Letters to the editor

Computer Assistant discrimination

After reading articles in FCW concerning the special salary increases for selected information technology personnel, I was quite interested to see the discrimination applied to those of us who are locked into the GS-335 Computer Assistant series.

I believe that the 335 series tops out at a Grade 9. Anyone know otherwise? That puts a damper on any career aspirations. Is a 335 equivalent to a 334? Are we now eligible to get into another career series?

How they came to the conclusions they did I do not know. I am curious to know how many other 335s fell through the cracks because of an antiquated classification system.

If you are one of those locked out in the cold, write to the editor. I am curious. I also would be delighted to be a GS-13 at any time.

Jacqueline F. Knoblock ***

Make Nastran an open-source product

NASA (and American taxpayers) paid, and continues to pay, for the development of Nastran, the premier structural analysis tool used by the aerospace industry throughout the world.

The primary vendor for commercial versions of Nastran is MSC.Software Corp. The company's large-computer versions cost up to $80,000 per copy—a high price for smaller corporations and structural professionals to pay. MSC's personal computer versions are crippleware, unable to perform certain advanced functions that the expensive versions can, and they suffer deliberate limitations on the size of the problems that can be tackled.

MSC recently bought two significantly less-expensive commercial Nastran distributions—those known as CSA/Nastran and UI/Nastran—and withdrew them from the market. This forces hapless users to pay what MSC demands.

Right now, there is only one remaining non-MSC Nastran vendor, and I worry about its viability in a market so distorted by MSC's policies. My own employer is facing this situation, now that our analytical skills have come close to outgrowing the PC version.

The irony is that MSC has recently gotten into the Linux business, using the attraction of that software's low price and multitudinous capabilities to sell hardware/software "solutions" that are optimized to run MSC.Nastran—but at the full price of MSC's own software.

While taxpayers continue to bankroll the ongoing development of the NASA version, MSC gets a free ride while building itself a sweet monopoly.

NASA could do itself a huge favor by releasing its own Nastran to the public as an open-source product. This would offer a curb to MSC's excesses, encourage the re-entry of competition to the market and soften the price point. A multitude of small- to medium-size businesses would benefit, and new entrepreneurial opportunities would appear quickly.

Charles Hethcoat
SPACEHAB Inc. Oceaneering Space Systems

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