FROM THE SHOP - DIARY 1/29/99
THE Y2K PROBLEM. I can't begin to count how
many inquiries our Mom 'n Pop computer store has received over the last two
or three years on the year 2,000 (Y2K) computer problem. In years past,
I simply said 'I'm not going to worry about it until at least the year 1999.' Well,
it's January, 1999 and I'm still not going to worry a whole lot about it. It's
a problem, but it's not on my front burner yet. I've got enough
problems to solve for at least the next few months. I do know that
my ancient DOS-based accounting package will have to be upgraded or replaced
and there are many motherboards out there which will have to be replaced
or flashed with Y2K compliant BIOS's. And there certainly will be unforeseen
problems which will not be solved in time.
WHAT IS THE Y2K PROBLEM? Back in the "old" days
computer memory was very small. It was measured in bytes (a byte is
needed to represent a digit in ASCII code) and later in Kbytes as compared
to 10's of MBytes (millions of bytes) in today's PCs (I remember paying $128
for a 2 Kbit chip many years ago). A couple of bytes made a
real difference in a program. To conserve space in memory, many programmers
wrote their software to assume that first two digits in the year were "19" and
data input consisted of, and computation used just the last two
digits of the year. As memory became cheaper old habits did not. Many
of the older PC BIOS's (Basic Input/Output System--the firmware program on
a chip on your motherboard which runs your PC's clock and innards) also assumed
the "19" in the year. So, when the clock clicks past midnight
into the new year, there is going to be a problem. To non-compliant
computers and software, one minute past midnight, 2,000 will become one minute
past midnight, 1900. Accounts receivables in a non-compliant accounting
package that are 30 days overdue may become minus 99 years overdue, etc.,
if the program doesn't bomb. Other programs may test the PC's date
and halt with an error message.
IS YOUR COMPUTER BIOS COMPLIANT? You can easily
test if your computer is compliant. Just follow the instructions available
IS YOUR SOFTWARE COMPLIANT? There
is no way to tell for sure that your software is entirely compliant without
extensive testing. Just because someone says it's compliant doesn't
mean it is. My chief concern is my accounting software. I intend,
at the moment, to (somewhat) trust my vendor's promise that the upgrade is
compliant. If I have the time, I'll buy this software a couple of months
before the end of the year, set-up a sample/practice company, and test as
much as I can. Other than that, I'm just going to take my hits.
The Internet has many pages devoted to the
Y2K problem. Visit InfoSeek and
search on "Y2K" for more info than you will probably ever want
to read (frankly, I find it boring).
"What, me worry?"
Look for reviews on the Zoom Video Camera,
ATI Play98 video adapter, the ATI-TV board, the HP DeskJet 895Cse, and the
long promised article on how to network two Win95/98 computers in the next "few" days,
shop work permitting.