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The Military GNU is Not Unix Software Linux

New DoD Memo On Open Source Software 146

dwheeler writes "The US Department of Defense has just released a new official memo on open source software: 'Clarifying Guidance Regarding Open Source Software (OSS).' (The memo should be up shortly on this DoD site.) This memo is important for anyone who works with the DoD, including contractors, on software and systems that include software; it may influence many other organizations as well. The DoD had released a memo back in 2003, but 'misconceptions and misinterpretations... have hampered effective DoD use and development of OSS.' The new memo tries to counter those misconceptions and misinterpretations, and is very positive about OSS. In particular, it lists a number of potential advantages of OSS, and recommends that in certain cases the DoD release software as OSS."
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New DoD Memo On Open Source Software

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  • NMCI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:01PM (#29890839)

    I think at least 50% of the technical people in the Navy and Marine Corp would like to see (the next version of) NMCI switch to an open-source OS.

    At least they can always dream...

  • by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:03PM (#29890873)
    a 2009 memo to clarify a 2003 memo. ...and acting at speed of light too!
  • Re:NMCI (Score:2, Insightful)

    by superid ( 46543 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:13PM (#29890997) Homepage

    Are you KIDDING me? The SAME people forcing me to use IE6 want me to use OSS??

  • Re:But ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KillerBob ( 217953 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:19PM (#29891059)

    How can the DoD release software under a copyleft license when the federal government is incapable of holding copyrights in the first place? I thought it was all automatically PD if it's not secret? Not that that's stopped anyone from asserting copyright when it suits them.

    Just because the DoD develops software doesn't mean they have to release it at all. You can request the software under Access to Information (FOIA in the US, I think?), but they can always cite national security reasons for not releasing, say, the guidance code for the Tomahawk missile.

    Without having read the memo in full, I would presume that they're talking about what license to use when releasing stuff. I'd sincerely doubt that they would use something like the GPL/LGPL to release code, but there are other open source licences that are more in line with what the government does. The ones that leap immediately to mind are the BSD and MIT licenses, both of which had their births in the need to keep government-funded developments in the public domain.

  • by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:20PM (#29891085) Journal

    The government has always acted in its own interests. Perhaps they have realised that releasing software as OSS suits their purposes.

  • Re:But ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:24PM (#29891131) Journal

    Anything funded by the federal government including private work should be considered the property of the people and thus released into the public domain.
    We, the public, should not be expected to pay twice for work done by the private sector. Either we pay for the work and have all of it released for us to utilize or the work remains proprietary and receives no funding from the public.

  • by rezonat0r ( 409674 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:52PM (#29891407)

    The government has always acted in its own interests. Perhaps they have realised that releasing software as OSS suits their purposes.

    People have always acted in their own interests. A good government (one that is of and by the people) acting in its own interest is acting in your interest as well.

    Not saying this is always the case, but it does happen. Using your money to develop software that is licensed for you to use freely is a good example.

  • by dremspider ( 562073 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:54PM (#29891439)
    It all depends on what command or where you are. I have been in places where they are very pro open source, and places where they refuse all requests to OSS. Personally I am really happy about this.
  • by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:55PM (#29891457) Journal

    Good governments are rare if not non-existent. When you empower one group to rule over another, the temptation to use that power to benefit the ruling group is very strong.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:29PM (#29891773)

    Microsoft products don't cut it with the interoperability.

    Take a look at SharePoint for instances, It's painful to move data in and out. Sure there is the SDK, PowerShell, and good old manual labor.
    But these products are sub-par. The SDK was written by what looks in the amount of 50 people who all had different ideas on proper coding.
    PowerShell isn't even close to the usability as vbscript. Who ever heard of a function that returned the entire transaction, database table, and all the output feedback along the way.

    By the way, forget coding for SharePoint on a workstation, you basically only code on a Windows SharePoint Services or MOSS server. Sure you can use Virtual Machines but forget that when you are
    paying for per seat licenses. Got to be legit.

