Federal Bytes

COMPAQ MAKES A SPLASH. Anyone who has attended an IT trade show knows that vendors try to attract customers by offering all types of freebies. Of course, most experienced trade show attendees already have drawers full of T-shirts and enough pens to last until retirement. So what's a company to do?

We think Compaq Computer Corp. has the right idea. Last week, the company had a fleet of people staked out on sidewalks near the Commerce Department's building in Washington, D.C. These folks—who also were in evidence outside a recent trade show—were there to spread the good word about Compaq. They handed out bottles of water, and the hordes of business-attired people streaming in and out of Commerce were glad to accept. So was at least one reporter, sodden with sweat after walking through dizzying heat from the Metro.

Although we at FCW would never allow a free drink of water to skew our coverage of the market, we'll be looking forward to free hot chocolate this winter.

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BLAMING GATES. If you haven't seen the animated movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," we commend you on your good taste. But if you have seen it, you probably were shocked to discover that even in the most potty-mouthed of movies there is room for a little federal IT humor.

In one scene, military leaders planning a war with Canada use a holographic map to coordinate their fight. But when the computerized map fizzles out, the general in charge of the meeting demands that Microsoft Corp. honcho Bill Gates be brought in. The general then gives Gates what for over his software. And as Gates attempts to defend his software, the general shoots him.

Don't worry. It's just a cartoon. Still, the scene makes the Justice Department folks look like pussycats.

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A BRIEF RISK ASSESSMENT. The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center every two weeks puts out a newsletter with news about vulnerabilities, viruses and other computer security risks.

In the July 7 issue, the list of vulnerabilities included an unusual risk assessment for a Sun Microsystems Inc. Solaris 7.0 bug that could enable users to stay on the approved log-in list after their authorization expires. Instead of labeling the risk factor as high, medium or low, the newsletter provides this message: "If expiration dates are critical, you have a real problem."

Well, thanks.

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