The military-industrial open source complex

The military-industrial open source complex

Summary: Have the people sworn to protect us from fanatics in caves suddenly gained open source religion?

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A press release hit my desk yesterday which I'm still trying to figure out.

It's from Lockheed Martin, and covers the open sourcing of Eureka Streams, trademarked in May.

It's described as an engine for creating social networks, allowing workers to comment on news and its detritus through blogs, discussions, etc.

It's said to scale, and said to be secure. It's offered under the Apache 2.0 license and it has a Web site. The source code is at GitHub. The Web site is unfinished.

This is the second gift from the military-industrial complex in the last week.

You may remember the first, the Open Information Security Foundation, said by its creators to be the next big thing, said by the creator of Snort to be a cheap knock-off of his code.

To what do we owe the honor? Have the people sworn to protect us from fanatics in caves suddenly gained open source religion? Are they trying to ingratiate themselves with a new Administration which looks favorably on open source? Or are they trying to take it over, infiltrate it?

The answers to these questions are important, as is your speculation, because the welcome these projects get from the open source community will likely determine how much help they get. Reputation is vital in open source, and government often has a poor one.

Then there's the quality of the offering itself. I don't see anything in Eureka Streams I can't do in Drupal, or a number of other high-quality open source projects that have existed for years. Lockheed has reinvented the wheel -- why? And why should I help them push it up the hill?

The author of Eureka Streams, who goes by the name Sterlecki at Github, has left no previous tracks there. Linkedin lists the same picture as belonging to  Steve Terlecki, a Lockheed software developer.

The stuff's legit, so we're left again with the question of motive. Is the military-industrial complex reaching out to open source, is this just proof of press reports showing our spy efforts have more bloat in them than a Macy's Thanksgiving float, are we being co-opted, or am I just too suspicious?

You decide.

Topics: CXO, Enterprise Software, Open Source

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14 comments
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  • Wow i sure hope theres a review to make sure federal funds weren't used

    What a supreme waste of money. This had better not have been federal taxpayer money or LM should be getting some contracts revoked. We need a whistle blower to tell us what budget terlecki's salary is being payed from.
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: The military-industrial open source complex

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      gorians
  • Trial balloons

    I suspect these are trial balloons. Throw a few relatively low-value, potentially interesting projects out there and see if the open source community will play along.

    And before "Johnny Vegas" can call it wasteful, remember that the contract they are working on may stipulate "is not IP encumbered in any way", so they have to reinvent the wheel. Also, this may have been part of a larger program where they needed something that did just this, and customizing an existing project might have taken about as much engineering time as writing something from scratch.
    wizard_of_oz
  • An other DoD open source software...

    I use LPS from the "Department of Defense Research and Engineering Office", executed by the ATSPI Technology Office, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL/RYT).

    It's SIMPLE, FREE and did work the first time without any problems.

    The link is http://www.spi.dod.mil/

    If they (military industry) can build the perfect machinary to kill, why not allow them to write a perfect non-killing software?

    Doen't forget that the internet ist based on old military tecnology !

    Military products are designed to work under hard conditions, to be used anywhere, to be simple, there are no moving search-dogs and no silly animations.

    Pay MY money to Microsoft and Apple and be a beta-tester with endless Hot-fixes, patch-days and service packs
    or
    get free, simple, working software paid with MY taxes?

    Is it too bad to say: MAKE SOFTWARE, NOT WAR !
    weber_christian@...
  • Paranoid and under-informed

    I think you're reading much more into this than is justified, and you are severely underestimating the impact the military industrial complex has had on the open source community.

    Contrary to the picture painted by this article, the military industrial complex has always been an extremely active contributor to the open source community. In fact, depending on what you include in the amorphous term "military industrial complex," the American military industrial complex is THE single biggest contributor to open source software worldwide, period. This becomes less true as time goes by, simply because the types of projects developed as open source has expanded beyond the computing, science, math, and technology-related projects that historically dominated the open source world (the MIC doesn't contribute to a lot of personal finance or recipe management projects :-) ), but I have a hard time imagining anyone ever doing more for open source than the US military and its appendages. With the exception of places like Argonne, they rarely host or even claim sponsorship of the projects they contribute to. Contributors don't participate as representatives of their organizations, but as individuals, and as a result the level of activity is rarely recognized. This isn't because they are trying to hide their involvement, but because there is simply no motivation for company recognition. In many cases their contributions to an open source project aren't an explicit part of their job, it's just a side effort that helps them get their *real* job done.

    Employees of national labs have been particularly strong contributors to the open source world. Not only do they work in a completely not-for-profit environment, but they see part of their mission to be the advancement of technology available to the nation and the world. They have the same motivations for using open source as everyone else, but with even less motivation to create a product they can call their own. They also tend to submit their contributions back to the project more frequently than a commercial participant might. They have no competitive reasons to hold back contributions, and it's actually easier than keeping it to yourself if you have any interest at all in keeping up with the project's changes. In my opinion, the non-commercial elements of the industrial military complex embody the spirit of open source better than nearly any other organization in existence.

