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Radical Transparency at NASA Via Second Life 123

An anonymous reader writes "Aaron Rowe over at Wired has an article about a couple of young scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center working to open source the space program through software development and other ways to allow the public to participate in real NASA programs. According to Robert Schingler, the NASA CoLab project manager, 'CoLab is building an infrastructure to encourage and facilitate direct participation from the talented and interested public...' Apparently, the group holds weekly meetings on their island in the popular online virtual world Second Life."
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Radical Transparency at NASA Via Second Life

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  • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @06:38PM (#18683111) Homepage

    Nothing for you to see here. Please move along.
    Hey, that's a funny kind of "transparency". But I bet this is about what this all will amount to...
    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @06:59PM (#18683301) Journal
      You know, that's what I thought too. "Oh, goody, yet another corporation/agency/whatever thinks that Open Source is just a way to get unpaid labour." I don't know... maybe I'm just jaded because of previous bad experiences, but it always leaves a bad taste.

      Does it mean that NASA and their contractors will also open-source (or put under a Creative Commons, public domain, etc) _their_ research? Or is it yet another "well, you can do some free work for us" scheme? If I contribute code to say, some control module, will the rest of the schematics there be made public, or does some corporation get to patent it, get it paid by pork-barrel politics, _and_ get the software for it for free?

      And reading about virtual meetings in Second Life sure doesn't make it sound like something serious. It sounds more like some "let's pretend that we're hip and fly and on their level" idea a PHB might have.

      On the flip side of the coin, I'm wondering how many actual free work will they actually get. Most working OSS nowadays is actually paid work by the likes of IBM, Sun, etc. Check out some of the credits or change logs in Linux some day. Fanboys paying lip service are a dime a dozen, people who can actually produce high quality code... tend to be paid for their work. There are already gazillions of projects on Sourceforge that discovered that, ESR's bullshit be damned, there _aren't_ hordes of hackers just begging to come do some free work.

      Mind you, space stuff might generate more buzz, but I still have to wonder exactly how much.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        All code (and other documents, research, etc) written/created by government employees is, by law, public domain. There are a few exceptions (for privacy and national security), and contractors are exempt.
        • by benj_e ( 614605 )
          Hey, don't kill a good rant on the evils of the govm'nt and corporations. This is /. after all.
        • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:55PM (#18684267) Homepage
          ll code (and other documents, research, etc) written/created by government employees is, by law, public domain.

          Try telling that to our President. Please.
          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

            l code (and other documents, research, etc) written/created by government employees is, by law, public domain.


            Try telling that to our President. Please.


            You forgot the other half of his post - the public domain policy does not apply in cases of privacy and national security. (And that contractors are excluded, as well.) So you know, it's all in the name of national security!
        • by EccentricAnomaly ( 451326 ) on Wednesday April 11, 2007 @12:33AM (#18685387) Homepage

          All code (and other documents, research, etc) written/created by government employees is, by law, public domain. There are a few exceptions (for privacy and national security), and contractors are exempt.
          What you say is very true... The space act which formed NASA compells it to release it's code. But I work for NASA/JPL which tries to keep its code from other NASA centers through tactics like: 1. not documenting the existence of certain tools 2. pretending tools are undocumented when they are released 3. forcing people who request code to be very specific... i.e. if someone just asks for a program... they will get junk like binaries for a UNIVAC (I'm not kidding).

          Even internal to my NASA center, it's impossible to get source code... I fought for years to get source code to a part of a library that was broken and no one would pay to have it fixed... when I finally got the code it was only partial code and all of the comments had been stripped out.

          I've also been told that I'm not allowed to contribute to open source projects in my spare time... I'm not even allowed to mail code snippets to mailing lists to answer questions without clearance from an intellectual property lawyer first. In their view, my intellect is their property.

