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NASA Goes SourceForge

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the hey-tax-dollars-at-work dept.

243

refactorator writes "We have a lift-off! The NASA Ames Research Center has open sourced Java PathFinder , a JVM that is an explicit state software model checker, all written in Java. For the first time, the complete master development site of a live NASA software engineering project is hosted on SourceForge. Read the official press release for details. The team around John Penix, Willem Visser, and Peter Mehlitz fought long and hard to get the development hosted outside of NASA, to enable true collaborative software development. Now show the government that it works - join the fray. May Java PathFinder boldly go where no NASA program has gone before." (Both Slashdot and SourceForge are part of VA Software.)

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243 comments

w00t, FP (maybe) (1)

dmolavi (822749) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360184)

Good to see the gov't is realizing the benefits of SF and OSS...

Re:w00t, FP (maybe) (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360611)

They won't realize anything until all of you slashdotters out there who know how to write code for a JVM (.5%) start helping out.

Hmmmm (3, Interesting)

maxzilla (786061) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360195)

The bigger question for me is if the open source software is used and fails then where does the accountability lie? consider the stress that would be required for anything NASA does, and consider the results of even slight errors. now imagine the sort of bugs that crop up in other open source projects... this could be bad.

Re:Hmmmm (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360278)

The accountability lie to the one who validate
the code before shoting the thing into space.

OSS dont mean, ./configure; make; make install; launch probe -d space

Re:Hmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360373)

Oh Noes! N ot the detonate flag!

Re:Hmmmm (4, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360284)

As I understand it, this is just a tool to track down potential errors in the software. It is not mission critical software, but rather a tool to analyze mission critical software. I doubt that NASA is too concerned that someone will mess it up beyond belief. They've probably got a review process in place to ensure that any new features are properly checked before they go into use at NASA.

What I find interesting, is that this move seems to signal that NASA is looking at using Java in mission critical areas. (Not just data analysis as in the Mars rovers.) Could it be that NASA is finally giving up on Ada and embracing the safety, reliability, and simplicity of Java? If so, it would certainly be a huge culteral shift for them.

Hmm... maybe I should go polish my resume...

Re:Hmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360307)

s/culteral/cultural/g

Sorry. -AKAIB

Oh man, I needed that. (-1, Troll)

Grendel Drago (41496) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360676)

Could it be that NASA is finally giving up on Ada and embracing the safety, reliability, and simplicity of Java?

BWHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Oh, man. I needed a good laugh today.

--grendel drago

Re:Oh man, I needed that. (4, Insightful)

Decaff (42676) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360749)

"Could it be that NASA is finally giving up on Ada and embracing the safety, reliability, and simplicity of Java?"

BWHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Oh, man. I needed a good laugh today.


Aside from the compulsory Slashdot Java FUD, it's really not a joke. Java has a big advantage in that the the bytes codes produced can be verified, and so the program tested, without any concerns of the final deployment platform. This is a major advantage for an organisation like NASA which most likely has a wide range of hardware on which software is deployed.

Re:Hmmmm (3, Interesting)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360743)

NASA never really embraced Ada. A LOT of software at NASA is done in C or special languages. A great deal of Space Station is Ada but it's not 100%. Java in Mission Critical systems is something NASA is thinking about but they move slow. When I was at the IV&V center there was some talk about Java and how NASA didn't really have the skills to evaluate/manage/budget Java development and that was an area for improvement to prepare for the future. IF there ever is a MissionToMars I'd expect a great deal of Java code. I've not looked in depth for Java for hard real-time systems is not something that is commonly done. I see a few tools out there that are first generation so someone is thinking about it but I have no feedback on how good it is compared to C code.

Re:Hmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360869)

maybe I should go polish my resume...

Just don't French it :)

Re:Hmmmm (1)

jon855 (803537) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360310)

I could not agree with you any more. i think its something we should be concerned about but considering the fact that OSS can be really good for NASA as per we could have more people on it and maybe spot a flaw that they could have missed. But I believe that the accountability will lie in NASA's hand if they used it on their system and it crashed or whatever, it is at their own risk, and they know better.

Re:Hmmmm (4, Insightful)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360315)

Not flamebait here; but what does it matter?

Let's say this java thingie miscalculates some data because it incorrectly interprets input as being in metric units, when in fact it's in imperial units.

