Latest MacWorld Expo is eclipsed by the Win95 cloud

BOSTON--A small but vocal group of Apple Macintosh users in the
Defense Department wants to stave off government adoption of Microsoft Windows 95.


At MacWorld Expo here earlier this month, they called Macs cheaper overall, more
powerful, easier to maintain and easier for new users than Windows PCs.


"I've had a semi-career change," said Col. Jeffrey I. Roller, chairman of
obstetrics and gynecology at the Air Force hospital at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,
Ohio. "I'm going to preach about the Mac."


Roller took up evangelism to help government workers he's met who want Macs but aren't
allowed to buy them. The reason, he said, is that government system managers have had
little experience with a Macintosh environment and don't understand that "this
machine is not a toy and not an island unto itself."


Roller said he's demonstrated to DOD network managers that Macs can tap into the
Composite Health Care System, for example, as easily as PCs.


Other Mac believers from DOD discussed ways to hang onto their own Macs while helping
others make the switch.


"There are a variety of machines that fit different jobs better, and there are a
variety of people who fit different platforms better," said Cmdr. Craig Luigart,
director of strategic information systems technology for the Navy. "If you give your
people a choice, they feel much more in control of their work."


Luigart formerly worked in the Naval Air Systems Command, which has about 50 sites
nationwide with more than 40,000 Macs, PCs and Unix machines. He said he has found Macs
about 35 percent cheaper to buy and support than the other machines.


Roller advised users to pressure their system managers to look seriously at the Mac.
The users themselves might have to initiate demonstrations of interoperability and
stability, he said.


Capt. Paul R. Zimnik, a project manager with the Air Force Medical Corps at Fort
Detrick, Md., said he has found Mac servers more stable than others. "I have Mac
servers that have been running nonstop since December," he said. During that time, he
had to bring down Unix and Microsoft Windows NT servers several times.


"We didn't blindly follow the Mac crowd" at Fort Detrick, Zimnik said.
"We're a skunkworks shop. We tried several platforms, including Windows and Unix. We
chose the Mac for many reasons, not the least of which is security."


The Mac server automatically limits access to folders and applications unless specific
accounts are created. Access to the main desktop screen is local only, without special
tools.


Mac products have gained recent visiblity in military medical applications, such as
telemedicine and remote diagnosis using Macintosh PowerBooks. Zimnik's office is working
on the ProMed project, which uses Apple's Newton MessagePad for bedside care.


Another federal user at MacWorld said he can't understand why procurement officers view
a requirement written with a Macintosh system in mind as a sole-source request, but not a
requirement written for a Windows machine.


"Now that Macintosh clone hardware is available, that opinion will have to
change," he said, "or Apple has good cause for a lawsuit."


Macintosh machines are sold on the Army's Sustaining Base Information Services
contract, held by Loral Federal Systems Group, and on NASA's Scientific and Engineering
Workstation Procurement, held by Government Technology Services Inc. GTSI and Electronic
Data Systems Corp. sell Macs on General Services Administration schedule.


Roller said pioneering Mac users in any agency should learn about the operating system
and networking, because they can't always count on their network managers. "I've
become a system manager myself," Roller said.


He recommended acquiring diagnostic applications, starting with Symantec Corp.'s Norton
Utilities. He also suggested visiting Internet World Wide Web pages with pointers to Mac
help files. His favorites are http://www.support.apple.com/pub/NEWFILES.html
  and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology help file search engine at http://hyperarchive.lcs.mit.edu/Recent-summary.html.
 


"We think we have the most compatible platform in the world," said Doug
Bloomquist, consulting engineering manager for Apple's government sales. "We have to
be. We aren't the world standard, so we have to be sure we can work with platforms that
are the standard."


The DOD users invited government Mac adherents to contact them or the Cooperative of
Federal Employees Microcomputer Users Groups, which has a large Mac membership. Call
703-506-0861, or send e-mail to coffeemug@aol.com.


About the Author

Shawn McCarthy, a former writer for GCN, is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC.

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