          This policy is such bullshit. Taxpayers pay for the software and grad students and people in industry should have access to it... that's why the constitution bars the government from owning copyrights. But JPL won't let academia, other NASA centers, contractors, etc have their software without a fight. Some people don't even let code get out to other sections at JPL.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by hey! ( 33014 )
            That's politics.

            My brother in law has been a government scientist off and on for many years. When the Reagan administration came in, he left to make more money in the private sector. When the Clinton administration came in, he returned to do research. When the Bush administration came in, he left shortly after to make more money in the private sector.

            His problem is that his research is too potentially useful. But some administrations believe that when the government does something that might be useful, i
          • I agree with the spirit of the parent post. However, I wanted to clear something up which may not be apparent to people outside of NASA. JPL is a government faclity, but it has no employees. All of the people who work at the JPL facility are Caltech employees. The lawyers EccentricAnomaly refers to are Caltech lawyers.

            This is an unusual situation and causes a lot of confusion. On the one hand, all of the work is government funded. OTOH, all of the employees and their IP are private sector.

            This duality

      • >>You know, that's what I thought too. "Oh, goody, yet another corporation/agency/whatever thinks that Open Source is just a way to get unpaid labour." I don't know... maybe I'm just jaded because of previous bad experiences, but it always leaves a bad taste.[...]

        What's wrong with open sourcing it?

        Wasn't "For All Mankind" the original mantra?

      • You know, that's what I thought too. "Oh, goody, yet another corporation/agency/whatever thinks that Open Source is just a way to get unpaid labour."

        The way free software was promoted by some people, do you think that this is really a surprise? Add to that the fact that people hear what they want to hear and there you go.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Moraelin ( 679338 )
          I can't say it's a surprise, no. I'm just a bit disgusted, when someone is all pro-F/OSS as long as it's them only taking and never giving. As I was saying, I've had the bad experience of contributing some work on a MUD to a bunch of people who were rabidly pro-Linux and pro-OSS, as lip service goes... but also rabidly paranoid that they must keep everyone from getting _their_ code. Including my code, which was suddenly their property and trade secret. Admittedly, a MUD isn't the greatest project for braggi
      • And reading about virtual meetings in Second Life sure doesn't make it sound like something serious. It sounds more like some "let's pretend that we're hip and fly and on their level" idea a PHB might have.

        It's fascinating to watch the /. el33t explain how uncool really something is - basically because they've decided that it's not. (See also: Myspace, LiveJournal.)
        • by HiThere ( 15173 )
          Still, it's true.

          Something being a virtual meeting in Second Life doesn't inherently make it much better than a meeting at the office. It *could* be, but there's not guarantee.

          What's going on here is that there's this news story, and it doesn't tell enough to make an informed decision. So people are forced to fill in the missing pieces based on their prior experiences, and their guesses on how it's going to turn out this time.

          E.g.: What license is the software going to be under? How do you know? At wha
    • The real error here is human - especially when we ship even more goods that aren't complete at point of sale. "Apply the patch before first use? You mean the X-ray machine wasn't supposed to do that?" The biomed implications of this kind of architecture are limitless!
  • I love the idea... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @06:38PM (#18683115) Homepage Journal
    ...but is second life really the place to do it? It's not a very secure system, which is not a problem for open meetings, except that it would be easy to interfere with them. And it's an awfully bloated piece of software to have to install for what you're going to get out of it. Wouldn't it make more sense to just stream audio and have the meeting on irc on a +m channel?
    • I never been into the game, but wouldn't it have some capacity to passing along body language (either cued by keyboard or sensed in real-time)? If so, one might actually have a passing chance of doing some good old fashion interaction, using the full panoply of our mammal-technology tricks.

      Body language, or any significent emulation thereof (emoticons don't bloody count -- you, shut up!), is required if insecure human beings are to be included in the chats. Otherwise, as with IRC, IM and e-mail, people
      • I never been into the game, but wouldn't it have some capacity to passing along body language (either cued by keyboard or sensed in real-time)?

