Y2K `FaxBack’

Prudential’s Kit

Y2K: Worried Yet?

Corrections or additions?

Y2K and PCs: Start Worrying?

These articles were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 6,

1999. All rights reserved.

The bottom line about the Millennium Bug is that

Murphy’s

Law — that everything that could go wrong will go wrong —

will come down with the same punctuality as the Macy’s ball above

Times Square. From phones to airplanes to elevators to mainframes,

anything computerized is subject to malfunction when the big tick

arrives.

As the hour of Y2K reckoning creeps closer, doomsday enthusiasts are

tweaking the intensity of their Y2K prognostications. The fixes for

Y2K are proving much more expensive than even the most pessimistic

predictions. The Securities & Exchange Commission has required public

companies to disclose their remedies, and the estimates have soared.

Business Week reports that the average expenditure is 26 percent more

than previous estimates. AT&T has raised the prospective tab from

$300 million to $900 million, for instance.

But a completely unheralded universe of chaos could also be unleashed

on the PC world. No, this won’t have the magnitude or malice of the

mainframe Millennium Bug, but it could cause small businesses serious

problems. While Macintoshes seem immune to Y2K problems, experts are

warning that many DOS and Windows-based personal computers are far

from immune. Many PC clocks still use two-digit date fields. When

the clock hits "00," it will be interpreted by older

computers’

basic input/output systems (BIOS) as 1900 or 1980, a potentially

problematic

scenario for many computers still in use.

Another problem is with leap years. There will be a February 29th

in 2000, although there was not one in 1900. That poses another

potential

source of trouble for some systems.

Jim Scott, chief financial officer of VLearn International at

4365 Route 1 South (609-514-5000), estimates that 90 percent of all

PCs sold before 1997 are going to have a BIOS program. "Some of

the BIOSs will be fixable with software fixes and some of the BIOSs

themselves are going to have to be changed out. You’ll have a

situation

where a lot of people have to do something about it."

And in this regard, most PC users are in luck. Free PC Y2K diagnostic

kits are floating around in cyberspace. The National Software Testing

Laboratories’ Ymark2000, a free program, can be downloaded from

http://www.nstl.com.. This dandy little tool takes a few

minutes to download and activate and runs on your computer’s DOS.

U.S. 1 tried the software on four of its machines. Two of the systems

— a two-year-old with Windows 95 and a five-year-old running

Windows

3.1 — required a manual date change to enable the system to

recognize

the year 2000. Once that date change was made, however, the two

systems

would both be able to handle the leap year changes. Two new computers

— PCs with Windows 98 and a newer version of Windows 95 —

both passed all of the YMark2000 tests.

If your system is non-compliant, the NSTL reports, the fix can be

as simple as a BIOS upgrade or as expensive as getting a whole new

computer. Software programs can fix the problem, but they must be

run every time the computer is booted. However, the NSTL feels that

software patches are "not reliable."

Here’s a couple more solutions: Manually set the date every time the

system is turned on. Or have the date automatically retrieved from

a network. However, the NSTL warns, "most networks seem to exhibit

human traits too."

There’s yet another host of Y2K software snags, and most won’t be

discovered until the cold winds of January, 2000, blow. "There

are over 20,000 PC software programs on the market and that’s not

including all the versions and revisions and updates of software

packages,"

says Scott. "Nobody knows the full extent of the Y2K compliance

of those software programs."

VLearn feels that the software dilemma is best solved by the

individual.

Its package, PC-Aid 2000, is an "employee awareness training

package

for corporations with large PC networks," says Scott. This works

at the desktop level.

So the Millennium Bug for PCs is a dust mite compared to the

mainframe’s

tse-tse fly. Gene Goroschko, senior systems engineer for

Princeton

Computer Support at Princeton Business Park in Rocky Hill, is relieved

that most of that paranoia is staying within mainframe environs.

"The

average home user who’s not using any type of accounting package,

the only thing you’re going to have is messed up dates, and that’s

not a very big deal," he says.

The biggest PC-based problems will affect small businesses that use

PCs for accounting functions.

However, Goroschko reports, not much is being made of the potential

problems that could be encountered by Windows 95 users who don’t

upgrade

to Windows 98. Only the most-recent Windows 95 release is compliant,

he says. "I think there should be a lot more said that most 95

versions are not compliant."

"We are going to survive no matter what the doom and gloom people

are saying," says Mike Cervine, a Y2K project manager for

Panasonic in Secaucus. Cervine is also co-founder of the New Jersey

Year 2000 User’s Group, which meets at various locations around the

state. (For more information, contact Cervine at E-mail:

cervinem@panasonic.com.)

"The most serious problems are going to occur in businesses that

need to use dates a lot. For the rest of us, it’s probably not a

serious

matter."

Ultimately, says Cervine, dysfunctional date fields are just a

reflection

of their architect: us. "The real problem is we ourselves and

the way we use PCs," says Cervine. "For a number of years

part of the problem was people like Bill Gates saying, `There’s not

a problem.’"

