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Linux Business The Military

Work Progressing on Army's Future Combat Systems 217

El_Oscuro brings us a Washington Post update on the progress of Future Combat Systems, the U.S. Army's Linux-based operating environment that has been under development for several years. The project, which currently surpasses 63 million lines of code, has received criticism for having a scope greater than that which the Army can manage. Since the program's inception, integration of commercial applications has increased the amount of code, but has also saved the developers time and money. "Boeing and the Army said they chose not to use Microsoft's proprietary software because they didn't want to be beholden to the company. Instead, they chose to develop a Linux-based operating system based on publicly available code. Boeing's Schoen said that it is designing software so that if soldiers lose their connection, the software will automatically "heal itself," retrieving the information within seconds without rebooting."
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Work Progressing on Army's Future Combat Systems

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  • Zombie (Score:2, Funny)

    by Krneki ( 1192201 )
    Damn, I was looking forward to zombie soldiers.
  • And Appropriately (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AndGodSed ( 968378 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @03:04AM (#22178618) Homepage Journal
    Yes. It does run Linux.
    • Re:And Appropriately (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2008 @03:24AM (#22178716)
      You guys would be appalled at the bad software that's in this thing. From a bizarrely dysfunctional display system to a completely unstable and ever changing target OS. Yes, it runs linux but Boeing has decided that linux isn't good enough and is rolling out their own operating environment that we're all forced to use.

      Blecch. Blecch. Blechh.

      Oh, and the whole thing hinges on futuristic radios that don't work.

      Yeah, I think I've been working FCS for too long. Sigh...
      • Re:And Appropriately (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cshotton ( 46965 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @08:42AM (#22180096) Homepage
        Be VERY afraid. FCS/SoSCOE (System of Systems Common Operating Environment) is your worst, worst nightmare. It all squats upon an antiquated CORBA infrastructure and is the most bloated, incredibly poorly engineered PoS that has ever been birthed by an aerospace contractor. And I should know. As chief architect for the Common Operating System component of DARPA's J-UCAS program, we fought Boeing long and hard over their insistence that this architecture form the basis of the J-UCAS software infrastructure. While the idea stems from the long-running quest within the DoD to develop a true cross-service network-centric software architecture, it was built by people who completely ignored the last 15 years of lessons learned about large scale distributed systems from the Internet. It has multiple single points of failure baked into the architecture, requires outrageous amounts of RAM and CPU power to run (making it incredibly unsuitable for embedded systems use), and is licensed in such a way as to make it virtually impossible to obtain and modify without Boeing's involvement.

        Furthermore, Boeing has expressed in public on several occasions that they intend for SoSCOE to make them the "Microsoft" of military systems. They are purposefully engineering a system designed to cement their position as a sole provider of OS components for network centric platforms. Nice bastardization of the open source components they are using to say the least.

        Having tried repeatedly to get 2 SoSCOE nodes to communicate, we subsequently replicated 100% of the functionality that J-UCAS required using less than 150,000 lines of code and $2M of budget. Makes you wonder how long we need to support the programmer welfare for Boeing's "software engineers" and their 60 million line monstrosity if it can all be done with 400 times less code than that?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Lord Lemur ( 993283 )
          You make a great set of points.
          I would like to ask a question or two that you might have an answer for, and that is pretty f'ing relevant. Didn't anyone stop to think, that maybe it's not the best approach to allow our military logistical communications to be built on an infrastructure of Open-Source parts. Wouldn't that make finding holes much easier for our enemies? How do you classify and protect open-source code, even if you are just using components?
          • Well ... IANAL but ... technically with open source code, you only are expected to provide modifications to source, to your "customers". Correct?

            In this case, the customers would probably be "the military" from Boeing's perspective.

            The individual soldiers are not the customer, so they don't get the source, just pre-compiled binaries installed on the systems they are using. The military itself can then decide that its employees should respect that code as Trade Secret (perhaps, although things like "Nation
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cshotton ( 46965 )
            I dunno the genesis of the "open source" meme with this FCS story. The SoSCOE code I worked with wasn't made of very much open source stuff. In fact, the initial versions weren't even aimed at Linux. The crap all ran on SGI boxes. So to the extent that they have aimed the code base at Posix compliant operating systems, I guess Linux can play now.

            In any case, open or closed source doesn't matter much these days when you have countries like China willing to pay 1000's of hackers to reverse engineer all sorts
        • For anyone who wonders why a lot of military software projects (but not all) turn to crap, as the parent posters allude to, read War Upon The Map [].

