1. PC internal clocks. Even new motherboards are typically stuck with a brain-dead century rollover problem: You may have to turn the PC off and then on immediately after 12:01 AM on January 1, 2000, in order to inform the BIOS that the clock is off by 100 years. <sigh> This will correct the problem if you have a recent motherboard BIOS. You can go to the IBM Year2000 website (http://www.ibm.com/ibm/year2000/pcs/assess.html) and download the "PC Evaluation Tool" to verify this for yourself.As you can probably see, Y2K is far more subtle and complicated than most people realize. This little discussion has focused solely on the PC itself. What about power systems, banks, airlines, and other elements of the societal infrastructure? What happens if these go bonkers? Next month's installment will close out this series with some of the probable reactions. You won't believe who the new scapegoats will be.
2. The Operating System. This seems to baffle many people. Just because the hardware is Y2K-ready, that does not mean that the *computer* is Y2K-ready. Users of IBM DOS2000 or PCDOS7 with the Y2K patch are in good shape; users of Linux are in great shape (Unix variants are expected to have a Y2038 problem only). Users of OS/2 can get in shape by using the appropriate Fixpack. (FP6 or higher for Warp4; FP37 or higher for Warp3.) Note that OS/2's FP6 needs a couple of added fixes: DOSCALL.DLL, WINFILE.EXE for WinOS2, and MAIN.CPL for WinOS2 need to be replaced manually. Users of Windows3.1 are dead in the water. Users of Windows95/98 may or may not be in trouble; one MS spokesperson said that these systems have a "Y2001 Problem" at the very least. Users of WindowsNT should visit http://www.infoworld.com/cgi-bin/displayStory.pl?99021.ehy2knt.htm and decide for themselves who they want to believe. Mac is probably okay, except for a handful of older applications.
3. Speaking of apps, here is a real trouble spot. What if the hardware and the OS are up-to-date, but the apps interact directly with the system's real-time clock? OS/2 is famous for running older DOS apps well, but what if they bypass the operating system's time features? Windows 3.1 apps are also questionable for Y2K compatibility, and these are unlikely to be repaired by most vendors. It does no good to fix the hardware and the OS, only to let Y2K-crippled applications damage your system's compatibility by corrupting your data or resetting the system clock. If some of your apps are not Y2K-ready, it would be a good idea to migrate to Y2K-compatible programs *now* and erase the incompatible ones from your hard drive.
Note this also: IBM's OS/2 support for Y2K does not extend to every product that comes in the retail box. See the IBM OS/2 Y2K site for details (http://www.software.ibm.com/os/warp/solutions/and/y2000/year2000.html.). It may be necessary to remove some parts of the Bonus Pak from your hard drive to ensure Y2K-readiness.
4. Data. Older data is often in two-digit date format; how will your applications interpret these numbers? What happens when you exchange data with noncompliant systems? You will want to have a clean backup of your data on a separate, offline system until you can assess the impact of our interconnected world on your precious information, particularly any accounting and tax-related numbers.