News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus Mail Starting 8/4/98

From: gerard.vanderleun@generalmedia.com (Gerard Van der Leun);
Sent at Fri, 7 Aug 1998 09:25:07 -0700;
Re:Flames and Friendship

Listen to me, you new-age puling dipstick, I've had just about enough of your moist and overblown meditations on just why you and your shriveled little company aren't fit to lick the lint out of Bill Gates’ navel!

Day after day and month after month, I launch my browser and cringe, cringe with my scalp crawling as if a hundred maggots were drilling through my skull into my brain as I see yet another message from the fawningly named "DaveNet."

Yup. That little sender line tells me I'm in for yet another endless romp through the world of angels’ wings and babies’ bottoms that substitutes for reality on your planet. Why do you think we *care* for one split iota of a nanosecond what happens to you as you drill down through the endless layers of imposed female propaganda that has been stuffed into your addled pate about what should or should not be your response to a world that, looking at you and all your endeavors, desires, and achievements just chortles and says, "Dave's not here, man"? The short answer is, dude, we don't care and we don't have to care and if we had to care it would be so insulting and painful to us that we would just phone Guido, slip him a sawbuck, and send him to your office with handcuffs, lead weights, three gallons of nitric acid and a chain saw.

And as for your sniveling little celebration of the lack of flames in response to your narcoleptic damp rant about the emotional age of the Internet and the lack of flames you have gotten... well, did it ever occur to you inside the subatomic space that you call your brain that we just don't consider you worthy of even an iota of a smidgen of a jot of our contempt?

All I can suggest to one as sodden with sappy joy as yourself is that you pull yourself off your life-long project to make kissy-face with Bill Gates (a man whose belly-button lint, as noted above, you are not worthy to Hoover), and get shaking on basic research to clone yourself.

That way, when the real manly men of the world catch up with your scam and tell you to perform self-intercourse with a low-yield thermonuclear weapon you won't have to work alone.

From: jyl@tcl-tk.com (Jacob Levy);
Sent at Thu, 06 Aug 1998 20:48:07 -0700;

I used to be the worst flamer. There was a microsecond delay between reading and responding. I also got flamed a *LOT* and a reputation to live down. And wasted energy trying to defend myself against perceived attackers.

Email is just too easy to get wrong and misunderstand. Nowadays the way I deal with email is that I scan for spam and delete that. Then I read every message once, then delete those I am not interested in or won't respond to, and then I read what's left again. Then I write a reply and read the original message again. And edit my response. And then I file the response if the mail program supports that. And 50% of all these drafts get deleted. Then I let the drafts sit for another nice half hour, especially if there's any chance that someone might misunderstand. Then I send.

And I still get into email flames. Even after all those precautions. Sheesh :) But at least it's a lot less.

From: cameron@michweb.net (Cameron Barrett);
Sent at Thu, 6 Aug 1998 23:33:58 -0400 (EDT);
Some thoughts on branding and a picture.

I'd like to respond to Adam Curry's comments on branding. As a long-time reader of Scripting News (since sometime in 1996), I clearly see three different brands being developed by Dave Winer and UserLand.

  1. DaveNet is Brand No. 1. DaveNet is the long-time newsletter Dave Winer has written and published using the Internet as its primary vehicle of distribution.

  2. Scripting News is Brand No 2. Scripting News is a virtual community, in it's truest sense of the phrase. With a virtual leader (Dave) and a rapidly growing legion of die-hard readers, Scripting News gives a voice to the community it serves. Most importantly, it also gives the readers a way of being heard, mostly through the Mail pages. As a reader, I find the Mail pages much more fascinating than some of the links you post on the Scripting News index page.

  3. Frontier is Brand No. 3. Many people know what Frontier is. When people talk about Frontier it's always Frontier this and Frontier that, but almost never "UserLand Frontier". (Maybe UserLand needs a stronger branding campaign.)

This may be the problem. Many people don't realize that these are seperate items and are supposed to be branded seperately. It used to be that you didn't worry too much about crossing brands and jumping from one brand identity to the next, because you, Dave Winer, were the connection between each. It made sense. Lately, I've seen some hints that you want to seperate these items. Give some clarity to each, and let each become it's own goliath.

I'd like to recommend the books by David Aaker. His most popular is called "Building Strong Brands" and is available in most bookstores. He's recognized in the advertising industry as one of the most knowledgeable people on branding.

