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Summary and Comments

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Category: 

Personal_Computers

Date: 

1998-05-21 07:43:01

Subject: 

Where to Get Help With Your PC

  Link:

http://online.guardian.co.uk/computing/895675553-bug.html

Comment: 

It's easier to fix or replace a noncompliant PC than a mainframe. But there are a lot of PC's. I keep thinking of Joey (Brandon de Wilde), standing outside the saloon, watching an unarmed Shane (Alan Ladd) face down a room full of mean cowboys. "But Shane, there's too many of them." Shane proceeds to get beaten up untill Joey's dad (Van Hefflin) intervenes.

Joey's dad is facing his own room full of cowboys this time. They will get beaten to a pulp.

But a few better-armed PC users will muddle through. If the grid stays up, they will have an advantage. Here's how.

This is from THE GUARDIAN (May 21).

* * * * * * * *

In a PC, dates can be held at four levels. At the bottom is the realtime clock (RTC) chip on the PC’s main circuit board. The RTC is read by the PC’s Bios (basic input/output system) chip, which is also on the motherboard. The Bios feeds the time to the PC’s operating system, which may be Microsoft’s Dos or a version of Windows. The operating system time is then used by applications such as Microsoft Word or Sage’s accounting programs.

In fact, the vast majority of realtime clock chips in PCs are not strictly Y2K compliant because they use two-digit years. This shouldn’t matter, for most purposes, because the Bios is supposed to “know” about the century date problem and handle it. Even if the Bios chip is not compliant, it still may not matter: the operating system should also “know” about the problem and be able to correct it, as Microsoft Windows 98 and NT4 do.

But what if an operating system or application has been programmed to bypass the Bios chip — a notoriously poor time-keeper — and get its time straight from the realtime clock? The PC may technically be “Year 2000 compliant” but the date will still be wrong. Worse, even if all the PC’s hardware and software can handle four-digit years, a system may still have Y2K problems, because programs may still allow two digits to be used for years. Since every PC has a different mixture of clocks, Bios chips, operating systems, applications, and users, there’s no substitute for checking each system individually. . . .

The basic tests for a PC are therefore to see if it handles the “rollover” to January 1, 2000 automatically both with the power on and off, and to see if it accepts and/or retains the correct date when restarted after 2000. It’s easy enough to do these tests in Dos by typing “date” and “time” and entering suitable values such as 31-12-99 and 23:59:00. (For preference, start the PC from a Dos system floppy, or with Windows 95, press F8 and choose the command line prompt. Back up your data first, and remember to reset the correct time after.) . . .

Accounting and financial programs are the most critical date-related applications for most home and small business users, and Sage is trying to get all its users Y2K ready ahead of time. “We’ve already spoken to or mailed all our quarter of a million users,” says Sage’s marketing director Mark Searles, “because a lot of small businesses don’t have Web access. It cost a small fortune but as market leader we felt we should take a lead.”

Searles says: “About 70 per cent [of Sage users] are now on compliant products, based on BSI standards, and the rest are changing pretty rapidly.”

Douglas Gee, from the Bournemouth-based software tools supplier RMC agrees that this level of compliance is acceptable for consumers and many other purposes. However, he reckons there are cases — particularly where PCs are used as realtime controllers in industrial situations and in “mission critical” situations — when it’s best to apply a hardware fix to a hardware problem. . . .

Essential Web addresses:

• Compaq http://www.compaq.com/year2000/

• IBM http://www.ibm.com/IBM/year2000/ • Microsoft http://www.microsoft.com/year2000/

• NSTL http://www.nstl.com/

• RighTime http://www.rightime.com/

• RMC http://www.rmc-esp.com/

• Sage http://www.sage.com/year2000/

Link: 

http://online.guardian.co.uk/computing/895675553-bug.html

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