"It could never happen!" I can hear all of you saying.

Well, it could, it can and it did.

Maybe if there had been x-thousand eyes looking at the code, it might have been caught by someone.

Bottom line, mistakes happen, but in open-source, you lower the percent of them.

Re:Hmmmm (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360371)

I submit that you're viewing a organizational behavior problem through a technical eye.

Re:Hmmmm (2, Insightful)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360432)

Possibly.

I find the idea of attributing liability inane.
Finding the cause is all-important, because you want to prevent recurrence of disaster, and that's what the extra eyes are for, but as for liability, I expect it's like someone already posted; the final word goes to the people at NASA that launch the sucker, they have to do final validation tests.

Re:Hmmmm (1)

L7_ (645377) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360589)

i think that had more to do with cryptic data formats of OTS software testing at integration time rather than software validation at the segment level.

if thier data was in xml, i think that those types of things might not have happened:

<coordinate referenceFrame="SunFixed" type="Cartesian">
<x units="meters">1111111111.</x>
<y units="yards">123414231.</x>
<z units="lightyears">.1234</z>
</coordinate>

and all systems, legacy or modern, would be happy

Re:Hmmmm (2, Interesting)

stecoop (759508) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360328)

Lets squash this FUD quickly.

The bigger question for me is if the open source software is used and fails then where does the accountability lie?

If I contract you to build me a widget and it fails it is your fault. I am not responsible for your third party errors. You should have tested the software to the contracted standards and I should receive a quality statement signoff from your engineering department. That is of course if you are building a system that requires quality. If you are building a system for yourself then you still have no one to blame for failure other than yourself.

Re:Hmmmm (1)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360393)

But the problem is there's no engineering department per se with open-source. It's just a collection of people, some of which may be engineers, with no contracts.

-JEsse

Re:Hmmmm (2, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360830)

Then don't tell anyone where you work "hey, this project is neat, we can use it for free and it will work!" because when it doesn't, YOU will be the one at fault.

It's simple really. If Company X uses open source software with its disclaimer of liability and something goes wrong, its nobody's fault but X's. If Company X goes with Microsoft software with its disclaimer of liability, its still nobody's fault but X's.

While it'd be interesting to see if liability disclaimers hold up in court, I'd rather it be with Microsoft as the defendant, personally.

Re:Hmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360372)

Surely this a good thing not a bad thing. By going open-source, the bugs will be detected and resolved much sooner.

Errors may be introduced into the code, but if the community tests it thoroughly, they should be cleaned up in no time.

If thats your "bigger question" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360384)

You, sir, are an idiot.

If the code is open source, that means ANYBODY can work on it, improve it, or find and squash bugs. If one person makes a mistake somebody else will correct it, If somebody tries to do something harmful to the code. *several* other people will instantly remove the malware. As for accountability? Why do we always have to have some poor soul to point the finger at? why do we have to make any one person in particular accountable? whats wrong with saying "Open source technology represents the very best, that we as a society are able to achieve working together as a team for a common cause." If the project fails then we have ALL failed, and, friend, the accountability will be found in the fact that we WILL improve upon the code, we WILL learn from our mistakes, and we WILL prove that Open Source (free) software IS the best way to spend tax payers money when it comes to computer programming :: period

"many eyeballs" my friend, watch and learn.

Re:If thats your "bigger question" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360480)

I am disturbed by your desire to be a part of a collective. I'm bothered even more by your fanatical belief in the supremacy and righteousness of the collective even if it meant stomping on someone else's rights.

Re:If thats your "bigger question" (2, Insightful)

Decaff (42676) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360633)

If the code is open source, that means ANYBODY can work on it, improve it, or find and squash bugs. If one person makes a mistake somebody else will correct it, If somebody tries to do something harmful to the code. *several* other people will instantly remove the malware.

Just because anybody CAN work on code and deal with bugs, doesn't mean anybody WILL. There is no evidence that bugs in any given OS projects are 'instantly' removed.

As for accountability? Why do we always have to have some poor soul to point the finger at? why do we have to make any one person in particular accountable?

Because if you are going to use a product for any serious use it is customary to look for guarantees that the product is fit for use. Some open source projects have sufficient reputation that they they are trusted in most areas without any such legal or commercial guarantees (such as the Linux kernel). OS in itself is no guarantee of quality.

