The operating system is being offered as a 2.6 gigabyte ISO file, which means it will look like a CD or DVD install disc to most modern operating systems. The operating system can be directly installed from the ISO file and requires about 10 gigabytes of disc space.
I installed mine inside a Virtual Machine — a piece of software that allows it to run inside a window as an application on my laptop — but it’s possible to also run it as the main operating system on a computer.
The installation process is relatively easy. I have most of the main screens below and those that aren’t shown can be clicked through.
Next, choose the installation location. On my machine, I created a virtual 15GB hard disk. You’ll have to click ont he disk icon to select it before proceeding.
The next screen needs to be filled in to continue. It’s asking for your name, a user name, a password, a repeat of the password and a password hint.
The next screen is the network settings. The drop down menu can be clicked and the DHCP settings chosen, which should automatically set up your connection. Only choose the manual settings if you have certain network settings that need to be used.
Next is your time zone. I left the default, Pyongyang. You can click in the drop-down menu or in the map and choose a different city. There are a wide number to choose from, including major U.S. cities but not Seoul, South Korea.
Then set the date and time.
Ready to install? Press the right button to commence the process.
This is what you see while the system is installing. On my computer, it took about 15 minutes to complete. Your time will vary based on the machine you have and how you are installing it.
One final screen:
And now the computer will reboot and begin with this screen:
You type in the password set during installation:
And you’re in:
The latest version of North Korea’s home-grown desktop operating system, Red Star Linux 3.0, was uploaded to BitTorrent on Monday.
A link to a download file was included in a message on Pastebin that was uploaded by someone who goes by the nicknames “slipstream” and “raylee,” that’s the same person who released the server version of Red Star Linux 3.0 earlier this year.
That previous release was a version for computer servers while this latest release is intended for use on conventional PCs.
I’ve posted an install guide and will have more on the applications in the coming days.
The desktop version retains the same look and feel as the server version, which is unashamedly based on that of Apple’s OSX operating system. That’s a switch from version 2.0, which was modeled on Windows 7.
Here’s what version 3.0 looks like while running a web browser and the Korean Central News Agency website.
Look closely and you’ll see I had to use an IP address to get to the website. The networking settings don’t seem to allow for conventional DNS, which is the service that translates domain names into IP addresses. In this case, the domain name is kcna.kp.
When I tried to use domain names, I was met with error messages.
Quite how many people are actually using Red Star Linux isn’t known. Many visitors to the DPRK say they generally saw computers running Windows XP or, perhaps, Windows 7.
In a country where most computers aren’t connected to the Internet, an anti-virus scanner might not seem like much of a necessity. But since 2002, programmers in the country have been working on SiliVaccine, a home grown anti-virus application that is now in its fourth version.
I was recently sent a current version that runs on Windows XP and here’s what it looks like.
The splash screen for version 4 shows a copyright date of 2002 to 2011, the latter year likely indicating when this version was first published. The version I received had a virus pattern file — the database used to identify viruses – dated November 23, 2013 although it was sent with a screenshot of a version that had been much more recently updated.
Upon installation, the user is presented with a short description of the software and contact details for the maker.
It also lists a website for the software: http://10.10.1.16. That address might look strange because it’s the IP address of the server and not a domain name. It probably means the developers don’t have their own domain name set up.
The address used resides in a block set aside for use on local networks rather than the global Internet, so only works from within North Korea’s nationwide intranet.
When the software is started, it presents a screen that looks like many other Windows XP anti-virus applications. A list of local and network servers and directories is presented and users can select which ones will be scanned.
Here’s the aforementioned screenshot that was packaged with the software in a zip file I received. The date on the file is May 20, 2014.
A word about security: Before running the software, I contacted computer security company Sophos, which confirmed the application didn’t appear to be malicious. I also ran IP port monitoring software to ensure that attempts were not made to access other Internet servers.
A series of set-up screens offer configuration options and there’s a field for a serial number, although I was never asked for when when installing the software and it was preset to all “0”s.
The address of the update server can also be entered here. That was preset as 10.10.1.16, the same address shown on the opening splash screen as the website for the software.
And indeed, when I ran the anti-virus software and attempted to update the database, the software tried to contact that IP address. It failed because the address isn’t accessible from the global Internet.
