In West Virginia, money grows on trees
May 11, 2012 8:26 PM   Subscribe

In the state of West Virginia, the government has just purchased 1064 Cisco 3945 routers at a price of $22,600 each. These are being used to service small public libraries with as few as four PCs when a much smaller router such as the Cisco 1801 would be more appropriate. Local journalists have found out about this and are starting their own investigation. A consulting firm has been retained to audit what exactly happened.

Notice how the small public library has retained its old PCs with CRT monitors, but it has a shiny new Cisco 3945 strapped to the wall...

If they absolutely need something with a T1 interface, an 1801 would be sufficient, if not, what they're doing could be accomplished with a $75 Mikrotik.
posted by thewalrus (96 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, that's what really gets me... for the price of one of these routers, most of those libraries could have been outfitted with a fairly complete computer center.

This is more or less what happens when you try to spend money quickly, with the actual purpose of spending money. It is rarely used well.

I'm sure Cisco was happy about the stimulus, but somehow, I don't think they needed it nearly as much as the library patrons did.
posted by Malor at 8:30 PM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm torn between thinking the people allocating the money for this are crooked, and thinking they're completely internet illiterate. Aren't there US congresspeople who don't use a computer at all?

I'm still leaning toward crooked.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:32 PM on May 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


WTF Cisco, why didn't they try to sell them more appropriate shit? Seriously, our Cisco rep wouldn't even do this to us and we actually have the money to buy these.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:36 PM on May 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


Integrated threat control using Cisco IOS Firewall, Cisco IOS Zone-Based Firewall, Cisco IOS IPS, and Cisco IOS Content Filtering

The Great Firewall of West Virginia.
posted by XMLicious at 8:36 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suspect it is a combination of people not knowing what they need, the approaching end of a fiscal period, money left on the table not coming back in subsequent years, and a salesperson who wants to make a deal and isn't too concerned about the fit for the customer.

One hopes the consulting firm investigating wasn't involved in the original deal.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:36 PM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Threeway: Bid was from Verizon. I don't think Cisco directly communicated with the state.
posted by thewalrus at 8:36 PM on May 11, 2012


The fact that this is library money is what really gets me. Such a waste.
posted by flippant at 8:37 PM on May 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


Hopefully there is fraud in here somewhere and the money is recoverable.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:38 PM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


According to the first Gazette-Mail article, the router purchases were overseen by "West Virginia Homeland Security chief Jimmy Gianato", which raises a couple of important questions in my mind:
  1. West Virginia has a Homeland Security director?
  2. He's in charge of IT infrastructure purchasing?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:39 PM on May 11, 2012 [36 favorites]


At first I thought it was 1064 routers for $22,600, and I thought, "Well that isn't bad".

Upon rereading....."WTF WV??? For that you should be giving out those $100 dollar laptops to Library patrons. What a waste.
posted by Twain Device at 8:39 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would say there are a number of shady individuals involved. Follow the money, who benefits? Is it ethical to sell somebody $24m worth of routers they don't really need? I hope I get to hear how this ends. Somebody make me a documentary. Sorry West Virginians.
posted by Kale Slayer at 8:41 PM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Threeway: Bid was from Verizon.

Regardless, whoever was selling these is an asshole. A single 3945 could support the entire state's libraries easily.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:42 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe we're all being relocated to West Virginia.
posted by swift at 8:44 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


My first thought was that the requirements must be written to call out the content filtering, and someone laughed and gave it them, but that option's available on the lower-end of the same series.

350MBps WAN performance with services. Christ on a stick.
posted by tyllwin at 8:45 PM on May 11, 2012


Another article I saw on this today (sorry can't find a link) says that WV's IT complained that the routers were ridiculously overpowered and too expensive but were overruled.
posted by Eddie Mars at 8:46 PM on May 11, 2012


I wonder how many people actually go to libraries each year there? With the upfront hardware costs plus the ongoing support, it would probably be cheaper for WV to literally hand out a few iPads to everybody who went to a library in the last couple of years.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:50 PM on May 11, 2012


I've been in this game before, but the state was KS. I worked at a network ops center for a firm that was contracted to provide uptime support for internet services. Our routers were Junipers, along with some other equipment. They were pretty reliable, and cheap too. The only problems we had were sometimes they needed a restart after losing and regaining power after a thunderstorm. Loss of power from said storms was the main reason they went out, frequently. Often we'd know about outages before our customers did.

And then, of course, the state cut our funding, and the entire phone-support department went with it.

One fun part of the job: Every site had to submit a photo of their router setup after installation, which we could pull up during troubleshooting. They never put the Junipers in racks, so often they'd be on library shelves...under printers...on pipes...in boiler rooms...on top of water heaters. Hehe.
posted by hellojed at 8:51 PM on May 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm shocked, shocked to see wasteful spending by state officials with very little accountability or expertise, who have been showered with federal money under the theory that massive government spending is exactly what America needs right now.
posted by John Cohen at 8:54 PM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


"State Homeland Security chief Jimmy Gianato defends this bizarre operation, contending that the excessive capacity may be needed as the cyber realm keeps advancing rapidly."

It is not just government. I've seen this in large companies, and even small startups during market bubbles (and even with families when they get an unexpected windfall). They have all this money to spend, and they need to spend it quickly. Somehow this flips some switch in their minds so it goes from "let's watch our budget carefully and spend wisely" to "Free money! Let buy stuff!"

Of course, money is never free (especially when it comes to libraries), and that switch should never be flipped, but that's not how our minds work in these situations.

Jimmy Gianato's mind was obviously in that state, where he reasoned that $22,600 isn't much for a router when you have millions to spend. The details and a few thousand dollars here or there don't matter once you've gotten into that mindset.

Organizations need a 'windfall budget advisory group' of some sort to watch that this kind of thing doesn't happen.
posted by eye of newt at 8:58 PM on May 11, 2012


As a libertarian-leaning conservative, I mentally divide libraries' funding demands by about 50 -- but this is beyond even my ken. WTF are these people thinking.
posted by Infinity_8 at 8:59 PM on May 11, 2012


Threeway Handshake: "I wonder how many people actually go to libraries each year there? With the upfront hardware costs plus the ongoing support, it would probably be cheaper for WV to literally hand out a few iPads to everybody who went to a library in the last couple of years."

A whole lot? For many people, the public library is the only way they can get online, either because they don't have a computer, because they can't afford the high-speed bill, or because the telecom company still hasn't brought basic DSL service to their area. My road is still stuck on dialup and I have to drive to the library to get any real bandwidth.

