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Last post Author Topic: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers  (Read 9361 times)

zridling

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Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« on: January 22, 2009, 02:50:54 PM »
I'm not sure how I feel about this story:

Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.... What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to power through, among other things, relentless online social networking....

One member of the White House new-media team came to work on Tuesday, right after the swearing-in ceremony, only to discover that it was impossible to know which programs could be updated, or even which computers could be used for which purposes. The team members, accustomed to working on Macintoshes, found computers outfitted with six-year-old versions of Microsoft software. Laptops were scarce, assigned to only a few people in the West Wing. The team was left struggling to put closed captions on online videos.


macjesus.jpg

  • First, this is the way the rest of us work in the real world. Companies generally do not let employees surf and play freely on their computers. One person where I work recently took down an entire room of networked computers because she had to have her iPod fix and installed a bunch of Apple software on Windows computers.
  • Second, well over 50% of the workforce uses XP (an 8-year old OS now). Most businesses have skipped Vista as we know. And they still can't afford Macs in the workplace.
  • Third, most companies do not allow outside log-ins to external email, social website, or IM software. Those are time sinks that no one is going to pay you to do at work. Get caught and you're sacked.
  • Fourth, at this point in our economic climate, I personally don't think taxpayers should be paying Microsoft for any software, period. Use free, open source software or pay for it yourself. I'm not advocating for Linux; I just don't want my taxes to be used for something it doesn't need.

Are the Obama staffers spoiled, or should they have Win7 and Macs?

fenixproductions

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2009, 03:13:37 PM »
My :two: :
Is it my stupid assumption or they really think that government employees should have houndreds ways of sending classified data outside? Or maybe White House should seed torrents on their machines? ;)

Deozaan

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2009, 03:20:11 PM »
Quote
The team members, accustomed to working on Macintoshes, found computers outfitted with six-year-old versions of Microsoft software.

I'm guessing this means Microsoft Office 2003.

As for Obama officials having to suffer with PCs instead of their elite, fancy-pants Macs, let's please not bring the Messiah into the whole PC vs. Mac issue. It's already bad enough as it is. It's no fair when God is on your side. :P


tinjaw

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2009, 03:24:36 PM »
If I was the U.S. CTO I would mandate use of FOSS. I would mandate the use of Linux. I would then take (most likely the vast majority of) the money formerly spent on proprietary operating systems and software and create a federally funded program for open source developers that work on FOSS to fill the government's needs. I would then work with the EU and the United Nations to coordinate with other such organizations throughout the world.

I also think that access to things like personal email accounts and social media sights should be allowed *but monitored*. If certain flags are raised, like certain bandwidth limits on social network usage or such similar metrics, then there should be process whereby the user must justify that usage to their boss. If it turns out that it isn't harmful to doing their job or harmful to the government department, then it should be allowed. If it turns out to be somebody abusing the privilege, then their usage should be limited.

As with any job, IMNSHO, you should be judged by your ability to complete your assigned tasks in the time allotted. If you can do that while also spending time on Facebook, so be it.

fenixproductions

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2009, 03:39:05 PM »
As with any job, IMNSHO, you should be judged by your ability to complete your assigned tasks in the time allotted. If you can do that while also spending time on Facebook, so be it.
I can agree with that but whole article sounds to me like "complaints of spoiled kids" who prioritize playing instead of working.

They were chosen by people to fix USA problems. Will they do that while chatting or what? "Wait, Obama. I will fix the crisis but allow me to get few frags first" ;)

We should also remember that they have government positions. If something leaks out in private company, you risk loosing the money. If the same occurs in WH, you risk the security of whole country. This is the biggest issue IMHO.

EOT from my side - too much politics involved...
« Last Edit: January 22, 2009, 03:41:38 PM by fenixproductions »

tinjaw

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2009, 04:06:05 PM »
It has always been my opinion that computers, the internet, private emails, etc. are (almost completely) no different than legal pads with pens or telephones or people with mouths. You can NEVER insure that no information will be "leaked", and you can always take reasonable measures that information won't be improperly be accessed. With proper system/network administration there shouldn't be any more of a chance of a leak than sombody walking out the building and dropping a file folder with important papers.

I am a privacy advocate, but when you are "on the clock" and using government/employer equipment they should be allowed to monitor your usage.

