Will embedded systems fail on Christmas?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Will Embedded Systems Fail on Christmas? by Ray Strackbein

If embedded systems are going to fail, they will start failing on January 1, 2000. Wrong! Some have already failed. Here is a failure scenario that has been overlooked almost completely.

A business owner told me he had a Y2K failure. His timeclock failed on December 27, 1998. He knew the timeclock wasn't Y2K compliant, but he thought he had a year to replace it before it failed. The clock surprised him.

The week beginning December 27, 1998, was the first week that contained a workday in 1999. On that day, the timeclock computer set up its tables for the entire 1999 year. The new table contained the date, January 1, 2000, as the last day of the last pay period. The timeclock didn't know how to process anything in the Year 2000 and failed, never to work again. His business went without a timeclock for 2 weeks, until he could find a suitable replacement.

So, what does a simple timeclock failure have to do with embedded systems? Some embedded systems have reporting functions built-in. To create reports, some systems look-ahead to the end of the reporting period. These reports are often passed to an administrative computer system. As a safety precaution, in case the administrative computer is temporarily inoperative and unable to accept data, some process control computers temporarily store data until its receipt has been acknowledged by the administrative computer.

Before acquiring and storing data, the real-time system must create a buffer (holding area) for that data. This buffer is created based on an arbitrary time period such as a year, month, week, day, or hour. The year and month periods are not a major problem now. Any problems in those embedded systems have already shown up and have been remediated or workarounds have been put in place.

The week, day, and hour periods are much more likely to be problematic. As we enter the final week before January 1, 2000, increasing numbers of computer systems will be looking ahead into the year 2000. This process will accelerate as Saturday, December 25, 1999, ends and Sunday, December 26, 1999, begins. Sunday will be the first day to look ahead into the year 2000 for some embedded systems. We may not have to wait until the stroke of midnight January 1, 2000 to experience embedded system Y2K failures.

Y2K could be the last Christmas present of 1999. Although it will be the early evening of December 25 in the United States, it will be the morning of Sunday December 26, 1999 on the west side of the International Date Line. Some systems will try to construct a table for the next week and fail. Other systems will fail a day later, as they try to construct a Monday through Sunday week. This process will continue throughout the time remaining until 2000 as even more systems construct a one-day table to include January 1.

Some systems will construct their look-ahead table at midnight local time; others, GMT. If we see any indication of problems in any parts of our infrastructure at about 7:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (Midnight Greenwich Mean Time) on December 25, we are undoubtedly in for a tragic Y2K.

Systems failures are often ironic. What a fitting tribute to Murphy's Law - to have Y2K failures strike while the world is least expecting them, on the night of Christmas.

The overwhelming message has been, "We will be ready for Y2K. We will be fully staffed beginning December 31 to attend to any problem that might arise." In the mean time, most Y2K teams are taking a well-deserved breather this last weekend. Surprise!

-- Sally Strackbein (and Ray) (sally@y2kkitchen.com), December 24, 1999


another date that will pass without anythinh happening.

-- zzzzzzz (bs@bs.net), December 24, 1999.

This is a simple one. Let's all check back on this on Monday.

-- (forever@embedded.chipshots), December 24, 1999.

Two mornings ago my smoke alarm started beeping intermittendly as if indicating that the battery was losing its charge. I tested it with a voltage tester, and with its test button. It was fully charged. It started beeping again this morning.

I removed and replaced the battery each time and the beeping stopped.

Embedded chip problem?

-- No Smoke (beep@alarm.com), December 24, 1999.


Embedded systems fail every day, for a very wide variety of reasons. Even on Christmas. What you're talking about is lookaheads in code, which we've been encountering at an accelerating rate all year, none of which have become newsworthy yet. Christmas is the first day for systems that look ahead exactly one week. But as our exalted Sysman (#7 on the list, he'll be glad to tell you) never tires of pointing out, lookaheads don't count. So don't worry about it.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), December 24, 1999.

This makes sense. One week look-aheads, if they are going to fail, will fail one week before the first. Being a holiday problems with this may not be found until Monday or even after the new year in places that close down for Christmas through New Years as a normal part of vacation (such as a large part of Boeing and schools).

Take a deep breath and stay alert.... we are a day away from the beginning of knowing the reality of the situation. kinda like the beginning of labor, its happening now and there is no putting it off until later! When it is over, no matter the outcome, our lives will never be the same again! At the very least, it is the beginning of a new Century!

Isaac Asimov wanted to live to see the year 2000, unfortunately he did not, My Father, born in 1920, has wanted the same thing. Baring some unforeseen circumstance, he will make it.

I keep telling him that with nano technology being developed right now, he could possibly make it to the next one.

Now is the time for EVERYONE to realize is that it is time to stop aposing each other and ride this out together, we in America are lucky to live in the freest country in the world, no matter it's faults. We, at least, are free to make mistakes. Just as each person here has been free to decide for themselves what and how much they have prepared for.

The freedom of choice in their manner of preparations is the same as their freedom to choose their form of religion.

What was that old rule about what the three things you do not discuss in a party or family get-together? Don't talk about politics, religion and I forget the third. Lately there has been a fourth, Y2K.

It will not do anyone of us one bit of good if we continue to fight each other now, especially as stressful as living through the "happening" which, for all intents and purposes, has started. We have a common enemy, Potential Y2K failures. Do not take your emotions (fear, anger etc.) out on the wrong entity. Just like getting upset at work and going home and taking it out on your spouse, kids or dog is wrong, but tends to happen, don't do the same about Y2K and let the stress take it out on them or even those you perceive as your enemies. Now is the time to exersize your self control and you will survive whatever happens. Even if little or nothing happens, if you do not use self control and let it "get to you" you could do something destructive which you will regret later.

Use "stress control" measures, like have a puzzle that you go to in moments of overwhelming stress, to allow your mind to back down from the chemicals that will be inundating it. Whatever works for you. And remember, everyone else, to one degree or another will be going through what you are and might not be able to handle it so do not bait them because they may "blow". This is not the time to create more problems than we will have to experience.

Remember extreme stress can cause lack of sleep and lack of sleep causes your mind to experience sleep deprivation which does not allow you to think clearly. Think about what you are doing and why, especially if you know it is out of character for you.

-- Cherri (sams@brigadoon.com), December 24, 1999.

Aman brother, you have spoke what I have been trying to say, However you did a far better job than I could ever thought of doing. No use for this bickering, we will all face this together sort of an equalizer, like death, we all as humans must face regardless of our station in life. Whether we be homeless, or a president, samo samo.

-- Notforlong (Fsur439@aol.com), December 24, 1999.

Dear Flint;

It matters if it is YOUR payroll system and it won't track your payroll usage for next week!

Got paper?

-- Scotty (BLehman202@aol.com), December 24, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