I love failed failed projects, from the FBI’s $170m computer-system scrappage, to baggage-handling systems that don’t work in Denver and London, to the International Space Station (cost $Bns & counting, while they produce soap-bubbles and boomerangs up there). To say nothing of the Illinois State Building in Chicago. They just make me feel better when I buy a piece of software at work that doesn’t pan out.
MrsDoF knows about my weird fascination with failure and sent me; Fancy computers spell trouble for 2010 census. It seems the Harris corporation was awarded a $600m contract to produce handheld computers and the operating system for the census.
Woah! Stop right there, mister government project-manager! Handheld computers already exist, you can buy them on Amazon. I bet you could get the operating system for a million bucks – just make it an X-Prize for the Open-Source community – and it would be bulletproof. Let Google review the interface for simplicity. Or look around and see if any other countries are running successful digital census’ programs and steal their ideas.
Anyway, back to the highly entertaining article:
“What we’re facing is a statistical Katrina on the part of the administration,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York. “Will they leave this mess for the next administration?”
Yes, Carolyn. Yes they will. It’s what they do.
And may I compliment you on the introduction of a new unit of measurement: “The Katrina”. It’s a unit of bureaucratic screw-uppage, like the “football-field” is a unit of distance and the “crashing 747” and “9-11s” are units of fatality from whatever hazard of the day. The current administration, with it’s apparent total disinterest in competence as a criteria for contract-granting, is a rich source of ‘Katrinas’.
The computers proved too complex for some temporary workers who tried to use them in a test last year in North Carolina. Also, the computers were not initially programmed to transmit the large amounts of data necessary.
“This is a management problem. It’s an organizational problem,” Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in testimony this month before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
No, Carlos, it’s a “stupid” problem. As in: “It was a stupid idea to build a special computer for this.”
Most people have trouble programming their VCR’s to tape this week’s episode of “American Idol” and you’re going to teach more than a half-million temporary workers to operate a made-to-purpose data-gathering computer? But here’s my favorite part, the contractor’s denial that there is really a problem:
Harris Corp. spokesman Marc Raimondi said the company is committed to working with the Census Bureau to resolve any issues involving the handheld computers or the operating system.
He also said the computers actually are easy to use, with a failure rate of less than 1 percent when tested in the field.
“After you spend about 30 minutes to an hour familiarizing yourself with it, it’s as easy to use as a modern cell phone,” Raimondi said.
ROTFL – Stop it! You’re killing me! Most people can’t use ten percent of the features of their cell phones! BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!….
Congress is trying to figure out what to do now. Suggestions include “scaling back” the use of the computers themselves, or going entirely to pencil and paper. Op-Scan forms are very simple and extremely reliable.