Yet again, Metafilter doesn't grok the reality of being poor.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:02 PM on May 11, 2012 [66 favorites]


People are saying that this is what happens when governments spend money. My guess is that this happens in private companies too, but we never hear about it in those cases.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:03 PM on May 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


The routers alone cost the state $7,800 each, but "add-ons" -- additional equipment that came with the devices -- boosted the price tag by $14,800

State officials requested that the devices include a "T1 interface card" that would allow schools, libraries and other sites to use the high-capacity routers with their existing copper-wire T1 broadband connections -- while waiting to hook up to fiber optic cable.

"T1 cards were used to hook the existing lines into the new routers until the fiber could be installed and the lines switched to the new ones,"

It is crazy, but I don't think criminal crazy. I think requirements, a mix of copper now and fibre now with the expectation that they would migrate to fibre as it is rolled out combined with some sort of desire to "future proof" for video conferencing as well as a requirement they not have to support multiple router types all conspired to drive the price up.

I do hope they figure this out though, maybe individual libraries can eBay those suckers and get something cool.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:03 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


One fun part of the job: Every site had to submit a photo of their router setup after installation, which we could pull up during troubleshooting. They never put the Junipers in racks, so often they'd be on library shelves...under printers...on pipes...in boiler rooms...on top of water heaters. Hehe.


I worked in a high school where the network dropped out every day at precisely 1:15, just as the teachers were trying to get their 4th period attendance entered on their computers. There's a lot of story I can skip to get to the part where me and the district network guys, who'd been quietly ignoring our calls about the issue for a whole semester, found ourselves standing in the room where the switch that serviced the second floor lived and realized it was plugged into a $5 power strip that was connected to a chintzy white lamp extension cord that plugged into a utility outlet on the side of a room-sized air handler that cycled every day at 1:15.

WTF Cisco, why didn't they try to sell them more appropriate shit? Seriously, our Cisco rep wouldn't even do this to us and we actually have the money to buy these.

Cisco didn't sell them and a company rep told the paper they were way overpowered. "Verizon Network Integration" sold them and is playing dumb, saying it just went with what was on the spec. Is VNI a VAR of some kind? Does West Virginia just not have a competitive bidding process? I interviewed a bunch of network managers last year as part of an audience research project and most of them working in government/institutional settings had a pretty rigid process that militated working with a few VARs outfitted to meet all the requirements for working with government agencies.
posted by mph at 9:03 PM on May 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


John Cohen, why can't we have both spending and spending it on worthwhile things?

Maybe WV can sell those routers to someone who actually needs them, taking only a slight loss, then put the money into cheap routers and improving library services?
posted by JHarris at 9:03 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a libertarian-leaning conservative, I mentally divide libraries' funding demands by about 50 -- but this is beyond even my ken.

Good for you? We've just had this conversation a little while ago. The community had input from actual community librarians working with actual library patrons. They had a lot of well-informed things to say. You may be interested in reading some of their input, if you want to know more about who uses libraries and what kinds of services they actually require.
posted by Nomyte at 9:06 PM on May 11, 2012 [19 favorites]


I am a computer security professional. I have read the articles and the supporting documentation very carefully, and have come to the the following conclusion:


Ggrrrrrrrarhrarhrahraaaaaahh! Grrrgrgggrrgggh! NNnnnnnnnnooooo! What? Why? Why? No! Don't DO that! No! No! No! Stop! It hurts, the stupid, it burrrrrrns....


In short, Cisco is about as evil as Microsoft circa 1996, but nowhere near as competent at what they do. The worst part? Even though there is a thriving alternate ecosystem, no-one knows or cares it exists.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:13 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll look into it, @Nomyte. I'm too drunk right now to respond constructively.
posted by Infinity_8 at 9:14 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never underestimate the attraction of shiny blinkenlights to back-woods rubes.
My bad - it was the reseller.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:19 PM on May 11, 2012


Yeah, that's pretty clear. Anyway, the details in that 2nd link are really damning:

In July 2010, a West Virginia Office of Technology administrator warned that the Cisco 3945 series routers "may be grossly oversized," according to an email obtained by the Gazette-Mail. The administrator asked state officials to postpone plans to spend $24 million on the routers so he would have time to evaluate the proposed purchase.

Five days later, state officials signed the $24 million contract with Verizon Network Integration to buy the Cisco routers.


Meanwhile, here's Infinity_8: As a libertarian-leaning conservative, I mentally divide libraries' funding demands by about 50

What a horrifically stupid response. This has *nothing* to do with "libraries' funding demands." Read the articles, please. Librarians had nothing to do with this idiocy. For that you should look to Jimmy "I'm not an expert on the technical side" Gianato.
posted by mediareport at 9:21 PM on May 11, 2012 [38 favorites]


(That was in response to "I'm too drunk right now to respond constructively.")
posted by mediareport at 9:22 PM on May 11, 2012


Does West Virginia just not have a competitive bidding process? I interviewed a bunch of network managers last year as part of an audience research project and most of them working in government/institutional settings had a pretty rigid process that militated working with a few VARs outfitted to meet all the requirements for working with government agencies.

If one reads MR. Jimmy Gianato's extensive biography, it quickly becomes apparent that this is not his first time dealing with Verizon, or having a hand in other "Business-Government partnerships."
posted by Chrischris at 9:24 PM on May 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yet again, Metafilter doesn't grok the reality of being poor.

What.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:32 PM on May 11, 2012


The stupid, asinine suggestion that nobody goes to/needs the library anymore. It's completely divorced from the truth and I hope you're drunk because that's the only excuse for holding such a poorly-informed opininon.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:40 PM on May 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Maybe it's part of the staff of the criminal they just ran against Obama, in the primaries.

West Virginia is a state I know well. The people there have been kept purposefully ignorant by insiders and gasbag politicians for as long as I can remember. They get taken advantage of all the time. What a sick, sorry state of affairs, and using public library funds makes it that much worse.

Last, the IT person who approved that buy should be fired, or at least thoroughly investigated- and the person who made the sale should be fired by Cisco. You're supposed to *consult* with your clients and **deliver value**, not rip them off because they don't know better. If I was in charge, that sales rep would be fired, or made to personally pick up and ship back every one of those routers.
posted by Vibrissae at 9:41 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let me tell you about the Cisco routers I just bought off the Canadian Government... Seized at the boarder, apparently because the Canadian Forces didn't fill out their customs documents properly, and the vendor couldn't/wouldn't go get them. Heh :)
(anybody in Toronto know anything about this stuff, and wants to do some playing around, let me know)
posted by Chuckles at 9:41 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many people actually go to libraries each year there? With the upfront hardware costs plus the ongoing support, it would probably be cheaper for WV to literally hand out a few iPads to everybody who went to a library in the last couple of years.

