Resellers powerless to stop real-time clock timebomb

Resellers powerless to stop real-time clock timebomb

Concerns about year 2000 compliance sent computer giant Compaq into overdrive last week when ARN sought clarification on issues relating to the real-time clock (RTC).

Compaq Australia's Malcolm Green, major account liaison for Y2K, admitted: "There's no guarantee that the definition we have today for year 2000 compliance is not going to change over the next month or next six months." He added: "The whole industry needs to keep on top of what's happening in the market and what the customers expect."

But that line of reasoning didn't wash with one Australian VAR, who refused to be named when contacted by ARN last week. "As far as I am concerned, if the CMOS does not show a clock with a four-digit year, it is not compliant," the VAR claimed. "Part of our pre-installation testing is to run the system with the clock set to the year 2010. But the big issue is not hardware, it's software, and we can't guarantee that all software is compliant," he added.

Another very interested spectator is Prove It, a UK-based specialist year 2000 software vendor, which offers a testing and fixing program called Prove It 2000. Among other things, Prove It 2000 tests for the existence of a four-digit RTC.

And according to the vendor's Australian managing director James Corne, unless a PC has the capacity in its RTC to register a four-digit year, it cannot be compliant.

Compaq's current compliance claim is based on NSTL's Ymark 2000 test, which does not test for a four-digit RTC. In response, Compaq's Green said: "We are continuing to comply with accepted practice, not only by hardware vendors, but also software vendors and other industry organisations, that a two-digit real-time clock and a CMOS value are sufficient to cope with Y2K compliance."

This is to say that, in keeping with "accepted practice", operating systems and applications will not take time references directly from the RTC.

ARN has been advised that Microsoft's Windows NT does exactly that every hour on the hour, leaving any non-compliant four-digit system cold after 1999.

The problem is, while vendors argue the toss over what constitutes compliance, resellers and users are left to wonder what will happen to their installations at the witching hour.

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