Editorial Cartoon

Laptops are not so valuable

After reading 'Report of 184 missing PCs has FBI under gun' about the lost laptop computers [GCN, July 30, Page 7] and other published reports, I felt I had to write.

First off, I work for the Navy and I've had my laptop computer since Intel Corp.'s Pentium II came out. I can tell you it is junk. Even the new laptops are junk. They never can hold as much data as a desktop, they have limited battery life and limited programs, they are heavy, and they make it difficult to get online.

Downloading photos from a camera or getting the computers to recognize add-on cards is frustrating. Overall, they're just pure garbage.

Many of us have stopped traveling with them and have returned many of them. They sit in empty booths or scattered around the computer repair room, eventually ending up in the trash bins.

So to say valuable assets were lost is a misprint.

They are worthless battery-operated clipboards. I can do much more with a pencil and tablet for what I need.

Some of us have spent our own money to upgrade them with better memory, modems and so forth, because of our antiquated buying system. It's much cheaper to spend our own money than to get upset with the procurement department and managers who will not approve simple buys for office supplies.

And with regard to sensitive information, that, too, is a joke. Much so-called sensitive information, such as Navy ship schedules, is freely available over the Internet. But if anyone faxes a ship's schedule, he or she is written up, given time off and more in some cases. And to top that, various magazines, such as Popular Science, can tell you all about ships or stealth bombers.

Larry Lueder

Project manager

Naval Surface Warfare Center,

Carderock Division

Surface Ship Engineering Site


Listen up: Sometimes, a phone's just a phone

Your article, 'Talk to me' [GCN, Aug. 20, Page 25] points out a common misconception among public safety users that a cellular, or in this case a hybrid, technology, namely a Nextel Communications Inc. phone, can replace land mobile radios (LMRs).

Cellular, personal communications and Nextel services all use large and sophisticated infrastructures to support their users. These infrastructures are subject to failure by cable cuts, physical destruction from earthquakes, storms or sabotage, and being overwhelmed by traffic because of an event. These factors limit their robustness during an emergency.

If you have tried to make a cellular call in the area of a major crisis, you may have found you were unable to complete the call. This is because all available circuits from that cell site were used, and because it couldn't distinguish how important a particular user was, it wouldn't grant service.

Cellular companies, Sprint and Nextel are common carriers. In general they are prohibited from providing priority service to a specific group of users.

Would-be priority users of their services have the same rights as a single user who happens to wander into the same service footprint.

LMRs'those relatively big, walkie-talkies'operate on a dedicated system normally owned by public safety entities. They are not subject to being overwhelmed by non-public safety users. They are more resistant to failure during a crisis because they are built to support public safety users and not to make a profit.

Users can also use their two-way radios to talk directly to one another, for instance inside a burning building where common carrier service may not be available. Since LMRs are owned by public safety entities, their traffic can be encrypted. This gives them an edge over common carrier systems, all of which can be monitored.

Such radios also allow one user to talk to multiple users simultaneously. This is an often-forgotten advantage over common carriers, most of which are point-to-point systems. Nextel, a hybrid LMR and dispatch cellular system'it's called an enhanced specialized mobile radio'does give you one-to-several capability.

There is one other advantage to a land mobile radio. It allows you to instantly communicate with your dispatcher. A cellular or personal communications services call takes five seconds to connect with another user. Five seconds may not seem very long'unless you are being shot at, in a car chase or doing the things that public safety users do. The Nextel system will give you dispatch capability, but usually not as fast as a conventional or trunked public safety LMR system.

Scott D. Gardner

Network engineer

Air Force Communication Agency

Scott Air Force Base, Ill.


There is a lot of talk throughout government about the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project. Should your agency consider a similar outsourcing of its entire network and PC operation? Why or why not?

To share your thoughts and read those of your colleagues, go to www.gcn.com and click on the Readers Speak button along the left side of the home page.

We'll also print the most intriguing responses in the next issue of GCN in the Logging Off section.

Readers whose comments appear in the publication will receive a GCN commuter mug and a coffee gift certificate.

So come on, tell us what you think.


  • Records management: Look beyond the NARA mandates

    Pandemic tests electronic records management

    Between the rush enable more virtual collaboration, stalled digitization of archived records and managing records that reside in datasets, records management executives are sorting through new challenges.

  • boy learning at home (Travelpixs/Shutterstock.com)

    Tucson’s community wireless bridges the digital divide

    The city built cell sites at government-owned facilities such as fire departments and libraries that were already connected to Tucson’s existing fiber backbone.

Stay Connected