LJ Archive

From the Editor: April 2005

The Linux of Satellites

Don Marti

Issue #132, April 2005

A hardware design from an unmanned aircraft project, along with Linux and other free software, got this project done quickly at a bargain price.

By the time you read this, TacSat-1 might already be in orbit. We're all in suspense as our cover project prepares to ride the first launch of the new SpaceX Falcon-1 launch vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

TacSat-1 aims to do for task force commanders what commodity hardware and open-source software can do for business managers. With the new satellite capability, commanders in the field will be able to track individual enemy radars and transmitters, and get visual and infrared imagery, with minimal bureaucracy.

It's a high-profile space version of what's been happening on Earth for a long time. Information technology is becoming faster and more responsive to real business needs. Road maps, customer-hostile business models, and anything else that gets in the way are obsolete. In this issue, we're celebrating the projects that don't merely get the job done and more cheaply and reliably, but those that open up new information technology avenues for people who otherwise would be locked out by pointless restrictions.

Have a look at Charles Curley's “Finding Your Way with GpsDrive” on page 50. Unlike a monolithic GPS mapping product, you can combine your choice of maps with public GPS data to get the navigation you need. Yes, you can cruise for wireless Net access and plot it. Please be nice. Meanwhile, if you're worried about other people getting on your wireless network, Mick Bauer has some good news for you in the form of a new security standard and a way to integrate Wi-Fi security with your existing infrastructure. Get started with WPA on page 36.

Paul Barry had a problem converting his data into the promised Microsoft PowerPoint slides. Fire up the “productivity” application? No thanks—not enough time. Run everything through a script and OpenOffice.org, and the job's done and the carpal tunnels in Paul's mouse hand are safe, see page 58. Keeping up with vendors who try to lock in customers with undocumented formats is tough. Thanks, OpenOffice.org.

Sometimes you need to convert a system to Linux, or to a special-purpose Linux distribution, temporarily. On page 54, Daniel Barlow gets you started with modifying Knoppix to create your own personal live CD. Render Farm? BZFlag Zone? The choice is up to you.

Our Web columnist, Reuven Lerner, is celebrating his 100th column (page 22). Thanks, Reuven, for breaking through the wild and woolly mess of the Web to bring us ideas and technology that really work, for Linux users and everyone else. There's plenty of other great technical stuff in this issue, too. But even if you don't use any of the specific advice—which I doubt, considering we could all use a couple more shell tricks, as Prentice Bisbal brings us on page 76—remember the reason why all this stuff is so great. With Linux and the other software we cover, you have the freedom to make your project happen the way you want. See you at the launchpad.

Don Marti is editor in chief of Linux Journal.

LJ Archive