Portland isn't afraid of telling the facts - article on front page of the Oregonian

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The Oregonian has a good article on the front page of the Sunday issue today. They are finally starting to confront the public with facts of actual Y2K snafus so that people might begin to see it is real. This at least is more than our so-called leaders have been willing to reveal. I predict from this point forward Y2K will make the front page of most major papers almost ever day.


-- Bender (now@risk.here), February 28, 1999


That's one of the best mainstream articles I've seen on early Y2K problems. Here's the hot link:


-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), February 28, 1999.

Y2K's Already Here When It Comes To Computer Glitches

[ For Educational Purposes Only ]

Y2K's Already Here When It Comes To Computer Glitches

Many big U.S. firms already have had online woes linked to the year 2000

Sunday February 28, 1999, By Steve Woodward of The Oregonian staff

Every Y2K junkie knows the story of 104-year-old Mary Bandar of Winona, Minn.
In 1993, her Catholic parish sent her a surprise invitation -- to come to preschool.
Bandar, born in '88 (1888, that is), had been culled out of a database search for all Winona parishioners born in '88 (1988, that is).

"Why would they want me?" she said jokingly to the Associated Press at the time. "I know the ABCs yet. And I can count to 10."

The database, which used only the last two digits of the year, couldn't tell the difference between 4 and 104 years old.

It's the classic example of the Year 2000 computer problem.

It's also the classic reminder that Y2K won't really arrive at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31.

Rather, Y2K is like a slow-motion train wreck, gathering speed as it clacks down the tracks toward 2000. Thirty years after it crashed its first computer programs, the millennium bug is sweeping a widening swath of mischief in offices, schools, factories and city halls from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore.

Missed paychecks. Incorrect sewer bills. Vanished data. Garbled reports.

It's not the end of the world as we know it.
But the trend is unmistakable: Y2K is already here.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- --
Portland, Maine. Unum Life Insurance Co. deletes 700 broker records from a licensing database after a computer mistakes "00" for 1900. Records are restored in several days from backups.

South Island, New Zealand. At midnight on New Year's Eve, 660 process control computers at the Tiwai Point aluminum smelter go dead without warning, causing $1 million in damage. The computers, which tell time by counting the number of days in the year, had encountered an "impossibility": the 366th day of the year. They didn't know 1996 was a leap year.

Sterling Heights, Mich. Chrysler Corp. rolls clocks forward in a Y2K test of an automobile assembly plant. The security system immediately shuts down, locking workers inside the building.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- --

The Year 2000 problem has lain largely dormant since 1969, when engineers scrambled to fix programs that had begun miscalculating 30-year mortgages and bonds. But the pace of failures has begun to increase.

A year ago, 7 percent of large U.S. corporations and government agencies had experienced a Y2K-related failure. Today, the tally has leaped to 55 percent. That's according to quarterly surveys by New York-based Cap Gemini America, one of the world's largest computer services consulting firms. Since the beginning of the year, Y2K-related glitches have caused taxi meters in Singapore to go dead, locked employees out of a New York insurance company office, triggered the early release of sensitive U.S. Labor Department data onto the Internet, collapsed the class-registration automated phone system at the University of Alberta, snarled the U.S. Senate's bill-paying system and inadvertently activated the Monkey V computer virus, which had been waiting quietly for the arrival of the year 2000.

Closer to home, date-related computer bugs have blitzed the Portland Water Bureau's inventory system, halted Washington County's fiscal year budgeting and caused a state government computer to spit out nonsensical numbers for an insurance report.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- --
Oct. 1, 1998.

A Year 2000 failure was the furthest thing from Robert A. Nies' mind when he noticed a routine report that was loaded with bogus numbers.

"We got numbers that were way off. I noticed it immediately," said Nies, a financial analyst with the state of Oregon's Risk Management Division.

