Information Warfare: May 12, 2004

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American combat (land warfare) troops has been making much greater use of software on the battlefield in the last decade, and, increasingly,  many of the developers of this software have also worked on commercial products as well. As a result, these developers noted that one interesting difference has been noted between civilian and military users. The civilian users will talk back more than the military. Civilians will get in touch with the developers and report bugs, as well as ask for changes, or new features. The military users will be more likely to just make do with whatever they have. This has a lot to do with training. On the battlefield, theres not much in the way of customer service or a help line for equipment. Troops are trained to improvise under fire, for to try anything else is likely to get you killed. But software is more easily modified than mechanical or electronic devices, and there is a need for feedback from the users so that those changes can be made. In response to this,  the military is trying to get the troops to change their ancient ways and talk back when comes to software problems. To facilitate that, the military developers are setting up web sites (for military users only) where the troops can discuss their experiences with weapons and equipment that use software, and make suggestions, along with reporting real or suspected bugs. This new attitude is spreading to more traditional forms of equipment, like vehicles and weapons. Actually, the new attitude is coming in with a new generation of troops. A lot of the young soldiers grew up knowing how to download and install patches for their software. Many of them expect the same thing with their military gear. Since many troops bring electronic devices to combat zones (PDA, laptops, MP3 players, game consoles and so on), they will try and report problems, and get software upgrades, from wherever they are. The military is encouraging this, and designing new generations of equipment that uses easily upgradeable software.


 


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