How Linux, sandboxes and happy accidents can help a soldier.

A small piece, very loosely coupled.

Today, we announced that Red Hat Enterprise Linux is shooting for its 14th Common Criteria certification. My job means I get excited about Common Criteria certifications, which also means I’m unpopular at dinner parties. This certification, though, has me more excited than usual, because it means much more than a rubber stamp from a certification body. With this certification, we’re including the SELinux security system and the KVM virtualization system. In short, it means being able to run many systems on one piece of hardware, and making sure that those systems can’t touch each other.

If you’ve seen me speak in the last few months, you’ve heard me talk about how the modular design of open source projects. Staying modular allows for new features to emerge by combining different, often unrelated components. Also, this “small pieces, loosely coupled” approach brings new features faster because improvements to one component don’t disrupt the whole system. I talk about the Linux community getting their “chocolate in their peanut butter, and their peanut butter in their chocolate,” which is more fun to say than “Linux creates an environment for emergent capabilities.”

Open Source on the Battlefield

Two soldiers in a hastily built watchtower.

In Iraq, Sergeant 1st Class Martin Stadtler had nothing. He was stationed near Mosul, at a base that covers 24 square kilometers. Surrounding the base was a wall, and at intervals along that wall stood watchtowers. Those towers were improvised; they were large concrete water pipes, stood on their ends.

Inside each tower is a pair of soldiers. They’re watching for insurgents. To communicate with the home base, they had standard-issue tactical radios. Unfortunately, these radios couldn’t reach home base — the base was too big. Soldiers had to play a game of Telephone to reach the base: one tower radios the next until they are finally in range of the home base. Obviously, this would not do.