French military helps out with Thunderbird 3

For at least twelve years, various government, military, and civilian organizations have been struggling with and to break free from the shackles of Microsoft software. In 1997, the USS Yorktown, on sea trials off Cape Charles, Virginia, famously became the victim of a "Divide By Zero" database error, causing propulsion systems to fail.

However, the French military has been more pro-active in recent years. In 2003, an internal government debate began with a directive requiring state agencies "to seek maximum technological and commercial independence". The recently released Mozilla Thunderbird 3 email/news client contains code from the TrustedBird application, partially developed by the French Ministry of Defence.

Key features of the TrustedBird application are as follows:

  • Deletion Receipts - Message Delivery Notification (MDN)
  • Delivery Receipts - Delivery Status Notification (DSN)
  • Encryption / Signing, with triple wrapping
  • RFC 2634 Security Labels + Signed Receipts
  • Address Autocompletion - With Several LDAP Directories
  • CRL Download from LDAP Directories
  • Manage Out of Office Settings from Sieve Server

The French military chose open source software after finding the possibilities of developing their own security extensions, whereas Microsoft's secret, proprietary software does not allow for modifications.

According to Reuters, David Ascher, Chief Executive of Mozilla Messaging states that "the primary changes (the military) have made allow then to know for sure when messages have been read, which is critical in command-and-control situations." This is also a pre-requisite for NATO's closed messaging system.

In addition to the above software developments, other French government departments are being encouraged to use other open-source software, including Linux and OpenOffice.

Special thanks to Robert Jubb for the tip!

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