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Linux And Innovative Simulations 59

cameronhunt writes "This article (shameless plug alert - I'm quoted in it) presents a growing trend of integrating simulated and live training in the military - often using Linux and Open Source methods, standards, and protocols. This trend isn't just in the military, but increasingly found everywhere from games to everyday life. I'll be talking more about this at LinuxWorld."
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Linux And Innovative Simulations

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  • gah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tirel ( 692085 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @12:48PM (#6595749)
    Oh great, soon war for observers will look like a session of panzer general only with real people dying.
    • I would argue that for civilian observers it already DOES look like Panzer General (think about the way MSNBC protrayed this latest conflict in the Gulf). Although the de-personalization such a system fosters seems intuitive - and repulsive - it is also a very effective method of dealing with significant quantities of data and making effective decisions. And being effective is the primary concern of any military commander.
  • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @12:54PM (#6595771) Journal
    I'm sorry, but there are two entirely distinct topics in this article:

    1) Wargames
    2) Linux

    Part of the article talks in depth about the wargames, the way they're going about it, what they hope to accomplish, etc.

    However, other parts of the article talk about Linux controlling these wargames, as though that was the crux of the article. Now it's not impossible (or bad) to write an article that ties these two subjects together, but this comes across as either (a) two articles smooshed into one, or (b) An article about wargames written by a Linux evangelist.

    Just a thought. Not everything that involves Linux is about Linux.
    • What the hell are you doing reading the whole article. If you insisted on defying /. convention and actually reading, you were only supposed to skim through it and pick out the linux good propritary bad parts. !!

      Seriously though your point is well made. Its was interesting until you come across the irrelevant crap about linux. From reading it you would think mankind was unable to get two applications to talk to each other until Linus had his epiphany.
    • This is an excellent point, and I could have written my summary better to reflect my argument (as referenced in the article) that the culture of Open Source (as well as the lack of initial adoption cost) is playing an important role in the use of Linux in military and other simulations - especially as these simulations grow and connect to other systems.
  • Shameless Plug (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mistermund ( 605799 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @01:01PM (#6595783)
    We're working on using video see-through head mounted displays to overlay real time CG, something we call "mixed reality". It's like traditional VR, but we add a view of the real world, special effects like smoke, compressed air and interactive lighting, spatialized surround sound, etc. Take traditional VR and add in a whole bunch of technologies and techniques from theme parks and you get what we do.

    One of our current research projects is for the Army to simulate urban combat training. We were also showing an entertainment version of the system on Display at SIGGRAPH [siggraph.org] in San Diego this past week.

    The graphics engine for our system runs on Linux, using OpenGL and GLUT, written in C++. Control systems for special effects and point source sound are written in Java, which run on Linux, OSX, and WinXP (whatever platform supports harware interface drivers). We couldn't do what we do without OSS, and hope to release some components to the open source community once they get a little more mature.

    See Our Website [ucf.edu] for more info.
  • by FeloniousPunk ( 591389 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @01:03PM (#6595793)
    Post all your screeds about how the military and wargames are evil and wrong and shouldn't be supported here, so everyone else can have a nice, topical discussion.
    Thanks.
  • Big on-line games of Counter-Strike eh?
  • by corebreech ( 469871 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @01:11PM (#6595811) Journal
    ...if the military is going to use open source for all of this from now on does that mean we can get our $1.1 trillion back? [whereisthemoney.org]
  • by tgrigsby ( 164308 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @01:12PM (#6595814) Homepage Journal
    Now it makes sense. Bush did so well with Afghanistan, he got a free game. Then he chose Iraq. He naturally assumed he'd get a free game again, and planned on using it either on Syria or Korea, but he didn't count on this level being harder, what with the guerilla warfare tactics and all that.

    Perhaps he should have picked up the nitro boost when he broke into Baghdad? I recommend that the troops start banging on all the walls until we find the "secret areas" with caches of armor, med kits, and rail guns.

  • by b00fhead ( 669286 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @01:16PM (#6595826) Journal
    Here [defence.gov.au] is an article about an Australian system which simulates several aspects of land warfare. It's realistic and accurate enough that the Australian Army uses the rifle range simulation to qualify its soldiers on marksmanship [defence.gov.au]. I believe that it is based on a popular Linux distro.
  • by FlashBIOS ( 665492 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @01:29PM (#6595860)
    was Contra [consolegameworld.com]!

    Free lives, unlimited ammo, fightin' aliens, and even your choice or red or green head bands. It doesn't get more real!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Although some in the industry fear that Linux might be open enough to represent a potential security risk

    This logic is like saying that "You cannot be hit by a bullet if you just close your eyes, because then you will not see the bullet. But if you keep your eyes open you will see lots of bullets in the battle field and have a greater chance of getting hit."

  • "This article (shameless plug alert - I'm quoted in it)(shameless brag alert - I'm bragging about being quoted in an article)..."
    • Again, please forgive me for not being completely forthcoming. In the interest of accuracy and to protect myself from legal recrimination my attorney has recommended the following disclaimer be attached to all further correspondence: "All information contained in this communication is intended to provide the following benefits to the author, including (but not limited to): higher social standing, better access to reproductive partners, higher perceived professional value, ego stroking, and an overall augme
  • by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:49PM (#6596140)
    4 comments in one:

    1. Why Linux?
    True, the eetimes article is discombobulated and provides little explanation of why Linux should matter at all for wargaming simulations. And the explanation it implies (that Linux helps data compatibility) is nonsensical.

