April Flaws' Day awaits (Y2K)

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April Flaws' Day awaits (Y2K)

Simple Quote: ``I don't understand how so many folks missed such a simple bug.''

... Im frankly, more concerned about the simple little bugs likely to be missed THIS coming April! Do they ever find all the biting bugs? -- Diane


Published Friday, January 8, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News


April Flaws' Day awaits

Bug to cause incorrect time in some programs

BY DAN GILLMOR Mercury News Technology Columnist

IT doesn't rank with the year 2000 software problem as a potential threat, though it could lead to some real problems: For one week beginning on April Fools' Day, 2001, some Windows programs will tell the wrong time.

Dangerous or not, this bug again demonstrates the fundamentally brittle nature of modern software. You have to ask: What other flaws don't we know about?

I learned about this one from Richard Smith, president of Phar Lap Software Inc. in suburban Boston. Smith, who's well regarded in the industry for his technical expertise, blew the whistle last year on some disturbing security holes in popular e-mail software. He calls his latest find, as you might have guessed, the ``April Fools 2001'' bug.

Daylight-saving time always starts the first Sunday in April, which happens to be April 1 in 2001. Unfortunately, a file commonly used by Windows programs thinks daylight-saving time begins on the first Sunday only when that Sunday isn't the first day of the month.

The file in question is called ``MSVCRT.DLL'' and is often distributed as part of software written in the Microsoft Visual C++ programming language to run on Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT. Microsoft has confirmed the bug and is working on a fix.

Software affected by this bug will give a time that's off by one hour. On April 8, when the software thinks daylight-saving time has actually arrived, the software will give the correct time.

Smith is disturbed that no one seems to have discovered the April Fools 2001 bug before now. ``It calls into question all of the Y2K testing that folks have been doing,'' he told me in an e-mail. ``I don't understand how so many folks missed such a simple bug.'' ...

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), January 08, 1999


The answer to Richard Smith's puzzlement lies in Microsoft's propaganda.

Mr. Smith told the columnist, "It calls into question all of the Y2K testing that folks have been doing".

No, Richard, it doesn't! What it calls into question is only Microsoft's Y2k testing. The bug is in the Windows operrating system, which is Microsoft's product, not anyone else's (at least, according to Microsoft).

Apparently, Microsoft has succeeded in convincing Richard Smith that it is the users' job to Y2k-test the Windows operating system. If Microsoft were really as responsible a software provider as they would have users believe, they would have run that April 2001 test a long time ago.

Mr. Smith said, "I don't understand how so many folks missed such a simple bug."

What he would have said if not subjected to Microsoft propaganda and monopolistic practices is, I think, "I don't understand how so many folks at Microsoft missed such a simple bug." Then the real problem would be clearer:

Microsoft's monopolistic practices allow them to get away with unprofessional conduct such as missing the April Fools 2001 bug because they do not have to compete on the basis of quality of product.

-- No Spam Please (anon@ymous.com), January 08, 1999.

Like I said - when they fail, it's in wierd and wonderful ways.

There's no way to know when an unexpected symptom will be found - the most likely case in during a "change" or initializtion process - like the leap year, daylight saving time start (this particular case), the new year, a new quarter, a new century, or a new file.

I'm only surprised he found it ahead of time - but he probably found it by setting his date ahead to check for fiscal year (4-1-xxxx dated states) compliance from year 2001-2002 by doing Y2K testing!

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), January 09, 1999.

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