          IMHO, This is the most insightful paper into the deep interworkings of DoD politics and how it influences software design. I've experienced this myself and what the parent posters say does not surprise me in the least.

      • So how is this different than your typical government contract work?
      • "Oh, and the whole thing hinges on futuristic radios that don't work."

        The radios are healing themselves! Try dimming the lights and rubbing some lavender oil on their antennas you insesitive clod!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by VON-MAN ( 621853 )
      Damn right, and just as my linux computer here it can heal its connection withing seconds without booting! Anybody here use Windows? Loosers!!!

      Now, let's read the article.
    • "All that open source, free-wheeling development was great until the poor developer control and coordination allowed the program became self-aware, with no single off switch."
  • by drDugan ( 219551 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @03:07AM (#22178632) Homepage
    software will automatically "heal itself," retrieving the information

    Anthropomorphizing technology is rather misleading... especially in this case, "when death is on the line!"

  • by bobdotorg ( 598873 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @03:08AM (#22178634)
    So by avoiding Windows, no BSOD on the battlefield. But instead we risk a Colonel Panic? (sorry)
    • At least we might avoid General Failure reading our hard drive.
  • by Traa ( 158207 )
    Would you like to play a game of Global Thermonuclear War?
    • Re:Game (Score:5, Interesting)

      by drDugan ( 219551 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @03:20AM (#22178688) Homepage
      As I recall, the computer very much wanted to play chess, not war. In a beautiful commentary on human stupidity and aggression it was the person who forced the computer to play war. It was the point of the movie.

      • by Marcion ( 876801 )
        Did not it actually want to play tic-tac-toe?
      • by Traa ( 158207 )
        You are absolutely right. The phrase that I used doesn't actually exist in the movie. But it wasn't just that the computer wanted to play chess rather then war, the movie goes one step further and the person guides the computer first through a tic-tac-toe game and then through the war scenarios showing that that kind of war can't be won.

        At least that is how I remember it....but it has been a while.
  • by clarkn0va ( 807617 ) <> on Friday January 25, 2008 @03:24AM (#22178720) Homepage
    So are we going to see an official logo featuring Tux with "Born to Kill" scratched on his helmet?


  • by Alexx K ( 1167919 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @03:25AM (#22178724)
    Now the troops can compile Gentoo while on duty. Hopefully, it'll be finished when they get home.
  • Licensed to kill (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drDugan ( 219551 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @03:39AM (#22178782) Homepage
    I'd love to see a software license that says something to the effect of "This software will not be used to wage war or to kill any humans".

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by unbug ( 1188963 )

      I'd love to see a software license that says something to the effect of "This software will not be used to wage war or to kill any humans".
      It wouldn't be an open-source license, though. From the Open Source Definition []: The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor.
    • How about fluffy kittens? Aliens? Dolphins? How about the biosphere?

      What about the use of linux in a somekind of euthanasia device or do you get to dictate how other people should life and die their own lives?

      Offcourse your suggestion is silly and goes against the very spirit of opensource.

    • Re:Licensed to kill (Score:5, Informative)

      by donscarletti ( 569232 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @06:56AM (#22179628)

      I'd love to see a software license that says something to the effect of "This software will not be used to wage war or to kill any humans".


      Take WWII as an example, you've got a whole bunch of Japanese moving east killing 3M Chinese soldiers defending their homeland, murdering 17M unarmed Chinese civilians mainly with swords and small arms. Germans get in on the action, invading Czechoslovakia and Poland. They get bored and ramp up action invading Scandinavia, France and the Soviet Union killing 23M soviets (half civilian) while they were at it. Jews of course were shot on site or sent to an automated death factory, 3M all up. The Germans start bombing the crap out of the UK and the Japanese exploit the distraction and invade Singapore, capturing the defenders then starve or torture them to death in prison camps. This was the bad kind of killing, because they were killing because they desired more power.

      But we all know this story and what happened next. The British Commonwealth, U.S. and Soviet Union killed a truly amazing amount of people and fixed the problem. It is completely thanks to violence that German and Japanese people are now nice rather than nasty. The US military helped get the Japanese out of China / South East Asia and the Germans out of the bulk of Europe and thus prevented them from killing any more people while they were there. This was the good kind of killing because they only started killing when they had killers to kill and they always aimed to make peace when the killers were killed. I bet you can't think of any non-violent organisation that cut short such an evil set of events.

