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Robotics The Military Hardware Linux

Linux For Navy Drone Ground Stations 78

garymortimer writes "Raytheon will help the U.S. Navy transition to using Linux software at ground control stations for unmanned air vehicles, the Defense Department announced Wednesday. The company's intelligence and information systems unit won a $27,883,883 contract to implement the tactical control system software, used for directing vertical take-off UAVs."
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Linux For Navy Drone Ground Stations

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  • Will the GPL allow any code changes to be classified? If the end user is the DOD or other entity with access to that level of classified material and they get the source code I believe that is correct.

    • Re:What if? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AlphaWolf_HK ( 692722 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:13AM (#40253791)

      IIRC the GPL only stipulates that you provide the source code to whoever you give the binaries to. If they don't release it to the public, then they don't have to release the source to the public either.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's interesting, because there's a JSF debacle over not including the source code with the British jets. Maybe it's common to supply binaries and not source when equipping allies. It's unlikely, but it'll be amusing if an ally sues over the GPL at some point to get the source for some kit.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Been that way for the F-16 for decades. IIRC, when the Japanese wanted to develop the F-16 into their F-2, source code for the flight control computers was a huge sticking point.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Its worth noting, US legal precedence says the government is except from copyright for matters national defense. Whle they do make an effort to comply, the fact is, if they decide they are exempt, they'll simply do whatever they want. Code licenses such as the GPL are very likely ignored daily in the US by the US government.

      • does that mean they need to provide the source code after distributing the bombs with the uav?
        • Re:What if? (Score:5, Funny)

          by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday June 08, 2012 @06:35AM (#40254771) Homepage Journal

          All you have to do to comply with the license is include a copy of the source code with each device. If you put it on a TF card and attach that to the explosive, no problem :)

          • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

            All you have to do to comply with the license is include a copy of the source code with each device. If you put it on a TF card and attach that to the explosive, no problem :)

            Hmmmm... I think I'd like a dud, please.

            This reminds me of an old joke: what did the irish man think when he learned a nuclear bomb cost millions to build? "I hope they'll drop one in my backyard; either way, I'll have enough money for whiskey my entire life"

        • by mrmeval ( 662166 )

          I would argue that is only applicable to paying or authorized distributees, throwing them at someone ... I am ambivalent.

      • GPL should include a clause prohibiting the use of the software to murder people. If you want to kill people, code your own shit.
        • the typical F/OSS line is that they practice 'non discrimination' in what 'field of endeavor' their licenses cover.

          you can see it in the official open source defintitions, its one of their top rules.

          the reality is that GPL and F/OSS software have always been closely linked to the high levels of the military industrial complex. the biggest funders of linux are big corporations with huge defense contracts. universities in the CS field are all closely linked to the military. For @#$ sake, Internet used to be D

          • by mrmeval ( 662166 )

            And hear I thought Linux was a penguin in a nice Che hat. Damn you for spoiling my delusions.

        • You need to learn the morally significant difference between killing and murder.
          • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

            by Hatta ( 162192 )

            There is such a difference, but the military escapades of the US are well on the murder side, and have been since WWII.

    • Re:What if? (Score:4, Informative)

      by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:15AM (#40253799)
      While granting that TFA is almost completely detail-free, it does say the $27,883,883 is for "tactical control system software", which would be a proprietary app running on Linux. So no, don't hold your breath to see it being GPL'ed.
      • by siddesu ( 698447 )
        Well, we can always hope that some Chinese hacker will prove to be a kind soul and release them for everyone's benefit.
        • Well, we can always hope that some Chinese hacker will prove to be a kind soul and release them for everyone's benefit.

          Exactly so.
          Just because Raytheon is likely using an off-the-shelf Linux release as the platform for their Ground Control Software, that doesn't specify which shelf it came off of. IIRC, 'Red Dragon' is the vetted official People's Republic of China release of Linux.
          That makes the jobs of the repo (re-possession) men contracted to the PRC to help settle the USA's massive sovereign & trade debts that much easier. (And don't think That Isn't Coming. If so, you're in denial.)

          OTOH, I am familiar with another

          • by siddesu ( 698447 )

            Just because a Linux distro might be heavily customized by a subcontractor of Raytheon does not make it, or the networks of Raytheon or the subcontractor, impenetrable to Chinese (or other) hackers.

            • Don't get your hopes up. Most defenze development networks are only accessible by cleared sneakers, and the data goes only one way (in, not out). A Chinese spy might get access, but not likely a hacker.
    • Re:What if? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cheater512 ( 783349 ) <> on Friday June 08, 2012 @02:24AM (#40253833) Homepage

      As AlphaWolf pointed out, that clause only has to do with distribution.

      Additionally, just because they make software that runs on Linux, doesn't make everything fall under the GPL.
      If they modify the Linux kernel or similar parts of Linux then yes the modifications fall under the GPL but they are probably using off the shelf Linux and putting their own apps over the top.

    • The DOD is probably the largest user of Linux in the world. DARPA has been funding Free software development for decades.
    • I'm sure it's actually RTLinux a custom flavor used by DOD and NSA and OGA for hardware.

      It doesn't have to be GPL because they're not releasing it for use.

