Here is an insane but insanely clever use of free software: modelling the insecurities introduced by the Windows monoculture to the Internet. This will be achieved by creating a virtual Internet inside a supercomputer:
The Dell Thunderbird supercomputer used for the Sandia project has 4,480 Intel microprocessors, far fewer than the million operating systems the researchers sought to simulate. But they used “virtual machine” software technology to get each microprocessor to simultaneously run many instances of a Linux-based component called a kernel - a basic component of an operating system that manages communications between software and hardware.
Because most botnets are written for the Windows operating system, the researchers are planning to use an open source program called Wine, making it possible to run Windows-based programs without actually having the complete Windows operating system. They said they were not using Windows itself because of the licensing costs of purchasing one million copies of Windows.
This is really very clever from a number of viewpoints. First, as the article notes, it's very cheap: the researchers don't need to pay for the GNU/Linux, virtualisation software or WINE. Secondly, it's highly flexible: parameters can be easily changed. And finally, it's safe: there's no danger of viruses infecting real Windows PCs. And it's great to see free software doing its bit to help poor old Windows with its malware problems.