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9/8/2006
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Bungling Bureaucrats

In This Issue:
1. Editor's Note: Bungling Bureaucrats
2. Today's Top Story: Vista
    - Review: Windows Vista RC1 Is Almost Ready For Prime Time
    - Gartner: Microsoft Must Turn To Virtual OS After Vista
    - Microsoft Starts Vista RC1 Public Roll-Out
3. Breaking News
    - Cisco, Microsoft Reveal Long-Awaited Network Access Control Plans
    - HP Unveils Vista-Ready PCs
    - Pay-Per-View Movies Premiere On Mobile Phones
    - Google News Adds Historical Newspaper Archives
    - Apple Shoves Core 2 Duo Into iMacs, Cuts Prices
    - Calif. Investigating Hewlett-Packard In Media-Leak Incident
    - Apple May Launch Movie Downloads, Analysts Say
    - Use Windows For Unix Services
    - Office 2007 Beta Tech Refresh On The Cusp
    - Virginia Court Upholds Spammer Conviction
    - California Man Pleads Guilty To USC Hack
4. Grab Bag: PS3 Delays; Net Video Preferences
    - European Sales Of Sony's PlayStation 3 Delayed Until March (International Herald Tribune)
    - Internet Users Like Short Videos (Ars Technica)
5. In Depth: Processor Wars
    - Dual-Core CPU Buyer's Guide
    - Intel Market Share Slid To Four-Year Low In Q2: Report
    - AMD Upgrades Athlon X2 Desktop Dual-Core Lineup
    - Intel Advertises Jobs While Planning Massive Cuts
6. Voice Of Authority: The Job Hunt
    - Job Hunting? Get Thee To Charm School
7. White Papers
    - Reporting And Analysis
8. Get More Out Of InformationWeek
9. Manage Your Newsletter Subscription

Quote of the day:
"You will find that the State is the kind of organization which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly, too." -- John Kenneth Galbraith


1. Editor's Note: Bungling Bureaucrats

Just when you think the business and IT incompetence of bureaucrats can't get any more profound, they come roaring back to exceed our expectations.

Until this week, my high-water mark for government IT ineptitude was the abandoned FBI Virtual Case File system. This fiasco resulted in $170 million being flushed down the toilet. Now it's going to be replaced, we're told, by a project whose price tag has grown a modest 135%—to $400 million. When all else fails, spend more taxpayer money, the government apparently reasons.

While that $400 million is huge, it's not too much greater than the sheer waste uncovered in a new report on how much money the IRS threw away this year.

Software used by the IRS to screen returns for signs of fraud was to be replaced with a Web-based application by January 2006, but when there was no end in sight to the $20.5 million project, the IRS tried to resurrect the old system. That older program, however, could not be returned to operation in time to handle 2005's returns. The feds themselves believe they may have issued $318 million in fraudulent refunds. I think we can safely assume the $20 million spent on new software is a total loss, so let's round the total to $340 million.

This is just the latest in an often-repeated set of government IT blunders: poorly managed projects with unrealistic expectations that fail to deliver, causing them to be scrapped amid the havoc they wreak. In one form or another, taxpayers foot the bill, and that bill keeps getting bigger. (Rhetorical question: How come these gaffes always seem to benefit crooks and not the legitimate taxpayers?)

The same day as the IRS report, another government oversight agency said more than 40% of federal health insurance contractors and state Medicaid agencies reported experiencing a privacy breach involving personal health information in the past two years. How significant is the threat to your personal medical data? The contractors and agencies involved have access to such data for more than 100 million, or more than one in three, Americans.

These two reports indicate once again that we shouldn't have a high degree of confidence in our government's ability to protect data or run professional IT operations.

But events of the past year, especially high-profile data breaches, suggest it's not only government that needs to get its IT house in order.

In fact, here at InformationWeek we're pretty convinced that we can all learn lessons from big IT blunders and use them to prevent new ones. Early next month, we'll be publishing a special report on some of the biggest IT blunders of all time. Stay tuned for what promises to be an eye-opening report, and feel free to weigh in on the biggest causes of IT blunders at my blog entry.

Tom Smith
tsmith@cmp.com
www.informationweek.com


2. Today's Top Story: Vista RC1

Review: Windows Vista RC1 Is Almost Ready For Prime Time
The new release candidate of Microsoft's next operating system shows a lot of promise and only a few remaining glitches. Could Microsoft get this one right?

