Y2k bug worming its way into some N.C. computerw

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Posted at 11:53 p.m. EDT Tuesday, May 25, 1999

Y2K bug worming its way into some N.C. computers


Despite state workers' efforts to zap it, the Y2K bug has crept into the open for the first time, landing on receipts for vehicle-emission tests.

Hundreds of motorists across North Carolina have received receipts listing 1910 as the next year to have their exhaust checked. Computer software in 270 inspection stations -- 115 in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties -- was the culprit.

State workers have seen other early signs of the Y2K bug, a programming glitch that may cause computers to misread the year 2000 as 1900 -- or go haywire and shut down altogether.

In January, computers calculating due dates for some child-support payments said the next checks should be mailed in 1900. Clerks caught the error, which state officials said would have affected only a few families.

The problems are minor, and in all but the auto-emissions case, have been ``invisible to the public,'' said Debra Jones, who heads North Carolina's $129 million reprogramming mission.

``A lot of people think the problem will just occur on Jan. 1, 2000,'' she said. ``But everybody across the world has been experiencing Year 2000 problems.''

Since 1995, the bug has popped up 11 times, Jones said.

``The problems have been so few and so minor that we haven't even classified them as failures,'' she said. ``They're more like routine maintenance.''

In South Carolina, Y2K glitches have occurred on 21 state government computer systems since 1995, according to the state Budget and Control Board, which is tracking Y2K compliance.

For instance, when the S.C. Department of Education tried in January 1995 to renew schoolteachers' certifications -- good for five years -- the computer kicked out the applications, with the message ``Invalid Expiration Date.''

It took technicians four days to rewrite the 8,000 lines of computer code necessary to fix the problem.

Overall, S.C. government officials say that in the 681 computer systems directly involved in delivering government services and collecting revenue, 81 percent have been checked for the Y2K bug and repaired, and 67 percent have been successfully tested to make sure they work with 21st century dates.

The S.C. Department of Public Safety, which includes the Division of Motor Vehicles, says it has completed nearly all its Y2K work.

``If you walk in today and renew your vehicle or your driver's license, when it comes back it will say on it that your next renewal date is 2003,'' said DPS Information Technology Director Al Billings said.

So far in N.C. government, the only public sighting of the Y2K bug has been in the vehicle-emission checks between January and May 1. Software owned by the stations hadn't been updated, as required by the state, said Division of Motor Vehicles spokesman Jon Parks.

The 115 inspection stations in Mecklenburg, Union, Cabarrus and Gaston -- among 1,400 statewide -- will not be allowed to continue inspections until they update their software, he said. The work is expected to be largely completed this month.

The error didn't affect DMV records, Parks said, since the receipts were merely given as ``courtesies'' and the erroneous inspection dates weren't entered into DMV computers.

Of North Carolina's 1,223 computer systems, state officials have pegged 132 as ``mission critical'' -- those that have a direct impact on public safety, business and revenue. After the agencies and Jones' office have updated the systems, State Auditor Ralph Campbell will check most of them.

So far, Campbell's office has given the ``Y2K-ready'' stamp to 14 systems. The auditor is expected to deliver a readiness report this fall. As of April 30, the state had completed about 84 percent of its reprogramming work, Jones said.

So far, only two important computer systems appear to be lagging. One, in the Department of Public Instruction, tracks the school lunch program; the state uses it to collect reimbursements from the federal government.

The other system, in the Revenue Department, is only about 40 percent ready, Jones said. That system is responsible for tracking tax collections.

A private software supplier told department officials the system would be Y2K compliant, Jones said, but then backed out. That left department officials scrambling.

``They'll be ready,'' Jones said. ``Rest assured.''

Staff writer Henry Eichel contributed to this article. Reach Stephanie Gibbs at (919) 834-8471 or sgibbs@charlotte.com .


New tag system fails first test

09/09/1999 Amy Wolfford Staff Writer

Georgia's new vehicle registration system was supposed to eliminate lengthy lines at tag offices -- but there were so many problems on its first day that the Columbus office not only had long waits, but shut down 90 minutes early Wednesday.

Columbus Tax Commissioner Lula L. Huff said there were glitches with some of the state's vehicle registration software in Atlanta, forcing her to close about 3 p.m.

Her employees had already been hampered by sluggish computers that stacked the line of customers up to 150 people deep. Crowds already were larger than normal because the office was closed Monday for Labor Day and Tuesday so the computers could be installed.

"We were kind of shot by Murphy's law," Huff said. "All the counties were having problems."

A Georgia Department of Revenue spokesman could not be reached late Wednesday for comment on how the new Georgia Registration and Title Information System worked in other parts of the state.

The Columbus office is expected to be open normal hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today, but Huff suggests people call 653-4211 before heading to the Government Center office to make sure computers are operating. And they should be warned that waits could be long again.

Huff said those who need to get their tags renewed can mail in completed forms to avoid waiting in line. The turnaround is two to three days. Others may want to drop off forms at the office and have their tags sent to them by mail.

Also, no penalties will be assessed for anyone whose tags expired on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"I'm expecting that it's going to be slow," she said. "I'm hoping the system will be up and running all day."

Most county tax offices -- 128 of the state's 159 -- were converted to the computer system Wednesday. These account for about 85 percent of the state's 7.5 million vehicles. State officials hope to have all of Georgia's counties on board by the end of next year.

The revenue department is funding the $9.5 million project which will allow county tax offices to process tag and title transactions online with a central state database. Currently, county officials mail title information to the state Department of Revenue, which then takes about 15 days to produce a new title.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.


-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), September 13, 1999


``invisible to the public,''

Not for long! <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), September 13, 1999.

Obviously - not a mission critical system!

-- Same as B4 (NWphotog@Foxcomm.net), September 13, 1999.

Yeah, Sysman, that comment... have been ``invisible to the public,'' stuck out like a sore thumb to me too.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), September 13, 1999.

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