Brief Friday Mac rant
For PureEdge Viewer to function properly, your computer must meet the following system requirements:
Windows 98, ME, NT 4.0, 2000, XP
500 Mhz processor
128 MB of RAM
40 MB disk space
Web browser: Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher, Netscape Communicator 4.5 - 4.8, Netscape 6.1, 6.2, or 7
That's right. No Macintosh client. Once again, Mac users get the shaft. So do Linux and Unix users. This might not be such a big deal if we were talking about a business environment, where Windows rules the roost and at least 95% of desktops are Wintel boxes. But it's a different story in science and academia, where the vast majority of federal grant applications originate. Where I work now, I'd guess that at least one-third to one-half of the researchers use Macs. In the basic science departments where I've worked, the number is probably even a little higher, with some Unix and Linux users thrown into the mix.
Even more annoying is this suggestion for Mac users that they use PC emulation software (Virtual PC being in essence the only game in town these days) to submit their grants. I've used Virtual PC. It's not a bad emulation. However, unless you happen to have the latest, greatest, biggest, baddest Mac, it's painfully slow. Also, there are problems with networking. For instance, with our new HIPAA-compliant network that's being implemented at our institution right now, I'm not so sure how well Virtual PC would work. I already know that it won't work to connect to the secure web server that some doctors use to access radiology images and reports remotely.
Gregory Cook, an Associate Professor of Chemistry at North Dakota State University hit the nail on the head in an open letter to his legislator and to the Department of Health and Human Services:
This system prohibits anyone who does not use the Microsoft Windows operating system from applying for federal research dollars. I am referring to the requirement of the grants.gov website to use proprietary forms software that will only run under Windows to submit a grant application. First, I think it is completely ridiculous to move to a system that does not have cross-platform access. The National Science Foundation has had electronic grant submissions in place using web-based forms and PDF-formated files for the last five years, and it has been performing at an excellent level. Second, this requires everyone who applies for a federal grant to purchase Microsoft Windows, and that is simply a ringing endorsement for the Microsoft corporation.
Amen, brother. I'd also point out that the NIH Loan Repayment Program and the U. S. Army have also used web-based systems for years now (although the Army requires submission through an institutional representative). However, based on And here's Dr. Cook's money quote:
The federal government should not endorse one computer operating environment to be used for anyone funded by federal agencies. All this does is provide a significant guaranteed market for the Microsoft corporation to install their operating system on all computers, not just PC’s. Ideally, I would like to see HHS/grants.gov develop an electronic grant submission system that does not rely on a single operating system. This should not be difficult, and many companies and agencies routinely use web-based forms and PDF documents.
Precisely. Worse, the government is going to force all its funding agencies to move over to this software:
The President's Management Agenda http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2002/mgmt.pdf and Public Law 106-107 require all Federal Agencies to use a single electronic system to post funding opportunities and accept electronic applications for Federal grant opportunities. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has chosen Grants.gov to implement the President's Management Agenda and the Department of Health and Human Services to serve as the managing partner for Grants.gov. For additional information about Grants.gov and P.L. 106-107 go to http://grants.gov/AboutUs?campaignid=topnavtracking081105.
The government claims that it will have a platform-independent solution by November 2006, although other sources indicate that it may not be until spring 2007 or even later. Why so long? (I was planning on submitting at least a couple of grant applications between now and next November; so unfortunately I guess I'm going to have to deal with this mess.) Why should investigators who don't use Windows, a significant percentage of scientists, be forced to use a cobbled-together solution such as using Virtual PC, which isn't cheap? And what about Linux and Unix users? To me it seems like a monumental screw-up not to have simply developed a web-based submission system from the very start.