Federal Bytes

INCONVENIENT TECHNOLOGY. Here's good news for the U.S. Postal Service. In a variation on the story of the tortoise and the hare, a survey by Pitney Bowes Mailing Systems has determined that most U.S. consumers with e-mail access find that retrieving their regular mail is faster and more convenient than firing up their computers, connecting to a mail server and opening their e-mail. Only 40 percent said retrieving e-mail was faster.

Once again, slow and steady wins the race.

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BITE BYTES. Speaking of USPS, the agency knows a thing or two about dog bites and has delivered some of that information to its World Wide Web site, including the number of dog bites suffered last year by USPS employees (2,547).

The site (at www.usps.com/history/dogbite99) also invites users to take a quiz with several true/false questions. It's worth taking if for no other reason than the sound effects. Get a question right, the dog barks; get a question wrong, there's a wimper.

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ONE FOR THE BOOKS. With word that mega-bookseller Barnes and Noble will accept government discount cards, we've been wondering about the books feds will buy.

All the purchases should be work-related, such as computer manuals and management tomes that will help bureaucrats on the job. But we can see it now: Four-star generals browsing the Oprah Book Club selections. Secret Service agents ordering The Bridges of Madison County on the sly. Food and Drug Administration employees pondering Green Eggs and Ham.

This could open a whole new chapter in efforts to monitor fraud and abuse.

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CAN'T HACK IT. In light of reports of hacking activity on federal Web sites, readers might be interested in checking out the Digital Resistance Archive of Hacked Web Sites (www.freespeech.org/resistance/index.htm), which features links to images of uncensored hacked Web pages.

The site shows that in a span of about two weeks beginning in late May, hackers defaced Web sites at the Senate, the White House, the Interior Department and the Energy Department's Brookhaven National Laboratory. Most of the hacked sites are laced with obscenities and proclaim the evils of the FBI and "corporate America."

The real message here is that hackers are a confused and inarticulate bunch.

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GSA HITS 50. The General Services Administration is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month with a bash at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. But there's another site where you can observe the occasion. GSA's Federal Technology Service has put an animated greeting card on its Web page. Go to www.fts.gsa.gov/bdcard4.html to view the card, which features confetti, umbrellas, a birthday cake, cheering noises and repetitive swing music guaranteed to annoy the guy in the next cubicle. Cheers, GSA!

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