Inside job

Useful as information technology is, it can be ugly, and not only in the abstract sense. PCs, monitors, printers'from a design standpoint, 99 percent of them are banal at best and downright ugly at worst, especially when combined with unsightly wiring and cabling.

False alarm

I'm still trying to figure out why the Homeland Security Department walked away from the Computer Aided Passenger Prescreening System II. My best guess is the Bush administration didn't want to risk a political fire at this particular time.

Intelligence question

The Homeland Security Department had no sooner launched a terror threat warning in early August than news outlets such as National Public Radio trotted out this and that expert, criticizing the department. Either DHS was a) crying wolf or b) giving the terrorists too much insight into our national response to threats.

BMMP in the night

Once again, the Defense Department has been shaken by deficiencies in its business and financial systems. The weaknesses date back beyond anyone's memory. But the issue flares up periodically, like sunspots.

Bad ruling on e-mail

A Massachusetts appeals court has ruled that a private (now bankrupt) Internet service provider was OK in reading e-mail passing through its servers. The company sold books and offered e-mail service, and it wanted to see what customers were ordering from <a href= "http://Amazon.com">Amazon.com</a>.

Hijacked

'For eight minutes and thirteen seconds, between 8:56 and 9:05, this primary radar information on American 77 was not displayed to controllers at Indianapolis Center. The reasons are technical, arising from the way the software processed radar information, as well as from poor primary radar coverage where American 77 was flying.'

Bermuda triangle

There's more than a little hypocrisy in the minimovement to strip Accenture Ltd. of its contract for the Homeland Security Department's U.S. Visit project.Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), in the final minutes of a House Appropriations Committee budget markup session, managed to insert an amendment into the DHS appropriation bill that would bar giving homeland security contracts to companies that use loopholes to avoid paying federal taxes.

DHS' next steps

President Bush has said that government is good at starting things but that what's important is completion and performance.

How tools find patterns in flight

In January, Megaputer Intelligence Inc. and Southwest Airlines completed a proof-of-concept demonstration of flight-data analysis and presented their findings to the Global Aviation Information Network, an airline safety community of interest that maintains a Web site at www.gainweb.org.</a>

Taking data to a higher plane

Success has made reducing airline accidents and near misses into a difficult task. The most common, and most potent, causes are known and have been addressed by technology or better procedures. The remaining causes are more subtle, and therefore harder to pinpoint.

DHS officials stand by big Accenture award

Hours before the House Appropriations Committee took action to block Accenture Ltd. from getting the U.S. Visit contract, Homeland Security Department officials were on the offensive.

Time to perform

Good for the FBI, for revising the contract for its Virtual Case File system. Not much has gone right for the FBI recently, including this project. A linchpin of the agency's Trilogy modernization project, the VCS is headed for poster-child status among failed projects.

iBook is a lean, clean machine

The G4 Apple iBook reminds me a little of a greyhound. Looking sleek and way too delicate, it becomes a 'Like, wow, man!' competitor when the gun goes off.

Serious on privacy

There's a scene in George Orwell's classic 1984 when protagonist Winston is asked how many fingers his interrogator is holding up (four). He is then asked, under grotesque duress, if the Party says 'four' is actually 'five,' how many then?

Two steps backward

Discretion and creativity in federal contracting are hard-won privileges threatened by recent fiascoes. EDS Corp. reported its results for 2004's first quarter'and its U.S. government sector lost $57 million because of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project. Otherwise, EDS would have eked out a profit.

State of grace

It must have given secretary of State Colin Powell a lot of pleasure to personally hand over CD-ROMs of department documents to archivist James Carlin.

Iraq war shows 'the need for speed' in software deployment

SALT LAKE CITY'Facing an enemy in Iraq that seems to morph daily, military IT leaders say they need speedier deployment of new systems. And they need funding flexibility to get it done.

Cybersecurity

DOD considers creation of a national high-assurance lab for software security

SALT LAKE CITY'Defense Department cybersecurity managers are urging secretary Donald Rumsfeld to establish a high-assurance software lab serving all of DOD.

DOD to shelve GCCS, roll out new system

SALT LAKE CITY'The Defense Department has begun developing plans to replace its Global Command and Control System beginning in 2006. In place of GCCS, the department's main joint battlefield C2 system, the Defense Information Systems Agency will deploy a new set of applications known as the Joint Command and Control system.

Et tu, Mac?

I am less smug about my personal computing choices than I was a couple of weeks ago.There I was on April 8, on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, out of range of e-mail and TV, blissfully unaware of news of a new virus. Ships now have Internet cafes and satellite TV, but I ignored them, preferring the casino.

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