How do I make my system Y2K compatible? - Part 1

By: Walter Metcalf
Dateline: 03/03/99

Sources of Y2K Problem

Various people deal with the problem of how we inherited the Y2K problem in various ways. However they do it, the source of the Y2K "bug" really boils down to one thing: in the past programmers and engineers failed to treat dates correctly.¹ They have done this in various ways:

  1. The simplest case is that early computers were programmed to increment the year portion of the on-board real-time-clock (RTC), but not the century portion. For some reason, people don't want to admit that years are 4-digit creatures; even many of the Y2K fixes and tests being implemented now only allow or check for 1 more century--a fact I cannot understand.

  2. Only two digits are allowed for the date--for example, the century was preprinted on a form or credit card.

  3. First the required 8-digit date was largely replaced with the far more common 6-digit date, and then the 2-digit year was frequently treated as a simple number with a range of 00-99.

  1. IBM has been Busy

    IBM has done a lot of work your work already, especially if most of your system consists of standard IBM products such as OS/2 Warp, Lotus Smartsuite, and/or Netscape for OS/2. Those products, and others, are fully compatible either as shipped, or after certain stated fixpaks are applied.

    For other products, completely out of the IBM orbit, you will have either have to contact the manufacturer directly, or depend on other sources. Depending upon how critical the product is, how often you run it, and your level of paranoia, you may want to take more aggressive measures against potential Y2K problems including hiring consultants, purchasing test programs, or adding hardware chips, cards, or drivers to your system. More will be said about these aggressive measures later.

    IBM Products

    Regarding Year-2000 readiness IBM products can be divided into 3 categories:

    1. Y2K Ready

      These products include Netscape 2.02 for OS/2, Netscape 4.04 for OS/2², Lotus SmartSuite for OS/2 Warp, and many other products owned directly or indirectly by IBM. For the complete list, consult the IBM Year 2000 Product Readiness database. Ironically no OS/2 operating system later than OS/2 Warp 4 is found here (except Work Space on Demand). This is further evidence of IBM's shift away from an emphasis on OS/2 in the last three years in favour of other operating systems such as Windows and Unix.

      • Sun has declared all versions of the Java Development Kit (JDK), including the JIT compiler, >= 1.1.6 to be Year 2000 compliant.

    2. Y2K Ready with Fixpaks

      1. Operating System

        For OS/2 users, this is perhaps the most significant category. Products in this category can be made Year 2000 ready by applying certain Fixpaks. These include all OS/2 operating systems from Warp 3.0 and later. As noted above all versions of OS/2 2.1x and earlier will be or have been dropped from IBM's list of supported products. For more details go to the IBM Year 2000 Product Readiness database and click on Generate a Software Report.

        We can use the OS/2 WorkStations table at Steps to Year 2000 readiness of OS/2: Step 3 as a place to start. However, IBM has not not kept the Fixpak numbers up-to-date. As is the case with many of IBM "Fixpak databases", IBM does not update them when it purges old Fixpaks from its servers as it does from time to time.

        The Fixpak numbers in this table must be instead taken to mean "the oldest available Fixpak" for the system in question. For simplicity, however, it is usually best to simply replace the Fixpak number in the table with that of the latest stable Fixpak.³ Since Fixpaks are cumulative, doing so will assure you the latest in IBM's Y2K changes and technologies.

      2. TCP/IP 4.0, or the stack, must be maintained separately, in all versions of OS/2. However the good news is that the latest version of TCP/IP is always in the same place. The table below gives the TCP/IP Fixpak URL, based on the TCP/IP and OS/2 version numbers required to make the TCP/IP Y2K compatible.

        TCP/IP Locations
        OS/2 Ver.
        TCP/IP Ver.
        3.0 BonusPak (v.2) N/A N/A N/A
        Connect v3.0os2 N/A N/A N/A
        4.0 Warp Not Avail. v4.0os2 v4.1os2 v4.2os2

        • Note: The version of TCP/IP shipped with Warp 3.0 in the Bonus Pak has been declared Year-2000 NOT READY.

      3. Win-OS/2

        If you have had occasion to reinstall Win-OS/2 using either the CD or the floppies since you last applied a Fixpak > 4. you may experience erratic problems with Win-OS/2 due to the presence of an old version of WINFILE.EXE. (These problems may not necessarily be Y2K related.) This file is located in the directory \OS2\MDOS\WINOS2 on your windows drive. The solution is to reapply your current Fixpak as soon as possible. You can also UNPACK the single file WINFILE.EXE to the above directory. You will find tips on doing this in the Readme file of the Netscape distribution package.

        Next time: A look at testing, more aggressive measures, and some hardware add-ons.

¹My friend is an enthusiastic student of genealogy, and I asked him about the Y2K status of his genealogy program. He said the program had always been Y2K compliant because it had always used 4 digit years. I find it instructive that in a discipline which is forced to used 4 digit years, the Y2K "bug" vanishes. Is the Y2K "bug" simply the price tag for our laziness?

²According to the OS/2 Readiness Database, Navigator and Communicator Y2K status is determined by Netscape. This can be found in the Netscape Year 2000 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document.

³After a Fixpak is first released, it is often wise to wait one or two weeks to see how many users have serious problems with it, and if IBM withdraws or refreshes it. "Stable" means none of those things happens. I personally do not believe in installing a Fixpak as soon as it is released.

For Further Reading:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About the Y2K Problem  © Copyright 1998 Doug White

Lotus and the Year 2000 Copyright Lotus Development Corporation 

What is the Year 2000 Problem? Copyright BlueSky Innovations LLC

Y2K Issue  © Copyright 1998 Proven Software Technology Ltd

Unless otherwise noted, all content on this site is Copyright © 2004, VOICE