        I think you could probably do it, especially since the client has been open sourced, or is going to, or whatever is going on there. But it would require some nifty image processing work. It's not impossible but it's not trivial either.

        I just watched the movie Monster House which I thought was pretty lame in general, but it had a beautiful style and a HUGE PILE OF A

        • But it would require some nifty image processing work. It's not impossible but it's not trivial either.
          You'd need to get Juanita on the job...
    • by Rei ( 128717 )
      I'll second this. Why should I have to install Second Life just to participate in a discussion on the program?

      On the other hand, this program sounds very interesting. May tempt me to stop spending my free time coding for Eternal Lands, and instead pick up my spaceflight simulator I was working on. ;)
    • Bloated? It's a 30 meg download. It has the need for good hardware to run the thing but hard disk space is hardly an issue.
    • by Spikeles ( 972972 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:46PM (#18683735)
      I thought NASA would be more interested in things like Croquet [wikipedia.org]
      • I can't agree more. I watched a video on Squeak and Croquet and then played with Squeak; I've downloaded the Croquet SDK but I haven't yet done anything with it. (Documentation has been sparse to date and I am not much of a programmer, sorry to say.) Croquet seems like it might actually be useful. Second Life is a neat toy, a great tech demo, and a sign of things to come, but I'm not sure that it's honestly suited to being more than that. People will make more of it anyway, but I don't know that this projec
      • Why would NASA pick Second Life over Open Croquet? Do the math, they are trying to get the public to participate. Right now Second Life has 29,369 online. Ever been on a public island in Open Croquet? I haven't. But if you have found one, I'm interested.

        Well what do you know, there is a public island! http://www.croquetcollaborative.org/ [croquetcollaborative.org] I had better luck connecting when I downloaded the client from their web site as well. I left a balloon with "slashdot.org" written on it. Now that I've found a p

    • My impression was that there was a maximum number of people that could be signed on into any specific area in Second Life - was it 40?

      Let's assume that the NASA meeting has a dozen attendees. That means that this "open meeting" would only be open to 28 people if this is the case.

      Please respond if you know the maximum figure (i.e. it's not 40). But even if its 100, 200, then surely this is less open than, ooh, a streaming videocast with a couple of question-collectors in the audience who will pick up message
  • by Cr0w T. Trollbot ( 848674 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @06:47PM (#18683181)
    It seems like every week Slashdot has a story on Second Life doing this or that or bla blah blah. What I want to know is: Who is the Second Life Paid Publicity Whore? After all, we're talking about a game with less than 1/10th the players of World of Warcraft, and yet there seem to be almost as many stories about it on Slashdot. Exactly whose palm is getting greased here?

    Smell that, gentlemen? That's the smell of 100% genuine Astroturf!

    Crow T. Trollbot

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      Second life has more impact in different ways then WoW.
      If people where meeting in Iron FOrge, it would ahve been in the story.
      Most people don't use WoW to plan things outside of WoW. Spare me your "this one time..."story. Please.)
      • by brkello ( 642429 )
        Second Life doesn't have any real impact other than it gets articles written about it. That's enough for businesses and individuals to flock there so they can get an article written about them. But does anything significant happen there? Probably less so than IRC or IM or MySpace.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It seems like every week Slashdot has a story on Second Life doing this or that or bla blah blah. What I want to know is: Who is the Second Life Paid Publicity Whore? After all, we're talking about a game with less than 1/10th the players of World of Warcraft, and yet there seem to be almost as many stories about it on Slashdot. Exactly whose palm is getting greased here?

      Smell that, gentlemen? That's the smell of 100% genuine Astroturf!

