Y2K Ain't Done if Your Software Won't Run

Analysis of News Events
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It’s early November. Seven weeks to go until you find out if you’ve shaken all the Y2K bugs out of your server and desktop applications. If your machines are not ready for the new millennium, you are in for trouble. Some companies, even smart, conservative AS/400 companies, are not yet Y2K-ready, and many haven’t finished testing their applications, even though they are wrapping up their code changes. Ironically, even if you think your applications can make it into the next century without troubles, you may be wrong.

In late September, an AS/400 Business Partner (BP) called me and said that he had stumbled across some interesting information buried in IBM’s Web-based authorized program analysis report (APAR) site for the AS/400 at www.as400service.ibm.com. (You have to use the navigation drop-down menu to get to APARs.) This information suggests that IBM, like most hardware and software providers, is still providing Y2K bug fixes for its supposedly Y2K-ready software.

This BP is telling all of his customers to look every week for new informational APARs on releases of OS/400 rated as Y2K-ready and to check for new PTFs that correct bugs found in OS/400 and its related systems software. Many of these PTFs are apparently not available in cumulative PTF tapes, so someone at your company had better hunker down on that Web site and go through all the PTFs to see if there are patches you need to apply. No AS/400 can be considered Y2K-ready until it has made it through March, so keep checking every week to make sure a millennium bug doesn’t bite you. Figure 1 shows which APARs are associated with which versions of OS/400.

These APARs are updated weekly and include a breakdown of PTFs by the program or hardware they are concerned with—OS/400, Integrated Netfinity Server, RPG, COBOL, etc. The APAR includes a PTF number, a description of the problem it fixes, the date the fix became available, and the cumulative PTF file that it is also available in, if it is in a cumulative PTF set at all.

Not all OS/400 releases are considered Y2K-ready, even though the underlying AS/400 hardware has been around since the machine was announced in 1988. The only Y2K-ready release of OS/400 that runs on CISC-based AS/400 machines is V3R2. On RISC machines, V3R7 and all V4 releases are Y2K-ready. There is a caveat to V3R7 support, however. IBM discontinued services on V3R7 on June 30, 1999. Here’s the point: This means that companies that stick with V3R7 through the millennial changeover

will do so with an operating system that IBM no longer provides bug fixes for, even if they discover new bugs after June 30. IBM will, of course, continue to provide existing PTFs to V3R7 customers who haven’t applied the latest patches in the event they run across bugs that IBM has already fixed. While this is the usual course of events for OS/400 releases, it will be cold comfort to those V3R7 shops unlucky enough to find new bugs.

IBM could have made it easier on everyone and continued to support V3R7 until well into 2000, and if enough AS/400 shops had made noise about it, IBM might have done just that. Even V3R2 will have technical support until May 31, 2000, so customers with this release will be able to get new bugs fixed if they find them. IBM will similarly continue to support V4R1 and V4R2 until May 31, 2000. Most V3R7 customers are probably unaware that they have left themselves exposed to potential problems by staying with V3R7 rather than moving up to V4. By the way, as far as APARs go, V3R7 doesn’t seem to have any more Y2K-related PTFs than the other Y2K-ready releases, so it appears to be as safe as they are.

Watch Out for Y2K-related Viruses

As if you don’t have enough to worry about, some jokers with far too much time on their hands have created a slew of virus-carrying Y2K email messages that look as if they come from Microsoft’s online tech support service (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Microsoft is warning PC users to beware of email messages that come from this email address and have an attached file called Y2Kcount.exe. The company says that, so far, it has discovered eight different such emails. There are probably more purporting to come from Microsoft, and there are many with generic messages to prey on PC users’ fears. I get one or two of these messages a week, and I expect that as we get close to December 31, we’ll see lots of them—provided email services are working. Be suspicious of any Web site claiming to offer free Y2K tools. Go to your PC vendor to get tools or at least get a recommendation for Y2K sniffer programs. Why risk getting a virus just because the link in an email is easier than browsing yourself?

Microsoft’s Dan Jones, director of Year 2000 Readiness at Microsoft, says that people receiving this email message should delete it immediately. If you want to make sure your Windows operating system and Microsoft applications are Y2K-ready, don’t use files from strangers; go to Microsoft’s Y2K tools at www.microsoft.com/y2k and download the tools yourself. You can also order a Year 2000 Resource CD from Microsoft at the site if you don’t want to download the files. In any event, Microsoft says that if it does send out Y2K-related emails to customers, they will not include attached files but rather links back to the Microsoft Y2K site.