Japan says leap year glitches were 'careless':

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Japan says leap year glitches were 'careless':

Japan today suffered a series of embarrassing computer problems due to the leap year rollover and was forced to admit it had been careless.

Chief government spokesman Mikio Aoki said the government had let down its guard after the New Year, which it negotiated with only a few millennium bug computer glitches.

"Because everything went well then, there is no denying we were negligent this time," he said.

Playing down the severity of the problems, he said the government would now disband its special leap year task force. It had been set up amid concerns computers would not recognise February 29, 2000, a leap year that occurs once in 400 years.

The wave of glitches, which hit cash dispensers and weather devices, further tarnished Japan's image as a technological superpower after a recent series of hacker raids on government computers, rocket mishaps and a nuclear accident last year.

The Posts and Telecommunications Ministry said about 1,200 cash dispensers at post offices across Japan went down due to computer bugs triggered by the February 29th leap day.

The ministry said it had sent scores of engineers to repair the dispensers and all the machines had been fixed. The ministry runs some 25,000 cash dispensers.

Japan's Financial Supervisory Agency said there were six reports of computer problems in financial firms, including banks, and all but one had been fixed by late in the day.

The Bank of Japan injected a larger than usual surplus into the money market to try to quell any sudden rise in short-term rates as banks boosted liquidity in case of computer problems.

A glitch struck the weather bureau for the second straight day, prompting its computers to send out erroneous information on local temperatures and precipitation.

Japan's Meteorological Agency said computers designed to process the data at its 43 offices across the country malfunctioned early on Tuesday. A spokesman said the problem was caused by an old programme installed in the system.

All the computers had been repaired, about 14 hours after they started malfunctioning.

On Monday, a number of the agency's computers failed to print properly the date on a set of weather forecasts.

In northern Japan, the Aomori prefectural government said devices showing seismic activity at 20 local government offices malfunctioned early in the day due to the leap year effect.

Yoshinari Fujita, a millennium expert at Nomura Research Institute, attributed the malfunctions mainly to carelessness.

Officials said they had received no reports of computer failures in any other sectors, including nuclear power generation, aviation and telecommunications.

Japan saw several computer-related glitches at the New Year, including five data monitoring incidents at nuclear power plants, at least one of which was later acknowledged as a Y2K problem after a computer failed to read properly the year 2000.

All were cleared up within hours and did not affect safety or power generation.


-- Risteard Mac Thomais (uachtaran@ireland.com), February 29, 2000

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