But Cervine does see a bright side: For once, he reports, MIS people

have an absolutely fixed deadline. "It’s a unique experience,"

he says. "We really won’t know all of the pieces until that day

happens, probably the next business day (that’s a Monday). This one,

if you miss it, you’re out of business."

Top Of Page
Y2K `FaxBack’

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has

launched a new FaxBack service to help small business owners deal

with the Y2K millennium bug. This service gives small business owners

and the public access to Year 2000 information and possible solutions.

SBA’s Y2K FaxBack service is available 24 hours-a-day by calling a

toll-free number: 1-877-RU-Y2K-OK (1-877-789-2565). The caller can

make a selection from a menu and within minutes receive a fax targeted

to their specific Y2K needs. In dealing with the Year 2000 problem,

SBA urges small business owners to take three immediate steps:

Determine your business’s Y2K risk with affected hardware,

software, or embedded data chips. A self-assessment test is available

on the SBA’s Internet Y2K web page. (www.sba.gov/y2k/)

If you are vulnerable, take action now. Don’t wait. Fix

your problem and test the results. Develop contingency plans to deal

with effects of Y2K problems outside your control.

Stay informed. Accurate information may change as

solutions

evolve.

Top Of Page
Prudential’s Kit

A free kit of worksheets and templates can help entrepreneurs work

through their Year 2000 vulnerabilities. You need to do this, says

Irene Dec, vice president of corporate information technology

for Prudential (E-mail: irene.dec@prudential.com). It’s not enough

to merely look at your hardware and software: "The year 2000 is

a business problem, not just a technical challenge. It impacts all

governments and businesses globally, everyone from the federal

government

to local municipalities."

"At Prudential we have moved aggressively on the Year2K fix so

that it will be a non-event to our customers. Also a year ago we put

together a Year 2000 kit for small businesses that cannot afford to

hire a consultant," says Dec.

Available free on Prudential’s home page

(http://www.prudential.com),

the kit explains what the Year 2000 problem is, helps you answer the

question `What do I have to do?’, and offers a 15-page plan to help

solve Year 2000 problems.

The three phases of Year 2000 solutions are, says Dec, awareness,

assessment, and action. Her kit provides worksheets and templates

similar to those you would use for a "do-it-yourself" will.

One of the worksheets, for instance, is an inventory, and it tells

you what you need to look for, how to document it, and where to get

information. For instance, you must write down the manufacturer’s

name, model number, year of manufacture, and serial number for each

of your computers. Then you go to that manufacturer’s website and

look up whether that particular model is Y2K compliant. Manufacturers’

webpages can also yield compliance information on cellular phones

and software.

The worksheet helps you figure out what you are using a particular

computer or piece of equipment for. Is it supporting a core business?

Or are you only doing word processing on it? And what system is it

running on? The core business worksheet requires you to estimate the

risk factors for hardware and software for each function: accounts

payable, accounts receivable, advertising and marketing, invoicing,

payroll, and tax reporting.

A business owner can track through the worksheets and realize, "It

is not a big deal for us, all I need to do is replace one PC,"

or "It is a big deal, but it will not bring us to a halt."

The most slippery piece for any entrepreneur is in the area of

partners

and suppliers.

"If I am not going to be able to get my supplies, I may want extra

supplies in the fourth quarter, or I may want to think about who I

would go to if my current supplier is not capable," says Dec.

Top Of Page
Y2K: Worried Yet?

Reed Smith Shaw & McClay has identified Y2K-related problems that

could surface in these kinds of business transactions:

Selling your used phone system. If it is not Year

2000-compliant,

Reed Smith advises to sell "as is" and exclude warranties.

Buying a used airplane. Airplanes can have as many as

500 computer chips. This means that everything from the temperature

the on-board coffee to the fuel mixture could get screwed up.

Trying to get your line of credit approved. Banks may

want to know if your business has a Year 2000 plan first.

Scheduling meetings overseas after 2000. While the FAA

is working diligently to bring the Y2K problem under control, some

are worried that efforts by other countries won’t be as diligent.

Disrupting key business relationships. "The issue

for most companies isn’t so much who is going to sue us or even who

can we sue, but a more practical problem is will this Y2K problem

cause a commercial divorce to occur for me," says Calvin

Jones

of the law firm.

Jones contends that it is a firm’s legal duty to conduct internal

investigations to determine what could go wrong for them and external

investigations of the companies they do business with. "Among

the things a firm should be doing — and they should consult an

attorney on this — is determine whether business partners can

get out of their contract if there is a Y2K problem," says Jones.

"If there’s a big enough problem, people are going to look at

their contracts and say `hey can I get out of this thing.’ People

are going to get mad at each other and the question is will they be

able to get out of their contract."

Y2K could be a convenient scapegoat for other business difficulties

from which a company might want to extricate itself. "There may

be strains in existing business relationships, maybe market conditions

have changed so that somebody is not getting the kind of deal they

thought they were getting, and they’re looking for a way to get

out,"

said Jones.


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