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User FAQ

From The Open Source Analysis of Competing Hypotheses Project

Was this really made for the CIA?

Yes; or, more accurately, it was made for the U.S. Intelligence Community. The ACH methodology was created at the CIA in the 1970s, and a few years ago, its creator assembled an independent team of Web and intelligence experts to build a Web-based tool for the methodology. This software is the result.

If it was made for the CIA, does that mean it can do super-awesome stuff that will blow/read/control my mind?

No. It's a tool meant for everyday research, and you might be surprised by how simple it is. There's nothing that special about the technology itself, but it will help you or a team think more clearly about problems.

Can I use a demo before downloading and installing?

We'll have a demo site up very soon so that you can play with the software all you like. In the meantime, see the Sample Projects page to get a quick overview of what the software looks like and how it works.

What are the system requirements for installing ACH?

ACH was developed to run on Linux servers with Apache 2, PHP 5 and MySQL 5.

If you want to run ACH on a FreeBSD server, use the port system to install ACH in the following way:

cd /usr/ports/www/ach && make install clean

Then, follow the instructions given.

We've gotten a few requests for a Windows-compatible version. This software has been modified by others to run on Windows servers, so it is possible. However, creating a Windows-compatible distribution is not a priority for the project right now.

How do I install ACH on my server?

See the installation guide. Right now, we strongly suggest that you have root access to your Web server, as you might have to change some server settings to get ACH to run correctly. We're working on improvements to the software that will keep you from having to do this.

I'm having installation problems. How can I get help?

Free help might be available through the discussion group. There are also organizations that provide paid services.

I want to use ACH at my organization. Can you modify it for our needs?

For a current list of professional service providers, see the Support page.

How is the ACH software licensed?

It's licensed under the GNU General Public License, which means that if you redistribute it, you need to do so under the same terms. See the Licensing page for more information.

Does that mean I can't add ACH to my proprietary system?

Integrating GPL code into proprietary systems is only a concern if you plan to redistribute your code to outside entities. If you want to integrate the ACH software into your own organization's infrastructure for use by your own personnel, there are no problems.

All of these guidelines and manuals make ACH sound kind of time-consuming.

ACH requires a serious time investment from a researcher. It will not do your thinking for you. Its job is to help you think more rigorously, keep you from taking mental shortcuts, and encourage you to consider possibilities you'd never thought of before. This means that ACH could very well lengthen the analysis process, but that's exactly the point.