The fact is that library use is UP since the inception of the Internet. If you think libraries don't deliver value, try out this Library Use Value Calculator. Libraries are godsend for many people
, and in the age of the Internet, many, many states show an INCREASE in library use.

posted by Vibrissae at 9:49 PM on May 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


The stupid, asinine suggestion that nobody goes to/needs the library anymore. It's completely divorced from the truth and I hope you're drunk because that's the only excuse for holding such a poorly-informed opinion.

Wow, maybe y'all shouldn't pretend to know what others are thinking so much?

I asked how many people went to the library in WV. It is not going to be a very large number, because only 1.8 million people live in WV. I don't think that is a whole lot of people, my "neighborhood" has more people in it, for instance.

With all of the ongoing support costs from vendors for these routers, it probably isn't too far off of the dollar amount that you could get a bulk deal on iPads for.

I didn't read every article about this, but the ones I did didn't address it. I run stuff like these for a living, and we have to pay about the same cost as the hardware per year for hardware/software support/subscriptions from the vendor. These routers are going to live a long time, so the $22million up front cost isn't even going to be the worst of it.

If anybody said that "nobody goes to the library" or "nobody needs the library" it certainly wasn't me. But here is my suggestion: maybe don't always assume malice when something is written that is obvious fucking hyperbole?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:03 PM on May 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I run stuff like these for a living....

Then one might reasonably assume you realize that people need a decent internet connection and wifi to use tablets and that it's far from a given that they can afford it or have access to it.
posted by ambient2 at 10:10 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I fucking give up. Never mind, guys.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:10 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I fucking give up. Never mind, guys.

Threeway, the problem here is that while you might have thought your "buy everybody iPads!" proposal was hyperbolic, far too often when it is made, the suggester is absolutely dead fucking serious because they don't understand the entire purpose of a damn library.
posted by mightygodking at 10:15 PM on May 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


In defense of threeway's instincts here. While unlikely to get 1.8m ipads for 15 bucks each, if you dissolved the library and university systems too, I suspect you would fast approach and pass a free iPad for every person in west virginia plus internet and corsera like access for all for free. The education edifice in America today is incredibly oligarchic where a privileged few live off the labor of the many. Anyone got the bandwidth to figure out the budget for universities and libraries and see what a breakdown in the opportunity cost would be?
posted by astrobiophysican at 10:24 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay! Time for some beanplating.

$22,600 * 1094 routers = $24 million ($24,046,400 to be exact)
$24 million = 60,266 iPad 2s @ $399 MSRP (let's forget taxes and stuff for now, as well as bulk purchase prices)

The best numbers I could find quickly on library usage in West Virginia come from this U.S. Department of Education report from 1997. Out of an estimated 747,000 households, 58% said at least one member had been to a library in the past year. At a minimum, that's over 400,000 people. My statistics is rusty so I didn't bother with the standard error stuff, but there you go: almost seven times as many library users as there would be iPads. </beanplate>

This is all somewhat besides the point because a) I don't think anyone was seriously suggesting that every library user get a free iPad from the library, but more importantly b) it sounds very much like West Virginia could've spent far less cash to get the same functionality, so even if the iPads were a useless purchase, they could've bought a shipping pallet of those AND a set of working routers to equip all their libraries, and essentially be no worse off.

And as soon as you do anything remotely interesting with those iPads (turn them into more web kiosks! hand them out to visitors to serve as portable card catalogs that can direct you to the right aisle and shelf! set them up as interactive displays advertising upcoming library events! let kids fingerpaint with them! USE THEM AS DOORSTOPS!) you immediately come out ahead. That's what makes the purchase so ridiculous—even a really dumb idea like buying a ton of iPads would still have been a better use of public money.
posted by chrominance at 10:34 PM on May 11, 2012 [18 favorites]


I suspect these routers are more powerful than the 7513 we had *powering an entire regional ISP* back in '98... As someone said, "the stupid, it burns". There were lots of other options for T1 connectivity with easy upgrade to fiber without replacing the unit.

Heck, an ancient 2501 for less than $50 off eBay would have worked great temporarily while the purchasing department came to their senses.
posted by mrbill at 10:38 PM on May 11, 2012


The only thing that makes sense is if they are planning in running 100 meg metro ethernet, IOS firewall, IOS IPS, GET encryption, call manager express, SRE 900's or UCS express to consolidate all the library computing needs into virtual blades mounted in the router and internal WAN acceleration via WAAS. And maybe hosting video.

The point I'm getting at is that if they consolidated every library technology into the router's chassis (which you can, check out the Cisco lean retail model) you could grow to a 100 megabit pipe over 12-15 years and never need to replace the router chassis.

But that requires some serious vision that I feel might be lacking...
posted by roboton666 at 10:48 PM on May 11, 2012


Again, let's not get fixated on the iPads. Albeit great for porn (which a nonzero percentage of library patrons uses computers for), they are unwieldy and frustrating for more vital things, like filling out online forms. Read codacorolla's (and others') comments in the thread I linked to for a good look at the kinds of issues that come with computer access in public libraries. Library computer resources need securing, they need support staff, they need training staff, they need maintenance and replacement, and so on. Without all of that in place, Internet devices are only so much plastic and bloody coltan.
posted by Nomyte at 10:49 PM on May 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Why does the library need a T1 connection anyway? T1 connections are not high bandwidth by today's standards. 1.5Mbps....they'd be better off with bonded DSL. They don't need the uptime guarantees that come with legacy telco products like T1.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:03 PM on May 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Heck, an ancient 2501 for less than $50 off eBay would have worked great temporarily while the purchasing department came to their senses.

Seriously....basically any Cisco router that can still manage to boot can probably accept a T1 interface card. Grr.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:05 PM on May 11, 2012


And 366 of those routers are sitting in a warehouse.
posted by 6550 at 11:36 PM on May 11, 2012


Why does the library need a T1 connection anyway?

I'm going to fathom a very easy guess here: many libraries in WV probably can't get better than a T1. I personally deal with small to medium business telephone systems. Largely we push everyone towards getting VoIP as the per-line cost and per-minute cost for a SIP trunk tends to be significantly cheaper and more flexible for a shitton of businesses.