      Crow T. Trollbot

      It also seems like every week Second Life is, in fact, d

      • Second life is certainly not the first of its kind nor doing something new. Others systems like Blaxxun have done it in the 90s which was big fun but way ahead of its time. The second Life marketing machine trys to rewrite history but its plain wrong.
    • Parent is not trolling, that's a real issue. The real newsworthy information here is NASA opening up a communication channel with the general tech public. Second Life is becoming the new "teleconference" fad from late eighties, or the videoconferencing fad from late nineties, people getting all excited with a "new" technology that does exactly the same as the previous one, but with animated avatars. And, to be sincere, I'm yet to find anyone (IRL or on internet corners, whatever) that uses or even know what
    • First thing, Second Life isnt' like WoW. WoW is a game, SL is a virtual environment, so you don't play SL.

      Right now SL has 5,430,814 registered accounts.When I joined in July of last year it was around 700000. 1,648,38 of those accounts have logged in in the last 6 days.
      • I play SL... it's a sandbox game. I log on, I chat, and I goof off with prims and scripts... much like any multiplayer game that allows user-generated content. Oh, and don't pretend that Second Life is the first in its genre. Text-based games allowed similar user input/creativity back in the early days of the internet.
    • Second Life is a very unique game based largely on 3D modeling and scripting. I think it is far more /.worthy then an adventure game which is very fun, with a large user base, but really is not very innovative. But thats just my opinion...
    • I look forward to SL stories. Only one a week? I wish there were daily stories. SL may currently have its problems, but I think it or something like it is the future. It is so much more than a "game". That is the mistake so many people make. It is more like a next gen web browser than anything. It is as revolutionary as Mosaic and may someday be the next Firefox.
    • LEWIS, the global public relations agency, has been appointed as global agency of record for Linden Lab, developer of the acclaimed 3D virtual world, Second Life Second Life is a fully-immersive online environment in which subscribers or 'residents' can interact with each other, create content, trade and experience realistic events and activities. LEWIS will support Second Life's ambition to create a thriving community of millions of active residents. The agency will also implement an educational campaign
  • I'm not sure that I want to see seven foot tall wieners running around NASA.
  • by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:01PM (#18683331)
    If I understand SL right, this commendable effort on the part of NASA is going to be accessible to either adults or children but not both?

    Can a SL location like this be accessible to children *and* adults at the same time?

    Kids are (often) interested in 'space stuff' and should be encouraged, same for adults :)
    • That's correct. Second Life has the main adult grid for 18+ and the child grid for -18. They don't meet.
      • That's correct. Second Life has the main adult grid for 18+ and the child grid for -18. They don't meet.

        My boss was interested in use of SL for education. Until I explained that it could only be used for adult education or for children teaching other children.

        How about a third (mixed age group) SL grid for educational purposes?
  • So, they want to adopt transparency, but they make themselves accessible to only the fraction of computer users that have Second Life installed? Is there something I'm missing here?
    • It doesn't take much to install second life. It's free and you don't have to even give them a credit card so long as you don't mind having no money or land.
  • by delire ( 809063 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:18PM (#18683479)
    Who cares where they meet? Would it be worthy news if they met in #ossnasa on irc.freenode.net? What on Earth is it about Second Life that makes it such a supposed revolution in human communication? Anyone would think telepathy had been commodified. Flirting and real estate? Enough, sheesh.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by The-Bus ( 138060 )
      Because we're finally close to the "virtual reality" that used to sell so many magazine covers (and Lawnmower Man tickets) ten/fifteen years ago.
  • She must be hot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brkello ( 642429 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:19PM (#18683495)
    The PR person for Second Life must be a Goddess. It is amazing how many articles are written about this game.

    But knowing this, this really seems like a good move from these people from NASA. It is hard to get the word out about the projects you would like to work on with the community. It seems any business or university that does anything in Second Life is going to get an article written about them thus increasing interest. As irritating as it is to see another Second Life article...kudos to the guys at NASA for doing whatever they can to spread the word.

    That being said, they should probably find a more efficient way of exchanging information than Second Life.
    • SL gets press because it allows anyone to alter the environment. That is a big deal.
      • In theory it is. But if that's all it takes to be a big deal, I can point the press to hundreds of MUDs and MUSHes that have been doing the same thing for decades.