Grorgy

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2009, 04:09:19 PM »
seems to me that it all depends on what your job is if being on facebook and other social sites is not allowed.  The university I attend keeps at least one page on facebook, possibly more, I haven't looked, but a part of what governments do (or should do) is communicate to the people.  Sure you don't want secrets let lose, and you don't want the filing clerk throwing shoes at friends, but there are legitimate business/government uses for these sites.

tomos

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2009, 04:18:19 PM »
As with any job, IMNSHO, you should be judged by your ability to complete your assigned tasks in the time allotted. If you can do that while also spending time on Facebook, so be it.
I can agree with that but whole article sounds to me like "complaints of spoiled kids" who prioritize playing instead of working.

actually I think it sounds like people who were into their work to the extent where one didnt have to worry about those things ("playing") - and I'm honestly saying that apolitically - I suspect it's the same with any campaign - cant you imagine the buzz, the enthusiasm - now they're getting the post campaign blues plus having to deal with MS LOL
still could be worse for them, they could've lost...
Tom

40hz

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2009, 05:23:10 PM »
So what?

donkey.gif

(Tune in tomorrow for another non-news article from The Washington Post)

Carol Haynes

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2009, 06:29:43 PM »
seems to me that it all depends on what your job is if being on Facebook and other social sites is not allowed.  The university I attend keeps at least one page on facebook, possibly more, I haven't looked, but a part of what governments do (or should do) is communicate to the people.  Sure you don't want secrets let lose, and you don't want the filing clerk throwing shoes at friends, but there are legitimate business/government uses for these sites.

There is also the issue of accountability - if someone is posting on Facebook as an 'official' of government they had better damn well make sure it doesn't cause the brown stuff to hit the fan.

There is a simple solution to this - if government wants a Facebook presence then it should be edited by one person and anyone who wants stuff posted should clear it through the editor. Freedom of speech doesn't extend to 'say what you like' in any employee situation (at least not without potential repercussions including the boot).

Paul Keith

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2009, 06:41:01 PM »
Not to sound like I'm steering the topic off-course but am I the only one disgusted that people are justifying these newer technologies purely to prevent leaks and not to make a government more transparent?

This isn't just some company. This is still a government that has enough weapons of mass destruction to wipe anyone off the planet if anyone tries to take advantage of anything they might have leaked out.

Yes, I understand people have some worries post-9/11 but any decent analysis of that event shows that it was less a major technological or human security breach but a problem inherent in any large buearacracy. (this word is still the hardest commonly used word I've ever used)

Grorgy

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2009, 06:57:39 PM »
I certainly wasn't suggesting a free for all, or that there should not be accountability for the actions people take.  My point was, and is, that there can be legitimate uses for these services.

Carol Haynes

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2009, 07:10:36 PM »
I certainly wasn't suggesting a free for all, or that there should not be accountability for the actions people take.  My point was, and is, that there can be legitimate uses for these services.

Agreed - and if they can't sort out the issues needed to get it working I am sure there is someone on DC who could pop along and help out ;)

raybeere

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2009, 09:53:29 PM »
If I was the U.S. CTO I would mandate use of FOSS. I would mandate the use of Linux. I would then take (most likely the vast majority of) the money formerly spent on proprietary operating systems and software and create a federally funded program for open source developers that work on FOSS to fill the government's needs. I would then work with the EU and the United Nations to coordinate with other such organizations throughout the world.

If were the President, I'd appoint you the CTO of the US immediately upon reading this post.  ;D

Ehtyar

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2009, 10:29:31 PM »
Yay Tin Man :)

Ehtyar.

f0dder

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2009, 12:59:08 AM »
IMHO disallowing personal email accounts inside the whitehouse.gov is a good thing - people can check their private mails at home. Forcing the use of official email accounts for official business makes it easier to enforce data retention policies.

As for facebook and similar, let somebody outside the whitehouse deal with it, and coordinate via (official) email. I'm sure there's plenty of more important stuff to do in Office than updating your status. "OBAMBAMa is sending Iran a gift of Plutonium - air mail style, lolz".

Having no macs in there? Cry me a river. XP and Office2003 are just fine for productivity.
- carpe noctem

Ehtyar

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2009, 01:54:22 AM »
Wouldn't having access to official email outside of the office (discounting the productivity obstacles) expose White House officials to an equivalent level of risk as having access to external email/social networking inside the White House (excluding the viral infection aspect, which I don't believe you were referring to)?

Ehtyar.

f0dder

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2009, 02:21:41 AM »
Wouldn't having access to official email outside of the office (discounting the productivity obstacles) expose White House officials to an equivalent level of risk as having access to external email/social networking inside the White House (excluding the viral infection aspect, which I don't believe you were referring to)?
Dunno about that - it should obviously require VPN login and probably only work through "approved" computers, thus enforcing strict separation between work and private machines... at least that's the policy I'd require for anything with this level of importance. Oh yeah, mandatory TrueCrypt on all laptops as well.
- carpe noctem

Paul Keith

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2009, 02:53:00 AM »
Ehtyar, that's the thing. This isn't a security problem. It's either a bureacratic problem or a "stick to tradition" problem.

