What I Always Get Is: "They Will All Get New Computers"

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Since I know nothing about computer technology, I dont know how to respond to this question (from friends & loved ones who are amazed at the level of my Y2k preparations). Can someone help with an intelligent answer to this "silver bullet" response? It goes something like: "If they dont get it fixed, everybody in government will get new computers after Jan 1st, so nothing is going to shut down." sophia

-- sophia compton (scompton@athenians.com), November 12, 1998


OK, what are they going to do until those new computers arrive?

-- Buddy (DC) (buddy@bellatlantic.net), November 12, 1998.

And how will those computers get there if everything's down, including computer production?

-- Leo (leo_champion@hotmail.com), November 13, 1998.

New computers have to be ordered well in advance for that many workstations (presuming the entire government actually gets new computers). So, somebody has to build them, install software to the government's spec, someone has to pack them up, someone has to make up the bill, somebody else has to pack them in the truck, someone has to drive that truck, and someone on the receiving end basically repeats, in reverse, the entire process.

Computers take time to set up properly. You don't just plop one on the averate user's desk and tell them to have at it (they'd screw it up royally if you did). Workstations usually require final configuration to get the user hooked up to the network, able to log in, and by the way, how about that old machine where the user's files were? Somebody's got to copy those off the old machine to the new one, add additional software (users get nasty when their favorite screensaver or .wav files disappear, and won't take logical explanations for an answer), and tweak all the other myriad little things for the user. Someone's got to inventory the computer and slap an asset tag on it.

Even if a less costly solution like taking the hard drives of the old machines and plopping them in the new machines was used, that still takes time to open the case, and the computer has to be off to do that. If an IS department tried the option of downloading and installing a software BIOS (where the permanent date for the computer is stored) upgrade, they would have had to do some research to find out which version they have in each machine, whether or not the manufacturer is still in business, and whether they can get a new version; installing a new physical BIOS also still takes time to disassemble the computer to allow access to the chip and still requires the research into which version, etc.

IS departments are busy with user problems and network problems and moving phone lines and moving workstations all day long. Adding a total changeout of all computers to the workload would require additional staff. Ever tried to get a job with the government? First there's the exam, then you're on a list, then you might get an interview...

All new computers? Not bloody likely.

-- Karen Cook (browsercat@hotmail.com), November 13, 1998.

Another problem with new computers in January and February of 2000 is the Pentiums, AMDs and Celerons of the world. I've read more than once in the last few months that the companies that make processors like these are nowhere near being compliant. It would be great to crank up production in January of 2000, but what if the chip makers themselves aren't compliant?

Same problem with embedded systems. I hope the companies who make these are compliant themselves. If not, our military, oil drilling platforms and office buildings will have big problems--and for a lot longer than six weeks.

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), November 13, 1998.

Unfortunately, hardware is the smallest part of the problem - which is why I don't think the embedded controller problem is nearly as big as some people imagine. Compliant software is much harder to bring on line, and has a much greater lead time than new computers. Since PC computers have a working life of less than 7 years, the PC hardware compliance problem is really pretty much of a non issue. Most of the non-compliant 486 machines will survive just by setting the date each time it is booted - nusiance but not deadly. Few pentiums require anything - after testing hundreds I have found 2 with processors faster than 100 mhz that won't rollover correctly - and they will hold the correct date once it is set. Many machines get the date and time and set it from their network server on boot up - you would never notice on many of these machines whether or not they were compliant or had Crouch Effect or any other dating problem as rebooting daily would reset the date and time!

The really big hidden problem? That is lying around in hundreds upon hundreds of small applications written to fill out forms, print forms, transfer data from a PC to a common shared database and etc. - many of which were written using non-compliant tools such as Access 95. These quasi-compiled runtime programs may give wrong dating and it will not be noticed until someone complains - and then there will be neither the software nor the original writer of the program available to fix it. So all these small apps will have to be rewritten by someone in that office who knows how - while the paperwork piles up. Shutdown the govt.? No, but expect some massive slowdowns that will take several months to clear up.

In other words - most of the big stuff will either be fixed or there will be contingency plans of one sort or another. Its the little things that make your life miserable.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), November 13, 1998.

new computers won't necessarily help, as they still must ALL be checked for compliance. i don't care if the sticker says they're y2k ready. radio station WMAQ in chicago sent teams of people out to several local electronics emporiums to test their computers, 2 months ago. they had several different y2k-checking packages. they tested ONLY hardware, ie BIOS/CMOS/RTC.

results for various price categories of computers (which were all marked y2k-ready) were: 78% average failure rate. of these, ALL computers below $1400 flunked, ALL computers above $1800 passed, and those in the $1400-$1800 price category gave mixed results.

the computers that failed tended to have 1-year warranties, which will run out before the year 2000. does this tell you anything? the problem is that there is no standard in this country and certainly no law, as to what y2k-ready means, so anyone can say what they want. and if you buy a "packard hell", all i can say is, god help you. if you don't believe those numbers, call WMAQ yourself and talk to their y2k news specialist. be aware that they won't name names, though, because of a prior agreement with the electronics emporiums not to do so. but their survey results were given to the public.

also keep in mind that this 78% would probably be even higher if they had included a test of operating systems. you also need to test your brand new PC to make sure that the version of Windows that you got is compliant. early versions are NOT compliant and you'll need to get the patches from Microsoft.

you must test EVERY PC, no matter how new.