        In reality, it's crummy software populated primarily with pedophiles and furry fetishists. Most of those MUDs and MUSHes aren't.
  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:28PM (#18683553) Journal
    Lovely that this is what NASA's been reduced to! A bunch of kids holding meetings on Second Life. Wouldn't have anything to do with desperation as the budget is cut would it now? Come on, admit it, you've never heard of a worldwide physics or aerodynamics symposium being held in second life. Compared to real life it's still a cumbersome toy, not the virtual reality that people wish it to be. It has it's place, but serious science isn't it.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hmmm!

      "Lovely that this is what NASA's been reduced to!"

      Reduced? Its budget was reduced far more in the last adminstration, and was allowed less innovation. Pete Worden, the new head of ARC, has a history of encouraging innovation since before he headed the DC-X project for SDI. That's what's at work here.

      "A bunch of kids holding meetings on Second Life."

      Having been publishing research on the subject of our team's NASA Colab project since 1988, I kind of like being called a kid again. I wish it were true!

      "Co
  • by poopie ( 35416 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @07:41PM (#18683671) Journal
    I just don't get the whole secondlife thing. Exactly how is it better than IRC ... or AOL chatrooms? It's graphic? Okay... so you need a really expensive computer and lots of bandwidth to play...

    What, you can't play it? Oh... so you mean you just cruise around jerkily and congregate either on purpose or randomly.

    Oh, okay... so you pretend to be a hot girl and ... do what?

    Oh, okay... so you design "virtual clothes" and sell them to people who want their avatars to load slower?

    No, wait... you make "geek island" and invite all the lonely geeks on their computer to come and try to solve real problems? ... for free?

    Phase 1: Press release including Second Life
    Phase 2: ?
    Phase 3: Profit!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by QuantumG ( 50515 )
      It's confusing to you because you're:

      1. a consumer, if someone hasn't put it in a package, you're not interested.
      2. a conformist, if there's no rules to follow, you get confused.
      3. not very creative, if we left you in a sandpit by yourself you wouldn't even make castles.
      4. a nazi, you can't just let people have their fun without berating them for enjoying things you don't understand.

      Chill out.

      • Ouch, well said, I don't see the point of Second Life myself, but I do find it surprising that people are always so quick to criticize what they don't understand.
      • LOL :-) Wish I had some points today. Someone Mod this one up.
    • It is indeed very much like IRC or other chat services, but what keeps me there is the ability to build stuff. I'm a creative person, so... being able to walk around in the shape of an octopus or even an Atari joystick (I have a habit of making inanimate objects, resizing them, and using them as avatars) makes the game fun for me.
    • My name is Eggy Lippmann. At least in Second Life.
      I don't get Slashdot these days. It's full of idiots. College kids.
      I'm sure many people will agree with me on this.
      Having joined during Beta testing, I was one of the first 300 paying SL users, certainly the first in my country, as far as I know even the first one in Europe.
      My virtual face is on 20 pages of the SL official guide, and I am described as the historian, for I run the http://slhistory.org/ [slhistory.org] wiki.
      This is so you know that my vision is skewed, but I
      • That's a great response to the wrong question. The GP asked how Second Life is better than say IRC or some other simpler medium for holding meetings for engineers at Nasa, not why its fun or interesting for the rest of us.
      • You should join Second Life if only because it's new. If only because it's cool. Or if only because other people find it cool.

        Back around '96, the marketing slogan for OMG's CORBA was "Get on the bus". Where is CORBA now? You're making the same argument here, but it's the argument used for a fad, like the Macarena.

        No matter how much you abhor these newfangled techie virtual world thingamabobs, the thing about change is that you either cause it or get hit on the head with it.

        That's only true of cha

    • I just don't get the whole secondlife thing. Exactly how is it better than IRC ... or AOL chatrooms? It's graphic?

      Not only is it graphic, it's interactive as well. (I.E. the audience can interact with objects - and everyone present can view the interaction.)

