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Daily News

Title: Glitches of the Week

By Leonard Lee, NEWSBYTES April 24, 2000

This is a weekly column from Newsbytes featuring the latest in the weird, bizarre, and unfortunate when it comes to technology.

Sarasota Drawbridge Stuck Up

A computer failure involving a drawbridge along the John Ringling Causeway in Sarasota, Fla., is the cause of numerous traffic delays in the past weeks, during which one side of the bridge gets stuck in the up position. On April 20, the bridge was stuck in the up position for approximately 20 minutes, but this is a relatively short time span when compared to its previous offenses.

According to Gene O'Dell, Florida Department of Transportation district public information director, on April 14, the bridge was locked for almost an hour and a half, starting at 11:30 a.m. The repair crew was only a few feet away from the problem, but they stuck were on the wrong side of the opened bridge.

So a vehicle had to be found to shuttle them to the correct side, where the repairs could be made. Since the incident on the 14th, measures have been taken to keep one mechanic on each side of the bridge every time it goes up. "The failure was caused by a limit switch malfunction," said O'Dell. "The limit switch tells the computer where the bridge is at all times." The bridge has other problems as well.

According to O'Dell, the constant rehabilitation of the bridge and juxtaposing new and old parts only causes problems. FDOT has been trying to replace the bridge for the past ten years, but city officials like the ambiance a drawbridge built in 1958 gives the city. The issue is currently in litigation between the two parties.

New Yahoo Members Grouped in Same Account

Some people signing up for a free Yahoo e-mail account late last week were lumped together in the same account with other new members because of a technical problem. "It only affect a small percentage of the total people signing up during a brief period of time," said Lisa Pollock, Senior Producer of Yahoomail. "It didn't affect those Yahoomail users who had existing accounts." According to Pollock, during that time multiple users were assigned the same particular email address.

When Yahoo was notified of the problem by a user, they quickly corrected the problem. The time frame during which new users were affected spanned about 48 hours. None of the users' personal account information was available to others.

Elder Care Agencies Receive Funds Late

Government payment of over $6 million to 171 elderly care agencies of West Australia is being delivered three weeks late due to a data transfer oversight in the state's computer as reported by newspaper The West Australian. The federally subsidized agencies dipped into their sick and holiday bank accounts to cover expenses and salaries while their payment was delayed.

The money, which is delivered quarterly and usually by the start of April, should arrive shortly. The cause of the delay is a computer upgrade at the Health Department. During the upgrade, some of the data wasn't properly transferred from one computer to another. Not all payments to the elder care agencies were delayed. Some $4.3 million was delivered without mishap. The timely disbursement of this allotment occurred because it is given out monthly rather than quarterly.

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-- (, April 24, 2000

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