Navy set sights on Linux programmers

New initiative to explore open-source software use in US Naval Oceanographic Office

Linux geeks will have a chance to make the Village People song a reality and "join the Navy" under a research programme announced on Wednesday.

The US' Naval Oceanographic Office, which relies on Linux for many of its information-gathering activities, has linked with the Open Source Software Institute (OSSI) to study how the Navy might improve its use of open-source programs. A cooperative research and development agreement between the two organisations is designed both to produce a technical report and recommendations, and to create links between the software industry and the US Department of Defence.

"This is an excellent opportunity for members of the open-source community to work with representatives of the Navy," said OSSI chairman John Weathersby in a statement.

The open-source model requires developers to make their software improvements available to the community, and allows programmers direct access to the software source code, which can be modified at will. Linux is the best-known example of open-source software.

Open source and Linux are popular with some large scientific and research organisations because it allows them full control over the software.

"After an initial review, we found significant interest in the use of open-source software, particularly Linux, within some of our departments," said the Oceanographic Office's chief information officer, John Lever, in a statement. He said the agreement would allow the office to explore expanding Linux use into more areas.

The oceanographic office collects and analyses data for the Navy and other Department of Defence agencies by airborne, surface and underwater platforms. It hosts one of the world's largest supercomputing centres and the world's largest oceanographic library.

The research project will be administered through the office's headquarters at the Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The non-profit Open-Source Software Institute is maed up of industry, academic and government representatives and is designed to promote open-source software within US federal and state government and academic bodies.

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