You may also agree with me that "Dave Winer" is also a brand. Fast Company magazine did a great issue a about a year ago (August-September 1997 issue) that focused on the "Brand You" theme. They talk all about branding. I beleive they even put up a web site: http://www.brandyou.com

An example of someone using this concept for branding is Peter Merholz, who works at Phoenix-Pop Productions, a hot young web shop in San Francisco. His web site is http://www.peterme.com, and he sigs his emails "The Brand Peter Me."

Anyway, I can ramble on more about branding but I figure you can get plenty of better advice from Aaker's books. In closing, here's a great picture you may want to link to.


Thanks, and keep diggin'

From: tuckerg@inch.com (Tucker Goodrich);
Sent at Thu, 6 Aug 1998 22:44:06 -0400 (EDT);

One last thought on this--your email questioning the lack of y2k disasters got me looking around, and after reading *a lot* of articles on y2k, i noticed a few things:

1. most of the articles are warnings--they predict doom, explain the problem, and give a few horror stories.

2. The stories that *do* mention problems are either second-hand accounts, or stories where the company got worried, tested something, it failed, and started testing everything.

3. Almost *none* of the stories relate disaster of the "Plane crashes because microwave oven in galley crashed on year 2000" sort.

1. sells papers, but is of little help. 2. explains why we haven't heard many of the stories in 3.

Here are a few of the anecdotes:

One woman with the social security admin. described how several years ago a computer crashed (black screen) when a clerk entered data for year 2000. The social security admin is now one of the farthest along in the Government in certifying their computers.

Robert Eaton, chairman of Chrysler and a very outspoken man, told how Chrylser decided to test one of their factories, expecting a few minor failures. So they set the clocks ahead, and *the entire building crashed*. The security system even failed, and no one could get in or out of the building, since the security system controlled the door locks. They got religion fast, and are fixing everything.

Several people described how Boeing's computer systems crashed. Apparently they buy metals *seven* years ahead of time (imagine!) to ensure supplies. Their systems started crashing in 1993, as their budgets for 2000 were entered, and were fixed then. (Hopefully they started worrying about the computers in the planes back then!)

So i imagine the reason we don't hear the stories, is that alot of these things have been happening quietly, but didn't make the news back before tech stories became front page news (what, two years ago?), and were fixed quietly. But IT people talk, and word got around. "Hey did you hear about our factory that shut down when we set the clocks ahead?" I bet that got the guys at Ford's attention real fast.

Here's the scariest--i saw one story that described how FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Administration, you know, the guys from the X-Files movie who secretly run the world?) has decided to solve the y2k problem they have by standardizing on Windows 98 for all their computers... Can you imagine? Conspiracy freaks are going to have way too much fun with this one...

From: dshafer@cnet.com (Dan Shafer);
Sent at Thu, 6 Aug 1998 16:37:49 -0700;
Re:Flames and Friendship

Your story about you and Chuck triggered a deep response in me. Like you, I put my opinions on public view as part of who I am and what I do. Like you, I get my share of flames. I learned a long time ago that the Biblical admonition that, "A soft answer turns away anger" is almost always valid. I respond to every flame I get with a "sorry we have to agree to disagree but we can disagree without being disagreebale" kind of answer.

Recently, though, I got a flame that created another kind of response. I sent back a somewhat sarcastic answer, along the lines of, "Gee, I spend all day thinking about this stuff, what credentials do you have to tell me I don't know what I'm talking about?" I thought after I'd sent it that I probably shouldn't have. I was wrong to second-guess. That has turned into one of the most stimulating dialogs I've had in years. In the guy's first response, he said, "I was trying to get your attention and I knew that if I disagreed strongly, you'd probably respond. I love a great debate and if you do, too, let's have one."

The variety of human interaction and experience online is infinite. And I learned one other thing from this experience: sometimes you need to trust that intuitive inner voice that we all too often edit out of our lives.

From: zac@pixelgeek.com (Zac);
Sent at Thu, 6 Aug 1998 16:38:50 -0700;
Re:Flames and Friendship

Sometime in 1995 I sent an email to Chuck Shotton asking him about a web developer conference he had just participated in. He sent me back a sarcastic reply, or so I thought, and I flamed him! Hard and deep.

I had a very similar experience (not with Chuck!) but I actually took a deep breath (the post really pissed me off) and sent a short message back asking for clarifiation.

I find that almost all the time that this is just email not transferring our body language and tone of voice. yet another varification that only 10% of our communication is based on speech.


From: waynecotter@pobox.com (Wayne Cotter);
Sent at Thu, 6 Aug 1998 15:54:47 -0700;
MacBinary III and Y2K

I've been following your Y2K conversation. I wasn't going to comment, but your latest DaveNet encouraged me.