Would you leap into and drive a free car built by someone you don't know just because they are willing to show you the blueprints and parts list?

If the project fails then we have ALL failed, and, friend, the accountability will be found in the fact that we WILL improve upon the code, we WILL learn from our mistakes, and we WILL prove that Open Source (free) software IS the best way to spend tax payers money when it comes to computer programming :: period

The key to the best way to produce software is to have skilled and motivated developers. The Open Source-ness is not always relevant.

Re:Hmmmm (0, Offtopic)

Ta_Mere (860968) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360504)

This open source project is all well and good but I'm surprised there has been no mention of asteroid threat [bbc.co.uk] . It's pretty much a given that it's just a matter of time before we face possible annhilation from an asteroid. If the current Administration wants to spend big on a space program why not jump start technology presently suggested as a means to meet with the threat of a killer asteroid? Are asteroid/comet threats considered to be outside of NASA's bailiwick?

Re:Hmmmm (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360505)

I just hope it doesn't happen like this...

"Houston, we have a problem... the pathfinder is acting erratically."

(5 minutes later)

BUG REPORT: PathFinder acts erratically.

(2 days later)

Fixed in CVS.

(2 years later)

"The fixed version of the pathfinder will be launched this saturday."

(Next sunday)

"Oh sh**! There's a bug!"

(Next week)

"Houston, we have a problem."

Re:Hmmmm (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360613)

Most modern spacecraft software can be changed remotely. The Mars Exploration Rovers, for example, have had their software upgraded several times for a variety of purposes - fault tolerance, better pathfinding routines, etc.

Re:Hmmmm (1)

GileadGreene (539584) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360764)

Not to mention the fact that Java Pathfinder isn't flight software, but is simply meant to help verify flight software.

Re:Hmmmm (2, Insightful)

Eternally optimistic (822953) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360532)

There seems to be a misconception in the legal and business worlds that when you can assign blame for a failure in a predetermined way, that the risk of failure then becomes zero.

responsibility (4, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360604)

The bigger question for me is if the open source software is used and fails then where does the accountability lie

With NASA, for not validating/testing a solution enough, just as it would be my responsibility if I implemented a half-assed piece of software into a corporate environment without adequate testing. If NASA went down to the hardware store and bought a garden hose valve for a rocket fuel tank, slapped it on the night of a launch and it failed and sent a rocket into the drink- would you blame the garden hose valve maker? Course not. We like to point fingers all the time at things other than our decision-making process.

I help volunteer for a car club which teaches high performance driving at various racetracks. A lot of stuff becomes Really Important when you're driving close to the limits of your talent and the vehicle's equipment. Stuff does go wrong, although it's statistically very rare for there to be an incident caused by mechanical failure. Much of the time, it's driver error.

For example, a wheel falls off. The driver says "I crashed because my wheel fell off." No. The driver crashed because the driver forgot to check lug bolt torque, and the wheel came off because the torque on the lug bolts wasn't correct. A more complex example: "I crashed because my brakes failed". No. The driver crashed because the lap before he crashed, the driver didn't realize his brake pedal was getting really spongy- or worse, he did realize it, and didn't do anything about it (ie, he didn't pit in and bleed the brakes because he wanted to stay out on track).

Re:Hmmmm (3, Insightful)

morgajel (568462) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360620)

I'd imagine it would be up to the Nasa employees in charge of the project to test their code and review it like normal.

it's not rocket sci...er um, yeah.

Re:Hmmmm (1)

BroadwayBlue (811404) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360645)

I doubt it matters if it's open or closed source software. There are multiple layers of checks, and accountability lies wherever the after-accident investigation places it. One piece of code is still just one piece of a whole system.

Though this does remind me, tangentially, of a visiting math prof in college. He refused to give partial credit on any problems b/c of the Challenger disaster. His explanation was that had someone properly coded the launch software it would not have been scheduled to fly that day. Something to do with using a zero instead of a small, non-zero number in "go" flight algorithm. I never was able to figure out of this was true or not.

But man, no partial credit with like 4-5 questions per test. No curve, no A's. He left the country at the end of the quarter, that rat. :P

Re:Hmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360655)

Notice that the OSTG is only to happy to run SourceForge but does not support the much-needed but non-existant QAForge

NASA, the rocket scientists? (0, Flamebait)

arothstein (233805) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360202)

This from the same group of jackoffs who only find it "odd" that the o-rings are burning through on each launch, and "strange" that chunks of insulation are falling off the external tank. No action taken. 2 Shuttles lost. Nice job. Yeah, I'm interested in their code.

