ATF Working With “Experts” to Resolve eForms Performance Problems

courtesy princelaw.com

We’re sure our FFL friends will be comforted in the knowledge that the dedicated public servants at BATFE are working with the best IT minds our tax dollars can buy in their attempts to fix their balky eFile system. In the mean time, they’ll be changing the hamsters rebooting the system four times a day, an hour-long process that will take the system down. Fortunately, only three of those will happen during business hours. Don’t worry though, gun dealers. If you like your eForms system, you can keep your eForms system. Really.

From: <Lee.Alston-Williams@usdoj.gov>
Date: February 20, 2014 at 2:58:39 PM CST
Subject: ATF eForms – Inscrease in Scheduled Restarts – Pay.gov Service Outage

Good afternoon:

As  you are aware, eForms has had performance issues for the past three weeks. We are diligently working with experts in the field to resolve the issues. Until we can get the issues resolved we will be implementing automated restarts of the server at 4:00 am, 9:00 am, NOON, and 3:00 pm eastern time. We have determined that the restart of the servers clears “stuck threads” on the servers and improves the overall performance of eForms. We realize that the unscheduled restarts were disrupting your workday and this will allow you to plan around the scheduled restarts.

Restarts will take approximately one hour to complete during which time eForms will not be available. Again, this is only a temporary measure until a more permanent solution is implemented.

Again, daily restarts of the eForms servers will be conducted daily at the following times until further notice:

4:00 am – 5:00 am

9:00 am – 10:00 am

NOON – 1:00 pm

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Finally, Pay.gov has notified us that they will be upgrading their system on Saturday, February 22, 2014, from 6:00 PM to Midnight Eastern Time. Pay.gov has advised us that  systems using  pay.gov will experience a service outage during this period.  This means that you will not be able to pay the tax for the eForms 1 and 4 during this time period.  Forms can be created and saved to your draft folder until the upgrade is completed and the taxes can be paid.

Thank you for your patience as we try to improve eForms.

Sincerely,

Lenora (Lee) Alston-Williams
Industry Liasion Analyst – IT
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives
Office of Enforcement Programs and Services
Firearms and Explosives Services Division
99 New York Avenue, N.E. (6.E-333)
Washington, DC 20226
E-mail:  Lee.Alston-Williams@atf.gov
Office:   (202) 648-7166
Fax:     (202) 648-7166

[h/t Kyle M.]

comments

  1. avatar Matt in FL says:

    Cue the tinfoil hat brigade.

    1. avatar Daniel Silverman says:

      Clearly they are not the best, I mean Nick and I never got a call!!! Sheesh!!!

  2. Are these the same “Experts” that built the Obamacare website?

    1. avatar michael nieto says:

      beat me to it

    2. avatar Excedrine says:

      You mean the so-called “experts” from more than 50 different — and all of them foreign — companies and sub-contractors that were physically incapable of producing work that was compatible with literally anybody else’s that was on the project, churned out a website that was only 75% built at launch, had woefully insufficient server bandwidth to handle the tens of millions of people that tried (and failed) to use it, and still cost us $632M?

      Are we talking about those “experts”?

      1. avatar Jus Bill says:

        Yes, those.

    3. avatar Rifleman762 says:

      “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

      “MY GOD- is that all we have to do???”

  3. avatar Jeremy says:

    I have no words to adequately describe the level of incompetence displayed in this announcement……

  4. avatar Gene says:

    So nice things got through to production and is in active use before they declare and start acting upon performance issues. What is SDLC again?

    Bah, this’ll just be used to justify a larger budget next FY.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      BINGO!!!

  5. avatar Ralph says:

    The BATFE will be working closely on this project with its new adviser, Kathleen Sebelius.

    We are doomed.

  6. avatar Hannibal says:

    “Fortunately, only three of (the four) those will happen during business hours.”

    Yeah that makes sense.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Well, having two or three of them during nighttime hours, while the system isn’t getting gummed up by activity, wouldn’t make a lot of sense…

      1. avatar Daniel Silverman says:

        Having to reboot 4 times a day on any system makes no sense what so ever, period…

        1. avatar JR says:

          Must be running Windows….