It seems to me that the first and easiest thing everyone ought to be doing in response to the Y2K debacle is to make sure that all NEW standards, specs, and formats for data on computers do not break in a few decades.

I couldn't help but notice that the MacBinary III standard (you linked to) continues to use a long word for file creation and modification dates. While updating the standard, wouldn't it make sense to allow for modern 64-bit MacOS dates which will get us past 2040?

And in a similar vein, does the brand-new MacOS HFS Plus introduce 64-bit file creation and modification dates? I can't find the answer to this online. If not, it's another example of the same thing.

Why should anyone bring new software into the world that is known to break in 40 years, when some people will surely still be running it? It strikes me as comical that standards like this could be developed at a time when everyone is bemoaning the shortsightedness of programmers over the previous 40 years.

(Not that I don't appreciate the work of the people who are doing it!)

From: amy@wohl.com (Wohl Associates);
Sent at Thu, 6 Aug 1998 12:57:51 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

We've puzzled over this, too, Dave, and asked quite a few CIOs that question.

They say that while it doesn't make them any less concerned about getting to the end of Y2K certifying all their programs, the fact of the matter is that they HAVE been hitting these problems for several years and that in fixing the ones that have come up they have temporarily or fixed much more. More important, they've identified specific problems and problem types to look for.

I don't go for the Ed Yourdon the sky is falling, buy some gold and a sack of K-Rations and head for the hills approach. I think we'll have some problems, particularly in smaller companies that just don't do anything about it and have few resources to solve significant problems. On the other hand, I don't think the banks will fail or that all the lights will go out.

My husband, who is a pilot, points out that we flew before the FAA had its massive systems and that we could, if we had to, do it again, although certainly we couldn't manage to let every flight go up and land without the computer system in place (I think of it as a rainy summer afternoon).

Large consulting firms have also abandoned the You Must Do It Now approach, too, because they don't have the manpower to get everything done in the next 18 months (whoops, 17!). They are advising clients they must (1) evaluate everything (2) plan to fix critical systems before 1/1/2000, and then plan for fixing the rest over the next two or three years. That's what most of the big new contracts say, we hear.

I think a little more calm, combined with continued advice about what to do and where the resources are, is the right approach.

From: peter@digitalisland.com (Peter Rukavina);
Sent at Thu, 06 Aug 1998 16:24:05 -0300;
Odd thought on Y2K

I wonder if there are countries, or areas of countries, that (a) use computers and (b) don't use a calendar where two years from now = 2000.


From: dgillmor@sjmercury.com (Dan Gillmor);
Sent at Thu, 6 Aug 1998 09:56:44 -0700 (PDT);

Great coincidence -- I was almost finished with a Y2K column when I noticed all the stuff in your letters. It didnt' change my view but did help clarify a few things. Getting to be a habit...

From: fredb@compuserve.com (Fred Ballard);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 16:58:32 -0700;
My new mantra

"If you move, you have power. If you stay, you remain powerless."

Thank you! It's my new mantra. It hits exactly where I need it, with where I am in my life right now.

It's right up there with, and as well timed for me, as your "It isn't what you have, it's how much fun you have, that makes you rich."

[A quote from Will Rodgers: "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there". DW]

From: diana@acmetech.com (Diana);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 16:57:57 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

I've processed a few credit cards with year 2000 dates and have yet to have found a problem. I was worried, though, when I read an article in one of the recent Wired magazines talking about programmers that were working on the Y2K problem buying property in the desert and stockpiling food. Sheesh. If that's their answer to the problems, I don't feel very good about it.

What's worse is that when they publish such information, whether it's true or not, it starts people thinking about doing out of the ordinary, rash things. What if everybody took all their money out of the banks and stock market at the end of 1999, just in case? These so-called precautionary measures they would take would actually cause the problem that they were worried about getting caught up in. The results of that would be more devastating than their hordering could fix.

A friend of mine's wife is working on the Y2K problem for Dow Chemical. He says that according to her, it's going quite well and they don't anticipate a problem. He thinks that the real problem will be with other countries who are not taking the problem seriously. I'm sure Russia and Japan have more immediate problems to worry about than what their systems might do when the date turns over.

Even though it's over there, it's going to affect us, too. It already has, in a more positive way with our economy, lately, but it's just a matter of time before it catches up with us. Canada is already feeling the negative affects, and although it's nice to be able to go across the border and take advantage of the currently high power of the dollar, I feel like it's like a tidal wave. Right now we're high and dry, but just wait. It's coming. We'll just have to wait and see if we're high enough to withstand the depth of the wave that is sweeping the world.