Several other aspects of the scanner can be customized in the setup screens:
And here you can set the directories the system will scan:
When I ran the software on an old Windows XP laptop, it didn’t find any malware.
The degree to which malware and viruses are a problem in North Korea is unclear. Few outsiders have gained access to the country’s nationwide intranet and even fewer have had the ability to catalog the applications and services available.
But malware is at least an annoyance in some establishments. At the foreign-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), teachers are warned before they arrive that “viruses abound here.”
The USB sticks that come into the country filled with Korean TV dramas and movies are surely an effective platform for spreading illicit software and virus files from machine to machine.
A North Korean state IT company has approached Russia’s Information and Computer Technologies Industry Association (APKIT) proposing a greater working relationship with Russian IT companies.
The country apparently wants to win business from Russian companies and the Pyongyang Kwangmyong IT Corp. held talks with APKIT in July and August, according to the APKIT.
As part of those talks, the North Korean company proposed a number of areas of collaboration and provided details of the skills possessed by its staff in Pyongyang. Those documents were seen by North Korea Tech.
They include development of Windows and Linux software; information security software; embedded software, which is the type of program used in products like network routers and retail terminals; and reverse engineering, which is the process of taking an existing piece of software and working backwards to figure out how it’s written so it can be replicated.
Nine members of the staff hold diplomas from Microsoft, Oracle and/or Cisco and 16 have spoken language qualifications, mostly in Chinese.
A suggested salary of US$2,000 is listed in the proposal, presumably per month but there is no timeframe given.
North Korea has been building its software engineering skills for years and has made several attempts to establish itself as a destination for IT outsourcing, including sometimes working with western IT specialists.
Perhaps the best known of those ventures, Nosotek, offered software development from its launch in 2007 for several years, although the business appears to have closed. Its website has been inaccessible since it was hacked in 2013.
Typically, trade sanctions or the potential bad publicity that could come with being associated with North Korea has put western companies off doing business there, but that could be different for Russian companies.
While the North Korean proposal carried the name and logo of the Pyongyang Kwangmyong IT Corp., it lists an email address and telephone number that is often used by the Korean National Insurance Corp., the government-run state insurer. The reason for this is unclear.
An Atlanta-based start-up game studio has set North Korea as the ambitious target of its first video game.
Moneyhorse Games revealed some demonstration gameplay video and screenshots from the game, “Glorious Leader,” earlier this week. It’s due out towards the end of 2014 and will be available on Android and possibly other platforms, according to Jeff Miller, who runs the company.
Miller said his inspiration for the game came from an interest with North Korea.
Gamers will play the role of Kim Jong Un who, as he prepares to play a friendly basketball game against Dennis Rodman and friends, is forced to give up his invincibility. The game involves a series of battles through which Kim Jong Un battles to regain that invincibility, he said.
The video game trailer has attracted more than a quarter of a million views on YouTube in the last few days.
“The reaction has been surprisingly good,” said Miller. “I thought it was probably going to get a very mixed reaction with a lot of people saying it is irresponsible, but most has been positive so far.”
He said reaction to the game has come from gamers in the U.S., South Korea, Japan, China, France and the U.K.
The game is meant to be light-hearted, but anyone developing such a product around North Korea faces criticism that it makes light of the shocking human rights abuses carried out by the country’s government.
“For me personally, I am trying to tread a middle ground,” said Miller. “It’s definitely satire, but I don’t want to bring human rights abuses into it because I want it to be a fun game. But I do want to find a way to generate some awareness and direct people to the facts behind North Korea’s behavior and also the international community and the way they respond.”
The game will come out first on Android. Miller said he might try to sell a version for Apple’s iOS but, “they have strict submission guidelines and judging from others, I’m not confident.”
Whether you’re heading to Pyongyang on an organized tour or fancy a spot of armchair North Korean travel, there’s now an app for that.
Last week, London-based Uniquely Travel launched what it calls the “ultimate travel guide” to the DPRK. The app, available for iOS and Android, contains details on just over 350 items of interest for tourists, including hotels, restaurants, museums and beauty spots.
You can delve into the entries in the app in two ways. One is through a comprehensive alphabetical list organized by category and the other is by region, divided by North Korean county and then major cities.
