Copyright (c) copr 1997 all rights reserved TJH Internet
The mission of the District of Columbia's
Office of Information and Telecommunications Systems (OITS) should be nicely expressed in only three
words: "Make It Work".
Why? "Because we care".
Phase One: Meltdown Prevention
- Buy one new computer (Pentium 200 class).
- Optionally, buy a phone line - a T3.
- Optionally, buy one Ascend MAX TNT
multiprotocol WAN access switch.
Linux on the new computer. It becomes a Linux Internet Host,
capable of handling up to 64 concurrent users, each of whom can execute
tasks simultaneously, while logged in, or as tasks called automatically.
This includes FTP and Web servers. Linux is free - no cost
whatsoever, other than roughly $40.00 US for two CD-ROM disks and the
excellent and very-thick users's-manual.
- Add users to the Linux Host.
- Attach the T3 line to the Ascend MAX TNT, and connect that to the
- Aim local existing computers at the Linux Host. Computers which are or
can be made TCP/IP-capable (internet 'ppp') will be aimed at the Linux host,
by dialout modem if necessary, but preferably through LAN.
- Dial the Linux Host into the Internet.
At this point, this office now has a computer that is connected to the
Internet by a very fast high-capacity line. All authorized users can access
this computer via dial-in modem or through the Internet via 'telnet',
'ssh' encrypted connection. Many authorized users can access
this system via their connections through the LAN. This will back up the
existing WAN. The Linux Host can serve webpages, perform mass-mailings to
citizens with Internet access, distribute files, permit document creation or
revision, etc. Note that even antiquated 286-processor machines can access
the Linux Host through ordinary dial-out modem in the same way that they could
call BBSes. No new software should be needed.
Repeat as necessary.
Phase Two: Bypassing the Present, Anticipating the
- Phase out old computers, and acquire new computers, under the
- Assess and anticipate needs -
- Users who need only e-mail and minimal word-processing
capability can keep 286-processor computers in the interim.
- Users who need one of the Microsoft Windows operating systems for
their work, portions of which may be mandated by outside agencies which
require output in proprietary Microsoft formats, or which may be done with
software which is provided by outside agencies and is available only for the
Microsoft operating systems, should be provided with systems of at least
Pentium-100Mhz class. There may be no particular need for extremely powerful
computers and it may well be that computers in the high-speed-486 classes
(such as the AMD5x86 133Mhz) will suffice. These computers are comparatively
inexpensive and are well-tested and data on expected mean-time-to-failure is
readily available, permitting accurate projections of replacement
- Users whose work does not specifically require the use of
Microsoft software should be provided with 486-class (or better) computers
with the cost-free Linux software. Linux is a very standard Unix-type
operating system, and possibly the vast majority of professional programmers
could easily write special applications to fulfill any reasonable need. It
is quite likely that various outside agencies and vendors providing custom
software could provide it as Linux software. Linux also comes with many
features which are available for other operating systems only at
- Users requiring top-end hardware should be provided with Linux.
Linux/Unix has extreme support in
scientific communities. There are vast InterNetworked software and
distributed-processing resources available for Unix/Linux at no cost or
at extremely minimal cost. NASA alone offers a vast array of software under technology-transfer protocols, and
they may waive most fees for transfer to local government such as the
District government, and this does not even begin to address the bewildering
array of free software available from the
military through technology-transfer and spin-off authorities. The
multi-user, multitasking and distributed-processing capablities and in
particular the inherent client-server capabilities of Linux/Unix cannot be
overstressed. For instance, a secretary's machine might be utilized for
concurrent web-serving, mailing-list processing, database operations, and
batch-print queuing, and the secretary composing a document would hardly
notice any performance hit. Linux also can store and serve MS-DOS/Windows
and with SAMBA can also deal
with Windows NT.
- All computers should be, where possible, purchased from local
vendors who will custom-build to specification from standardized
off-the-shelf components, subject to the proviso that warrantees can be
secured, generally a standard contract with the
origian-equipment-manufacturer. Extreme cost-savings can result from
appropriate system configuration. The average secretary has no need of a
300MHz Pentium MMX system, and an AMD or Cyrix 133Mhz processor would
probably suffice, and is available for approximately one-tenth of the cost
of cutting-edge technology. However, common sense and the antipated need to
upgrade should require that whichever class of processor is used, the
motherboard upon which it runs should be state-of-the-art. Thus, a computer
retired from one service could be upgraded to the highest level simply by
swapping the processor for a better one, instead of needing to upgrade the
- Mobile Computing/Communications Prioritization
- Mobile Computing/Communication resources must be anticipated.
Increasingly we see a combination of market and technological developments
which have the effect of increasing the amount, quality and pervasiveness of
mobile digital communications systems while decreasing the cost. The same
can be said of mobile computing, particularly as high-bandwidth digital
mini- and micro-cellular non-wireline systems are emplaced nationwide. At
the time of this writing, for roughly $1500.00 one can have a handheld
system that not only has a fair amount of raw processing power, but conforms
closely to the Networked Computer mode, outside of the prerequisite of
running JAVA. The
Apple Newton Messagepad 2100 in this example is combined with a wireless modem and it can then send and
receive e-mail or for that matter surf the Web (including encrypted-secure
IntraNet) via a built-in web-browser capable of a 16-level greyscale
display. Great efficiencies could be realized through centralized
distributions of visual or textual information, delivered on request to the
civil employee who had need of them. Imagine a cop or for that matter a
plumber, who can see the "lay of the land" before he gets where he's
going - and who can, once he gets there, have every available record
delivered to his eye in any format, from any angle. More advanced (and more
expensive, but not prohibitively so) technologies
are available including "wearable computers" (or "beltcom"), which
are voice-activated and have hands-free head-mounted displays. As technology
advances these will become increasingly common, and much less expensive.
Present District OITS policy is scarecely respondent to the technology of
the early 1990s, and any simple attempt to merely bring the District's
comm/comp technical base up-to-date is doomed to the greek-classic failure
of Sisyphus, forever condemned to push an immovable boulder up a cliff of
soft mud. It's essential to be forward-looking particularly as regards
office automation; failure to proact with a sufficiently grand vision in
tight focus will only leave the OITS struggling in reactive crisis mode.
- Multiple Distributed Networks philosophies cannot possibly be
over-emphasised. A combination of dial-in wireline, dial-in non-wireline,
wireline LAN/WAN, non-wireline
LAN/WAN must be considered, and where possible, future developments "Ubiquitous
Computing" should be anticipated in all developmental strategies.
Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of the Microsoft Corporation. Pentium
is a trademark of Intel Corporation. AMD is American Micro Devices. Network
Computing may be a trademark of Oracle Corporation. "Ubiquitous Computing"
is a concept by PARC Xerox. Apple, Newton, and Messagepad are trademarks of
Apple Computers. Beltcom is a reserved term of TJH Internet SP. Anyone with
any interest whatsoever in the future of networked information systems is
strongly advised to see the homepage of the Open Group and their trademarked IT Dialtone concept.
This page and any visions, strategies, or mission-concept formulations
expressed herein are the intellectual property of TJH Internet Sole
Propriety and are copyright (copr) all rights reserved as of 30 October