    Another thing is that Microsoft makes everything seem like a risk. Global Unique Identifiers are on everything.
    You have to activate your copy of Sh(it)arePoint Designer, Visual Studio[Torpedo].
    Intellisense sometimes is missing things. It makes you dumb as you come to rely on it. Team Studio costs too much and is more complicated than CVS. .Net was a bad Idea. Ever notice it takes approximately 15 seconds to spool up an asp.net application.
    That compounded with the 30 seconds you have to wait for your data to be retrieved from SQL Server and shoved in
    a datagrid's Session State. Shouldn't there be automated paging by now?

    C# is basically just becoming a python rip off.

    Remember LINQ? 2XML 2SQL If you tried to use the XML you noticed it wasn't exactly finished. "namespaces?"

    After a while the Xbox 360 will require you to go online to validate you are playing the game you are playing.
    The games will be registered to you via a 32bit GUID that is randomly generated by the tool from Visual Studio.
    Then you'll find out that at least 10 other people own your copy of Fears of War Unlimited. You are a pirate and you 360 has been
    deactivated. Thats just where this hysteria is headed. EA, you're just as bad.

    The Department of Defense would do well to just go totally opensource.

    Ubuntu clients, Redhat servers, skys the limit.

    But here is the problem with that. Redhat doesn't really want to attempt to compete in the desktop market.
    They publicly stated this. This is BAD. Because they have to. They need too.
    They have people capable of fixing the problems in components such as Xorg, the Kernel, and Gnome.
    They have the capability to fork projects and put out decent alternatives.

    Distributions act like they are Linux Prime the leader of the Great Linux.
    But truly there is no one person Linux belongs too or you can go to to blame.
    That's the best thing about it. Nobody really owns it. Nobody is going to come and put you jail for using it.
    Nobody is going to force you to pay tax on it.

    Ubuntu has a good Desktop product. But I'm not sure about the caliber of their employees.
    I'm not sure they can continue to drag Debian along.

    In an enterprise environment you need things to work. That's the problem with open source.
    Companies aren't being forced to invest in the product. Sony should make sure the kernel supports it's laptops.
    Intel should insure there are sufficient drivers for its latest video cards, network cards, and modems.

    Another problem is Microsoft will slip in one of their MVP salesman and your management get big eyes about the possibilities.

    But whatever. I don't care.

  • by the_other_chewey ( 1119125 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:34PM (#29892209)
    No, General Failure screwed up once too often...
  • Re:But ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thtrgremlin ( 1158085 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:48PM (#29892301) Homepage Journal

    Congress shall have the power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

    Hmm... I think it has everything to do with copyright protection.

    "securing for limited time" is the operative clause to the subject of the law being to "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts". The GPL is not only very clear about the when and how of exclusive control, but has in part been critical in maintaining law that has almost been completely lost to an age of fascism and tyranny.

    good site:http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080220/020252302.shtml

  • Re:But ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yfrwlf ( 998822 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @12:37AM (#29893277)
    If the government created its own software, it would be far, far, far far far cheaper, especially of course any software used on millions of computers like for education, police, fire, etc, but also for the bloated central government as well. For example, school districts across the country paying $$$$$$ for hundreds of thousands of licenses for Reader Rabbit could easily pay 1/100000 the cost and developer their own. All it takes is communication/coordination/working together, which is of course what OSS is. Once you have the software, updating/improving it costs even less usually and so future costs would be very low unlike with closed software usually demanding the same high costs over and over again. That adds up.
  • by The Evil Couch ( 621105 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @01:38AM (#29893515) Homepage
    Within the military community, you're absolutely correct, but politicians are rarely held to the same standard. If Joe Biden shot someone without provocation, Obama wouldn't face any problems but pressure to fire Biden and have him stand trial. If Private Joe Snuffy shoots someone for the hell of it, his Platoon Leader's getting fired.
  • by dakameleon ( 1126377 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @02:00AM (#29893617)

    Within the military community, you're absolutely correct, but politicians are rarely held to the same standard. If Joe Biden shot someone without provocation, Obama wouldn't face any problems but pressure to fire Biden and have him stand trial.

    wait, so what happened with Bush & Cheney when Cheney did shoot someone?

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982