The first quarter of the state's 1998-99 fiscal year had just ended the day before. As he has done every quarter since November 1996, Nies ran a so-called self-insurance reserve report, which shows the state's reserve strength in its property, liability and workers' compensation insurance accounts. "I ran the report three times," he said, "and it was giving me junk."

Two days later, a state computer programmer found the culprit: the millennium bug.

The program used a quirky approach to indicate the end of a report. It always began with the year 1981 and used simple addition to tell it when it had reached the current fiscal year.

Unfortunately, the program recognized only the last two digits of the year. So when it added 1 to the fiscal year '99, it got an answer it couldn't compute: 00.

The programmer patched the problem long enough for the Department of Administrative Services to install a new system, which was switched on Feb. 1.

"The funny thing was," Nies said of the old system, "it was supposed to be Y2K-compliant."

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The Year 2000 computer problem isn't new to Portland.

Two years ago, the Portland Water Bureau's inventory management system failed when it projected ahead to 2000. Programmers installed a temporary fix, so the bureau could continue to manage its central supply warehouse. The program will be replaced with certified software in April.

On Jan. 1 this year, at one minute after midnight, a Portland delivery company went into emergency mode when several order-entry programs crashed. A technician from its software vendor logged onto the system for four minutes and fixed the problem without volunteering an explanation. Later, the delivery company's system administrator, who asked for anonymity for himself and his company, later traced the crashes to an expiration date the vendor had forgotten to remove after Y2K testing.

At the same time, across town, a financial services company's data center experienced five different failures involving a handful of transactions in four old mainframe applications. One program, for example, began spewing out 1999 paperwork showing 100 years' worth of payments due.

Fortunately, the company's information services staff was already standing by, watching for Y2K-related failures -- going so far as to monitor the power when midnight hit the leading edge of the Western power grid at 10 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

"Everything was trapped in the data center," said the company's Year 2000 project manager, who, like many other private-sector Y2K managers, spoke only on the condition that neither he nor his company be identified to avoid potential legal liability. Of the errors, he said: "Nothing crashed, nothing burned, nobody died, no customers were impacted by this."

The problems were traced to human error. Some employees had ignored managers' instructions to handwrite such information as renewal dates, throw them into customers' files and input them after the systems were repaired. Instead, they typed "00" into the non-compliant programs, which interpreted the digits as the year 1900.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- --

Jan. 4, 1999.

Employees in the Washington County Sheriff's Department encountered something odd and maddening when they came back to work after the New Year's holiday: The county's crime statistics reporting database refused to accept any date beyond 1 2/31/98.

The program supplier had built the database 10 years before, using four-digit years. He had declared it Year 2000-ready.

Which it was -- except for one thing: He had put a 10-year expiration date into the program. The problem was fixed by the next day.

"It did not affect any community activities. Nor did it represent any health and safety issues," said Wayne Horscroft, site manager for Unisys, an information services contractor for the county. "Just held up the collection and representation of monthly crime statistics -- annoying but really quite a ho-hum sort of situation."

Two months before, Horscroft said, the county's budgeting system had refused to allow new data entry into the fiscal 2000 budget.

The database, hardware and operating system had proved Y2K-ready in early 1998 tests. The system didn't rely on either four-digit or two-digit years for its calculations. Instead, it told time by counting the number of days before or after the date Dec. 31, 1967.

"Very simple and very effective," said Horscroft, who went to work for Unisys after taking early retirement as manager of PacifiCorp's multimillion-dollar Y2K project.

But a problem lurked in the budgeting application code's "weeds."

The original programmer called for the computer to abandon the usual date format when it created the identity of the current fiscal year. So the current fiscal year, for example, which began July 1 and will end June 30, is identified as 98-99.

So far, so good.

But the programmer also called for the computer to add 1 to each number of the fiscal year identity to create the new fiscal year.

That caused fiscal 2000 to be identified as 99-100.

The result: immediate disruption.