In the more rural areas, sometimes there isn't enough bandwidth on DSL to support VoIP properly. Often they are stuck with numbers like 1.5Mbps down/768Kbps up. I've even seen 768K down and up. And I'm guessing in some areas DSL, cable and fiber are all simply unavailable.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:40 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


[dumb "WV sucks" comments deleted.]
posted by taz at 11:41 PM on May 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why is west Virginia using a stimulus grant designated for increasing fiber-optic broadband framework being used for networking hardware anyways? Isn't that putting the cart before the horse? I see the vision of the stimulus, but I don't see how this mismanagement fulfills said vision. America needs solid infrastructure more than many of our current budget priorities.
posted by Kale Slayer at 12:10 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to add that for a person living anywhere in West Virginia the major internet options are Verizon DSL, Comcast Cable, Frontier fiber, or dialup (some people use satellite or connect a 3g phone to a pc). Verizon sold their cable laying business (in West Virginia) to Frontier Communications. I'm not sure on this, but it seems that the funds being marked for fiber may have cut Comcast out of the deal.

Interestingly, you can't get Frontier fiber in the cities because digging up the infrastructure was deemed too costly. From what I understand, you can get fiber optic internet in areas with as little population density as 25 people per square mile by county. In the county I live in (343 people per sq mile) it is not available.

The whole point of the stimulus was to bring low-cost high-speed internet to a large amount of people. This ridiculous router debacle is only part of the problem.
posted by Elminster of Labor at 12:25 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe this ultimately wouldn't be a net good- in terms of outsiders taking jobs/preventing places like WV from developing a higher technology industry of its own, but...

... the thing that really chaps my hide, and those of other professional technologists in this thread no doubt, is the utter expense of this, and the clear lack of technological oversight. It does sound like some of the "troops on the ground" were IT savvy enough to know these routers were way overpowered, and this smells like it's almost certainly rampant corruption. Still... when I look to places like Silicon Valley and even Seattle, the sheer technology presence is such that people solve problems like this for fun. And enough would be thrilled to basically work at cost to solve these problems for states in their spare time. The company I work for- Expedia- has a program where employees can apply for and if picked, go to more rural vacation areas and volunteer their time helping local tourism businesses be better "online". For example, in one case that a group were working on, one of the local tourism guys was great, very personable, gave amazing tours... but was a terrible marketer, so they helped him develop a simple site, and learn how to pitch his business to the "1st world" mindset. The result, apparently, is that his business boomed, as did the other local businesses who got this help. This is obviously focused on travel because of the nature of the business, but still...

So what about this? Employees at technology companies who apply and are accepted into an intra-state technology sharing program are allowed to spend two weeks a year, separate from vacation time, to go to another region or state, and assist the local and state government with technology solutions. The local/state government in turn doesn't pay them, but does give them the royal treatment: coordinates with local hotels to put them up for free (for a modest tax break, but hey there are rooms already empty anyway, so...), gets them a loaner car, etc. The employee's own company would pay the employee as normal as if they were still working at HQ, but perhaps as an incentive would be allowed to declare the payment as a charitable contribution for tax purposes.

The employee in turn would be paired up with other technologists from similar hotbed areas to go to places like West Virginia, analyze the problem (upgrading the IT systems of libraries), and come up with a solution. Hell, given enough time and desire, I bet the smart smart people of the interwebs could come up with a solution for a distributed wireless infrastructure for rural areas that would span the state using commodity routers and devices. In fact- I'm pretty sure I've seen linked on Metafilter that there are similar projects for solving this in remote African villages, with cheap wifi access points creating a mesh network.

Look at me- just the language I'm using is something we can take for granted if we're part of the population steeped in the Internet, in using technology, and in getting paid to use and master technology. This is not to condescend to WV or any other states- but to point out as I think dunkadunc is suggesting, the inherent privilege for those of us who've "made it" in the internet game.

Granted, the local governments might prefer their corruption, but it seems to be the pinnacle of democracy to have average citizens crowdsourcing the solutions. We all believe that if they were going to spend $24M, we can think of ways to shave the costs every possible way, and still give them solutions that were worlds better than a bunch of routers they didn't need; christ, I wouldn't be surprised if you could fund such a program entirely from Kickstarter donations! Then again, maybe it would be a directionless clusterfuck, but since it would be people who applied- like in the Expedia tourism model I mentioned- one can assume they'd be passionate and involved, and probably stay involved in their spare time afterwards to continue to shepherd the projects they'd started, even after returning home.

Of course, given how apparently poorly our own local Metro transit received the OneBusAway system- the product of some UW students and local developers- maybe it's almost a given that government employees will hate and resent the "outsiders" with their fancy tech jobs, even as they try to help. I'm getting old and cynical enough to suspect that's more the case.
posted by hincandenza at 12:29 AM on May 12, 2012 [18 favorites]


Correction to my previous comment - it seems Frontier fios may even be available somewhere in Cabell County. In my zipcode the population density is 6000 per sq mile (not counting thousands of on campus university students). This really shows the dynamic in West Virginia of city versus country. It is a 10 minute drive to go from over 6000 per sq mile to something more like 100.
posted by Elminster of Labor at 12:32 AM on May 12, 2012


I'm shocked, shocked to see wasteful spending by state officials with very little accountability or expertise, who have been showered with federal money under the theory that massive government spending is exactly what America needs right now.

Cisco is an American company, which employs American citizens. Whether or not you think the money could have been spent more efficiently, it still served it's purpose of going towards keeping people employed.

Now, obviously Cisco wasn't going to go out of business, but imagine every corporation in the U.S decides at the same time to put off upgrading their networks at the same time. That means cisco would have cashflow problems and might lay people off, which would make the economy even worse. If, instead they sell stuff to government clients, the impact isn't as sever, they don't lay people off (or they don't lay as many people off) and everyone is happy.

That said, this particular thing doesn't seem to have anything to do with the "Stimulus" rather, you have a corrupt official with ties to a corporation giving them a sweetheart deal even though people knew that it was unnecessary. It wasn't like they were just neophytes getting conned. The people who should have looked at this and said something did look at it, and did say something, and were ignored. Now, if this guy decides to leave "Homeland Security" chances are he'll have a sweet job at Verizon waiting for him.

Just like how Micheal Chertoff now works for those companies that make airport x-ray scanners that he had them buy.
Granted, the local governments might prefer their corruption,
Duh. Again, people lower down on the totem pole had this figured out. It was Okayed at the top likely for corrupt reasons.
posted by delmoi at 12:56 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It does sound like some of the "troops on the ground" were IT savvy enough to know these routers were way overpowered, and this smells like it's almost certainly rampant corruption.

I've seen equally dubious purchasing decisions made in state primary schools by people I know not to have been corrupt at the time. It happens when people are given the responsibility for a large-scale purchasing decision without being given the time or staff to investigate the actual requirements.

It used to be commonly understood in IT that "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM". Seems likely to me that Cisco is just this era's IBM.