From: InterMark_Consulting_Group@compuserve.com (Erik Sherman);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 16:57:20 -0700;
Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

I've run across problems and have documented them.

For example, a hospital had an automatic medicine dispensing system that shut down when a refill of a medicine had an expiration date in the year 2000.

A professor of computer science told me a story of his friend who tried resetting the date on the computer of his late model car to find that the car totally shut down (it assumed that 100 years had passed since the emmisions system had been checked) and had to be towed to a mechanic.

There have been problems with auto rental agencies verifying expiration dates of driver's licenses because they were in the year 2000.

An association of commercial building managers told me that some buildings are finding that building systems which have been certified for Y2K are breaking down when connected to other systems.

Realize, though, that companies are loath to advertise the problems they are having. Heck, the FTC has been coming down on publically held companies because they are not being forthcoming about the problems they are going to face and the efforts, or lack thereof, to fix this.

Second, lots of magazine editors have now decided that they have done Y2K to death and are pretty negative about printing anything new, so problems that creep up are meeting a reluctant publishing industry.

I also doubt the biggest problems with Y2K will show up until next year. From my experience, most companies are not processing business two years in advance, so the Y2K numbers are not hitting their systems yet. The ones that do - the financial industry - are generally farther along in IT than other industries. Even with them, problems might be showing up and you would never know unless their manual workarounds fell apart.

From: ivan@sven.ctnet.com (Drew Ivan);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 16:56:20 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

Although a lot of smart people are predicting the Y2K problem will cause catastrophic problems, I can't help thinking back to the Michaelangelo virus. It, too, was supposed to knock out computers all over the world, but when the trigger date arrived, it was a flash in the pan.

Granted, the Y2K problem is potentially much more serious than Michaelangelo, but the fundamental character of the problem is the same: we don't know the scope of the problem, and we *won't* know until the trigger date hits.

It could be another flash in the pan, or it could literally be the end of civilization as we know it.

Recently, the SEC ordered all publicly-traded companies to dis- close their Y2K compliance status. Unfortunately, most companies' statements so far have been fairly uninformative. In fact, many of them contain exactly the same boilerplate text, with just the company name changed.

This sends a signal that many companies are not serious about preventing Y2K problems; they'd rather clean up the aftermath than head off potential problems. This may make sense, given that we don't yet fully understand the scope of the problem. (After all, why spend a lot of time worrying about something that may turn out to be as innocuous as the Michaelangelo virus?) On the other hand, we could have planes falling out of the sky and power grids going off-line, so I, for one, would like the people in charge of these systems to be doing a little more than hiring a law firm to print out a fill-in-the-blank Y2K statement.

Today's companies depend on one another to an incredible extent. For a company to stay in businesss, their suppliers and customers have to stay in business. Delivery channels need to stay open. (Just look at the trouble caused by last year's UPS strike.) That means that even if only a minority of businesses go off-line as a result of Y2K, the whole economy could come grinding to a halt. Compliance needs to be taken seriously, by everybody.

In a Twilight Zone-ish twist of fate, it's the people who have had technology the longest that will suffer the most. The early adopters of computers are the ones who have the legacy systems and data that are most vulnerable to Y2K.

Companies (and countries) that have gotten computerized in the last few years will have equipment that is more-or-less Y2K compliant. They'll have fewer problems.

And things will continue as usual for the people of the world who have never had computers in their lives.

So that's what I've been thinking. Keep up the thought-provoking work!

From: lennp@microsoft.com (Lenn Pryor);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 16:27:20 -0700 ;

I think it is kind of funny that the SJ Merc used this headline "Amazon.com buys 2 database firms, to be the online `Wal-Mart' " Wal-Mart is already online and has not done too shabby themselves. I don't know if you have been to their site lately, but they sell everything under the sun now from books, to music, to PC's ... with just as not much style as Amazon. One thing to watch out for is this thing called the ... rest of America ... they certainly know who Wal-Mart is and they just might become the on-line hub for new e-commerce users ... Interesting time to be in business ... that is for sure.

From: tomalak@dsoe.com (Lawrence Lee);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 15:21:19 -0700;
Y2K: Sainsbury's Corned Beef

It sounds like folklore when some parties label it as the "corned beef story" with no references.

The Scripting News mail said Sainsbury, I'm reading about "Marks and Spencer"

One page on the BBC site reports that it was Marks and Spencer:


You know the game about telling someone a few facts and telling it down a chain of people... details change at the end of the line, even if it's not intentional. How much credibiility do you give to that BBC document...?