The app provides information on all these items of interest that ranges from the basic to comprehensive. The location of each is marked on an embedded Google Map alongside neighboring attractions and a “tips” section lists some on-the-ground information from Simon Cockerell, one of the people behind Beijing-based North Korea travel specialists Koryo Tours.
There’s sometimes some genuinely useful information tucked away in this section. For example, the Gomalsan Guesthouse in Chongjin enjoys a better view of the city than the competing Chongjin Tourist Hotel, but the food isn’t as good.
But sometimes the information is a little lacking. In the case of the International Telecommunications Building in Rason, there’s the interesting factoid that its modeled on the Loxley Telecom building in Bangkok, but while noting that tourists can use its facilities to send emails, there’s no indication of the times it’s open or the price.
But perhaps that’s not too important? North Korea isn’t a traditional tourism destination and part of that is that travelers don’t have the freedom to wander around town in the evening visiting anywhere they like. So when it comes to opening hours, perhaps all tourists need to know is whether somewhere is on their itinerary or not.
Most of the entries are accompanied with a picture of the attraction and it’s easy to see how the guide will continue to grow as new attractions are added.
Before that happens, it could benefit from a spot of proof reading. While most entries were fine, some were a little rough around the edges.
For example, “Behind the city square on other side from the giant Grand Theatre, lies the very pleasant Hamhung Youth Park,” reads one entry.
A handy feature is the ability to download the contents of the app into your phone so it can be used in North Korea without access to a cell phone network.
An equally major part of the app provides information on North Korea’s history, its society and its culture, the ins and outs of getting North Korean visas and the ethics of traveling to a country that regularly punishes the slightest dissent with jail or death.
The ethics guide is written by Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul and a respected long-time North Korea watcher. Lankov discusses the issue by relating his experience of seeing foreign tourists as he grew up in St. Petersburg in what was the Soviet Union at the time. The question of tourism for pleasure in North Korea is a complex one, well beyond the scope of a travel app, but it’s at least good to see the issue raised as it should be something that every prospective traveler thinks about.
All-in-all, it’s an interesting app and something that looks set to grow and expand in the future. If you’re interested in visiting North Korea or fancy a bit of armchair travel, it’s well worth the $0.99 price. It’s available on the Apple iTunes Store and Android App Store.
If you want to give your computer desktop a touch of North Korea’s Red Star Linux without installing the operating system, now you can.
Will Scott, the computer scientist who brought back a copy of the new operating system last year, has posted the desktop background images from Red Star 3.0 to a Google+ album.
The look and feel of Red Star has been updated to resemble closely that of Apple’s Mac OS X, but the desktop backgrounds have a distinctly North Korean feel.
There are eight in the set, including this one below, and you can download individual images or grab the whole lot.
Poor Microsoft. It seems North Korea doesn’t like the traditional Windows-look anymore.
The latest version of the country’s home-grown operating system, Red Star Linux, has been restyled and ships with a desktop that closely resembles Apple’s Mac OSX. The previous version was based on the popular KDE desktop that mimicked that of Windows 7.
Red Star Linux was developed by the Korea Computer Center (KCC), a major center of software programming in Pyongyang, and is based on Linux, the open-source operating system originally developed by Linus Torvalds.
Open-source software is offered to the world under a license that allows anyone to adapt and modify the program and that’s what North Korea began doing around ten years ago. Its base appears to have been Red Hat Linux, a popular version of Linux that’s offered by a company based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Red Star first became widely available outside of North Korea around 2010 when a Russian student who was studying at Kim Il Sung University posted it on the Internet.
This is what version 2.0 looked like:
Scott says he purchased the software from a KCC retailer in southern Pyongyang and hasn’t made any modifications to it.
What you see is what North Koreans see when it’s installed.
First, a couple of screens that are seen when the OS is installed and started.
Here’s the file manager:
And this is what the email, terminal app and productivity apps package look like:
Like the previous version of Red Star, the latest version 3.0 includes Wine. That’s a package that allows Windows software to be run under Linux.
It should be noted that it’s not just North Korea that has moved on from the traditional look and feel of Windows. Microsoft itself dumped the interface with the launch of Windows 8, a new version better adapted for touchscreen and tablet PCs that attempts to reinvent the way people interact with its operating system.