Readers weigh in on. . .

Re: City Limitless (Feb. 6)

You have struck a cord with your comments and I believe you are absolutely correct to a point. I think there is a critical mass of people, resources, social

development and an inquisitive attitude that must be available before creative minds can really explode with ideas. I was going to say blossom, but the atomic bomb analogy is too good to pass up. Creative minds are very much like uranium, without a critical mass and other resources you’ll get a bit of a glow and if you keep uranium dispersed it will eventually turn to lead. However, refine it, mold it and focus the power and who knows where you’ll end up!

It would be an interesting sociological investigation to determine what that critical mass is before cultures do more than sustain themselves. I’m currently reading a fascinating book by Gavin Menzies, 1421 The Year China Discovered the World, in which he links clues from around the globe that point to a huge flotilla of very sophisticated Chinese ships that left China that year and split into fleets that circumnavigated the world on a voyage of discovery. Some of the maps with details of both coasts of the Americas created by the Chinese he believes made their way to Italian and Portuguese navigators before Christopher Columbus left for the new world.

There are a number of things that pre-Web cultures had to overcome before they could blossom. For the most part, those are taken for granted today. I don’t think it has happened yet but I strongly suspect the Web will or should eventually bring the world’s creative minds together to help form the critical mass for our race’s next explosion of ideas. I just hope it all doesn’t stop at the next explosion.

Ken Swanston

Re: Provinces ponder life after Merx (Feb. 5)

As a long-term user of the Merx system it was very disappointing to see the giant price increase by Bank of Montreal last June. Mediagrif seems even harder to reach and hungrier than was the previous contract holder. I am of the feeling that such a tendering system should be available at minimum cost, particularly to small business users.

Alfred W. Egerton
Egetec Enterprises Inc.

Re: Provinces ponder life after Merx (Feb. 5)

I haven’t looked at the prices recently, but in the fall of 2002, I stopped being a Merx subscriber as they were asking for a monthly subscription fee of some $30 plus charging for each tender requested. This should be looked into and if it still is a monthly subscription rate, plus per item charges, Mr. Gadbois should be called to task for this statement.

I also offer this clip from their Web site in support of my claim:

    It takes a minute for our call centre agents to update your profile to a regular subscription so that you can begin benefiting even more from Merx. A call centre agent is available at anytime to upgrade your subscription. . . If you choose to change your account to a Merx subscriber, your low monthly subscription fee will only begin the following month.

A monthly subscription fee is not a one-time fee.

Ingrid Kostron

Re: ’Slammer’ shut (Jan. 31)

Given that we already have the VAN network for EDI financial transactions, isn’t the parallel system already in its infancy? I suspect that all we need is a better interface to this system to make it generally acceptable. That and an Internet access port, but that may just corrupt the VAN as well.

Barry Doerbecker

Re: Canadian research paints bleak picture for e-retail (Jan. 30)

Buying merchandise on the Internet can indeed be frustrating. Recently I ordered a new notebook computer from Dell via the Internet. Dell’s interactive ‘build-your-own’ notebook application was excellent. At the end I elected to use my CIBC Visa card to pay for it. Expecting my machine to arrive in a couple days on my doorstep, I was quite annoyed to instead receive an e-mail from Dell informing me that my order had been received, but subsequently cancelled by Dell. Apparently CIBC would not approve the credit card payment due to the fact it was several thousand dollars, and the order was placed over the Internet. I was forced to call up CIBC Visa to explain the situation, get it pre-approved, then contact Dell to reinstate the order. I received the computer several days later than planned, after this intervention.

In my opinion, CIBC Visa basically does not adequately support consumers making purchases on the Internet with their credit card. I have not had this experience with similar-sized purchases on other cards. The CIBC Visa people explained to me that this was their policy, and it was necessary to control fraud. They explained that they did not decline the purchase, but referred it, meaning they had to talk to me to verify the transaction. Apparently Dell doesn’t understand this transaction response though, since they canceled my order (perhaps the cancellation is an automated process that doesn’t understand this response?). While I certainly don’t oppose CIBC making every effort to control fraud, this is just not the way I expect my purchases on the Internet to work.

I have reached two conclusions from this experience. First, credit card suppliers must find a better way to prevent fraud then forcing me to pre-approve my intended purchases, or I simply will choose not to purchase via the Internet. Second, I will use a more “”Internet-friendly”” credit card to make future purchases over the Internet.

David Woodburn

Re: The penguin puts on a tie (Jan. 24)

As articles go, yours was definitely not a bad read, nor were your warnings without some very good intentions. Unfortunately much of the general fear and confusion about open source is being attributed to press comments, where risks are implied even if those risks don’t exist in reality. That’s what I found in your comment: “”Companies also have to figure out the licensing system for each (GPL for MySQL and BSD for PostgreSQL) and whether that entails sharing code or paying fees, further complicating matters.””

The BSD licence doesn’t require either, so there’s not much to get confused about it. Even the oldest and most legacy-entrenched IT folks we’ve worked with were able to grasp this, and their first access to any real source code under the covers, very quickly.

There are very serious business considerations to making any IT investment, and the risks of losing corporate IP is now real in using FLOSS or proprietary software. Your observation on Microsoft’s new licensing comes close to covering off that issue with their open code agreements.

There’s no single best solution that can be made to work for everyone. With all that said, open source is very much enterprise-ready for most applications, and the growing number of companies and governments who are either approving or mandating its use help to indicate the importance that it now has in the market.

Geoff Davidson
PostgreSQL Inc.

Letters to the editor must include the writer’s name and company name along with an e-mail address or other contact information. All letters become the property of Editors reserve the right to edit submissions for length and content.

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