I also find it quite amusing to watch people simultaneously heaping scorn on the Cisco decision and jumping on the "let them eat iPads" bandwagon, completely ignoring the availability of alternative tablet computers that don't come with Apple's ironclad vendor lock-in. I think this is likely to be the very same phenomenon: snap judgments made on the basis of little more than brand recognition.

I netadmin a Catholic primary school, and we've just ordered 30 of these. There was no way I was going to let the school spend more on less-powerful tablets that don't even have USB ports or a micro SD slot, even though everybody at the school says "iPad" when they mean "tablet computer" the same way they say "biro" when they mean "ball point pen".
posted by flabdablet at 1:32 AM on May 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Some sales rep was all set on winning the tropical vacation this year until those meddling librarians poked their noses into things.
posted by pracowity at 2:17 AM on May 12, 2012


Organizations need a 'windfall budget advisory group' of some sort to watch that this kind of thing doesn't happen.

Well, first we need federal and state versions of this, so that the next time the threat of the Great Depression forces us to spend a trillion bucks fast, we have enough "shovel-ready" projects queued to do it. I think Brad Delong has actually propose a federal agency for counter-cyclical spending plans in classic neo-Keynesian fashion, totally ignoring the public choice problems yet again.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:24 AM on May 12, 2012


*facepalm*
A $24 million dollar purchase for future-proofing a civic extranet is a completely normal expenditure in any well funded and planned IT system. I will not even attempt to speculate about this DHS guys knowledge level or actual involvement in the actual deployment. But think about this. This is 2012 and they purchased the best they could get and put it equally throughout the state. It is part of an initiative to interconnect all these locations across the state with broadband (FIoS, from what I've read in several other places) which will probably take the next several years to complete (you know, since running Fiber all over the place takes time and whatnot). Add into that the time it takes to clear everything through planning boards for construction and putting out bids, etc, etc, those other parts of the project probably won't be coming online for a few years. Meanwhile, you've for 700+ locations that you are supporting, and for simplicity, you have installed the same make and model routers because that lowers your overhead for management and upkeep. They all have to be able to do both T1 and fiber, since the whole point is to get everything on fiber. They also are going to have to last for, oh, say, more than 5 years. You can get extended service plans which will extend the warranty on these kinds of things, but also having, oh, say, about 300 of them on-hand in a warehouse so they can be drop-shipped to any remote location in the state ready to replace a failing or failed unit would be nice, since, you know, in 3 years, Cisco will probably not have any on hand anymore because they've moved on to another product cycle. So you go ahead and buy the units now that can be used to replace the ones that are going to break through either heavy use, or being deployed in places that have leaky roofs which void the warranty or something. This project and expenditure is not a bad expenditure. It's large, yes. But if West Virginia ever hopes to rid itself of the horrible reputation of a backwoods hillbilly culture of "derp", building a civic infrastructure is a GOOD THING ™.
posted by daq at 3:07 AM on May 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


We are particularly sensitive to infrastructure here - our power, our water, even our garbage is dealt with and distributed from 160 miles away. Were it not for the needs of the Navy, we wouldn't have anything. The Navy, of course, seriously over-builds anything they do for emergency needs, redundancy, and reliablilty against the elements, and that often sounds like it costs ten times as much as it should. The truth is, the big money they spend on infrastructure lasts a very, very long time.

It also ties us in to a certain level of technology for a very long time. From 1994 until about 2002, the only kind of internet service you could get was DSL (the old kind) delivered by the telephone company, and it depended largely on how far you lived from the AT&T building downtown what quality of service you could expect. This is a small island, so installing fiber optic cable in town didn't take very long - again, it's the getting it down a 160 mile long pipe that costs money. AT&T and Comcast bit the bullet and did it, again with support from the Navy and the state. On the face of it, it looked like an obscene amount of money, but we're set for at least ten if not twenty years, and that breaks down to a pretty reasonable cost if you take the long view.

Yes, I think WV got taken for a ride. I definitely think that some of that money could have been much better spent on more pressing needs for libraries in the short run. However, they're probably stuck with that level of tech for at least ten years ($2.4 million a year) and probably more like fifteen or twenty years (~$1 million a year) and it just seemed to make sense to purchase the greatest capacity they could at the time.

I just hope that Verizon and Cisco can justify it at some level before the torches and pitchforks come out.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:14 AM on May 12, 2012


*facepalm*
A $24 million dollar purchase for future-proofing a civic extranet is a completely normal expenditure in any well funded and planned IT system.


While I appreciate the perspective of folks who know what they're talking about with regard to the tech, it still seems quite a stretch to portray this episode with the above facepalm. From the editorial in the "local journalists" link:

Later, it was determined that many West Virginia public facilities already have broadband routers. So 366 of the costly devices now sit in warehouses, not yet installed anywhere.

That's over 1/3 of the routers ordered. The more likely scenario: this was a rush job approved by some tech-illiterate official (hey, no judgment here) who didn't understand what he was doing, probably after being snowed by a private company delighted to snag a ton of that delicious federal stimulus money. From the "consulting firm" link:

"At the end of the day, I suspect we've made some mistakes," [WV Commerce Secretary] Burdette said. "I'm reading stuff in your stories and learning stuff in the process."

...Burdette said, in hindsight, state officials should have hired a consultant before purchasing equipment and starting the broadband expansion project. "If we had an independent consultant to help us with our decisions at the very beginning, we'd all be smarter," Burdette said.


It's too bad this is going to be used by kneejerk anti-federal-spending jerks, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a whole mess of stupid.

Also, I feel compelled to note that there is no state in the USA that can claim to be more beautiful than West by God Virginia.
posted by mediareport at 4:01 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


"If we had an independent consultant to help us with our decisions at the very beginning, we'd all be smarter," Burdette said.