    It's easy to explain why Lockheed would "reinvent the wheel," too. From past experiences with them, I know they've been strict about NOT using open source in their products, more strict than they need to be in my opinion. Unlike much of the industrial military complex, their commercial status makes them more vulnerable to being required to expose source code that is considered sensitive for either proprietary or security reasons. I suspect that they recognize that they over-extended the "no open source" policy, and now they are simply doing what they wanted to do all along by putting those products that aren't part of their core business into the open domain.

    There's no co-opting going on here. You can't co-opt what you already possess. There's no infiltration any more than walking into my own home is an infiltration. There's no "sudden gaining of religion" when it's the same religion they've been following for decades. The military industrial complex is largely responsible for building and supporting the open source culture and community you are a part of today. You just didn't know whose house you've been living in.
    zeblonite
  • Untwist your panties, Dana

    Hmm, let me see...

    Open source development is more effective than closed-source development from pretty much every angle. People, even in government and the military, want to be as effective as they can be.

    Seems to me this is just people being pragmatic.
    jimmyed2000
  • This guy says it much better than me

    http://onepeople.org/node/2127
    unhammer
  • You're right, there's a smoking man in a dark room pulling the strings here

    Or... maybe you're paranoid.

    Dana - let the adults talk for a minute.

    Conspiracy theories are great for driving web traffic, and if that's all this is, then it doesn't necessarily mean that you're an idiot, just a troll.

    I have another theory. *Maybe* Lockheed is legitimately trying to leverage all of the benefits of developing open source software - with which I'd hope you're familiar, given the subtitle of this blog...

    or... *maybe* the team developing the app is full of 20-something software developers that run Linux and OSX at home, embracing open source and trying to change the closed culture of the defense industry.

    And to your Fox News-style "who is this STerlecki character?" sensationalist inquiry... Let me give you a little insight here, because you clearly gave this no thought. The guy's email address is @lmco.com. So, in one breath you're shocked that Lockheed opens up source, and in the next, you're surprised that this Lockheed employee hasn't personally worked on open source before with his corporate profile. And maybe he's not the author anyway - maybe he's just the poor shlub that was tasked with maintaining the repository after a long development cycle.

    Think, Dana... Think...

    Now, before you lose focus... let's also play out the absolute most nefarious, worst-case scenario you can dream up. Let's go ahead and consider this plot where Lockheed is injecting spyware into a corporate communications app that's - (have you forgotten?) - open source. I assume they'd have some really clever top secret code scrapes and transmits that corporate data off-site to Lockheed's servers, whose addresses are cleverly obfuscated in the code, and I'd also have to assume that they'd expect to never get caught.

    What would they do with this data, and do you really think nobody would notice megabytes of daily info heading out to lmco.com servers?

    Really, Dana? Really?

    Let's continue with this thought, Mulder, I think you're onto something...

    So, we've described this top secret world where Lockheed's releasing internal corporate communications web apps that sends data back to their servers through brilliantly disguised open source code. And, we haven't described any motive... Who knows why they're doing it besides you, the expert, right?...

    What about when they get caught? Are you suggesting that the company is risking multi-billion dollar government contracts so that they can spy on random corporate tweets?

    Are you really that insane, Dana?
    jimrandall
  • Oh, and to the idiot talking about taxpayer money

    Hey dummy... Lockheed isn't the CIA. Lockheed is just like any of the thousands of machine shops across the US that build parts for ships and tanks. So, throw your hands up in anger any time one of those shops does some landscaping. Lockheed is just like Boeing - a non-government company that bids on contracts. If they wanna open up all of their internal code, that's their business.

    Gawd, I hope you can't vote. This is one of those times when I'd feel more comfortable if you were a felon.
    jimrandall
  • How stupid are you Dana?

    More importantly, how stupid do you think your readers are?

    It's Open Source.The code can be audited, just like SELinux before it. surely you remember SELinux, it was contributed by the NSA.
    tracy anne
  • Parts of the code?

    Even IF the project as a whole is not better than existing open-source projects, it's very well possible, that parts will be used in other projects or libraries will be created out of this.
    And then there are sometimes license issues, which exclude some open-source projects. (e.g. GPL code not being allowed to be linked with proprietary code)
    Anyway, it's always welcome.

    Hans
    hbswn
  • RE: The military-industrial open source complex

    I can't figure out which you hate the most: our military or open source software.
    GreyGeek77
  • Guess what ? The world is larger that AMERICA ! No, really !

    ehe, open source helps everybody, including non-americans. So, please keep your tin-foil hat on as rest of us in the non-american world make use and benefit from the innovation and development that come out of that 5% of your population which you rest 95% do not understand the value of. This is why I think the US is the greatest nation in the world. 5% are brilliant as well as altruistic, 25% think there is something fishy, 25% are just to dumb to understand what's happening and 20% are too self-involved to care. So, net-net the rest of the world progresses.

    cheers
    fooser
  • RE: The military-industrial open source complex

    Eureka is a really nice name lol
    mikeocash