So I finally broke down and started writing tutorials about how to use your DoD CAC in conjunction with Linux and Mac OS X (and other Unixes as I get more test systems assembled…). Since Fedora 13 pretty much took the cake for this year’s kickass Linux distro I wrote instructions for 32-bit Fedora 13 first. Next up will be 32-bit Ubuntu 10.4 LTS, then 64-bit Fedora 13, 32-bit Ubuntu 10.10, 64-bit Ubuntu (probably 10.4 LTS first), Fedora 14, and Mac OS X somewhere in there as soon as I get my hands on a test system.
The main guide portal page can be found here: http://zxq9.com/dodcac/
It turns out that a huge number of people in the military have been waiting to get above the Windows scramble and move on to Linux or Mac OS X. The awareness of Unix-type systems in this generation is pretty amazing considering recent history (it is equally amazing that almost nobody knows what BSD is anymore). The one thing holding them back is an unfounded fear of not being able to access DoD web apps such as DTS, AKO/DKO and RMT. Another thing they fear is losing the ability to play DVDs on their computers because they have heard the evil (and tragi-comic) rumors that playing DVDs on Linux is hard to do and makes your palms hairy. (Of course, they could always dual-install… and doing it with a new harddrive is so easy my tech-uninterested wife can do it.)
I cover all of that in the tutorials and its pretty easy. If I got paid to maintain this stuff by DoD then I would go as far as writing GUI Python scripts to make the installations cake for everyone the way Anonymouse used to. But alas I spend an inordinate amount of time doing this and its all for free — and the solutions are half-way to the level of user-friendliness they could be. Actually, that I don’t get paid for this and it is a concrete service realized by many servicemembers sort of pisses me off when we have literally millions a year getting pissed away on bad projects all over the place. If DoD would consider the utility of standing up a development house of, say, 10 top-level open source developers (the sort who can demand low-six-figure salaries) and a person who can bridge the gap between combat operations and military experience and the open source world (hint: this would be someone just like me…) they could safely switch most of their infrastructure and save roughly $15,000 per seat (this figure comes from my signal officer’s quote for how much it costs us to put a single computer on the network) in recurring site licenses, security and maintenance across the force.
(Where I work right now there are about 300 computers deployed on the NIPR. Just switching that single building over would pay for three times the development group I am discussing, so fix-figures for no-shit developers is actually extremely cheap and you could get the right people, not the inept folks who bumbled through development of crap like DTS and said they had a product worth releasing…)
The fact that the MPAA and RIAA have so much political clout is something I would ordinarily have blogged about by now. I have not… yet. Instead of writing yet another rant-on-the-web-about-the-media-industry and thereby merely regurgitating all of the great points both personal and legal that have been better stated elsewhere, I think it would be more interesting and productive to abstain (though ranting about it is tempting) and instead examine the fundamental trends which will eventually render all such efforts at controlling individual and independent mathematical achievements impossible and unenforceable in the future.
There are some great points to be made and some incredible busines opportunities emerging as the nature of the world changes and art, math, social interaction, thought and even evolution (in some senses) become digitized, mathematical processes. Give some thought to this. Depending on where your social and/or religious emotional investments lay this is very exciting, frightening, unstoppable or something which must be fought. Whoever though math machines could be so controversial?