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Government Standards compliance testing Labs
Ok, as this gets seriouser and seriouser, here's an outline or framework of
an "action plan" you can beat up on to get us out of this mess and
home for Christmas:
Someone once said the opposite of progress is congress. Perhaps
the only way to tame a 3000lb gorilla is riding a a 2ton elephant.
The USA has a standards problem. Any country still officially using
the outdated olde English avoirdupois system of weights and
measures just has a problem. Face it.
1) Bite the bullet and grant increased funding, maybe use some of
the immense DOD budget and let them in on it, to the NIST to
expand government standards compliance testing labs.
2) Establish open standards of compliance that computer software
and hardware vendors must meet to qualify for govt. purchases,
instead of every little dept. flipping thru computer shopper and
buying from whoever has the slickest ads, a govt. wide
interface, interoperability, data exchange and API spec will be
enforced. If your product passes the testing labs compliance
test it will be considered for purchase. Companies can compete
on speed, ease of use, etc., but if you don't meet the spec, you
don't qualify for govt. use.
For example, SQL. If your database engine passes the interoperability
and data interchange test, fine. It can even have proprietary 'extensions'
but must at least still pass the compatibility test. However, if another product
uses those 'extensions', it will fail the tests and be off the list. Private
industry can risk this 'progress' if they want to take a gamble,
but if it fades into oblivion don't come crying to us for help.
What this means is the govt. bureaucrats aren't going to have fun
spending taxpayer cash on whatever is the latest, hotest gewgaw
some silicon snake oil peddler dangles in front of them - but it
will ensure the US has functioning computer systems that work
together. They won't bite the bait only to find a proprietary hook that
makes their (our!) public info incompatible with another dept.
This way you can ensure a market for small, innovative companies,
and the govt. dosn't get involved in micromanaging and dictating
what icon goes where, what subroutine gets put into what function
in what library, etc.
A govt run standards testing lab to contain the Billster and ensure competition
amongst vendors will bring back some of the 'manhatten project' era enthusiasm
for science and technology for humanity's sake, provide a training ground for
students to learn by trial and error w/o the distasteful hipocracy of advertising
and proprietary secrets (they can learn that later), sorta like Marc A.'s experiences
at the (supercomputer application center).
Vendors will begin to compete to sport the coveted "NIST Approved" lable, like the
UL approved lable on dangerous electrical appliances, which consumers will look
for since it ensures it will actually run, and not be unwitting 'beta testers' of half
baked software rushed to market. Obtaining this lable will be slow, but regain
consumer confidence in computer industry products, and the public can risk the
'latest and greatest' if they want, at their own risk. It'll be like the "Yes! Novell"
and "It's Supposed to Run on NT" labels private industry testing labs issue, but
w/o the credibility problem (and we all know that private industry labs are biased,
corrupt, funded by one or another interest and can't be trusted). Hardware vendors
won't have to pay MS thousands to get on the NT hardware compatibility list, etc.