Re: Calgary’s e-health glitch: What went wrong (July 21)

Your story on Calgary’s e-health glitch brought back some old memories.

Back in 1974, I was involved in running the

national level financial system at the old department of Health and Welfare Canada. We also used this system to obtain performance measurement statistics from the regions and departmental hospitals, including the Charles Camsell General Hospital in Edmonton. However, unknown to us in Ottawa, the staff at the hospital were not using our reports but had their own local system for generating financial and statistical reports. Ever heard that before? In any case, they decided to realign the performance measurement statistical codes and did not bother to tell anyone in Ottawa, so that we could update the table names for the new codes in the departmental national level reporting system as well.

When we were doing our quality assurance on these reports a number of glaring errors surfaced as a result of the Camsell hospital staff switching some of the performance indicator codes. The most noteworthy was the switch between deaths in the hospital and the number of pounds of laundry done during the month of the switch. On reading our reports, it looked liked the hospital had 60,000+ deaths, but only did 6 pounds of laundry that month. We had quite a chuckle over this and quickly concluded that the hospital’s lack of cleanliness standards was obviously causing considerable deaths in the hospital.

However, the point to be made is that whether one is using an ancient mainframe based financial system, or a new e-health system, there must be proper change control testing and ongoing quality assurance testing. Back in 1974 most organizations had the staff to assign to these functions, and at HWC we caught this error shortly after the first monthly reports with these errors were received. Those in Ottawa using these performance measurement statistics were quickly alerted. However, today, many organizations do not have the staff to adequately carry out the necessary change control testing or the ongoing quality assurance testing that is really required, and someday they will regret it, as they are probably doing so in Calgary today.

Doug Lingard
Ottawa


Re: 64-bit by bit (July 20)

Regarding your July 20th article on the delay in getting servers up to 64-bit, it’s a shame that the IT world in general and the IT press specifically still seem unaware of a computing platform that has been 64-bit since 1994 and is on its nineth generation of 64-bit chip — the eServer iSeries from IBM. This platform has been consistently rated number 1 in TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) by IDC, and can run Windows, Linux, AIX as well as OS/400. It can be logically partitioned so that multiple environments or OSes can be run in a single hardware footprint and provides dynamic resource movement between partitions to accommodate processing peaks. While your article states concerns that most application will not have been recoded for 64-bit, every application running on the iSeries is already running 64-bit — and even more impressive is that fact that not a single application had to be changed or even re-compiled in 1994 when the platform converted from 48-bit to 64-bit. Add to this the fact that the platform has never been hacked, contains no viruses and is priced for not only the SMB market to compete against Intel servers but can scale to handle huge mainframe like workloads.

To summarize, all I can say is, in the iSeries world your article inspires the phrase: been there, done that, have the T-shirt.

Mike Warkentin
Product Sales Technology Leader
DataMirror Corp.


Re: Doesn’t ANYONE want to be a programmer? (July 19)

Bill Gates can get as misty-eyed as he wants when he bemoans the lack of people enthusiastically entering computer science programs. Viewed as a boring profession? Sure. For some maybe. While I’m sure your point about more people wanting to play computer games than build them is accurate, that is nothing new and I believe perhaps you have also missed the point. How many editorials, op eds and general news stories does a high school graduate need to read, hear or see before he believes that, upon graduation, he will be competing with graduates from India, China and other developing (pun intended) nations? And will the Chinese programmer have $50,000 in student loans to repay? Will the programmer in Madras be paying $1,800 per month for a small apartment? In fact, will those programmers be paid more than the equivalent of the typical North American minimum wage?

Perhaps the next time you have a chance to speak with Bill, you might ask him how many programmers Microsoft employs outside the U.S. and what their average annual wage is. Then calculate the carrying cost of your student loans along with the cost of living in any major city in North America – you do the math.

Bill is right to be concerned. It takes a significant number of graduates to develop just one really good software architect, or a real product innovator. It’s a game of numbers. Trouble is, Bill Gates and the other corporate honchos are creating their own problems. But we will all eventually pay.

Daniel Shipley
gathersoft

Re: Doesn’t ANYONE want to be a programmer? (July 19)

Just read your editorial.

Further to your comments, I would add some additional perspectives. There are not enough jobs, and the declining demand is well known. As companies continue to outsource IT jobs to India and China, there is less demand here for IT workers. Of the jobs that remain in IT in Canada and the United States, well educated and talented new immigrants who are willing to work at about one half to one third the rate of pay are driving down the economic attractiveness that IT jobs have enjoyed for so many years. This can easily be seen in salary rates, but is especially visible in contractor hourly rates. For years I advised young people, including my own children, to get into the software business. As much as I love it, I would not recommend that to young people now – it’s not the great opportunity it once was.

I enjoy your writing — keep up the good work.

David Woodburn
Director, Software Development
Canam Software Labs, Inc.


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