Related Stories:

Gartner: Microsoft Must Turn To Virtual OS After Vista
Microsoft cannot afford five-year gaps in between major operating system releases, Gartner says, and the way around the delays is with modules.

Microsoft Starts Vista RC1 Public Roll-Out
Microsoft is offering Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 to users who had downloaded Beta 2 of the next-generation operating system in June.


3. Breaking News

Cisco, Microsoft Reveal Long-Awaited Network Access Control Plans
The result should be a breakthrough in integrated IT security when the whole package arrives in the second half of next year.

HP Unveils Vista-Ready PCs
The new systems were designed for improved security, mobility, and management.

Pay-Per-View Movies Premiere On Mobile Phones
Downloading software to cellular phones gives consumers access to 45 titles, including "Spider-Man 2" and "Scarface."

Google News Adds Historical Newspaper Archives
Users can search through more than 200 years of historical newspaper archives alongside the latest contemporary information now available on Google News.

Apple Shoves Core 2 Duo Into iMacs, Cuts Prices
Prices for the 17- and 20-inch configurations have been cut by as much as $300.

Calif. Investigating Hewlett-Packard In Media-Leak Incident
California's attorney general is looking into Hewlett-Packard's use of private investigators who obtained phone records about alleged leaks to the media by former HP board member George Keyworth.

Apple May Launch Movie Downloads, Analysts Say
The venue will be next week's planned event in San Francisco, observers say, although Apple isn't talking.

Use Windows For Unix Services
Want to run best-of-breed apps under both Windows and Unix? Eric Hall tells you about an option for doing this: Microsoft's Posix subsystem. It lets Unix apps think they are using regular Unix, but they are actually using Windows instead.

Office 2007 Beta Tech Refresh On The Cusp
This move puts the new Office software on track for general availability release early next year.

Virginia Court Upholds Spammer Conviction
Jeremy Jaynes, the first American to be convicted of a felony for running a spam operation, had been free on a $1 million bond pending the appeal.

California Man Pleads Guilty To USC Hack
The man, who had been rejected from admission to the university, receives six months of home detention and is forced to pay $37,000 in restitution.

All Our Latest News


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4. Grab Bag: PS3 Delays; Net Video Preferences

European Sales Of Sony's PlayStation 3 Delayed Until March (International Herald Tribune)
Sony's upgraded video-game console PlayStation 3 will be delayed until March in Europe but will go on sale in November as planned in the United States and Japan, the executive in charge of the project said Wednesday.

Internet Users Like Short Videos (Ars Technica)
If the rise of sites like YouTube has taught us anything, it's that people like short clips of other people doing stupid things.


5. In Depth: Processor Wars

Dual-Core CPU Buyer's Guide
With Intel and AMD embroiled in a performance and price war, choosing a desktop processor can be tough. We'll make the decision easier with a guide to chip choices and specs, as well as pointers to some bargains.

Intel Market Share Slid To Four-Year Low In Q2: Report
The company's share of the global chip market shrank to 11%, down from 13% in the first quarter, according to iSuppli.

AMD Upgrades Athlon X2 Desktop Dual-Core Lineup
AMD is boosting its dual-core family with the 2.6-GHz Athlon 64 X2 5200+ desktop processors, while Hewlett-Packard is set to take the CPUs to market.

Intel Advertises Jobs While Planning Massive Cuts
Intel is still hiring, according to the company's job bank, which was brimming with job openings. Despite a major restructuring that includes about 10,000 job cuts, you can still get a job at Intel.


6. Voice Of Authority: The Job Hunt

Job Hunting? Get Thee To Charm School
Sure, skills and professionalism still count—just not as much as personality and "likeability," according to a new survey. Of course, it's no surprise that human factors matter in a job search. But Johanna Ambrosio always figured that between two candidates with equivalent skills, the job goes to the candidate who was more personable or exhibited better people skills or, in the right setting, just had a better time yukking it up with the interviewers.


7. White Papers: Reporting And Analysis

Do More with Less—Boost Your Reporting Power
More than 35,000 IT professionals minimize IT overhead with reporting power provided by the global business reporting standard, Crystal Reports XI. Click through to discover how you can do more with less through a proven reporting solution that is both scalable and affordable.


8. Get More Out Of InformationWeek

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