Letters

7100t isn't tough

Although Federal Computer Week's May 30 article "BlackBerry 7100t does it all" paints a positive picture of the device, our company has four 7100t users who have had mixed success, so I'd like to take a moment to warn of what we've seen.

Of the four 7100ts we use, I've had two of them replaced because keys fell off, and another two have had battery replacements. One of those devices is now on its third battery. Although the phone is handy, I have not been very pleased with its lack of ruggedness.

Tim Martin
The Telford Group

Standard misconceptions

I'm writing about the April 18 articles "Keeping Data Flowing" and two others related to data architecture. There are several misconceptions in those articles that I want to address.

The first misconception is to characterize the ISO/IEC 11179 standard as giving guidance about naming data elements. The standard is primarily about a structure for describing data. Names of data elements are one small part of those descriptions.

The second misconception is that the ISO/IEC 11179 standard is primarily for describing structured data. In fact, it is primarily for describing any data. There is no provision that limits the descriptions to structured data.

The third misconception is that the ISO/IEC 11179 standard is deficient because it does not account for semantic computing.

Leaving aside whether the term "semantic computing" has a useful definition at this time, the most important thing to know about standards is they are built by consensus.

Standards committees have participants from a wide range of organizations, backgrounds, interests and personalities. There is no way to achieve consensus around every new technology. It takes some time before worthwhile technologies are mature enough to foster a common understanding under which consensus might be achieved.

True believers will argue with me here, but semantic computing is not mature enough yet for standardization.

Daniel W. Gillman
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Editor's note: Gillman is chairman of the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards' Technical Committee L8, which is responsible for ISO/IEC 11179.

Focus on needs, not restrictions

Melanie Wyne's May 2 commentary, "Keeping a level playing field," discusses the cons of using restrictive language rather than functional requirements when soliciting software solutions. She cites cases that point to restrictive bids from vendors that have open-source products.

However, a more appropriate example would be one used in the Navy, where Microsoft Office was mandated. In this case, a Navy command issued a directive that all offices will use Microsoft Office automation products, effectively putting an end to competition.

The command's desire to aid document exchange among various commands and departments within commands motivated the decision. The correct solution would have been for the Navy to issue application interoperability format requirements for data exchange.

To protect the private-sector profit motivation that drives product development and innovation, the Navy, the Defense Department, and other government technology buyers must focus on their needs. However, in the federal rush for efficiency of scale, information technology professionals must be able to purchase nonstandard applications rather than be restricted by a one-size-fits-all, "we've always used Microsoft" purchasing philosophy.

Cliff Byrum
Navy

Give an organ, get an organ

Regarding FCW's May 23 article "The gift of life online," more than half of the people who need an organ transplant in the United States will die before they get one. Most of those deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. More than 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.

There is a simple solution to the organ shortage: Give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die. A grass-roots network called LifeSharers created an Internet-based organ donor registry to implement this solution.

They do this through a form of directed donation that is legal in all 50 states. Anyone can join for free at www.lifesharers. com. LifeSharers has 3,104 members nationwide.

Giving organs first to organ donors will persuade more people to register as donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. About 70 percent of the organs transplanted in the United States go to people who haven't agreed to donate their own organs when they die. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life shouldn't be eligible for transplants as long as there is a shortage of organs.

David J. Undis
Executive Director
LifeSharers

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