"It took about three days to locate the offending routine, clean it up, test it and then put everything back into production," Horscroft said.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- --

Last year, engineers at PacifiCorp, which operates Pacific Power and Utah Power, ran a Y2K test of three power-generating units at a Utah power plant.

PacifiCorp's supplier had certified the units as Y2K-compliant. But the supplier had actually tested only one of the units, assuming the other two were identical. They weren't.

As soon as engineers rolled the clock forward to 2000, two of four control monitors went blank.

Peter de Jager, a computer programmer best known for his "Doomsday 2000" article, published in Computerworld in 1993, calls such failures "evidence of effort."

In a January article on his Web site (www.year2000.com), de Jager contends that anyone who is truly fixing a Year 2000 problem will have a failure to show for it.

"Ask them what they found which would fail and what they've done to fix, replace, or work around that failure," he writes. "If you haven't found a Y2K failure, then either you're not working on the problem, or haven't looked hard enough."

---------------------------------------------------------------------- --
Steve Woodward covers the Year 2000 computer problem. He can be reached at 503-294-5134 or by e-mail at stevewoodward@news.oregonian.com.

====================================================================== ==

Rob Michaels, anything there you can add to your list?

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), February 28, 1999.

Thanks for the assistance guys! It isn't easy to get these organizations to fess up that they've had problems, especially private businesses. This reporter really did the necessary legwork. Finally, someone in the media that earned his paycheck instead of just specualting! There is also a good little graphic that briefly highlights each of these incidents. I'll try to get it scanned and posted asap.

-- Bender (now@risk.here), February 28, 1999.

Also in today's Oregonian :-)

Y2K Conference Presents Low-Tech Ways To Be Ready

[ For Educational Purposes Only ]

Y2K Conference Presents Low-Tech Ways To Be Ready

Participants acquire skills that technology has made obsolete, just in case the new year brings shutdowns or at worst, a disaster

Sunday February 28, 1999, By Steve Woodward of The Oregonian staff

The last thing on this Year 2000 agenda was high technology.

Wood stoves? Yes.
Household gardens? Yes.
Bicycle transportation? Yes.
Microwave popcorn? No, no, no.

A Saturday Y2K preparedness conference at Portland State University took 200 participants back to the days before computers were commonplace -- and taught them skills that technology has made obsolete.

They learned how to forage for wild edibles in the city, how to barter goods and services and how to store food and water, courtesy of the Portland Heart-Centered Y2K Action Team and PSU Students for Unity.

They learned how to treat health conditions with homeopathy, how to reduce stress with journal writing and how to work with "Y2K-triggered emotions."

They also heard keynote talks from leaders in Portland's Y2K community-organizing movement and from the city's Year 2000 project manager.

"I'm not worried," said Kay Sasaki, a Southwest Portland woman who came with her friend, Joette Prew, out of "Y2K awareness."

"But we're preparing," added Prew, 49, who is preparing to buy a second electric generator for her Hillsboro home, along with ready-to-eat meals from REI.

"I found out how to get clean water with coffee filters and bleach," said Sasaki, 51, as they emerged from a session on water purification and storage.

Prew said she has 30,000 gallons of water already available in her back yard for tasks such as flushing toilets -- her husband raises koi, an ornamental goldfish.

Debate about city program

The city of Portland's Y2K chief, Richard Hofland, acknowledged the uncertainty that shrouds the arrival of 2000. Some unprepared computers will interpret the year as 1900, causing miscalculations, shutdowns and other mischief.

Hofland said preparation makes sense, even if a Y2K disaster never comes to pass. He spoke in broad terms about the debate that has erupted over Mayor Vera Katz's proposal to organize the entire city and deliver Y2K preparedness advice to every citizen.

"We want to tell people what it is that we have learned that makes us comfortable that widespread collapse of city systems is not probable," Hofland said. "There's a debate on how the city should do this."

At an informal Portland City Council work session last week, Commissioner Charlie Hales questioned whether the council should spend money advising citizens about a problem they might not be concerned with in the first place.