*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_
g_______________________________________________g_ _
o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o_ _
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a_ _
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t_ _
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s_ _
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e_ _
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x_ _
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*_ _
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g_ _
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>__\___|____o_ _
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>__|__/____a_ _
t_______/\_|___C_____)/______\_(_____>__|_/_____t_ _
s______/_/\|___C_____)__NASA_|__(___>___/__\____s_ _
e_____|___(____C_____)\______/__//__/_/_____\___e_ _
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x_ _
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*_ _
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g_ _
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o_ _
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a_ _
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t_ _
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s_ _
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e_ _
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x_ _
*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_


Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Re:NASA, the rocket scientists? (0)

Ta_Mere (860968) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360433)

*sniff* I'm so glad to see a return of the ASCII goatse. I thought it had been lost forever thanks to the lameness filter.

*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_
g_______________________________________________g_ _
o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o_ _
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a_ _
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t_ _
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s_ _
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e_ _
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x_ _
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*_ _
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g_ _
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>__\___|____o_ _
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>__|__/____a_ _
t_______/\_|___C_____)/______\_(_____>__|_/_____t_ _
s______/_/\|___C_____)__NASA_|__(___>___/__\____s_ _
e_____|___(____C_____)\______/__//__/_/_____\___e_ _
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x_ _
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*_ _
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g_ _
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o_ _
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a_ _
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t_ _
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s_ _
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e_ _
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x_ _
*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_


Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account. Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Huh ... huh ... huh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360203)

Dear Nasa developers,

How do you survive high school with a name like John Penix?

Re:Huh ... huh ... huh (-1, Troll)

X_Bones (93097) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360272)

He should start his own Linux distro targeted at gay men. I hear there's a certain White House reported who'd be very interested...

Re:Huh ... huh ... huh (0, Flamebait)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360739)

Sweet zombie Jesus, will you liberal slashbots give it a freakin' break?!!

You bitch and complain because the adminstration kowtows to the cultural conservatives by paying lip-service to the gay marriage ban, and then when the Whitehouse reaches out the the gay community by giving the highly-regarded post of administration ringer to a gay-American, you make snide comments about THAT, too! There's just no pleasing you un-American, democratic bastards!

Surely, soap on a roap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360533)

I just want to know how much time I have...

John Penix; because there is only one way to do a feces.

How... (3, Insightful)

Erik Soderstrom (727264) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360204)

How big is the widespread use of OSS in goverment anyways? I thought Microsofts latest pricedrops in Europe (when dealing with the german government for instance) would have some effect on the US as well... Did they realize OSS is "good", or is it just that they didn't see any real use for this being closed source?

Re:How... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360659)

It depends on who is running the show: if your manager respects your ability to make technical decisions and you are just doing 'proof of concept' or research work, then lots of government contracts are using some sort of open source tools to get thier jobs done quicker and at less cost to the govies. If your manager just doesn't want to mess with the status-quo, then the same proprietary vendor-locked partial-solutions are being deployed.

What The Hell Is That? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360207)

Not even Google [google.com] knows what an explicit state software model checker [google.com] is!

Re:What The Hell Is That? (2, Informative)

eviltypeguy (521224) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360290)

Leave off the quotes in your query and the first hit that comes back is a pretty good definition I'd say.

Or just look for "explicit state software model checking".

Re:What The Hell Is That? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360697)

its seems like a debugger for testers ;-)

This has serious potential (5, Interesting)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360211)

This app spiders through all routes of an app through the bytecode. Not only will this become a very stable and usable debugging application, but the applications that borrow from this application are endless with possibilities. For NASA to OS an app, this was probably the best choice!

Re:This has serious potential (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360309)

And if it is proven that this methodology works well, I hope other similar entities take the same path!

Imagine the amount of money that would have to be spent on development and debugging. If making it Open Source offsets any percentage of that amount, it would be awesome.

And besides, this is great publicity!

