Mac users out in the cold again

Mac users out in the cold again

Summary: With Grumman fired as vendor, Mac users are unsure if or when they'll be able to apply for grants online. A crucial deadline is coming.


Once again, Mac users are left out in the cold on a government database aimed at a heavy-Mac using population, the Washington Post reports.

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services -- a central manager of the system -- promised that by November the system would be compatible with Macs, which are popular among scientists and academics. That was based on promises from Northrop Grumman Corp., which has been paid tens of millions of dollars to run for the government.

It still hasn't been delivered. And now HHS has announced that Grumman had lost its bid to win a renewal of its contract. So what the odds for Mac users?

"That's a question we have," said program manager John Etcheverry.

Just last week, Etcheverry said, Grumman delivered to HHS its first shot at a Mac-compatible version of its IBM-based grant application software for an initial round of testing by government experts.

Asked how it worked, Etcheverry said hesitantly: "It's, to quote one of our testers, 'It's early.' But it seems to be working."

The new vendor is General Dynamics Information Technology, which for $18.9 million promises to create a system that works with Mac, Unix and Linux as well as Windows.

The company's vice president overseeing the project, Mary Biear, said the company will start with a platform-independent, off-the-shelf Adobe product, which it will modify in minor ways to fit the requirements of the government's grant-application system.

"The first question for our team is . . . if users can use it," said Biear, who said she has seen the nascent product because the companies have begun a seven-week overlapping transition period. "If it's working appropriately, [we] will maintain it and roll it out. If not, we would push it back."

The most optimistic schedule would be March but that will be too late for the Feb. 1 deadline to apply for NIH R01 research grants.

"The big NIH deadline is Feb. 1, 2007," said John S. Massa, associate director of the University of Iowa's division of sponsored programs, in an e-mail. So a March release "isn't going to help much." Norka Ruiz Bravo, NIH's deputy director for extramural research, conceded the timing was awkward. Will the agency consider pushing back its deadline for an all-electronic submission process? "That is something we may want to think about," she said.

Topics: Apple, Government US, Hardware

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  • Mac Computers in Government

    The Federal Government spent and wasted millions in an anti-
    trust suit against Micosoft for monopoly of it's computer
    operating system. Microsoft lost so their penalty was a joke.
    They had to supply thousands of PC's to schools and libraries at
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    All the government had to do to stop the monopoly was to
    purchase an equal number of Macs and PC's for use in the
    Government but instead they phazed most of them out. Go
  • Macs are great if Pleasure > Pain

    Macintoshes are great if they provide a compelling set of reasons to be favored by the user -- "Pro" reasons that significantly outweigh the "con" reasons.

    I spent much of my computing life on Macintoshes as a super-power user and a Mac developer. The pain of being a "second class citizen" has been ever mounting for Mac users. Lack of Mac support from manufacturers of USB and serial devices; struggling to get converters and decoders and codecs for web-sources multimedia; font variances between my Mac and the 90+% of the world, which is using PCs, so that documents created in MS Word and Excel are not EXACTLY the same on both platforms.

    The old addage says "No man is an island unto himself." If you want compatibility with 90+% of the computing world, you need to address that.

    I found it much easier, and it made me much more productive to switch to WinXP, rather than to remain a Mac user and complain about the issues I was experiencing and/or trying to address them when I interfaced with the rest of the world.

    Your mileage may vary.
  • if computers were like TVs

    it would be interesting to see if the same topic were about TV
    signals from a gov't agency - what if you're TV was fully capable of
    doing the task, possibly even more so than others, but the gov't
    was unwilling to spend the time to release a broadcast that worked
    through your TV. wouldn't happen right? 10 minutes forthought by
    gov't agencies would ensure this wouldn't happen to it's citizens
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    This article lost me at "IBM-based". I'm guessing they meant "Microsoft Windows based". Personal computers not based on Apple Mac and not based on Linux have not been "IBM-based" since the 1980s. Even IBM doesn't sell them anymore, they broke that division off as Lenovo, just another of a gazillion brands of Windows-based personal computers.
  • Mac

    I bought a brand new Mac and the next day I returned it to the store, because it was severely limited in many ways as compared to PC. Mac is an ad campaign, nothing more.
    Rebecca Andret
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    My guess is a user is severely limited if they can't figure out a Mac OS. My Dell had major issues, so I replaced it with a Mac Mini 7 years ago when they switched to Intel CPU's. It is still working as well as the day I got it. I did replace the hard drive this year at Best Buy for 18.00 after redeeming a coupon. With the iPad, iPhone and Macs you can't go wrong, it all just works with everything! I Do music as well and it has never let me down. So you got your haters and lovers. I have a problem with Windows 8, but I am keeping with it and will get it all figured out. I do use them both!
    Tim M Simmons