No. If you'd bothered polling your librarians - you know, the people who will actually be using this stuff - and asking for their views before you bought anything, you'd all be smarter. Because almost certainly you would have found that a useful number of them would be highly technically literate, and capable of generating and motivated to generate advice of far higher quality than you'd get by selecting a consultant the same way you've just selected your routers.
posted by flabdablet at 5:27 AM on May 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Note that the FBI and Beareau of Public Debt and a number of other government agencies have big datacenters in WV. Lots of local talent... It's just plain corruption, not stupidity.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:37 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I hate about situations like this is the way they tend to poison subsequent valid and well-managed government programs in the minds of the public. "Of course we should cut taxes," says Joe Taxpayer, "just look at all the waste in the system." And some poor kid goes hungry because a school lunch program gets cut.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:11 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, those routers are strong enough that they could serve as the backbone for local wireless networks for the communities in question. Did WV have plans in that area? It would make sense to send out $22K routers if you were planning on actually providing network services to the public.
posted by Malor at 6:23 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Parts of WV are essentially suburbs of Washington, DC -- just want to throw that out there because it's easy to forget that the rural part of WV is not all there is. People commute into DC from places like Harper's Ferry. So you've got a lot of government types out there too -- people who are tech-savvy enough to telecommute regularly -- and who are also probably accustomed to seeing large expenditure authorizations.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:49 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and Slap*Happy already made the point I was trying to.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:50 AM on May 12, 2012


As a libertarian-leaning conservative, I mentally divide libraries' funding demands by about 50

This is so unbelievably insulting.
posted by odinsdream at 6:58 AM on May 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


This project and expenditure is not a bad expenditure. It's large, yes. But if West Virginia ever hopes to rid itself of the horrible reputation of a backwoods hillbilly culture of "derp", building a civic infrastructure is a GOOD THING ™.

Show me where any competitive bids were examined by someone competent and qualified, with an eye towards meeting the project feature requirements. If there were, someone might have noted that you could meet the same exact requirements for 1/10th the cost. Then someone would have to make the case that the higher cost was worth it for X reason. None of that was done.
posted by odinsdream at 7:12 AM on May 12, 2012


This is what Cisco *does*. There are Cisco routers that cost millions of dollars; they would be appropriate to route all the traffic for, say , a major city. And yet Cisco sells thousands of them to medium sized companies and government agencies. It's bizarre.
posted by miyabo at 7:15 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


That model of router is certainly overkill, now, but what about in 15 years? I'm serious. I work with a state government, and hardware refreshes for infrastructure kinds of things like this are few and far between. There are offices that are using 15 year old Compaq servers and Cisco routers, and they are just now starting to run out of capacity. (And a lot of that is failure to upgrade.) Quite frankly, my experience with state government is that you have to make these kinds of purchases with an assumption that you may never be able to replace or upgrade them again.

In 15 years, these routers may well be doing everything for the libraries- phones, video, internet.

Meanwhile, agencies that cheaped out have had to refresh their equipment three or four times in that same period. The price of the equipment probably still hasn't evened out (*), but their cost of administration has been WAY more. When you have a giant network like this, the support costs dwarf the equipment costs. Standardizing on equipment is a HUGE savings in maintenance and support. Especially if you can standardize temporally (keep the same stuff for a long time). The costs of rolling out equipment to a thousand sites is huge, even if you manage it closely and do it in-house.

There still could have been malfeasance and mismanagement, and it sure seems like there was, but just saying that they could have bought 1000 2600s off of EBay or $15 white box routers from Tiger Direct is just not practical.

(*) those Compaq servers were $15k new, and the 2600 routers were probably close to that in 1998.
posted by gjc at 7:20 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope Threeway Handshake comes back. I didn't think they were being malicious, just woefully uninformed. So many people say 'Let's buy them all ipads' in dead seriousness that I thought they were being serious. Especially given other, similar (drunk) comments in this thread.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:14 AM on May 12, 2012


Hey, it's just FREE STIMULUS MONEY. Nobody ever has to pay for it. And one stimulus dollar expands to $14.62 of new economic benefits!


posted by caclwmr4 at 9:19 AM on May 12, 2012


Politically, the Republicans would probably like to blame Obama for the waste, but out of curiosity, were the actual people that did this Dems or GOP? If the latter, would GOP be likely to make a big deal out of this if it means embarrassing their own people?
posted by Mokusatsu at 10:45 AM on May 12, 2012


hardware refreshes for infrastructure kinds of things like this are few and far between

Not surprising, at those prices.
posted by flabdablet at 10:58 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, agencies that cheaped out have had to refresh their equipment three or four times in that same period. The price of the equipment probably still hasn't evened out (*), but their cost of administration has been WAY more. When you have a giant network like this, the support costs dwarf the equipment costs. Standardizing on equipment is a HUGE savings in maintenance and support. Especially if you can standardize temporally (keep the same stuff for a long time). The costs of rolling out equipment to a thousand sites is huge, even if you manage it closely and do it in-house.

I take your point, but.. Well, I look at this in the context of the recent topic on French labour law, and criticisms of Chomsky.
posted by Chuckles at 11:41 AM on May 12, 2012


Hey, it's just FREE STIMULUS MONEY. Nobody ever has to pay for it. And one stimulus dollar expands to $14.62 of new economic benefits!
Again, not to belabor the point but the stimulus money is "paid for" by the fact that federal costs of funds are really low when money gets pulled out of the stock market/bond market/etc, which is what happened in the financial crisis. So if the government would normally have to pay 5% interest, at that point they could borrow money for practically nothing. You have to pay it back dollar for dollar eventually, but if the economy keeps growing it costs less as a total proportion of the budget to pay for it later then it does to pay for it now.

And the economy gets larger faster if you do stimulus now rather then later.

We seem to have this totally stupid attitude in the U.S that government spending should be as cheap as possible, regardless of the consequences. Maybe it would be cheaper at first if all these libraries just had someone go to walmart and buy a cheapo router off the shelf, but how much would it cost to support that? If the idea was to give all the libraries the same routers, then it makes sense to buy one that would work at all locations. It would probably have been better to do a two or three tier system, though.

On the other hand, if you hire a private consulting company to come up with a plan, that costs money too. It costs money to save money, and if it would cost more to do proper analysis, or in support costs, or whatever then obviously you'd never do it

It's a pretty stupid attitude to have. People in large corporations waste money all the time, because they understand that the point is to get things done and if you're spending your time getting the cheapest routers possible, or if the cheapo routers you got stopped working, then you stop making money. It doesn't matter if you spent more then you theoretically needed too.

Or, look at the recent GSA "Scandal" where they all had a big, expensive party in vegas. At a private corporation, something like that would be totally acceptable, because it would have been seen as a way to retain good employees and make them enjoy working at the company. If you treat your employees like crap, they are going to want to work somewhere else, and if you're left with the dregs, you're going to get a lower quality work product (Now, obviously they should not have been doing rap songs making fun of the people in charge of their oversight). And having a lower quality work product means more wasted money in the end.
posted by delmoi at 12:37 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


in WV, you can rest assured that the porn you're viewing at the library has been properly routed.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 12:57 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I blame Neil Gaiman.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 1:23 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shame that posting here from mobile is difficult. For now let me point out that the GSA parties were specifically celebrating wasting taxpayer money. That would not be tolerated by private industry. And, even if it was, it wouldn't be MY TAX DOLLARS being wasted. Every person who participated in those GSA parties SHOULD BE FIRED.