    However, I've seen several military simulation projects that run on Linux. The obvious reasons: The Pentagon isn't a fast or flexible software developer. These games may take decades of to produce and shape into something workable, and we can't throw them out just because new OSes (Windows XP, etc) come along.

    So many projects that were first written for big iron SGI or Solaris machines are now running on Linux desktops. I've heard several ancedotes of software getting a 5x speed boost alongside a 10x drop in platform cost when changing hardware vendors from SGI to Dell.

    One major simulation project is OneSAF ("One Semi-Automated Force"). You can go read the PowerPoint they gave at a Linux conference years ago [onesaf.org]. (The "CCTT" project mentioned in the article is an ancient fork of OneSAF)

    2. 100 entities is small
    The article says they will be reaching the point of simulating 100 entities in their exercise, up from 20 in the previous test. And it'll take place at 3 different locations.

    That is tiny compared to the number already used in a military simulation last year. Millenium Challenge 2002 [jfcom.mil] took place on ~15 sites around the US, and involved 13500 human participants, many of them controlling more than one "entity" in the game.

    3. The Pentagon is trending back towards DIS
    The article mentions this project is using the IEEE 1278 standard DIS (Distributed Interactive Simulation). That is a fairly old specification- finalized at least 10 years ago. It worked well back then, and still does. However, it fell out of popular use in the late 90s because a vantity project from Defense Modeling & Simulation Office [dmso.mil] mandated that all simulations be switched to use their new improved HLA [dmso.mil] infrastructure, which is IEEE 1516.

    The HLA was a traditional example of Fred Brook's Second-System effect [wisc.edu]. That is, when a person first makes a project of a certain type, he will be conservative and careful to make something that works and he can understand. (In this case, the DIS protocol). But once the first system works well, programmers tend to get overconfident and decide to fill the second system will all manner of elaborate stuff that distracts from the real purpose. That is what happened with the HLA protocol.

    HLA is a real kitchen-sink system, addressing all uses but satsifying none. Only in the past year has DMSO's political power been reduced so that wargame developers can stop using the bad, unpredictable HLA and get back to the clean, efficient, and comprehensible DIS.

    4. HLA does have one advantage over DIS
    The DIS protocol is a global publication system. Each computer controlling simulated entities broadcasts their position to ever other computer. (Originally this used ethernet broadcast, now it might change to internet multicast UDP). That meant that in a large exercise, people out-of-range from each other would still recieve positional updates clogging their network card. HLA included specifications to describe, geographically, who should recieve which packets. This allowed for world-spanning scenarios to be played with thousands of vehicles spread around.

    The article suggests that new projects (DFIRST? I haven't heard of that before) will bring some of this capability to DIS.
    • All excellent points, and I argue none of them substantially. Even SRI admits that there is no great internal motivation to move away from DIS toward HLA (although they do admit that they might be required to). Keep in mind, however, that HLA is not just about updating object state data during gameplay - it can also be used to setup of the initial rules regarding object interaction - something that becomes much more important when two (or more) completely different simulations are interacting. And this le
      • that HLA is not just about updating object state data during gameplay - it can also be used to setup of the initial rules regarding object interaction

        Well, the biggest difference between HLA and DIS, after all, is that HLA is fully generic and makes no assumptions about the subject being simulated. (Whereas DIS only works if you have vehicles shooting at each other, the arbitrary attribute-definitions of HLA allow it to represent cardiovascular blood-flow or thermal conductivity just as easily). DIS cam
        • A couple of points (brief only because it's late): 1. I think the power of HLA is pre-execution of the simulation run, i.e. - allowing for ontological negotation of model creation and integration. Just as SRI uses XML to pre-load the configuration of their tactical and logistical simulations, but relies on DIS during gameplay, HLA will allow disparate simulation and model types to work together - however imperfectly. 2. I know about SRI and LVC simulations because I'm reviewing their JTEP effort for LinuxW
          • I would really appreciate a chance to throw my slides your way for a further reality check (and discussion) before I get pelted by tomatoes Tuesday ;)

            I wouldn't be a useful reviewer. With previous knowledge of M&S buzzwords, I'm non-representative of a Linuxworld attendee. For that kind of audience, I can only suggest you bring lots of exciting screenshots and make videogame analogies.

            Quickly pointing out a relevant project you might already be aware of: SAF on Scalable Parallel Processors [216.239.53.104]. That e
  • More then just games (Score:5, Interesting)

    by qaffle ( 264280 ) on Saturday August 02, 2003 @02:49PM (#6596142)
    All the military simulation articles I have seen talk about the soldier game-type simulations. This is not the only simulations the military uses though. For instance here [army.mil] is a list of military tools used for planning and modeling. This goes form supply-chains to medical planning. I understand it's not as fun to think about groups of people filling in supply and demand info for ammo compared with troops walking through a mission on their computers; however, I'd think the first would be in the grand scheme of things more important.
  • Ender's Game (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Überhund ( 27591 )
    Sounds like Ender's Game, except... well, I won't spoil it if you haven't read it.
  • I work with a firm that had simulators running on AIX nodes. This company decided to switch and have their simulators run on Linux...took some time, but it was worth the effort. we had them uip and running in about a year tog et them running n a Red hat Linux cluster, but the result was reduced simulation times with almost 30% (never thought that would be result neither.)

    After looking at other companies that provide alike simulators, we found out that all of them are adobting linux actually, which makes me

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