Not First App OS (4, Informative)

millahtime (710421) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360535)

This is not the first app that NASA has open sourced, just the first one on sf.net. NASA has an OS website at
http://opensource.arc.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov]

Re:Not First App OS (3, Interesting)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360797)

Years ago (1980s) NASA used to have a repository called COSMIC that contained lots of code. It was mostly FORTRAN code for mathematical modeling or simulation of things like aerodyamics or heat transfer or stresses. A lot of it came from the Apollo program and some from Shuttle. When I did simulations for DOD systems we'd look there for code to reuse before we did our own as we felt if NASA was using it then it was verified and pretty tight in execution time.

Larry Wall developed Perl at NASA (2, Insightful)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360686)

'nuff said.

Great But... (4, Funny)

indifferent children (842621) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360218)

IANARS Damn.

Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360221)

Kudos to all involved.

Too many chief's in the kitchen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360226)

omg it's nasa on sourceforge let me join up and make a name for myself as a chef software archatek. I mean chief architet.

Bwahahahahah! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360234)

John Penix

Poor guy. That name must be an endless source of amusements to his Linux-using colleagues.

Am I the only one? (3, Funny)

PrimeWaveZ (513534) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360237)

Who thought of the PENIX man pages [very.net] when I saw that guy's last name?

Re:Am I the only one? (1)

JensLH (31954) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360678)

To answer that we need to know exactly when you saw that guy's last name. :-)

Great Boost for Java (2, Insightful)

querencia (625880) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360248)

The availability of this tool does wonders for Java. I'd like to know the reasons behind NASA's decision to use Java for this kind of development in the first place, but having this tool available as a testing resource could be enough reason alone to choose Java for a wide variety of new projects.

Kudos, NASA!!

Re:Great Boost for Java (1)

essreenim (647659) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360291)

There are reasons not to, like rival space programs. But of course rgis project is not really directly useful for space exploration whatsoever. It makes sense for it to be made open.

Wow (0)

Traldan (861900) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360250)

Wow, that's cool.

Why isn't more government stuff open source? (4, Insightful)

NivenHuH (579871) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360252)

Doesn't our government exist to serve the general public? Why aren't more government software development projects open source? Why was it such a battle to make this particular application open source?

Don't get me wrong, this is a great feat by NASA-Ames, but it's something I already expect as a taxpayer...

Re:Why isn't more government stuff open source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360285)

As a scientist I can tell you that one of the major requirements of public projects these days is to produce ideas and inventions that can be patented and commercialized.

Open sourcing your software makes that rather difficult, doesn't it?

Re:Why isn't more government stuff open source? (1)

NivenHuH (579871) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360329)

If it's developed by the government, and is funded by the government (and our tax money), what exactly is being commercialized?

Re:Why isn't more government stuff open source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360365)

Well, basically an idea is patented and then licensed to a company who's interested in it. Sometimes we retain the rights, sometimes we sell off the whole shebang.

The fact that it's funded by the government doesn't really make any difference.

Re:Why isn't more government stuff open source? (5, Informative)

DrZZ (138100) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360558)

Read up on the Bayh-Dole Act [google.com] . In the US at least, inventions created using government funds (either grants or contracts) by default are owned and administered by the grantee or contractor, not the government. I laugh when people talk about the drug companies "stealing" government funded university research because the universities are the most agressive people out there patenting research and trying to hit drug companies up for big bucks to license the patents. Work done by actual government employees can certainly be patented, but obviously in that case the patent is owned by the government. Work done by government employees can NOT be copyrighted, which can lead to problems when trying to get government involved in GPL'd projects. NASA has a lot of contractors that that are still looked on as "NASA", so I don't know whether these guys are government or contractors.

Re:Why isn't more government stuff open source? (1)

sremick (91371) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360380)

Just because we pay for it, doesn't mean we're entitled to open access to it. There are countless guys in-between who decide how our money is spent, and what we can and can't directly reap the benefits of.

Sort of like how when I went to Area 51, they wouldn't let me in. Bastards.

commercial use of government software (2, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360397)

Why aren't more government software development projects open source?

I seem to recall that the reason they didn't release government-developed projects as open-source was because of prohibitions on commercial use of government software.

Basicallly, they didn't want a government agency to be making software (using your tax bucks) for the profit of someone else.

Before you say "corporations pay taxes too", let me remind you that corporate tax share has gone from about 50% in the 1950's, to about 2% today. Yep- the individual foots 98% of the government budget, but corporations get all the laws.

Re:commercial use of government software (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360417)

the individual foots 98% of the government budget, but corporations get all the laws.

