State terminates contract to fix Y2k bug in drivers license program : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

State terminates contract to fix Y2K bug in drivers' licsences program

The Associated Press 09/21/99 5:26 PM Eastern

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- If you get pulled over for speeding after Jan. 1, authorities may not be able to tell whether you have previous traffic violations or are driving with a suspended license.

That's because the computer program that allows law enforcement officers to check driving records is not yet Y2K compliant and the company hired to handle the problem has been fired.

Bethesda, Md.-based Information Systems and Network Corp. was terminated after it wanted to raise prices in its $335,250 contract with the state, said Carrie Kurlander, press secretary for Gov. Don Siegelman. Officials with the company did not return phone calls Thursday.

For the system to work in 2000, the state must find another contractor to rewrite more than 379,000 lines of computer program codes for the system, which tracks driving records for more than 3 million Alabamians. Information Systems did start the work, but later said they would need more money to complete the project, Ms. Kurlander said.

Some state officials said they believe the problem will be resolved in time.

"We fully expect to be Y2K compliant," Mary Hasselwander, public information officer for the Department of Public Safety, said Monday.

Capt. C.R. Howell, director of the department's computer operations, said discussions are under way with another contractor to fix the codes. But prospects for resolving the problem are uncertain.

"We don't know," Howell said. "Have no idea."

If it isn't fixed, some worry about the impact it could have.

"The driving public is at risk when people are out there driving with suspended licenses, whether its from reckless driving or DUIs," said Dee Fine of Birmingham, who founded the Alabama chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 1983. "A lot of drunk drivers drive with suspended or revoked licenses. When they're drunk the fact that its a suspended or revoked license is of little priority to them."

Problems with the computer system could also mean headaches for insurance companies and their customers.

"This could possibly affect insurance premiums from the standpoint of validation of driving records," said Tom Scott, a spokesman for AAA Alabama, a chapter of the American Automobile Association.

Other computer systems used by the Department of Public Safety, including the one used to issue drivers' licenses, are Y2K compliant, Howell said.

Siegelman, who took office in January, said the state has gotten a late start in working on the computer bug, which causes computers to read the year 2000 as 1900.

"I pretty much laid the law that these Cabinet members need to get serious," he said. "We're not going to pass the buck to anybody. We need to get it done and get it done right."

Last week, a report by the U.S. Health Care Finance Administration listed Alabama's Medicaid Agency in danger of a Y2K failure, but the governor said he did not believe that to be the case.

-- Homer Beanfang (, September 21, 1999


Good contract opportunity for some out of work Y2K remediation team!

-- Mad Monk (, September 21, 1999.

Last week my wife went to renew her driver's license at a county satellite location outside of Birmingham, AL. Very long line. Apparently, another of the county's satellite locations had computer failures in the driver's license area and sent its applicants to the same location my wife went to. Double the traffic.

Unfortunately, the functioning location also lost all but one of its driver's license computers. My wife stood in line for 1.5 hours trying to get the renewal. There are clearly problems in Ala.'s drivers' control computers.

This experience got me projecting into next year. If Y2K is mild and most problems are in the nature of inconveniences, we'll still be spending extraordinary amounts of time on piddling, ministerial tasks. It will be tough getting anything done under even a "best case" Y2K scenario. In a few months it will be very difficult conducting business in this country.

-- mike (, September 21, 1999.


Thanks again for yet another pertinent report!


-- Jerry B (, September 21, 1999.

Hey Mike, I just have one question for you. Is it easy to get things done today? I know what you are saying, but the wasted man-hours and foolish piddling is already astronomical.

-- Jim the Window Washer (, September 21, 1999.


Thanks for all the articles you post to the forum. Where do you find them all??

I may be misremembering (entirely possible...gettin' to be an old person), but doesn't Flint live in Alabama?

-- RUOK (, September 21, 1999.

Great digging, Homer!

Note the part where it is mentioned that almost 400,000 lines of code have to be RE-WRITTEN, then, just further down, a spokesman stating that "we will be Y2K-COMPLIANT"!

duh! WHEN?? In Y3K???

-- profit_of_doom (, September 21, 1999.

* * * 19990921 Tuesday

Hmmm... Let's do some math:

~400,000 LOC*/ ~100,000 LOC per programmer man-year = ~4 man-years. * LOC = Lines Of Code

The last Y2K project I worked on--AS/400; COBOL; 387,000 LOC-- required 4 months of off-site ( out-of-state ) effort ( including *ONLY* 10 work-days of testing system/applications/test data to identify *ONLY* 4 dozen ( roughly )FUNCTIONAL FAILURES ) by a Y2K team of about 20 people ( Subject Matter Experts [ SME's ], programmers, and business managers ) and lots of travel.

Looks like _the_ "Y2K poster child"--Maryland--is "Y2K Burnt Toast!"

This won't be enough for the pollys, though; there'll be more "Y2K Failure Case Studies" forthcoming for them to deny. How much will be enough?! Hmmm?

Regards, Bob Mangus

* * *

-- Robert Mangus (, September 21, 1999.

A question, Sir Robert of the Magniminity,

Wha twould have been the result of NOT fixing those errors?

Could the programm have been "restarted" at all? Would it have partially worked (some whole modules being useable), or completely "froze" or what?