      Okay... so you need a really expensive computer and lots of bandwidth to play...

      An $1100 HP from Best Buy and bog standard home cable work just fine.

  • Ever since van Braun teamed up with Disney to get kids interested in space, NASA has had this tradition of lame "education" programs. The idea is that if you get people enthralled with the idea of space at an early age then you don't need to make any sort of compelling argument as to why we should be bothering with space exploration. When the kids grow up NASA tells em it is all about the science and exploration is just maintained for the intangibles it supplies. Essentially, it's a big bait and switch.

    N
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      YOu are frogetting one minor detail.
      These nerds got men the the moon and back, alive.

      So mission accomplished. You can whime all you want about should ofs and could of, but at the end of the day, there were successfull.

      There are many other problems with building in space, espcially in the 60's.

      It would have doubled the price, at least.
      • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
        Sigh. No, it wouldn't have. All van Braun suggested they do was dock the modules together in Earth orbit before heading off to the Moon. It was docking that the other engineers were afraid of.. They were of the opinion that the mission could be done entirely without docking of any sort. They were wrong. So instead of having a sensible architecture that could result in more and more capable missions to the Moon and the near Earth asteroids, we got the flags and footprints of Apollo.
    • I remember reading about the Apollo era arguments over what was the best way to go to the Moon. van Braun was of the opinion that doing lots of launches to Earth orbit, assembling ships there and then heading off to the Moon was the only sensible option. Other engineers were of the opinion that going direct from the Earth to the Moon was the safest approach and therefore the best option.

      And yes, dare I say it, they were both right.

      I have a fun book from 1959 talking about the "future of spaceflight." It started off talking about a reusable space plane that would launch on the top of a rocket and glide back down to earth. After that would be a large space station in earth orbit (a la 2001). From there, ships would be assembled for a trip to the moon. We'd end up with a bunch of ships and a bunch of people staying on the moon for a month or two. This would occur, according to the book,

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by QuantumG ( 50515 )
        The ultimate stupidity, however, was that they ended up doing LOR instead of EOR anyway, when the choices were EOR or direct. LOR is harder than EOR cause you need a heavy booster. If they had just used medium lift boosters they could have gone to the Moon a lot earlier.. but they chased the tail of the heavy booster because they wanted to do direct and avoid any need for docking at all. I know hindsight is 20/20, but there were people saying exactly this at the start of the program.. and the russians ha
        • Everyone has their hot buttons around this of course. For instance when I worked at NASA
          in the late 80's and early 90's, there were plenty of old-timers throughly cheesed
          that NASA was abandoning/had abandoned big-dumb-booster for the shuttle platform. They thought
          hey we have this awesome platform to stuff things into orbit cheaply and we can go from orbit
          anywhere once we are out of the gravity well!

          But hey DOD and NASA wanted shuttle so they got shuttle. And don't even get me started on
          the number of itera
  • Assuming they get the non-profit discount, the island cost at least US$980 up front with a recurring fee of US$150 each month.

    Second Life | Land: Islands [secondlife.com].