From: Jacob.Levy@Eng.Sun.COM (Jacob Levy);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 14:15:03 -0700 (PDT);
Corned Beef and Y2K -- computerese folklore

I've seen this corned beef story now being told about three different supermarkets in the UK. It really really sounds like folklore to me. Could someone point out the news story (on the web preferably, thanks!) where this is documented?

From: faisal@visionfoundry.com (Faisal Jawdat);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 12:50:43 -0400;
yet another y2k story

If it's going to be such a huge problem, why aren't we hearing about more Y2K-related breakdowns?

a friend of mine recently returned to college where she was unable to register for classes because the system couldn't deal with a graduation date of "01"

From: faisal@visionfoundry.com (Faisal Jawdat);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 12:45:53 -0400;

Think about it. Can you come up with any conceivable reason why *any* chip in your car would care what year it is?

On Board Diagnostics II (ODB2) systems, mandated for all new cars sold in the United States from 1994 and on, keep track of all sorts of diagnostic information about the car, and track events (e. g. intake pressure exceeded expected parameters, etc.) which mechanics can read with the right equipment.

Or, as my wife put it, "What's a stoplight going to do? Stop working because it thinks it's now 1900, and it knows that stoplights didn't exist back then?"

No, but it could stop working because its schedule is off, diagnostics figure it's got a logic error, it power cycles, and then repeats the process indefinitely.

In the unlikely event that you come across a machine/program which cares about a given year, *and* the current year, *and* the relationship between the two, *and* comes to the wrong conclusion because of it, *and* acts upon it, *and* causes problems because of it, there's always human intervention.

There are a lot of financial, business and utility systems that the average person depends on in every day life that they do not come into direct contact even in their life. If 5% of those fail we are in crisis mode. If 1% of them fail we will probably lose another 4% which freak out when they start getting incorrect data from mthe 1% that failed.

Contrary to current myth, automated year comparisons are not the principle component of modern society.

I'd dispute that claim as well. The world economy relies on the computerized reallocation of debt and assets, and that allocation and its related payment schedules must be tracked.

Do not confuse what you see in daily life with what maintains your daily life.

From: jluszcz@best.com (Jeff Luszcz);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 08:51:49 -0700 (PDT);
y2k breakdowns

I was in Paris two months ago on my way to Istanbul. I tried to buy a phone card to call home to say I had arrived. The machines in CDG airport only took credit cards. No problem, I had my VISA card. I couldn't buy a card to save my life. Even though my VISA card expires in 2000, the machines kept telling me that my card had expired. I eventually had to make a call from the hotel and pay the crazy hotel charges. Other people were able to buy cards and my credit card worked in other places (ATMs and stores) but not in the dedicated phone card kiosks.


From: ole@pacbell.net (Ole Eichhorn);
Sent at Wed, 05 Aug 1998 01:22:35 -0700;
Y2K and financial systems

A quick note in reply to your latest posting about Y2K. Casual reflection reveals that all existing banking systems have been handling 30-year mortgages which amortize into the next century for the last twenty years. For this reason if not for any other, the date subroutines used by these systems already handle dates well into the next century.

I work for Digital Insight, a company which builds Internet-based home banking systems for financial institutions. Our products are only two years old, but most of the banking systems to which we interface are much older - many of them are classic legacy applications; big, old, and complicated. Nonetheless, Y2K is not a big issue for any of them. These systems have been long been programmed to handle next century dates because of loan amortizations.

From: mat.wrigley@virgin.net (tops);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 04:43:51 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

there were some reports here of a major supermarket accidentally junking a load of food *last year* because the sell by date of, say, 02/00 meant the stock control system thought it was off...

keep digging... and if you have a spare moment feel free to drop by http://inteface.pirate-radio.co.uk/ at 4pm UK time today for the spinning tops show!

From: dave@datacash.com (Dave MacRae);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 04:43:10 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

Some confirmation on that and some explination as to why the problem is not as bad as some people make out.

My company deals with all the major UK banks for clearing credit cards, that's what we do day in day out.

We talk to their techies on a daily basis and pick up a little bit of gossip.

The Y2K 'bug' has only appeared in a couple of places. One bank received it's first batch of cards with a Y2K expiry date and they were embossed 0000 instead of 00. These were caught before they were sent to customers, were framed and hang on the wall.

We have also been told by bank techies, although we have not seen this in writing that Visa and MasterCard had a rather novel way of ensuring that their EPOS terminal suppliers fixed any potential problems way ahead of time. 10,000 GBP spot fines for each and every EPOS terminal that wasn't Y2K compliant by a the middle of last year, plus an addition 100,000 GBP fine for the supplier. This fine was to be repeated on a weekly basis.