Heh. Nice spin.

Just remember that it is corporations that generate the money that the individual lives on. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Re:commercial use of government software (0, Offtopic)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360586)

Before you say "corporations pay taxes too", let me remind you that corporate tax share has gone from about 50% in the 1950's, to about 2% today. Yep- the individual foots 98% of the government budget, but corporations get all the laws.

Those damn corporations! Stealing all our money and hiding it away in their secret corporation vaults deep under the surface of the earth!

I'm not sure what you think a corporation is other than a piece of paper and a bunch of people working together. Someone owns that corporation's debt and equity, either directly through stock or indirectly through some sort of account (savings, IRA, 401(k), whatever), and that person is paying taxes on the income they receive from that ownership.

Uh-huh. (0, Offtopic)

Grendel Drago (41496) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360705)

... and that person is paying taxes on the income they receive from that ownership.

Yeah, right. Tell me another. Do you know how far the tax rate of the wealthiest has fallen since 1950? Not to mention offshore tax shelters, loopholes and associated bullshit.

--grendel drago

Re:Uh-huh. (0, Offtopic)

PaxTech (103481) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360870)

Yeah, right. Tell me another. Do you know how far the tax rate of the wealthiest has fallen since 1950? Not to mention offshore tax shelters, loopholes and associated bullshit.

Actually, no I don't know how much the tax rate on the rich has fallen since 1950. But I can tell you how much it's RISEN since 1979 [typepad.com] . Get your facts straight dude. I 1979 the richest .1% paid just over 5% of the tax revenue collected. Now they pay almost 10%.

Re:commercial use of government software (0, Flamebait)

PaxTech (103481) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360658)

Before you say "corporations pay taxes too", let me remind you that corporate tax share has gone from about 50% in the 1950's, to about 2% today.

But the people who end up with the money the corporation makes, shareholders and employees, all pay taxes on the money they receive. The corp itself may only pay a small amount but the money gets taxed eventually when someone receives it as personal income.

Besides, the rich pay a higher share of taxes now [typepad.com] than they did in 1979. It's misleading to say corporations don't pay tax, corporations are made up of individuals, and individuals pay tax. Does it really make a difference to anyone who isn't a tax lawyer that the money goes through a step in between?

Re:Why isn't more government stuff open source? (2, Interesting)

$1uck (710826) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360452)

I worked under a programmer as part of a government contract and he said "everything we code is public domain, b/c we work for the govt." There are/were a few different classes of private contractors ones that worked on site and those that didn't. We worked on site and were often introduced as "government" to off-site contractors. But still I would think that the govt. could retain rights(ownership) to the code (and this would seem to support that). It'd be nice if the government open sourced all code it developed that wasn't necessarily "secret."

Re:Why isn't more government stuff open source? (1)

DrZZ (138100) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360757)

It depends on which government you are talking about, but work done by US federal government employees can NOT be copyrighted. It is all public domain. Work done by contractors, by default is owned by the contractors, although the government can encourage making it open source. I'm not sure how for the government can go. I don't know whether copyright is covered under the Bayh-Dole Act. Patents are definitely covered by Bayh-Dole which means that any patent that comes out of the grant or contract is owned by the grantee or contractor and the government retains only very limited rights. The government can ask for an exception to the Bayh-Dole when putting together a grant or contract solicitation, but it is a big pain and most of such requests are turned down.

Re:Why isn't more government stuff open source? (3, Funny)

ShaniaTwain (197446) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360521)

Doesn't our government exist to serve the general public?

Thats what I say too, but don't even bother trying to get your senator to help paint your house.. It turns out they only serve the general public in a very narrow sense, and they wont help even if you pay for the beer.

pretty dissapointing really.

Re:Why isn't more government stuff open source? (1)

Xzzy (111297) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360554)

> Why aren't more government software development projects open source? Why was it such a battle to
> make this particular application open source?

A lot of it is.. it's just hard to find. Fermilab, for example, has many many projects that are freely downloadable and include source. I'd imagine that many other research labs have similar capabilities, just none of it really scratches an itch anyone has, so it never gets airtime.

The most successful government-funded project I know of is 'nedit'.

It is OS within the goverment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360707)

Government software is open source, to the rest of the government.

If a federal agency writes a piece of code it is required to share it will any and all other federal agencies. Any contractor who writes code for a government agency is required to give all source code to said agency.

