FEDERAL BYTES

A dumb purchase

The Social Security Administration is holding a fire sale on 15-year-old IBM Corp. "dumb terminals," which are being replaced as part of a nationwide modernization project.

Dumb terminals were installed widely throughout many organizations before the dawning of the PC era. SSA is replacing 30,000 of these terminals with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT workstations as part of its Intelligent Workstation/Local-Area Network program.

The question is: Who wants to buy these things? Maybe SSA could play up the fact that dumb terminals, like the emerging Network Computers, lack local processing capabilities, and call them "NC Classic." If the idea catches on, the agency may finally have a way to replenish the SSA benefits pool.

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Reno's window view

We spotted Attorney General Janet Reno last week on a plane en route from Tampa, Fla., to Washington, D.C. As the plane got ready to take off, Reno appeared busy at work, intensely studying the document in front of her, with pen in hand. "She must be reviewing the Microsoft antitrust lawsuit," passengers whispered as they strained to get a good look. In fact, Reno was hard at work on a crossword puzzle.

Oddly enough, Reno had a— ahem— window seat.

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Keystroke killer

From our "that's-kind-of-a-stretch" file comes this bit of news: House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) sent out a press release last week announcing that his office had "slashed" its Internet address "by over 30 percent." We got the release and said to ourselves, "Huh?"

It seems that visitors to Armey's site will have five fewer letters— and one fewer dot— to type into their Uniform Resource Locator window. Armey has shortened his URL from "freedom.house.gov" to "freedom.gov."

Why not go to "free.

gov"? Or would that give people the impression that government services really are free and they no longer have to pay taxes?

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An unfamiliar ring

At the Harvard Conference on Internet & Society last week, Sun Microsystems Inc. chairman Scott McNealy sported a "Java ring," according to a report from the IDG News Service. McNealy passed the ring around to attendees who gathered for his speech and explained that the ring can be used to allow access to computers that are usually protected by passwords.

Has anyone told the CIA about this?

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