None of these are logic-based or security-based at the base level. (though it works because at the deeper level in some subsection, there are actually people and experts working on the security)

iphigenie

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2009, 03:33:56 AM »
The article is just fluff trying to invent another way in which the previous government was somehow incompetent - it backfires to anyone who does IT in the real world because there is nothing wrong with 6+ year old technology - almost everything we use nowadays - even all the trendiest things like subnotebooks, virtualisation, clouds etc. is more than 6 years old. Exceptions might be some graphics cards and the ipod's touch screen and a few other things.

And frankly nowadays if you can't move from mac to PC to linux and do the basics of your job, you're not as good as you think

But let's see:
- web books 1999 (a guess, i got my fujitsu p1310 in 2001 but it was not new technology)
- tablets 2000/2001 for windows (earlier for specific technology)
- macOS X 2001 (for the desktop, the server is even older)
- virtualisation - not sure how long but server virtualisation, platform virtualisation and storage virtualisation have existed for a long time. Vmware was in the 90s
- solid state disk - we built some linux gateway boxes in 2001 and you could buy motherboards which used flash cards back then quite easily, this has been an industrial solution for a long time


Ehtyar

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #20 on: January 23, 2009, 03:37:23 AM »
Very well said :up:

Ehtyar.

Paul Keith

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2009, 03:54:44 AM »
The article is just fluff trying to invent another way in which the previous government was somehow incompetent - it backfires to anyone who does IT in the real world because there is nothing wrong with 6+ year old technology - almost everything we use nowadays - even all the trendiest things like subnotebooks, virtualisation, clouds etc. is more than 6 years old. Exceptions might be some graphics cards and the ipod's touch screen and a few other things.

And frankly nowadays if you can't move from mac to PC to linux and do the basics of your job, you're not as good as you think

But let's see:
- web books 1999 (a guess, i got my fujitsu p1310 in 2001 but it was not new technology)
- tablets 2000/2001 for windows (earlier for specific technology)
- macOS X 2001 (for the desktop, the server is even older)
- virtualisation - not sure how long but server virtualisation, platform virtualisation and storage virtualisation have existed for a long time. Vmware was in the 90s
- solid state disk - we built some linux gateway boxes in 2001 and you could buy motherboards which used flash cards back then quite easily, this has been an industrial solution for a long time



I agree but it does have a kernel of truth that IT isn't as optimized as they should. Alot of stuff requires you adjusting to their needs rather than actual value and in a company as powerful as the government, that can have other negative effects.

Carol Haynes

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #22 on: January 23, 2009, 04:38:39 AM »
- virtualisation - not sure how long but server virtualisation, platform virtualisation and storage virtualisation have existed for a long time. Vmware was in the 90s

I was using virtualization back in the mid 80s.

Granted it wasn't Windows or Linux or anything like that.

When Acorn (now ARM) released their first RISC machines (the Archimedes) they threw in an emulator for the older BBC Micros so that people who changed machine could continue to use their old software. After that various emulators were released including a C/PM based system (which was an alternative at the time on PCs to MSDOS).

zridling

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #23 on: January 23, 2009, 06:11:01 AM »
To me, it's a simple cost issue. The government is broke. Its citizenry is broke. The whole world is broke. As Deozaan said, be happy with XP and Office 2003; they're paid for. Build your uber-cool videos and play with your Facebook and other social software on campaign money (and time), not taxpayer money. Otherwise, don't take a job with the government. You'll always be disappointed with its efficiency, whether it's 1705 or 2009.

iphigenie

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Re: Obama staffers find no Mac love among White House computers
« Reply #24 on: January 23, 2009, 06:24:14 AM »
I agree but it does have a kernel of truth that IT isn't as optimized as they should. Alot of stuff requires you adjusting to their needs rather than actual value and in a company as powerful as the government, that can have other negative effects.

True - but do you really think that facebook and macbooks are the most important thing for the government on its first day? And not only that but to talk to the press about? Doing an advert for specific commercial brands at the same time too?

And then the bad taste to say that having a corporate infrastructure to run the office of the head of the nation is somehow a sign of incompetence. That is clueless and just because it is fashionable to say the previous guys were out of their depth and clueless doesnt mean they couldnt get basic operational stuff right.

Someone is out of their depth there now - they might know all the cool stuff, but the boring stuff like operations is MORE IMPORTANT when you are getting started. And it worries me that if people are out of their depth and ill adapted to reality in the press and technical teams, where else?

The fact that the press corps cannot start writing their documents in Office on a PC rather than the mac version, is scary enough, the fact that they don't seem to have anyone with them that can even get whatever tools are needed installed on a set of PCs is scary. They should at least have foreseen that and kept one of the old sysadmins on for a week?

Somehow the transition from running a viral campaign to working a government office is made quite obvious in these lines, and the fact that some people clearly haven't realised it yet. This is not a dynamic, near viral campaign full of buzz - this is a 4 (or 8!) year operation. Perhaps it needed a few more "boring" outdated people on board.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2009, 06:26:32 AM by iphigenie »