Disclaimer, no support needs to be provided and any program that can be covered under the national security clause is exempt (A lot more since bush took office)

This can change things... (3, Interesting)

Sinryc (834433) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360276)

This can change things a lot. If the goverment sees open source work, imagine how many more projects(non security of course. Hell will freeze before those will be OS) will be opened up? Also, what about these OS authers? Do you think job offers might ever come to people? Is there a possibility that these Open Source Projects can change the way the Goverment operates?
What happenes if this project fails? Then what? OS will seem to be a failure then, and that would not be a good thing, at all.

All I can say is, this is one hell of a chance for OS.

NASA has been on sourceforge before (5, Informative)

Filiks (578065) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360280)

NASA WorldWind [sourceforge.net] has been on SourceForge since September. Though most development happens over IRC.

shouldn't this be kept in secret ? (-1, Troll)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360283)

If it's hosted on sf.net then the terrorists would have open access to our technology & methodology. Sounds too good to be true, thats what I would be thinking if I were Osama Bin Laden. This sort of code and it's related technologies should be kept out of the hands of potentionally hostile regimes to the u.s., IMHO. You may have a different opinion but I'm concerned about the safety and welfare of our nation.

Re:shouldn't this be kept in secret ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360406)

Haha. Good troll. Just in case anyone missed
it: the software is a model checker. It checks
verifies formal properties about OTHER code
you have to supply, or spits out a contrary
proof. E.g., you can use it to prove that a
state is not reached, or something will always
happen in another program. (Of course, you
have to supply the OTHER program you wish to
prove these properties. And do a helluva
lotta programming to get the model checker to
use the other programs CFG.)

Terrorists doing model checking. Hehe. That's
a good one. We might also want to make sure
terrorists don't get their hands on an editor.
Because they could use our editor technology
against us. Hehe.

Oh, no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360467)

If it's hosted on sf.net then the terrorists would have open access to our technology & methodology. Sounds too good to be true, thats what I would be thinking if I were Osama Bin Laden. This sort of code and it's related technologies should be kept out of the hands of potentionally hostile regimes to the u.s., IMHO. You may have a different opinion but I'm concerned about the safety and welfare of our nation.

Oh, no! The worst has happened! Osama bin Laden has learned to debug software!!!

Call in the army! Send in the militia! We can't let any other nation learn the secrets of robust software development, or democracy will die!

Then again, maybe I'm just overreacting a bit...
--
AC

Re:Oh, no! (1)

01000011011101000111 (868998) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360564)

"We can't let any other nation learn the secrets of robust software development, or democracy will die!" - You haven't been to MS headquarters recently, have you ;)

First SF for NASA, maybe; first OS, no (4, Insightful)

Dink Paisy (823325) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360289)

World Wind ( http://worldwind.arc.nasa.gov/index.html [nasa.gov] )is also open source. I think there are other NASA open source projects as well. This definitely isn't NASA's first venture into open source, although it may be their first project release on SourceForge.

Re:First SF for NASA, maybe; first OS, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360354)

World Wind is a great program for tracking and planning backcountry trips for offroading and hiking. I only wish there was a way of showing GPS routes and waypoints superimposed on the 3-D maps.

Government Software Unleashed on Public! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360297)

I don't know if any of you have ever dealt with government (especially NASA) or contractor-written software, but god help us all!

The saying "good enough for government work" comes to mind.

Why are they taking so long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360313)

Hmm... too little too late

There was a time when NASTRAN was the most technologically advanced Finite Element Analysis package out there, something like SPICE for EE's. NASA has finally made available the sourcecode for non-americans, for a price that most people cant pay. I suspect if it's ever released as opensource, they will release it when its considered obsolete.

Screenies at press release (1)

balster neb (645686) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360430)

Screenshots (sort of) can be found here: here [nasa.gov] .

Also of interest is the software these NASA people use. Most of the stuff seems to be done on Macs, but it's nice to see the one Windows machine (this [nasa.gov] ) using Firefox and Thunderbird (the latter visible in the taskbar area).

Re:Screenies at press release (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360594)

Most of the *screenshot-posting* people are using Macs at least. But still, your point is well taken.

Does anyone know of a logic checker? (1)

bigdog1 (688140) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360496)

Does anyone know of something similar for hardware? In other words something that can be used to check all states of a state machine that would go into an fpga or ic design?