We know of only one case in the UK where EPOS terminals were not able accept Y2K cards. A major Swedish furniture store chain, who shall remain nameless, had a problem in the run up to last Christmas. It is uncertain whether Visa imposed a fine at this point, no-one was telling.

Our soft EPOS terminal software is UNIX based and was certified Y2K compliant in 1996, don't ask about Y2032 compliance.

Maybe if more organisations took the same stand as Visa and Mastercard then the Y2K bug would have been very quietly and quickly fixed.


From: beoneel@acm.org (O'NEEL Bruce);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 04:42:12 -0700;
Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

One of the problems with credit cards is when the expire date goes beyond 12/99. The problem is not with the credit card itself, or with the company, but rather with that little machine that sits beside (or inside) the cash register that they scan the credit card through to authorize the transaction. Your credit card is ok, your bank thinks it's ok, the big Visa processing centers think it's ok, but the store rejects it because their little machine is broken. So it's a case of not having a simple global fix, ie, the big Visa processing centers in McLain VA and SF had to change, rather it's all those 1000s of little CPUs sitting on all those counters which have to change. Supposedly they are all fixed now. I don't have a card which expires after 12/99 to check, thank god :-)

For way more than you'd ever probably like to know, Yourdan has written a book titled Time Bomb 2000. He's pretty much on, though I would have picked a slightly less inflamatory title.

From: eau@ozemail.com.au (Eric Ulevik);
Sent at Wed, 5 Aug 1998 19:44:05 +1000;
Y2K problems

Since no-one else appears to have answered your question, I shall.

Y2K is real, but systems which work with future dates are uncommon. There are likely more systems that look a year or less forwards - so I expect problems to start appearing in 1999, not 1998.

By late 1999, I expect lots of problems. Much commentary misses this point.

The government will take action well before 2000-01-01 as the problems become visible. As an example, it's not a matter of personal choice to fly or not, as the regulatory authorities will suspend them if there is a risk.

From: Daniel.Morris@POBoxes.com (Daniel Morris);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 22:20:59 -0500;
Y2K Problem

I'm not sure if this is what you're wondering about, but at Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems I'm planning well into 2001 on the External Tank project for NASA's Space Shuttle. I can only speak for my department, I'm not directly involved with the MIS and Business Operations Y2K activities. I work in Resource Management . . . which means we schedule production activities in support of NASA's mission model, and make sure that we have the resources to accomplish those schedules.


The problems, so far, have been minor. For example, I had to start specifying four-digit years when we imported information from Excel into our Mainframe-based project management software. I also had to add an extra screening step in dealing with output from another mainframe system which assumed that year "00" or later might be either before or after any date in the twentieth century. Most of the time, I could ask for "After date x and before date y", but even that wasn't perfect. A pass through Excel lets me discard the erroneous data.

So, to date, we're doing okay. With only a few work-arounds we've been able to plan to the end of our current contract (August 2001), and taken a few peeks as far out as 2039.

(BTW, I love your thumbs-up picture!)

From: darryla@teleport.com (Darryl Andrews);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 19:03:29 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

Since you asked, you should check out news:comp.software.year-2000 - it gets a few hundred messages a day about the subject. Be prepared to not be able to sleep after you read it for a while.

Also http://www.garynorth.com/y2k/ has a ton of links to various y2k related sites.

For a quick sample of something that has gone wrong, look at:


From: mfrederick@usweb.com (Matthew Frederick);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 19:00:34 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

It is happening now, and quite a bit. The credit card companies have been having the problem for quite a while (even Citibank!). Even today when making a credit card purchase you may find that some places are calling your verification by hand because their Zon POS terminals are outdated and won't take Y2K dates.

Many many many companies have dealt with it already, though, for just that reason -- for example, calculating a mortgage or any other long term payments have required Y2K calculations for the last 30 years.

From: ronin47@earthlink.net (Michael Jardeen);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 19:00:09 -0700;

Get very nervous.

A great starting points for information on Y2K:



Dr. Yardeni is and economist who is highly regarded. You really have to sift through the information that is out there. I am very nervous. Too many people look at me; when I bring the subject up, with glazed eyes and a "they'll fix it in time attitude." Boeing orders metal 5-7 years in advance. They had some serious problems back in 1993 and 1995 with computers that failed when orders for the year 2000 were entered into the system. Credit card companies had cards being rejected last year because computers would not accept cards with a renewal date of 00.