      This is why violence is only bad if you're violent to the wrong people and why I wholly endorse any of my works to be used for violence against the right people. It's not as if the Third Reich or Japanese empire would have cared about your stipulations. If someone did honour it, they must be the sort of people who care about individual freedoms and intellectual property and thus those who you'd probably want to win the conflict anyway.

      Of course the problem is that the military forces of the US and my native Australia spends most of its time invading irrelevant countries to look like it is dealing with terrorists, but that does not mean that its role in the world is wholly a negative one, they beat up a lot of bad people too, like the Taliban who had it coming to them long before they helped hide Osama bin Laden. Our Aussie guys went over and kept away a bunch of armed militia that was trying to stop East Timor from regaining its independence, NATO did some bombing to stop the Serbs from killing the Muslims in Kosovo. When the military isn't killing people you get things like the Rwandan genocide in the mid 90s when nobody got around to killing the aggressors so they were able to kill whomever the hell they wanted.

      Thus, killing in general is a completely morally neutral action.

  • NOT using anything related to MS is a good thing.

    "How many times does your computer system go down in a week?" said Jim Currie, a retired Army reserve colonel, military historian and professor at the National Defense University.
    Mine, personally not at all. Although this is not really related to Windows vs Linux, since both can have fubar programming on apps. Question is, if they do enough testing to get the bugs out?

  • Blame game (Score:5, Funny)

    by Wowsers ( 1151731 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @03:44AM (#22178808) Journal
    If anything goes wrong with the project, they could always say it's General Protection's Fault.
  • hey! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2008 @04:06AM (#22178902)
    torrent plz
  • Perhaps it's time for them to upgrade to Reason 2.0.
  • Lines of Code? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PinkyDead ( 862370 ) on Friday January 25, 2008 @05:23AM (#22179234) Journal
    Now there's a useful metric. It says so much about quality and reliability.
  • Imagine a Beowulf cluster of soldiers???

    Meh, ok. I had karma to burn on a tired meme.
  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd.bandrowsky@gma i l .com> on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:10AM (#22180228) Homepage Journal
    The thing about FCS is that, when early versions of it have been tried in our present war, soldiers have found that the extra computerization is often not worth the weight of the computer. It seems to me that if the Army is going to be spending billions of dollars developing anything, they ought to be looking for a way to detect hidden explosives. FCS doesn't do a damn thing to aid against insurgencies whose primary weapon is the booby trap.
    • soldiers have found that the extra computerization is often not worth the weight of the computer.

      And back when semi-auto rifles were introduced, soliders didn't think it was worth the extra weight and hassle over their good old bolt-action rifles.

      And back when muskets were introduced, soldiers didn't think it was worth the extra weight and hassle over their good old lances and calvary sabres.

      And back when long swords were introduced, soldiers didn't think it was worth the extra weight and hassle over

    • FCS doesn't do a damn thing to aid against insurgencies whose primary weapon is the booby trap.

      So what? Do you think that insurgencies will be our only target always and forevers?

      The thing about FCS is that, when early versions of it have been tried in our present war, soldiers have found that the extra computerization is often not worth the weight of the computer.

      First generation systems typically have problems like that. The solution is to continue to evolve the system, not to throw th

  • The G.I. Tux, one more thing we did not need in this world...
  • Did anyone else here feel the alarms going off at the mention of SAIC [] in the linked article? I read the March 2007 Vanity Fair piece about SAIC [], and saw the accompanying PBS program about the investigation by the writers of the article, which names many former government officials and military officers who sit on the SAIC board of directors. Among them was David Kay, the former weapons inspector who was instrumental in making the case that Saddam Hussein was in possession of WMD's. SAIC is one of the lead b

    • SAIC is notable for their failure to deliver on a number of huge contracts, only to be awarded follow-up contracts to fix the problems with the original deliveries.
      I would venture that is the case for many of the big name government/military contractors.
    • Pffft! SAIC is the little guy. They're basically a bunch of decentralized almost-autonomous offices. Far larger are Raytheon, Boeing, BAE, Lockheed, etc. But the Military Industrial Complex Problem isn't agoing to be solved by focusing on one company. You need to attack the system itself. You used the Microsoft analogy. Do you think proprietary software would disappear if Microsoft were disbanded? Hah!
  • I still don't get why they abandoned development for A.A. on both Mac and Linux
  • The Army is making Duke Nukem Forever! that's right...63 million lines of code, all dedicated to the best game ever. 3D Realms is simply waiting for the army to finish its code.

    The code includes interfacing will all the systems used in the battlefield by a special forces soldier, like mr Duke. This code will be used by 3dRealms to drive the on-screen action, for ultra realistic gameplay!

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling