Federal Bytes

IT REALLY IS A PC WORLD. Technology companies have developed a bit of an irreverent, hip reputation that's reflected in ads that run in newspapers, magazines and on TV. But tech firms' brazen attitudes sometimes do not jibe with the federal government's buttoned-down reputation.

The clash of cultures was illustrated once again last week when FCW received a "Can you believe this?" e-mail from a top federal IT executive in a civilian agency. The exec, who we will not identify, explained that he used to stack all his technology magazines, including FCW, in his in-basket until he could find time to read them. Recently, he wrote, FCW was on the top of the stack, face down. In plain view was an ad for a "microdesktop" PC emblazoned with the headline, "Size does matter."

An Equal Employment Opportunity complaint was filed about the ad and its presence in the office, the exec wrote, adding that he has "since removed everything personal from my work space and brought it home, threw it out or locked it up.... I just thought to let FCW know what some of the culture is like in the federal government."

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LOSING TRACK OF TIME. Federal workers who are busy watching out for the millennium bug have something to look forward to in the Year 2000. The Office of Personnel Management last week announced that it will allow federal employees who work on the Year 2000 problem to carry over vacation days that they could not use before the personal leave expired.

Now federal workers just have to hope that personnel systems don't have a Year 2000 hiccup that loses track of vacation time.

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NEXT-GENERATION Y2K. Analysts have decried the practice of solving the Year 2000 problem through the temporary fix of "windowing," which is simply pushing back the date of the millennium changeover. But at least one government IT executive admitted that his agency started tackling the date problem too late to try any other solution.

His organization chose to push the deadline to the Year 2030, with the hope that the temporarily fixed systems will be replaced or migrated before that year. Sound familiar? This is the same assumption that computer programmers made 30 years ago when choosing to use a two-digit year rather than the four-digit year in writing code.

The executive appreciates the irony. "To make sure that I don't have to deal with the Y2K problem again in the year 2030, I plan on retiring well before 2030," he wrote to a federal e-mail list. "I expect that my younger staff will once again use windowing to fix the problem in 2030 so that their successors too can share the joy of working on the never-ending Y2K problem."

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