We aren't hearing about it because at this point most companies will not go on record for fear of lawsuits. This why Congress is looking at laws that require disclosure as well as laws blocking lawsuits over this issue. At first I was very negative over the later issue. I then looked at some information that pointed out the reasons for blocking lawsuits.

1. To allow companies to share information and solutions.

2, To allow companies to publicly disclose the status of their efforts.

What do I predict? I feel that the most severe impact is going to be overseas in other countries. The USA, Canada, England, Holland, and the Netherlands are the only countries that experts feel have a chance to meet the crises. What happens when whole systems in other counties fail?

USA - sporadic power failures, and bank failures. In 1999 the Dow Jones drops below 4000 in the largest sell-off in history. Many banks suffer runs on deposits. A bank holiday is declared by Clinton at the end of December that extends into January 2000. Food supplies are disrupted in scattered parts of the countries and other essentials are in tight supply.

In many countries around the world banks fail and whole power systems fail. This leads to a world wide recession or depression. Governments fall in less stable countries and political parties in power are voted out of office. Put money on it - there is no chance that a Democrat will win the Presidency in 2000.

We will see massive deflation as prices drop all over the world. Cash will be in short supply. We will see a world wide panic set in as systems continue to fail inn a domino effect. Some systems will take longer due to the basic systems being ok but supporting data will be corrupt.

I could go on but I think you get the picture.

What would I do to prepare?

  1. Try to get two to three months ahead on those bills you can.

  2. Try to have 2-3,000 in cash available in a safe place.

  3. Have 2-3 months worth of bottled water and dry foods in storage.

  4. Become a Mormon for a few months (just kidding, but they will be amongst the best prepared).

  5. Buy and keep a gun in the house. (I am very, very pro gun control, but I think this may be a very prudent move, just in case).

  6. Buy and fill up as many gasoline cans as you can keep around the house.

  7. Top off all your vehicle gas tanks days prior to 12/31/99.

  8. Do not be in a car, airplane, or an elevator at midnight.

  9. Try not to have you or anyone you know in a hospital.

No I do not feel this is the end of the world. It could have some major long lasting impacts on our lives. I think that by 2005 we will have gotten through it all and the economy will be back in gear.


From: sgannes@att.com (Stuart Gannes);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 18:59:29 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

FYI. I've heard that the GPS systems are all going to crash next year, 1999. Apparently they measure time from a certain date in 1980, and because of the way they are set they are all going to zero out independently of Y2K.

From: Jonny@way.nu (Jonathan Peterson);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 18:58:56 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

Various credit card authorization terminals have been unable to deal with dates past '99. Some banks and/or credit clearing houses have also had problems. Since there are multiple points of failure in the CC transaction stream, almost all cards issued in the last few years have had '99 expiration dates at the latest. There was a large recall of '00 dated cards in the last year or two, but I had no luck finding stories about it.

As far as running into problems in the past, insurance companies were some of the first to attack Y2K, since their ammortization tables run into decades.


From: mcd@sonalysts.com (Michael C. Dreimiller);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 18:57:20 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

Check out http://www.y2ktimebomb.com/Litigation/mgross9829a.htm.

From: bjakuc@earthlink.net (Bob Jakuc);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 18:56:49 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

Actually, various companies for various reasons have been hitting Y2K bugs in their software for years.

For example: Boeing. In 1993 they started to see Y2K problems because they, along with other aerospace companies, plan certain metals purchases 7 years out. Forecasts started breaking.

Credit card companies and the companies that routinely take credit cards have definitely had problems. From personal experience; I'm a sysadmin by day but occasionally do consulting on the side. I was doing a job where I told my client to order some stuff from one of the mail order warehouses. I gave the person's credit card number and expiration date to the sale rep and the order was rejected. The expiration date? 9/30/00. The mail order house hadn't had their systems updated for Y2K yet. Fortunately my client had another card they could use.

Certainly not earth shattering but definitely a pain in the butt. And what if a person only has one card to use? What if they're out to dinner and they just ate a very expensive meal and the restaurant rejects their card? I would imagine that many, many companies and businesses have already had problems but they've been keeping it to themselves.

From: jeffrey@langmaker.com (Jeffrey Henning);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 18:56:18 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

There was a lawsuit recently regarding a credit-card swipe-machine manufacturer whose product could not handle a card with an expiration date of 00. Upon receiving such a card, the machine somehow fried a grocery store's entire network of cash registers, resulting in a lot of unhappy customers and lost business for the luckless grocery store.

Not sure who won the suit though.


From: baby-x@millennium-cafe.com (President b!X);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 18:55:03 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

Somewhere inthe midst of Declan's archive of Y2K stories, I am quite sure you'll find tales of existing y2k failures. There are plenty.