-- Jocelyne Slough (jonslough@tln.net), November 13, 1998.

Ask them if they ever heard of the government fixing anything right and on time...within reasonable costs.

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), November 13, 1998.

I'm surprised that with all the answers you got you only had one post that correctly identified SOFTWARE are the problem. Even the PC BIOS/RTC problems has to do with the code that is built in to these parts of the system.

Those programmers aren't working to rebuild the hardware or pieces thereof, they're trying to fix code.....the instructions that tell the machine what to do......because it's the code that's broke, not the machine.

If I throw out a non-compliant system, buy a new computer, and then load out the same old non-compliant software ----- I still have a non- compliant system.

With embedded systems the software is hard coded (microcode).

With legacy systems the software is huge, the computers are expensive, and it takes a lot of effort to change the software.

-- rocky (rknolls@hotmail.com), November 13, 1998.

try the free testing software at www.intelliquis.com. do both the hardware and software tests. they work great, keeping in mind that they are scaled-down versions of the real thing. you can also see them at the y2k pavilion at Comdex this week.

try those tests on your brand-new PC and tell us what you come up with.

-- Jocelyne Slough (jonslough@tln.net), November 13, 1998.

Sophia, Try this analogy.

Imagine you work in a tall brick building and I tell you that some of the bricks will crumble on a certain date. You say "No problem, just replace the bricks when they crumble." And so, on the appointed day, as the bricks are crumbling and the whole structure is shaking, Moe, Larry and Curly race over to replace the bricks - with you IN the building.

-- R. D..Herring (drherr@erols.com), November 13, 1998.

another analogy...

The dishes represents the software. The table cloth represents the computer.

problem..remove the dirty table cloth without disturbing the the dishes.

Finished that yet? Ok? Good! Now, how 'bout those dirty dishes?

-- MVI (vtoc@aol.com), November 13, 1998.

Close MVI, I like your analogy - but I really want to be eating on clean dishes - and as you indicated, dirty dishes on a clean (new) tablecloth can be hazardous to your health.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), November 13, 1998.

I once gave a speech in in college speech class titled "Computers are Idiots". It is true. As Rocky, Paul, and R.D. have pointed out, the computers are not the problem.

Any computer made, from the tiny one that runs your digital watch to the largest mainframe complex on the planet can only do TWO THINGS. A computer can ADD and a computer can REMEMBER.

It can add only zeros and ones. It has no concept of 2s or 3s or any numbers except zeros and ones. The hardware "knows" that 0+0=0, 0+1=1, and 1+1=0 with a carry, period, extent of knowledge.

It can remember what the answer was (0 or 1) and where it put that answer in its memory, period, extent of ability.

All of the tasks that we accomplish with our computers are done by means of that magic, smoke-and-mirror virtual hardware known as software or programs. That is indeed where the problem lies, in PCs, in mainframes and in embedded systems.

We have designed nearly all of our software with the ASSUMPTION that it will be the 20th century when the code is executed. Some programs just don't care but those that do, almost always ASSUME that they are operating in the 20th century.

Soon it will not be the 20th century anymore, and those programs that "care" will begin to produce incorrect answers. Some of them even sooner, as they begin to "look ahead" in time (the Jo Anne Effect).

We don't have a lot of options.

We could start over, and rename the year something else, but as Robert Cook has explained quite well, that will only work in a few cases, and then only if we throw away the previous data.

Or, we can re-write the code to work outside of the 20th century and that is what we are doing (at least some are doing) but simple arithmetic reveals that we can not get it ALL done in time. Getting some done may help, but then again, it may not. If the "some" doesn't include the code necessary to produce and distribute electricity, we're going to crash, as a civilization.

Now, if someone tells you that, "They'll just all get new computers, you may be sure that that person has no idea just what a computer is or does and you're dealing with someone who thinks computers are our society's equivalent of magic. I think you're just wasting your breath with these folks.

-- Hardliner (searcher@internet.com), November 13, 1998.

In testing of better than 700 machines (not all by myself, thank God) we found

Toss the 286's ditto the 386's most 486's work if you reset the date on every boot up most pentiums are OK almost all PII's are fine.

Of course, I recognise the fact that compliance is NOT dependant at all on the processor (at least since the 286) - it is dependant on the BIOS. This is just what we found at our site. Weirdly enough I found one BIOS with a last compiled date in 1997 that would not rollover - but would do everything else. Go figure.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), November 14, 1998.

Even iff buying new machines were an easy answer, (which it ain't - see previous posts this thread) there is still a finite number of computers waiting to be bought, and a finite number than can be manufactured between now and the big day. Same goes for chips. I have no figures on computer co.'s output, (anyone post these?) but I feel confident guessing that it's a far smaller number than the number of machines that need replacing or fixing or whatever. I heard somewhere that the pentagon had first dibs on the available supply of chips, which jibes with the way the world works. Maybe national security would be better served by diverting these resources elsewhere, so that they're left with a nation to actually secure.

-- humpty dumpty (i'ma2000man@kiss.com), November 14, 1998.

And to make matters even worse, in addition to the computers, there are those pesky applications that run on them. Unless you are in the very unique situation of needing a new computer because the Y2K compliant upgrade for an application requires it, generally you are talking about switching to a new application. If there is not enough time to fix the old application, there surely is not enough time to migrate to a new one. (In general. One has to speak in generalities here....)

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), November 14, 1998.

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