    Too much? Good deal?
  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Tuesday April 10, 2007 @08:12PM (#18683945) Homepage
    Here is a conference paper we presented on this topic in the Proceedings of the Thirteenth SSI/Princeton Conference on Space Manufacturing May 7-9, 2001, which we have made available on the web here:
    "A Review of Licensing and Collaborative Development with Special Attention to The Design of Self-Replicating Space Habitat Systems"
        http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/SSI_Fernhout 2001_web.html [kurtz-fernhout.com]
    "The continued exponential growth of technological capacity since the 1970s has removed most technical limits to group collaborations on space settlement issues. To remove social limits, groups must be explicit about the licensing terms of individual contributions and the collected work, for example putting their contributions in the public domain, or under a license like the BSD license or GPL as a conscious act. The most successful space related collaborations in the future will be ones that make these principles part of their daily operations. One result of such collaborations will be a distributed library of simulations and knowledge including specific detailed designs for self-replicating space habitat systems. ... We believe that thousands of individuals (such as the people at this conference) are ready and willing to make compromises in their own lives to nurture the space settlement dream at the grassroots level - but in a more direct way than has been attempted thus far. In particular, individuals could collaborate on the iterative development of detailed space habitat designs and simulations using nothing more than the computers they already have at home for playing games. While excellent progress has been made on the general engineering design of space habitats (in terms of basic physics and proof-of-concept projects), many of the details remain to be worked out. There have been individual attempts in some of these areas (e.g., the SSI Matrix effort), but a persistent collaborative community has not yet coalesced around constructing a comprehensive and non-proprietary library of such details."
  • NASA is doing open source space exploration using Second Life. If only the RIAA and Microsoft teamed up to stop them this would be the most perfect Slashdot story ever.
  • "I was up there looking around, and suddenly I realized I was sitting on top of a rocket built by the lowest bidder."
    -Alan Shepard (quoted by John Glenn)

    Hardware by: Lowest Bidder
    Software by: Fastest Committer(s)

    What could possible go wrong?
  • There are a whole lot of NASA Open-source projects. For example, see http://opensource.arc.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov] and http://opensource.gsfc.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov] .

    Going back some time, all software developed for the US government, including NASA, had to be released for free in source form unless specially exempted (i.e. for military or strategic reasons.) At some point, this government-wide requirement went away -- I'm not sure when or why. If anyone remembers, please speak up.
  • Some people have funny ideas of what constitutes "open source" and "transparency" I suppose... from http://secondlife.com/corporate/sysreqs.php [secondlife.com]:

    System Requirements

    The following hardware and software is REQUIRED to run Second Life successfully. If your computer doesn't meet these requirements, you may not be able to participate in Second Life: PC Minimum System Requirements: * Internet Connection*: Cable or DSL * Operating System: Windows XP (Service Pack 2) o OR Windows 2000 (
    • Actually, there is a Linux client [secondlife.com], although it's still in alpha. There is also a MacOS client, and as far as I know, it runs just fine.
    • Binaries are available for Windows 2000/XP, Mac OS X, and Linux i686 [secondlife.com], and the viewer is open source under the GPL [secondlife.com] with an exception so that Free/Libre Open Source Software [secondlife.com] can be incorporated without having to be under the GPL. If you want to try the open source version of the client, you can even get a Live CD [libsecondlife.org] version based on Knoppix.

      Here's the requirements for the Linux client:

      Minimum requirements:
      * Internet Connection: Cable or DSL
      * Computer Processor: 800MHz Pentium III or Athlon, or better
      * Computer Memory: 256MB or better (strongly recommend more!)
      * Linux Operating System: A reasonably modern 32-bit Linux environment is required. If you are running a 64-bit Linux distribution then you will need its 32-bit compatibility environment installed.
      * Video/Graphics Card:
      o nVidia GeForce 2, GeForce 4mx, or better
      o OR ATI Radeon 8500, 9250, or better

      **NOTE**: Second Life absolutely requires you to have recent, correctly-configured OpenGL 3D drivers for your hardware - the graphics drivers that came with your operating system may not be good enough! See the TROUBLESHOOTING section if you encounter problems starting Second Life.

      For a more comfortable experience, the RECOMMENDED hardware for the Second Life Linux client is very similar to that for Windows, as detailed at: .../sysreqs.php [secondlife.com]

  • One small thing I liked: in the observatory there is a "Linux Soda" machine, with a variety of flavors (Fedora, Mandrake, SUSE, Debian, Ubuntu, etc...) for the asking.

    Theaters, meeting rooms, movie screens and the like all seem like a waste in Second Life, but the potential to "visit" places you normally could not visit seems like it could be useful.

  • I doubt thery'd let "open" stuff into critical systems.
    NASA errors on the side of very old OSes and hardware because the stuff has been tested zillions of times.

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_

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