The Circuit

Microsoft Comes Calling

It's no surprise that Microsoft Corp. gives the Internal Revenue Service a little extra attention. After all, the tax agency is one of Microsoft's biggest customers. Recently, the company's chief executive officer, Steve Ballmer, stopped by IRS headquarters for a friendly visit with John Reece, the agency's new chief information officer.

Ballmer was once described as the man who taught Microsoft "how to sell software like soap." But on this day, Ballmer was running late and had to get to the Metropolitan Club in downtown Washington, D.C., for a speech. Apparently, Reece hopped in Ballmer's car and chatted with the high-tech mogul for the 20-minute ride. Nice touch!

VA Gets an Admiral

Retired Rear Adm. John Gauss is finally getting his next assignment — CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Gauss, until recently the commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, has extensive experience in information technology systems. As Spawar commander, Gauss oversaw the Navy's portion of the Defense Message System and the Global Command and Control System-Maritime, among other initiatives. Gauss' confirmation hearing—expected to be a smooth one—is scheduled for July 31 before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

A Tight Lid

A new memo posted on the National Institutes of Health Web site advises employees about handling laptop and handheld computers. "Given their small size and portable nature, it is more likely that a portable system will fall into the wrong hands than a desktop system." However, the same rules apply to small computers as the big ones. Sensitive data transferred by wire or wireless methods must be encrypted. An NIH official said the memo was posted July 5 because handheld computers are becoming more popular and employees have been asking how to use them.

Birthday Party

Bob Dies, an FBI assistant director who spearheads the bureau's efforts to modernize its IT infrastructure, celebrated his first anniversary at the organization with a rather auspicious event—a July 18 Senate hearing looking at the FBI's management problems. Dies joined the FBI after retiring from IBM Corp. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, acknowledged that the hearing was not the way most people would choose to mark such an occasion.

Modern Times

We checked in with Webster's New World College Dictionary to see how the definition folks are handling the Technology Age. Here are two examples comparing the third edition, first published by Simon & Schuster Inc. in 1988, with the fourth edition, first published by Macmillan USA in 1999.

Outsourcing: The third edition defines it as "the practice of purchasing parts or finished goods from domestic non-union shops or from foreign companies." In the fourth edition, it means "to transfer (certain manufacturing operations, administrative activities, etc.) to outside contractors...to reduce one's operating costs."

Server: In the third edition it was "a thing used in serving, as a tray, cart, etc." The fourth edition adds: "the central computer in a network to which other computers or terminals are connected."

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