We'll see what happens with that but I am not holding my breath.

The photo in the WV newspaper article shows 3 out of the 4 monitors are CRTs. There is obviously much corruption and blatant celebratory stupidity to be investigated in that story alone, as in most of the "stimulus" spending. Nearly all such projects were not "shovel-ready" and were just treated as "here's free money spend it fast now" and/or "now we really don't have to lay these lazy people off for another year".
posted by caclwmr4 at 1:54 PM on May 12, 2012


It just reminds me of the day, maybe 10 years ago, where as a new semester started I walked into my university library and saw their new library catalogue system. About 100 shiny new computers - not thin clients - running Windows XP, their entire system locked down to only let you run Netscape, only browse the internal library network, and print out your search results.

After doing some quick sums in my head on what a Linux-based thin client set-up would have cost, I sighed and went and confirmed that, yes, there were now significantly fewer journal subscriptions available than the year before.
posted by Jimbob at 3:27 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


In 15 years, these routers may well be doing everything for the libraries- phones, video, internet.

In 15 years, they will be gathering dust. Information Technology moves fast. You can't future proof.
posted by ymgve at 3:38 PM on May 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


When I was a student a couple years ago, the library catalogue system was still a bunch of VT-100 terminals hooked up to a UNIX mainframe. Running a full Windows XP for a catalogue terminal sounds insane.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:36 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used a VT-100 terminal linked to a university mainframe via 2400 baud modem as my main internet connection well into the 1990s. I even remember doing website design for a big party my circle thrown every year on that unit using vi, and then running to a housemate's room to load the webpage to see what my changes looked like.

Ah, good times. I think I even still have that terminal around here someplace.
posted by hippybear at 4:44 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jimbob writes "It just reminds me of the day, maybe 10 years ago, where as a new semester started I walked into my university library and saw their new library catalogue system. About 100 shiny new computers - not thin clients - running Windows XP, their entire system locked down to only let you run Netscape, only browse the internal library network, and print out your search results.

"After doing some quick sums in my head on what a Linux-based thin client set-up would have cost, I sighed and went and confirmed that, yes, there were now significantly fewer journal subscriptions available than the year before."


I think I know the objection but initial setup costs are only one consideration when installing this kind of lab.
  • PCs are cheap and they were cheap 10 years ago. I'm not sure what you mean by Linux thin client but they are unlikely to be significantly cheaper, hardware wise than wintel PCs. You still need a display, motherboard (with on board network and video driver), memory, hard drive, power supply and case. The absolute cheapest PC is as cheap as it gets and is more than adequate in both cases.
  • Windows licensing for Universities is cheap; depending on your licence the incremental cost of any particular workstation could be as low as a few dollars (and most of that is client licences which you have to buy even if you are running non Windows clients). At worst a university should be paying OEM price for the cheapest version of windows for any new machine.
  • Windows PCs nicely integrate into both Active Directory and any printer control software you might be running.
  • The print dialog is what the library staff and students are used to using (less support).
  • I'm going to assume the web browser being used is the University standard so less training of both support personnel and staff (and boy golly do the majority of university staff hate change); hard to say whether that browser would have been available on a linux thin client.
  • It is possible that hidden monitoring software was installed on the PCs that mandated Windows PCs making linux a non starter.
  • The IT staff is used to using Ghost or some other imaging software to image Windows machines (less training and less chance of error).
  • You have to secure the machines so they don't get stolen/tampered with. This is straight forward if you are using a variant of the hardened case that you use everywhere else.
  • Hot spares that are different than your standard machine.
There are probably a couple more points in here I'm forgetting (it's been a while since this was my business). However I'd guess that IT budgets were only vaguely related to journal budgets if at all. The lack of journals was likely due to the skyrocketing price of subscriptions or a reduction in the library budget or even a refocusing on other materials. And like delmoi said the simple act of making a decision to go with anything other than the norm costs money. If you save $100 on each machines but it costs you $2000-$3000 in meetings specifying (say ten people @ $45/hour for two or three two hour meetings (typical in my experience though maybe broken up in other ways)) and $10K in support costs you haven't saved anything. And the support costs are on going because Universities get at least 25% turn over every year.

PS: I worked at two different Universities and they had quite different approaches to hardware management.

University Foo bought all their machines so there was quite a bit of jockeying of machines where hardware would move from high performance labs/high demand instructor desks -> low performance labs/support staff desks -> internet browser machines -> small servers/auxiliary hardware controllers/library catalogue machines. This process took about five years and by the time the machines made it to the library they were in pretty tough shape and would die fairly regularly. Not surprising considering as lab machine would have been worked twice as hard as a regular office machine and would have been power cycled at least 10 times as much and would have been imaged 20, 100, maybe 200 times. Luckily we needed fewer of these low buck machines so we'd have lots of hot spares.

University Bar leased all their machines from a reseller. With a few rare exceptions those machines never moved from their initial deployment. Machines got swapped for new hardware every three years whether they were doing their job adequately or not. This meant that library catalogue machines were almost always over powered and some labs had, IMO, inadequate hardware in their last year. It sure was a lot less work than at University Foo where we spent quite a bit of time moving equipment around and specifying equipment in the first place. Might have even cost less long term with the trade off that the student experience was degraded. However at University Foo in tight years or if hardware shot up because of a supply problem we could elect to replace fewer machines and make up for it in later years. At Bar we were locked into replacing the machines come hell or high water.
posted by Mitheral at 7:26 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Strangely Stunted Trees has a point. The Greenbriar has long been a resource for the US Government's cold war paranoia, and from the looks of it, there seems to be somewhat of a Renaissance in the Wild and Wonderful state of WV. Oddly enough, all around the Greenbriar Airport there seems to be an endless supply of budget monies being spent in new oddly secure buildings and warehouses with no signage, and a buffed up armory. The airport there is meticulously maintained and very busy most days. Since 9-11 many mysteriously uber-secure facilities have popped up on the WV-VA area, most likely a plan to scatter secure important infrastructure so as not to make DC a target of mass destruction. My guess is that these routers are being used for much more than a mere Google search by a pimply faced teen, but preparing for a more let's say 'pre-emptive' purpose. Additionally WV is the home of Sugar Grove Navy base tucked neatly nestled both in and ON a mountain cluster. A Navy Base in Appalachia you say? Convenient enough to NRAO which is in a telescope 'quiet zone' [NRQZ] - a mandated radio wave free are where the signals remain pure. This zone is mapped here . Those skeptics in MetaLand should be wary of their nay saying, you have to live here to catch the very subtle nuances (like those routers) and oddly clean SUV's hiding in the perimeter of gated lands. Methinks that purchase was necessary for the security of the Nation as a whole. Do not underestimate the power of West By God Virginia, it is indeed becoming the place to be when the post-apocalyptic Zombies invade the land.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 10:31 PM on May 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's going on my list of favorite conspiracy theories, ~Sushma~. Right after the one about the moon actually being a water tank for the interstellar space ship that brought humans to Earth, long ago.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:44 PM on May 12, 2012


sushma, you conveniently forgot to mention our reptilian overlords.
posted by thewalrus at 1:08 AM on May 13, 2012