From: petdance@mc.net (Andy Lester);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 18:54:33 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

The answer, of course, is that it's not going to be that big a deal.

A college I worked at one summer back in the late 80s had a Y2K issue back circa '86: they had classes scheduled all the way to 2001. Their COBOL jocks were thrown on THAT problem right quick.

And the credit card problems are usually expiration dates, i.e. "Error: year 00 is not a valid date".

We're going to see Y99 problems, too. Lord only knows how many 2-digit entry fields out there take "99" to mean "invalid" or some other special code.

Thanks for DaveNet, Dave. I may not always care about what you're talking about, but when you do, it's always dead-on and thoughtful.


From: limey@best.com (Richard Scorer);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 18:53:28 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

While on vacation in England, I tried to use my Citibank credit card which has an expiration date in the year 2000, and the computerised till refused to accept it. Even though the salesperson had called in for a phone verification, she needed to get a manager to over ride the till so that I could buy the Palm Pilots for my parents...

So it is happening!

From: phred@teleport.com (Fred Heutte);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 18:52:42 -0700;
Re:Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

There are plenty of Y2K breakdowns in the trenches. This started hitting hard with organizations that have lookahead date functions, for example in budgeting and maintenance, more than a year ago. It's just that a lot of these are run-of-the-mill DP functions in most cases, so word doesn't get out of the bureaucracies that are dealing with them.

From: jeremy.brown@wilshire.com (Jeremy Brown);
Sent at Tue, 04 Aug 1998 18:56:18 -0700;
Y2K Breakdowns in 1998?

If I remember correctly, Boeing started having problems in 1993 with their seven-year lead times on orders.

From: dave@aries-graphics.com (Dave Fassett);
Sent at Tue, 04 Aug 1998 16:07:59 -0700;
Y2k breakdowns

I've heard that something like 40% of large companies have already had at least one Y2K problem. If it's easy to fix (and it should be when it's isoloted to single system that looks ahead, which you could argue most do not do), then why tell anybody else? So, I believe there are failures all the time now, but they can be handled due to their small scale.

You should be able find confirmation of the 40% number on the Web. BTW, the failures are only increasing this year. Last year the number was way less.

From: jmoody@alex-va-n013c063.moon.jic.com (Jim Moody);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 18:51:48 -0400;
Y2K Failures That Have Already Occurred

The earliest Y2K failure that I've heard about happened in early 1996.

A branch of Sainsbury's (a British supermarket chain) received a shipment of cans of corned beef. All British households keep a can or two of corned beef in the larder. The stuff lasts for ever. One of the guys unpacked the shipment, ran the magic wand over the upc, entered the quantity, and stacked the cans on the shelf. The next morning, the same guy happened to be working an early shift; he was handed the pull list and discovered the entire shipment of corned beef that he had stacked the previous day was on the list to be pulled.

Corned beef has a shelf life of four years. The inventory control system had added the shelf life to the date (February '96) it was shelved and come up with Feb '00 as the date it should be pulled. When the pull list was run, Feb '00 was less than Feb '96, so it's shelf life had obviously expired.

I remember reading the story in the on-line version of the Daily Telegraph. I have been quoting the story ever since as one extreme version of the Y2K problem. I've just checked in their search engine, though, and can't find the combination of search terms to make it disgorge this story.

From: James_DeBenedetti@CalPERS.CA.GOV (DeBenedetti, James);
Sent at Tue, 4 Aug 1998 15:06:28 -0700 ;
Y2K Breakdowns

The reason you haven't seen a lot of Y2K breakdowns is because the issue is overblown. The press (and others) would have you believe that anything with a chip in it will malfunction on 1/1/00 if it isn't replaced or reprogrammed. Fortunately, most such devices ignore the media and do their job instead :-)

Think about it. Can you come up with any conceivable reason why *any* chip in your car would care what year it is? Do people really expect to see their odometers roll back to 0000000 at the turn of the century? Or, as my wife put it, "What's a stoplight going to do? Stop working because it thinks it's now 1900, and it knows that stoplights didn't exist back then?"

I don't know about your embedded systems (thermostat, sprinkler, VCR, etc.), but the only dates mine care about are Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

In the unlikely event that you come across a machine/program which cares about a given year, *and* the current year, *and* the relationship between the two, *and* comes to the wrong conclusion because of it, *and* acts upon it, *and* causes problems because of it, there's always human intervention.

Contrary to current myth, automated year comparisons are not the principle component of modern society. Heck, things like guns and Kleenex boxes don't even need electricity to function.

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