  • Linux makes money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SplashMyBandit ( 1543257 ) on Friday June 08, 2012 @03:02AM (#40253969)
    There are people who don't understand that with GNU/Linux you can make good money. Not with selling an operating system (although that works fine for Microsoft, Red Hat etc) but with the systems you can build on top of the whole GNU/Linux infrastructure. This allows a lot of other companies to make money, not just the operating system vendors. The Linux kernel and GNU components may be free, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a whole lot of financial value in it.
    • Re:Linux makes money (Score:5, Informative)

      by paugq ( 443696 ) <pgquiles&elpauer,org> on Friday June 08, 2012 @03:50AM (#40254139) Homepage

      I know already three countries in three continents which have moved their Navy's (bespoke) SCADA and ship and control systems from Windows to Linux. A fourth country is already in the planning stage. How do I know? Because I ported the software, created a custom Linux distro, etc. Years of work.

      Fun fact: at the beginning we charged a premium for the Linux version. Customer's answer? We want Linux. Windows was deprecated 3 years ago for this software due to no demand. But it's also understandable: I can tell you at least three countries which had to put their frigates and submarines in "manual sailing mode" due to Windows viruses (!!!). Not to speak of many countries not trusting the US more-than-influence on Microsoft, and also some features which were simply impossible to support on Windows due to Windows limitations.

      • I dunno, after using both I still trust Windows more than Linux. That being said, Windows had loads of problems in the past so it's not surprising that governments moved away from it in their weapons.If you were implementing a Solaris based solution or something custom based on a real-time OS I could understand wanting to use a UNIX based system. However, it's possible for someone to submit a slightly broken feature as part of a patch and insert a backdoor into a linux system; you're assuming that you'll ac

        • by paugq ( 443696 )

          If you were implementing a Solaris based solution or something custom based on a real-time OS I could understand wanting to use a UNIX based system.

          I was talking about supervision (SCADA) and control, not about weapons. Combat systems run on real-time operating systems such as VxWorks or QNX.

          Re Solaris: there are several major reasons this kind of customers do not trust Windows:
          1. Developed by a US company (Windows: check, Solaris: check)
          2. Source code not available (Windows: check, Solaris: check)
          3. Suppor

        • considering that most motherboards are made in china now, i find it laughable that so many people think their systems can be 'secured' because its running 'intel/amd and linux'.

        • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

          ... you're assuming that you'll actually bother to look through all the code eventually or that you'll know the security holes when you see them.

          Aaahhh... but there's a solution for that... release your source code in open source. You know... "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow"?

        • You don't follow the Linux mailing lists at all, do you? Source code makes a huge difference in bug detection and fix development time. For the record, I'd likely use OpenBSD over Linux for audited releases, but Linux does have better hardware support.

      • where Bill Gates himself signed a deal with the government, claiming that all the linux computers they were using were being re-installed with windows, and then allowing Tunisia's dictator to modify the acceptable-cert-list in IE (and giving access to the source code of windows to the dictatorship).

    • There are people who don't understand that with GNU/Linux you can make good money.

      That's like saying "there are people who don't understand that with little rubber feet for appliances you can make good money". It's rubbish. The expertise here lies in the specialized domain of providing complex control and management systems - the OS is almost irrelevant, as it's something small shops and startups don't have.

      • I think the point went right by you. There are people who say by developing for and deploying on Linux you cannot make money (inferring only Windows should be developed for) - and then point to Microsoft's sales figures. My point is that the operating system doesn't matter for just about anyone other than Microsoft or its distrubution channels, the value lies elsewhere (as you point out).
  • Is this some kind of mystic number in contract value?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Surely there will be several reasons, but I think these people think on strategic terms: fixes in battle times. A professional contracted support simply won't do in battle time. They need something that can close a vulnerability in Free Software time -- in one to two days -- instead of next Patch Tuesday, next month or next release (which might happen in 3 years from now).

    Where I work, people get the wrong idea that paying more will change reality...

  • This is most likely prompted by the fact that the most well-respected and versatile ground control software package has been hosted on Solaris for a long time, but has also been transitioning to Linux over the last few years. Couple that with the fact that Solaris is becoming more and more difficult to support and procure hardware for and this is a natural progression. I myself had to ask the company that makes this software to port the software to x86 so I could use it in a UAV training system and surpri
  • I used to make Jokes that Raytheon uses Java for all the user interfaces since I think when it comes to weaponry, Java is slow. It's good to see they are moving to Linux, but I hope it's a hardened Linux. Also I'd like to see all the devices used in the drone to be able to authenticate authenticity. I build vertical take off drones, I've got a quadcopter and I'm building a new one based on the APM 2.0 controller. I mounted a small micro car remote camera to my quadpod and record video to an sd card. My l
  • I have not read all the comments, but the United States Air Force has it's own Linux distro called LPS. My guess is that they will use that, or use it as a starting point so they are not starting from scratch. Here is more info:
    LPS is designed to serve as a Secure End Node. It can run on on almost any Intel-based computer (PC or Mac). LPS boots only in RAM, creatin
  • If you feel passionately about Linux support this petition to get Dell to stop the blockade and blacklisting of Linux and to stop forcing customers to buy Windows 7 and Microsoft Office if they want the latest Dell hardware. Make a difference and tell them to stop now....They have setup a petition website for the posting of new ideas and comments called Ideastorm, lets up-vote the issue and support the breaking of the Microsoft Cartel at Dell...

    "Pre-Installed Linux | Ubuntu | Fedora | OpenSUSE | Multi-Boo

The absent ones are always at fault.