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Linux luminaries join government effort

The leaders of several major open-source projects have joined George Washington University's Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute.

Leaders of several major open-source projects have joined George Washington University's Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute to push for greater government use of the Linux operating system.

Among the well-known people that have promised to help the institute are Brian Behlendorf, a founder of the Apache Web server project; Miguel de Icaza, founder of the GNOME desktop system; Hans Reiser, creator of the widely used Reiser file system; and Jeffrey Bates, a founder of the Web site Slashdot.

"They are reinforcing what we are doing and we are reinforcing what they are doing," said Tony Stanco, associate director for open source and e-government at the Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute. "For us, they are the voice of open source. There are a few others that we might be looking for but (these ones) are the thought leaders."

The institute, established a decade ago at George Washington University, plans to push for Linux to be certified under the Common Criteria, a standard system for grading technology that is required by the United States and 13 other countries before products can be sold for sensitive government applications.

"There is almost no country that is not looking at open source," Stanco said. "Almost every company is looking at it as well."

Already, database company Oracle has teamed up with Linux software company Red Hat to certify Red Hat's version of Linux. The institute will likely have a role in the process of gaining certification.

If successful, the initiative would lead to a single, standard version of Linux code acceptable to the government. Typically, certification costs anywhere from $100,000 to millions of dollars and takes up to five years, so this unified effort could be a big boost for Linux companies.

The open-source contributors will be acting as part-time advisers and research scientists for the university's think tank, said Stanco. How much time they commit is up to them, he added.

De Icaza, founder of Linux software maker Ximian and a creator of the GNOME desktop system, hoped that his role in the institute would help produce better open-source applications for use in developing countries.

"My main focus is to get poor countries to use open source," he said. "We have been presenting a case to these people (explaining) why they should be using open-source (software) and what the benefits are."

Others that have joined the institute as advisers or researcher scientists include Russell Coker, Brian May and Bruce Perens, all developers working with the Debian Linux distribution. Open-source contributors Jay Beale, Rishab Ghosh, Martin Dean, Adam Turoff and John Viega also have signed up. The appointments were announced Wednesday.