Re:Does anyone know of a logic checker? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360565)

Um, yea. The chip makers have been using them
for nearly a decade. Remember the Pentium floating
point bug? It cost a billion in recalls. Well,
since then all the big chip makers have been using
checkers, sometimes just for parts of the chip
(e.g., just the FPU logic).

You should check out this service called google.
For fewer keystrokes than it took to post your
question, you can actually get informational links.

yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360538)

One small step for NASA, one giant leap for the open source community.

This isn't possible is it? (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360556)

From what I understand, according to Turing's Halting Problem, what the Java Pathfinder is trying to do isn't actually a computeable problem.

Re:This isn't possible is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12360748)

It is possible because the number of "states" that the software can be in is finite even though it grows exponentially. It's called the state space explosion problem and will always be the greatest hindrance to model checking completely replacing other forms of software testing.

Re:This isn't possible is it? (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360859)

There is some disagreement about that. This issue was raised on /. a while back and I had some exchanges with someone who said the problem is solvable with certain constraints but not in general. I do know there are several software firms doing work with DOD research money in this area. I have asked some friends at NASA IV&V to take a look at this tool and see how good it is or if it's just a prototype. NASA is bad about doing prototypes that just tease you and then never getting the full project done due to lack of funds :(

Re:This isn't possible is it? (2, Informative)

GileadGreene (539584) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360868)

The halting problem basically says that you can't write a program that will determine whether or not any arbitrary program will halt. It doesn't say that you cannot determine the halting properties of a specific program or class of programs. Java Pathfinder works. Model-checking in general works, and has been used for many years in many applications. Examples of model-checkers that have seen fairly wide use include (off the top of my head) SPIN, SMV, FDR, TLC, and Verisoft.

Damn, how many NASA employees... (4, Funny)

planetoid (719535) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360642)

How many NASA employees got fired on their first day at work when being introduced to this "John Penix" fellow and giggling uncontrollably right in front of him?

Is Open Source "Cool" At Last? (2, Interesting)

trifish (826353) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360644)

Recently, several large corporations, which (apart from other things) develop commercial software, released a number of projects on sourceforge.net. Among them were: Microsoft (3 projects [ostg.com] ), Google (4 projects [google.com] ), IBM (30 projects [sourceforge.net] ), Adobe (1 project [sourceforge.net] ). The reasons they gave for such move are often somewhat "foggy". My personal opinion is that it finally became "cool" to have a project on sourceforge.net, which is great of course.

Re:Is Open Source "Cool" At Last? (1)

planetoid (719535) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360720)

My thinking is that considering our taxes are paying for the development of this software anyway... you may as well expose the code to wider public scrutiny, for both the purposes of scientific peer-review as well as, inductively speaking, financial accountability to taxpayers to ensure their money isn't being spent on flimsy, crash-prone software.

1337 HAX0RZ (1)

Veinor (871770) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360665)

How many people do you think are going to try to insert bad commands to show the world that they can do 1337 hacking skillz?

John (5, Funny)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360683)

The team around John Penix, Willem Visser, and Peter Mehlitz fought long and hard to get the development hosted outside of NASA

Long and hard indeed.

(I'm going to hell for this.)

Hmm... This is new. (3, Interesting)

Mmm coffee (679570) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360721)

I've checked out the license (link [sourceforge.net] ), and it for the most part mirrors the GPL, with the addition of a clause which grants patent rights. However, 2.F provides this following gem:
F. In an effort to track usage and maintain accurate records of the
Subject Software, each Recipient, upon receipt of the Subject
Software, is requested to register with Government Agency by visiting
the following website: http://opensource.arc.nasa.gov. Recipient's
name and personal information shall be used for statistical purposes
only. Once a Recipient makes a Modification available, it is requested
that the Recipient inform Government Agency at the web site provided
above how to access the Modification.
Note that I am not doubting that this is indeed Free Software, as it follows the four freedoms [gnu.org] :
  1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
  4. The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
From what I can tell, this is definitely a true Free Software license. However, you have to register with an agency of the United States government in order to muck with the code. Some may have a problem with this, be forewarned.

First person to find a security hole... (1)

HG2 (878937) | more than 9 years ago | (#12360730)

Gets to crash a space station... this is one small step for NASA, one gaint leap for hackers :P
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