Windowing could make Y2k linger : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


October 25, 1999

Windowing could make Y2K linger

By Christopher J. Dorobek GCN Staff

Some last-minute quick fixes to make government systems year 2000-ready could make the date code problem resemble the Energizer bunnyit just keeps going and going and going.

One widely used technique to quickly deal with errant date code is windowing. But windowing is more of a Band-Aid for the problem and has been used mostly by organizations that could not or did not have time to revamp a systems code, agency and industry officials said.

When using windowing techniques, the underlying coding does not change. Instead, a new four-digit year date is inserted anywhere a two-digit date appears in a program. The windowing application, based on a specific period of time, determines whether a two-digit year date will be considered in the 20th or 21st century.

Later for IT

The issue for information technology managers is that windowing will require agencies to revisit problems later because its not a long-term fix, said Don Arnold, national account manager for Wang Federal Systems of McLean, Va. Eventually, that set period in a windowing application no longer applies, he said.

Agency officials acknowledged such problems and said they will be different from the ones they face today. In some ways the issues will be more complex because agencies must track and monitor systems that will still need code work, Agriculture Department chief information officer Anne Thomson Reed said.

Theres also a fiscal hurdle. A House staff member said Congress would be leery of agencies seeking year 2000 assistance long after Dec. 31 has come and gone.

Unlike code reworking where the dates are expanded from two to four digits, the most common form of windowing does not change the dates. Instead, code is inserted at each date so certain dates greater than an established number are considered in the 20th century66 becomes 1966, for exampleand other numbers are considered part of the 21st century10 becomes 2010.

Some officials said windowing techniques will let systems work for several years, with the systems being replaced before the techniques start to cause problems. But Wangs Arnold said such a view harks back to the time when people discounted the year 2000 problem altogether and made similar comments that all problem systems likely would be replaced before 2000.

Windowing is not the right answer, Arnold said. The right answer is to fix the stuff, he said.

Labor Department deputy CIO Shirley A. Malia, chairwoman of the CIO Councils Year 2000 Committee, said agencies are more prepared to deal with the windowing problem because the instances of its use are dramatically fewer than the instances of date code governmentwide.

Plus, agencies now have an inventory of systems as a result of their year 2000 work, she said. We know what the systems are.

Gregory L. Parham, executive director of USDAs Year 2000 Program Office, said systems that have been readied using windowing must be tracked. USDA has created a database to monitor all its systems, and one of the parameters included is whether a system has a windowed fix, and if so, what the window time period is.

Kathleen M. Adams, a vice president at SRA International Inc. of Arlington, Va., said there are also potential problems with windowing techniques because of data exchanges.

But, overall, the former Social Security Administration systems official said she does not expect disasters because of windowing. I dont think it is going to be a big deal, she said.

-- Homer Beanfang (, October 26, 1999


This note on "windowing" brings up a question I've had because I'm considering trying it for a few months to see how things shake out after Jan 1. I've heard the dates from 1972 mirror the year 2000, assuming this is correct, if I want to window should I change the year to 1971 on Dec. 31?.......or wait until Jan. 1 and switch the year to '72? Just curious if anyone is contemplating a similiar maneuver?

-- jb (, October 26, 1999.

jb, if you have a pc, old son, you're going to have a hell of a ride....since the suckers start their dates at 1984. Let me know how you manage to reset the clock to 1972.

Also, simply setting the bios date back is not windowning.

-- havea (good@ride.son), October 26, 1999.

Have a good ride:

I'll admit that I'm not the computer wizard that you seem to be but, I'm wondering why everyone is worried about rolling back to 1900 if 1984 is the oldest year the computer can read or revert back to?

-- jb (, October 26, 1999.

Wanna bet that big business blows their chance to make the final changeover to four digit date fields and has to go through the high- speed panic routine all-over again?


-- Wildweasel (, October 26, 1999.


That "1984" date refers mostly to the BIOS on PCs -- not mainframes, where most of the heavy lifting for big business is still done (I'm not considering the impact of embedded systems here). Either way, most of the problem is in the application PROGRAMS -- PC or mainframe -- that do the computation of interest and the like based on some calculated number of periods. In many instances, the dates being manipulated were input by the wetware (the human bean) sitting at the terminal or whatever, using the bogus MM/DD/YY format -- not necessarily by picking them up out of the computer.


I'd bet on it. Look at how deftly they managed THIS one.

-- I'm Here, I'm There (I'm Everywhere@so.beware), October 26, 1999.

"Windowing -- the Microsucks 'solution'."
Microsucks has dragged its feet on remediation, and has made getting and installing updates difficult and confusing. But, hey, no problem. Just upgrade to Windows/Office 2000 (for a slight (!) additional fee).

With the cost of pressing CDs as small as it is, Microsucks could send every user of every piece of software that Microsucks has out there, with completely updated code (not patches on top of patches), and not hardly make a dent in their bottom line. But that might take a billion out of Billy's pocket. Why do that, when he can get another $10 billion SELLING the patches and upgrades to make his shit actually work.

-- A (, October 27, 1999.

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