Commissioner Erik Sten suggested that the money might be better spent simply mailing brochures to city households.

Wake-up call

"Where to draw the line is the council's responsibility, and I think they'll do that," said Hofland, who is part of a team now revising the mayor's proposal.

Workshop participants have apparently already drawn the line -- and it's mostly on using Y2K as a wake-up call to prepare for emergencies, learn basic survival skills and protect their families and neighbors.

"If the people in 1928 had known the Depression was coming the next year, what would they have done?" asked Michael Dowd, a co-founder of the Portland Metro Citizens Y2K Task Force.

"We'll see more community building in the next 10 months than we've seen since World War II."

Community building, in fact, was one of 29 different topics addressed in workshops.

So was neighborhood and community gardening. "Put in spaces that allow people to gather. Put in a tool shed, put in a community gathering area," presenter Leslie Pohl-Kosbou advised attendees.

And fundamentals of sustainability at the household level: "We can figure out how to wash ourselves without electricity, we don't dry our clothes in an electric dryer," said Victoria Stopiello. "But food storage is a different matter."

"The more processed it is, the shorter shelf life it has," Patti Paxson said.

And water storage and purification. "If we had no other source of water and we wanted to take water out of the Willamette," said Patsy Zambetti, "we would take this little thing that you can buy at any auto parts store, then put this coffee filter in it. . ."

And heating with wood. "Any new stove you purchase at a store will meet code," said Terry McAuliff.

And Y2K and kids: "Kids are anxious about the same things we're anxious about," noted Jalil Buechel.

And voluntary simplicity: "Affirmations are how we program our subconscious life," said a teacher who goes by the name Steel.

And the spiritual opportunity: "This could be the lesson of Y2K," said the Rev. Gabrielle Chavez, pastor of the Christ the Healer Church. "Instead of being anxious about what you need, give alms."


You can reach Steve Woodward at 503-294-5134 or by e-mail at steve woodward@news.oregonian.com. The fax number is 503-294-4079. The regular mailing address is 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, OR 97201.


The city's Y2K chief, Richard Hofland, goes to EVERY darn-tootin Y2K meeting he finds out about!
Even the "Y2K Hippie" gatherings. [see our thread from lloooonnggg ago ]
He may put a reassuring face on things, but ya gotta hand it to the guy -- he stays informed on the pulse of the cityzzzzzns.

Given Portland's recent experiences with floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes erupting in its backyard, there is a good chance it will come out of Y2K smelling like roses, the official symbol, because of its heightened disaster awareness.

City hall bickering notwithstanding.

By the way, THANK YOU to E.C. who has been a driving force for responsible media coverage.

xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), February 28, 1999.

Oregonian Archives: Y2K

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), February 28, 1999.

doggone it why couldn't the deface the nation folks have done 15 minutes on Portland's efforts?? Here is an entire city proving that you *can* get people to prepare for y2k sanely, calmly, and in plenty of time, and the mainstream media are simply ignoring them!



-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), February 28, 1999.

Arlin -

IMHO, it's always been like that: [R. Dangerfield voice] "No respect, I tell ya!"

Oregon developed the Bottle Bill "way back when" to give citizens incentives to recycle; worked like a dream, but Oregon never got much ink for it. Portland Trailblazers were easily one of the best pro basketball teams in the '90's (sorry, non-compliant: 1990's), but you'd never have known it from the sportwriters.

Media cares primarily about NY, LA, Chicago, and DC, then about a few "regionals" like Boston, SF, Philly, Miami, Minnepolis, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, a few others.

Portland isn't on the radar; it's not going to appear on "Meet the Depressed". Its actions are seen as being on a par with Lubbock's, despite Portland's size. If San Diego or Denver started a program like Portland's, even they probably would not get the kind of coverage that was warranted.

Now if LA or another major muni starts up this sort of program (and this may still happen), the wire services will be all over it...

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.com), March 01, 1999.

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