What a small accounting firm found out about Y2K

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This is an article to show to your boss or to a vendor...

"To be forewarned is to be forearmed, it's true"


The problem with the year 2000 problem is hitting the right note. There is no need for panic but there is also, now, no excuse for complacency. Anyone who doubts the millennium bug is real should listen to this cautionary tale.

There is, in Sydney, a firm of chartered accountants that commissioned a year 2000 review late last year. The firm is smallish, with around 30 employees and revenues below the $5 million mark. It has 27 personal computers, all of which have been acquired in the last two years, and runs fairly standard desktop, network and application software.

The review established that the BIOS (basic input/output system) or clock which tells the operating system the time was non-2000 compliant on 14 of the PCs. Nine could be fixed, five had to be replaced. The firm's network server, acquired in July 1998, also had a non-compliant BIOS.

The versions of Windows running on all PCs retained the default non-compliant short date settings. The firm had been assured that Windows NT 4.0, running on the server, was compliant.

What the partners didn't know was that such compliance could only be achieved after certain fixes were made.

The accounting software used was not compliant. In fact the review discovered that some of the firm's clients had already received monthly accounts that contained errors.

Next on the to-be-fixed list were spreadsheets. The firm used five separate spreadsheet programs, most of which had year 2000 problems.

One manager discovered some of the forward reminder tabs he had set in his customer database had already switched to 1900, rather than 2000. Another had made extensive use of macros which caused a general protection fault when copied to a non-compliant PC.

The audit also examined external risks. No questions regarding year 2000 issues had been put to clients, mainly because the firm's partners were not sure of their own understanding of the issue.

The partners were then encouraged, in gentle terms because by now they were in a state of shock, to consider how many of their prime clients were dependant on computers. Most of their customers fell into this catagory. The accountancy firm had no knowledge of what year 2000 activities were going on inside these companies. There was a further complicating factor because this particular firm also happened to support some software run by its customers. This software was found not to be compliant.

It's an old saying but a true one: to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

As one of the firm's partners put it, once this review was complete: "Had we been hit unaware in 2000 by this, our business would have been gone inside two weeks -- and some of our clients would have sued our backsides off."

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), February 17, 1999


Typo on my part. Here's the correct link:


-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), February 17, 1999.

I am a working on a contract at a division of a well-known aerospace company somewhere in southern California.

They have a lot of networked PCs. I'm programming in MicroSucks Access. Network I'm on is using NT 4.

Company has some (obviously) bimbo who runs some Y2K web pages on "our" intranet about what the company is doing to fix Y2K problems. Real "cool" graphics -- cartoon figures, balloons, etc. Except no way for us peons to input suggestions, and no hint as to who to contact.

For example, the servers control all (revenge of the main-framers). Us workstation people cannot access the Windows time/date settings area. The short date format is still 2 digits, and no way to individually change it. And in the bureacracy, no way to get anyone else to consider the potential problems, much less change it.

All their MicroSuck applications (e.g., Excel, Access) are depending on date "windowing".

"We're doomed! We're doomed, I tell ye!" (someone else's favorite quote I've adopted.)

-- vbProg (vbProg@microsoftsucks.com), February 17, 1999.

Good link Kevin.


"We're doomed I tell ye, doomed!"

Private Frazer, Dad's Army, Walmington-On-Sea Home Guard, 1939 (Undertaker)

This is taken from a very very funny British BBC sitcom called "Dad's Army", about a bunch of "old gits" (retirees) who make up the home guard (defence force) at Walmington-On-Sea, a fictitious seaside town facing France in 1939 - just as war broke out.

Private Frazer is a minor but funny character - always telling doom- laden stories, which, needless to say, always give the wrinklies the willy-nillys...

Worth renting a few, or even the movie, you can get them at good video stores.



Two digits. One mechanism. The smallest mistake.

"The conveniences and comforts of humanity in general will be linked up by one mechanism, which will produce comforts and conveniences beyond human imagination. But the smallest mistake will bring the whole mechanism to a certain collapse. In this way the end of the world will be brought about."

Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, 1922 (Sufi Prophet)

"We're doomed I tell ye, doomed!"

Private Frazer, Dad's Army, Walmington-On-Sea Home Guard, 1939 (Undertaker)

-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), February 17, 1999.

Careful Andy, there are quote police out there. Oh, just checked again, it's a Sufi Prophet, no problem carry on.

-- freeman (freeman@cali.comakamarkhillyard), February 17, 1999.

I've now read in several places about noncompliant PC BIOSs which required replacing of the PC itself. Unfortunately, I've never seen any description of what this fatal flaw actually is. Has anyone here found such a problem who can describe it? If it's somebody's utility that generates an error message indicating an unrepairable error, what is the message and whose utility is this?

I simply can't picture such a problem. I need help here.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), February 17, 1999.

Can any of you answer Flint's question?

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), February 17, 1999.

Don't know the details - so this is a guess, but figure that a new hot-shot PC screamer is less than 1000.00 - if monitor is alrready available. Trade that against several hours to even trouble and try to fix, try to replace BIOS, etc. All at a "shutdown the computer I'm still troubleshooting - and aren't done yet" rate of 50-100.00 per hour. The user can't work, and the worker (troubleshooter) is expensive. Net cost is cheaper to replace.

So why not just replace the damn thing? Notice - if inital testing shows no BIOS problem - then above probably not effective. But I think replacing BIOS practically requires replacing motherboards in most cases. And so extra's and add-ons won't work, CD/ROMS won't, etc.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), February 17, 1999.

Andy -- thanks for Private Frazier quote/source. As a fan of Brit humour, I'm sure I'd enjoy. When is the question, got a bunch of Benny Hill vids haven't got to yet, and my next projects were "Monty Python" and "Faulty Towers." Now with Y2K and other stuff, it may be 2002, if ever, before I get to them. But, I'll put a note my Info Select, with a reminder for 2000-07-01 to look them up, if the power is up.

-- vbProg (vbProg@MicroSoftSucks.com), February 18, 1999.

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