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Beware MS bearing gifts, DoD staff warned. Allegedly

'Gifts from a prohibited source'? Good heavens...

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Could this possibly be true? An anonymous tipster claiming to work for the US Department of Defense sends us what he alleges is a message from the DoD's office of legal counsel to staff. "Beware of Microsoft Software Computer gifts," says the subject line.

Well indeedy-doody. But shouldn't it be the network managers telling people to beware of Microsoft software? No, silly, that's not what they mean here. "It has come to the attention of the DoD and Navy Ethics Offices," it continues, "that a number of personnel have received full versions of Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003 and Microsoft Office OneNote 2003 through the mail from Microsoft Corporation. These gifts were preceded in the mail by a card announcing that the software would be arriving 'in the coming weeks.' The card noted that the software products were being sent 'without obligation.'"

"These items have been determined to be gifts from a prohibited source" (we're sure any source code jokes here are entirely unintentional), "and may not be accepted by DoD employees. 5 CFR 2635.202. Therefore, military & civilian personnel are not permitted to accept these gifts. If received, the items should be returned to Microsoft."

True or not? Whatever, there's a general difficulty presented for vendors by the differences in standards between the private and the public and government sectors, and although no company is going to be dope enough to deliberately sprinkle improper gifts around government departments, the differences make it pretty easy for some unwary grunt to goof. It's perfectly legal to give stuff to private sector (legal, not necessarily OK, but that's another issue*), so if you're used to that you could easily misread the boundary lines defining a particular government department's facade of sanctity. So if it's true, Microsoft, we forgive you, because we know it just had to be an isolated error. But we're sure it isn't true really. ®

* Which reminds us - as far as we know that copy of Office 2003 you promised us still hasn't arrived.

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