This proves that we can't keep libraries safe from cyber-terrorism without going broke. Better close them all, just to be safe. Think of the children!
posted by mek at 2:38 AM on May 13, 2012


Mitheral,

As someone who has been in charge of large IT deployments myself, I sympathize with your core point that there are often hidden costs. However, it's pretty clear from your comment that you're not familiar with thin-client or terminal-based systems, which can be extremely cost effective when the project scope is limited (i.e., "Show people this single application, allow printing to that printer over there.")
posted by odinsdream at 5:11 AM on May 13, 2012


Thin clients are cheaper. Linux is free. You don't need Ghost, you can use dd or other tools. Linux was starting to get fairly approachable ~2003.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:39 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


While unlikely to get 1.8m ipads for 15 bucks each, if you dissolved the library and university systems too, I suspect you would fast approach and pass a free iPad for every person in west virginia plus internet and corsera like access for all for free. The education edifice in America today is incredibly oligarchic where a privileged few live off the labor of the many. Anyone got the bandwidth to figure out the budget for universities and libraries and see what a breakdown in the opportunity cost would be?

How is it that we are providing internet access to all these people? What, the government is going to pay Comcast and Verizon for internet service for individual households? And what about the giant sucking black hole of wasted money for people who don't have the technical know-how to use their internet connection? Anyone who's talked their parents through setting up an email account can tell you that this might be problematic.

Secondly, universities do one hell of a lot more education than just granting undergraduate and professional degrees to people who can pay tuition. Large universities provide vocational certification programs, job-readiness and college-readiness programs, enrichment opportunities for primary and secondary schoolkids, and prop up the infrastructure by working with community partners where states have taken a pass on social services and not all of this is readily apparent to the casual observer. Secondly, large universities contribute massively to the economy through both direct employment and contracts and services. The opportunity cost of what?
posted by desuetude at 10:34 PM on May 13, 2012


Hi. I am the Lorax, I speak for WV. Ok, no, but really---I'm an IT guy by practice but I spend State money and do all sorts of legislative work as my everyday job.

This is a state where we have continuously cut spending for the past several years, where we have one of the largest federal Medicaid matches (3:1 normally, but up to 7.9:1 under ARRA), and where our "rainy day fund" is actually larger than it's allowed to be, and so we keep raising the cap. This is a state where we just cut over 1000 people off of Medicaid waiver programs and where we have a 3 year waiting list for core services. We've got the oldest per capita population, the most disabled per-capita population, the highest aggregate rate of home ownership (family homesteads make up a lot of this); where we're in the bottom 5 for public transportation and where we continuously lose ground to coal and gas because that's the way it's always been, DAMNIT.

A sidebar about how "technical" we are as a state at high level:

Byrd when he was alive (I spit to the side, here) actually did significant work to bring tech to WV. We've got the east coast's heaviest broadband link running up 79, and we've got some "high tech" industry along that road---FBI and governmental contractors, mostly. It doesn't exactly branch out much, but it's here. Recently I was in Charleston talking to some state senators and delegates about proposed legislation, and they were having issues with their state-provided iPads. (I spit to the side here, too.)

You see, they got them, and they got no training. They got them because Capital IT can't seem to keep their computers free of malware and so they can be "portable." They can take them "off campus", but the devices go "dumb" when they leave the grounds, no data connection is possible anywhere but on campus---clearly a security measure as we're talking elected officials and legislation, right? But it ENTIRELY defeats the whole purpose of the devices, and on a given day in session you'll see 20 people playing Angry Birds. Great.

But that's not the best part. Recently I started ramping up our public advocacy efforts (a-la MoveOn type marketing) and needed a spreadsheet of delegate info for quick distribution and mailmerging. So I went to the website and started gathering them, and what I found blew my mind....

We don't even have a goddamned EMAIL convention. Some people are @state.wv.us. Some are at wvsenate.gov. Some are at something else. Several people are @ their personal campaign domains. Some people, and this somewhat surprises me, DO NOT HAVE ONE. So yea, tech, we win at it.

Oh, and lastly, I just turned down bidding on a state FCC grant (several million dollars) to distribute tele-tech to people because it wanted one central office to serve 55 counties, and it wanted next-day-service, because that's reasonable or possible.
posted by TomMelee at 7:05 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Thin clients are cheaper. Linux is free.

Employees who know how to implement all of this reliably and effectively aren't.

You aren't even touching the accountability and integration that AD adds. Can you do it with LDAP or some other solution and meet all your needs? Maybe, but simply? Not really.

Yes, almost every single point discussed - monitoring software, imaging, user training, etc. can be addressed, bu none of them work as simply out of the box.

I love linux, and I've run it extensively at work and home for the past 16 years. Those 16 years have taught me the value of ease of use as well as the differences between initial cost as well as long term cost. Linux is not always the answer. Free software doesn't always mean cheaper TCO -- and this is amplified greatly in a desktop environment.

This becomes a bigger deal when you need to meet regulatory compliance. Something simple, like the HIPPA requirement for screen savers to kick in after so many minutes on all workstations, becomes monumentally more difficult to enforce across a multi-user environment. Yes, there's probably hundreds of approaches for this in a Linux environment, and that's actually one of the problems. The other is finding someone who can implement all the "tricks" required to do this win a Windows based environment works out of the box.

Don't get me wrong, I still use and prefer Linux for much, but it's about the appropriate tool for the job.
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:24 AM on May 14, 2012


I'd guess that thin clients are viable today, but probably were not as recently as 4 years ago. Certainly in 2001 a thin client was a terrible investment.
Something simple, like the HIPPA requirement for screen savers to kick in
Heh.. I was thinking about the power wasted by those CRTs in the picture from the Library. They burn as much in electricity in a year as it would cost to replace them with more efficient LCDs (okay, if you do the math carefully it might be a 2-3 year payout, but still...).
posted by Chuckles at 12:11 PM on May 14, 2012


« Older Under everything, just another human being, I...   |   Carrol Shelby, R.I.P. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments