why databases are more interesting than operating systems

A discovery Cort Dougan and I made 10 years ago when we first got a glimpse at the mighty Oracle building on the Bay and realized that, commercially, operating systems are an afterthought.

This article shows that things are just getting better in a $500 million project!!

When tested, the new system failed to find matches for terrorist-suspect names that were spelled slightly different from the name entered into the system, a common challenge when translating names from Arabic to English. It also could not perform basic searches of multiple words connected with terms such as “and” and “or.”

Because the format of the data in the current database is “complex, undocumented, and brittle,” some significant data will be lost when the system is replaced by Railhead, according to the congressional report. For example, scraps of information such as phone and credit-card numbers found when law-enforcement and intelligence officials empty a suspect’s pocket, often called “pocket litter,” will not be moved to the new system.

Railhead was supposed to be completed by year’s end but has been delayed. Nearly half of the 72 so-called “action items” for the program were delayed as of June, congressional investigators found.

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