LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

I believe that your coverage is accurate and balanced; you point out weak and strong
points of Microsoft Corp. as well as the alternatives, such as Linux.


It is time for the Microsoft bandwagon propaganda to be countered with an independent
view, and I find it fascinating that GCN is in the forefront of spreading the knowledge.


I believe that many more government information technology operations can benefit from
knowing that there are open alternatives to proprietary, single-vendor solutions.


I am using Linux in a production environment, and we are very happy with it for its
performance, cost and cost per unit of performance.


At the same time, I am not an anti-Microsoft zealot. I deploy its products where
appropriate. I do have to deal with the Microsoft-generated problems too often for
comfort, and I admit to certain glee when I see Microsoft stumble. I see their problem:
They need to keep putting new features into an already Baroque system. [Linux developer]
Linus Torvalds says he is not afraid of Microsoft because he doesn’t think that there
is a single person who understands all of Microsoft Windows NT’s kernel.


Przemek Klosowski
President
D.C. Linux Users Group
Gaithersburg, Md.


Editor’s note: The author works at a federal agency.


To Stephen M. Ryan: My name is Brian Katz, and I am currently 14 years of age. I am
hoping to be a defense attorney when I become of age. I know this will take a lot of work
but I am willing to do so. I have just read your column, “A government worker
can’t always just say no” [GCN, May 18, Page 24] and enjoyed it.


I am currently reading law-based books such as those by John Grisham. My father showed
me the column and suggested I read it. I read at the bottom of the article that you are a
partner in the law firm of Brand, Lowell & Ryan, and I thought I might ask your
opinion.


I have been speaking to lawyers, and I would like to know if you had any suggestions
that might help my future status as a lawyer. The school I will be attending has no law
program, and I was just wondering if you had any opinion to share.


Brian L. Katz
Huber Heights, Ohio


Editor’s note: Brian, whose father works for the Defense Department at
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, received this answer from Ryan:


I’ll be glad to talk with you about your interest in law. I have served as a
prosecutor, Senate counsel, and clerk to a judge so the experience you asked about is
varied. At 14, you should not be concerned about law not being directly available to you
as a school subject. If you really want an ambitious book to read, the biography of Chief
Justice Thurgood Marshall, published last year is a keeper.


Regarding your article, “Has Indian Affairs found a silver date code bullet?”
[GCN, August 3, Page 1]:


As I understand the math [of the year 2000 repair] issue, it is: assuming the current
year is 2000 and birth year is 1950, one would subtract 50 from 00 and get -50. Then add
50 to the two-digit field and get 00. Then add 50 again to get the correct age of 50
years.


Take this to the year 2002 with a birth year of 1901. One would subtract 01 from 02 and
get 01. Then add 50, for a total of 51. Then add 50 again to get the age of 101 years.
Still fine.


However, take the example of a birth year of 2001 in the current year 2002. Subtract 01
from 02 and get 01. Then add 50 to get 51. Add 50 again to calculate an age of 101
years—when correct answer is 01.


True, this may not cause many problems but it can cause some.


Charles McHenry
Area year 2000 coordinator
Postal Service
Louisville, Ky.


We would like to respond to the article, “USDA says bank errors stalled IMPAC
service” [GCN, July 20, Page 6].


U.S. Bank, issuer of the IMPAC card, considers all customer information strictly
confidential. However, when a customer elects to disclose information to the media on its
own accounts, we no longer feel an obligation to keep that customer’s information
confidential. This is especially true when the information disclosed is false and
misleading, as is the case with the statements made by an Agriculture Department
spokesperson.


First, a little background. Total Systems of Columbus, Ga., provides charge card
processing services to U.S. Bank. One of the parameters within that system is a nine-digit
field for billing accounts. This means that a single billing account cannot exceed an open
balance of $9,999,999.99. When the accounts at USDA were initially established at Total
Systems, USDA was advised of this limitation.


Despite numerous recommendations to the contrary, USDA insisted on setting up more than
10,000 individual card accounts under a single billing account. Included in this number
were the Forest Service accounts referenced in the GCN article. USDA indicated that the
accounts would never charge enough to reach the billing limitation.


Card holders began charging in February, and the first billing statement was sent to
USDA on March 3. Additional statements were sent on April 7, May 7 and June 7. As of June
23, no payments had posted to the account. As a result, the account reached the
$9,999,999.99 limitation and USDA card holders falling under the billing account
experienced a disruption in charging privileges.


To address the specific statements made by Sue Poetz, program manager for the USDA
procurement modernization team, U.S. Bank responds:


We are very disappointed that USDA elected to convey what U.S. Bank believes to be
false and misleading information to GCN. We enjoy our business relationship with
Agriculture and have always taken the extra steps needed to support USDA and its
procurement initiatives.


For example, while the contract allows U.S. Bank to suspend charging privileges when an
account becomes 60 days past due, we have never done so. Even now, USDA has accounts that
are over 60 days past due, some of which have balances that have not been paid for more
than a year. Despite these delinquencies, U.S. Bank has always allowed USDA card holders
to continue to charge, because we recognize the importance of the missions conducted by
USDA employees.


Although we sympathize with the Forest Service personnel who were affected by this
unfortunate situation, we feel their frustration is misdirected. If the USDA program
office had taken U.S. Bank’s recommendations on how the account should have been set
up, or if the account had been paid on time, this situation never would have occurred. We
are now working with USDA on the changes necessary to ensure this will never be repeated.


Chris Pieroth
Senior vice president, government products U.S. Bank
Washington






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