If you walked into that site in thesecond week of January - given power and living conditions adequate to manage - would it have takes a longer time or shorter time (since th eerros might be more visible) to do the job?

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, September 22, 1999.

RUOK et al,

Try this search engine, its heavy duty:


Hope that works...

-- Homer Beanfang (, September 22, 1999.

* * * 19990922 Wednesday

Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, September 22, 1999 wrote:

> A question, Sir Robert of the Magniminity, [RMangus] That would be "Manaminity," if it were anything, "PE." > > Wha twould have been the result of NOT fixing those errors?

[RMangus] A one billion dollar business function kaput after June 1999!

> > Could the programm have been "restarted" at all? Would it have > partially worked (some whole modules being useable), or completely > "froze" or what?

[RMangus] Business kaput! Fini! Not possible to find the manual labor in the tight U.S. labor market to do what this system automated and with near zero errors!!

> > If you walked into that site in thesecond week of January - given > power and living conditions adequate to manage - would it have > takes a longer time or shorter time (since th eerros might be more > visible) to do the job?

[RMangus] Out of business after June 1999! Nothing to work on!

Mr. Cooks ability to analyze/understand the Y2K system meltdown underway is woefully pathetic and "de-nihilistic.".

Regards, Bob Mangus

* * *

Regards, Bob Mangus

* * *

-- Robert Mangus (, September 22, 1999.

Sorry RMangus, I don't agree. I spent a decade in state-level vehicle and driver licensing systems.

First, whole chunks of the process can be left idle for months with no damage. Skip the stuff that mails out renewal invitations. Skip the stuff that forwards info to federal level or to the directory-publishing people. Just do the in-house database work, and worry about the rest later. Now you're down from 400K lines to about 100K lines.

Second, write a database unload/reload pair in about a day and a half. Format everything as 4-digit even if that wasn't your plan originally. Don't even try to process data.

Then fix your online programs and bring them up one at a time as you fix them. The plain vanilla renewal is 90% of your work. Do that first and you have 90% of your customers happy in a week. Then work your way down the line.

It won't be a jolly time, you won't get much sleep, but you CAN get it going. Been there, done that.

-- bw (home@puget.sound), September 22, 1999.

Most third-world countries are woefully behind...

-- PNG (, September 22, 1999.

Good to hear from you, PNG.

BW: You're addressing part of what I was trying to get Sir Robert M. to consider. But I didn't get the impression that his remediation project was this specific drivers license burea, but rather Robert was using the license burea as an example of another project that would have caused great losses if it were not done.

I was trying to get a feel for what it would have been like if he HADN'T done the specific remediation project. Well, he answered the question but just summarizing that "the company would have gone out of business" isn't enough data to learn from. (My own company would "go out of business" too if we didn't any new contracts, but not working for one week in late December isn't a long enough delay to actually bankrupt us. No new contracts for 6 weeks would also and absolutely cause us to shutdown, if nobody were laid off.

Laying off everybody for a period of 3 weeks would allow a longer period of "no work" to be "endured" - if any of the former employees actually cared to wait around without a paycheck!

Hmmmmmn, he said, reading the above, perhaps I was not clear in the purpose of of this question to the Sir Manaminity person.

Being stubborn, lettuce try again, perhaps even spelling better this time. One always has time to learn.....or even to persuade others that I do understand more than one part of this here problem.

Sir Robert. You seemed rather positive that the "company" in its entirety and in all parts would simply cease business when the error "tripped" - apparently related to its fiscal year since it would have "gone out of business" on July 1, 1999.

My question was to go one step past that conclusion - not doubting that the conclusion was correct, but approaching it from the other side.

Let us assume this company tried to "fix on failure."

On June 30, it existed and had millions of assets and a good bank account and many people working for it. Jobs were on backlog, salesmen were off on their trips lying and doing other things, people were filing, folding, and mailing letters, other people were building things, packaging them etc - all the usual "stuff" that goes on.

The alarm goes off in the employees' houses on July 1, and they go to work. The significant failures [that you would have otherwise corrected during the remediation process] have occurred - but now the company "sees" the problem.

1) Wha twould have been the symptoms of the problem? Did data disappear? Did the company's production line "stop"? Did forklift trucks freeze or did chemical processes go out of control?

What I'm trying to get at is to understand what "might" happen at all those companies who think they can "fix on failure." Your conclusion is that the company would go out of business - my assumption is that they might have to lay off everybody - and produce nothing! - until "you" could fix the problem, but that (for a short time - days to weeks) the company could (perhaps) do some repairs. Perhaps even enough repairs to resume production.

2) You know how exactly long - under this specific contract situation - it took a qualified group of individuals to repair the errors and test the new process. In this case, all other conditions were optimum: no power outages, no hurricanes, no floods, no telephone errors, no other simultaneous software or vender errors. No worries about the programmer's home life or families, no travel or infrastructure failures. (Are these conditions valid post-2000? frankly, no. But I'm looking at optimum conditions only, and know those restrictions.)

After the failures had actually happened, how long would it have taken to fix the problems? Could you have fixed them at all - assuming the company used its reserve cash to pay you while it was shutdown.

3) If the company was shutdown due to y2k-induced failures, what was the minimum services you would have needed to complete the corrections and testing? How many of the companies IT and technical people were needed to support your crew?

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, September 23, 1999.

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