What works together?

My PC at home has hit the magic age of three, meaning it’s a
dinosaur. Yet it does what my family demands of it.

Recently, it’s been acting squirrelly, so I loaded the latest version of a popular
utility suite. Naturally, that turned into a five-hour fiddling marathon one Sunday
afternoon. The product, which presents itself as a veritable Swiss army knife of
functions, leaves me with two suspicions:

Many functions are no more than scripted displays to make you think, for example, that
your disk is perfect and thoroughly defragmented. Who can verify a thing like that?

It does as much breaking as fixing. My evidence? Little things, such as no gains in
application loading or any other response measure. It broke my Netscape browser so I had
to spend another evening downloading a new one. And, the “It’s now safe to turn
off your computer” screen no longer comes up; the system freezes at the “Please
wait … ” screen instead.

On the other hand, the suite did make it possible for my daughter to run some of her
beloved games. Arthur worked again after I gave the CD a good going over with Windex and a
soft cloth.

My point is that even with the most prosaic setup—like my home PC with its low
common denominator applications and configuration—one can encounter numerous,
irritating and potentially show-stopping incompatibilities. No wonder so many software
deployments at the government enterprise level are little more than controlled
chaos—when, indeed, they’re even under control.

That’s why the interoperability clearinghouse initiative, announced by John
Weiler, founder of the Objective Technology Group of Alexandria, Va., holds so much
promise [GCN, Feb. 8, Page 1].

Already supported by many agencies and vendors, the project would create a database and
online configurator for products from multiple vendors or from a single vendor. The idea
is to help users figure out what works together or, at least, what won’t crash when
put together.

Building a comprehensive configurator will not be easy, but it’s worth the effort.
Check out www.omg.org/techprocess/meetings/ic.html
for more information.

Thomas R. Temin
[email protected]


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