        2. avatar Have Blue says:

          Not to mention the reboot taking an HOUR?!? What, are they swapping floppies on a 386?

        3. avatar Matt in FL says:

          Well, if you find that it makes it work while you’re working on the real fix, it’s better than doing nothing and just letting it sit there and stew…

        4. avatar johnmackay70 says:

          Why don’t they just press the turbo button on that 386?

        5. avatar Jus Bill says:

          Hey JR, Win 95. With the Jet database.

  7. avatar The Original Brad says:

    lol! She can’t even be bothered to proof read her email, “inscrease”. Good one Lenora. With thorough work like that, I am sure your crack team will have the problem solved very soon…

  8. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    Funny thing is I am a coder. Even I wouldn’t do the job. The whole idea is unconstitutional.

    1. avatar Mario says:

      You mean you wouldn’t take the job and just have the system “accidentally” automatically approve some post-86 machine guns where the purpose given was “freedom”?

  9. avatar Jeff says:

    “stuck threads” i.e. transactions that will probably be lost with no notification of process failure.

    oops, your eFile application never completed since you applied five months ago. sorry, we forgot to tell you.

    abolish the NFA. if you live some place where you can safely ignore it, do so.

  10. avatar Steve says:

    “We have determined that the restart of the servers clears “stuck threads” on the servers”
    Breaking new ground in the IT industry, BATFE determines that rebooting kills a hung program. Good job, guys

  11. avatar GSRpositive says:

    “We have top men working on it now.”
    “Who?”
    “Top… men.”

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      I think she meant to say “persons”, if her hyphenated last name is any indicator.

    2. That was exactly what went through my mind when I read that. Didn’t think people would get the reference, though.

    3. avatar TR says:

      Is that a Raiders of the Lost Ark reference?

  12. avatar Mario says:

    Why don’t they have failover for these rebooting problems? Why aren’t they able to identify stuck threads and kill them without a need to reboot? These are problems that have already been solved, and solved well, in the industry. The problems are due to a poorly designed system. You get what you pay for with engineers, and with the government you get the lowest bidders.

  13. avatar Karlan in ATX says:

    They aren’t freeing used memory and letting mutant threads take over….. pathetic, this is programming 101. I wrote more reliable programs when I was 15 years old…. However, I taught myself and didn’t get thrown through college like 99% of gov’t programmers who most likely didn’t even want that career choice to start.

    Another problem now is these crap languages like Java have taken over because using ANSI C is “too hard”. Most of these issues are with the WYSIWYG languages. They say with those languages you blow off your foot, with C you blow off your whole leg…. At least we would know something was wrong vs nagging problems which only crop up after X transactions…..

    Any large gov’t program should have more code written for testing than the actual program, if not equal.

    “Armchair quarterbacking….” to be fair, I’ve been a denture tech for ~10 years now….

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Testing? You mean we need to do testing?

  14. avatar joleme says:

    If I had that kind of uptime on my network, I would be fired in less than a month. Maybe I need to get a govt systems admin job, apparently you only have to produce results a few hours a day.

  15. avatar Anonymous says:

    ATF should work with “non-experts” on dismantling the eforms process.

    ATF doesn’t care about crime or safety anyways. They care about additional taxation of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. As long as they are getting their cut of the profits they are usually pretty happy. Yup… that is what it is about… money.

  16. avatar aweds says:

    At what point do consistent and growing delays from ATF for processing NFA forms become an active form of “infringement” subject to a law suit? This law has been on the books since 1934. There is no earthly reason that paper forms should take 12-15 months or that an electronic system should take 3-5 months. I’d love to see lawyers cuing up if a woman had to wait 12 months for government permission for an abortion…

  17. avatar Jus Bill says:

    Aside from running on a 286, I think the biggest problem with eForms is that the consultant who wrote the undocumented MS BASIC spaghetti code in the days of yore has long since passed away. So now they have to figure out what its doing and how to fix it while it’s running – somewhat like tuning up your car while you’re beating feet down the freeway at 90.

    I wouldn’t take that job on a bet.

  18. avatar Matt says:

    I think you mean the lowest bidding IT experts money can buy…

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