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A sprinkling of Y2K troubles

The New Year is marching forward smoothly, with only minor glitches related to the Year 2000 technology problem.

The new year is marching forward smoothly, with only minor glitches related to the Year 2000 technology problem.

The Y2K glitch has yet to disrupt any key infrastructure systems, with just a few minor problems affecting individual computer systems that were able to be fixed within a few hours or so, according to government officials and industry observers.

Back to Year 2000 Index Page However, some warn there is still plenty of time for the bug to wreak havoc as more and more businesses bring their complete systems back online.

"My concern is that some will let their guard down because we are still overly focused on the next few days rather than the next few weeks, especially for embedded systems," said Leon A. Kappelman, an associate professor at the University of North Texas and Y2K expert.

One fairly high-profile Y2K issue: Software giant Microsoft said it is experiencing two Year 2000-related problems that affect software for viewing Web pages and using its free email service, Hotmail.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer software is displaying the date as 3900 on some Web pages when it reads outdated programming language commands scripted in some sites, Bloomberg reported. Microsoft also experienced a "minor" glitch in its Hotmail email program that can cause an error in some message dates.

Y2K: The cost of fear Most reported Y2K bugs turned out to be fairly minor. For example, at Super Video, a video store in New York state, a customer at the store got the shock of the young century on New Year's Day when the charge for renting "The General's Daughter" came to $91,250, Reuters reported. The store's computer was charging customers as though they were returning videos 100 years late. "The clerk and I were shocked, and then zeroed out the late charge and gave the customer a free video rental and wished him Happy New Year," s said Terry Field, owner of the store.

"We are likely to see glitches pop up here and there in the coming days and weeks, but I think they will be localized and transitory and will not pose a threat to the nation's economy," John Koskinen, the White House point man on Y2K, said in a press briefing late yesterday.

Out of 36 state governments surveyed by the White House yesterday afternoon, 18 reported no glitches, minor or otherwise. The other 18 states reported a wide range of minor non-disruptive Y2K problems.

Koskinen said several states have encountered glitches in licensing processes, motor vehicle division problems either in issuing renewal licenses or conducting drivers license testing. Others reported cosmetic date-related problems, such as printing out the wrong dates for functions.

Industry organizations have also reported a small amount of problems related to the Y2K glitch.

The Airports Council International reported that on Jan. 1, a telephone system at the Birmingham Airport showed the date as December 32. It didn't affect operations and was fixed.

Also in the transportation sector, the White House reported a cargo discharge monitoring computer at a West Coast port went offline when it activated Jan. 2 to transfer cargo. The computer support team on site got the system up and running correctly after just 2 hours. Reasons for the malfunction weren't known, though authorities are still investigating the failure.

The small business community, long a big concern by many analysts who worried about the community's lack of effort to prepare for Y2K, is reporting no significant failures related to the technology problem, according to the White House.

However, a small Portland, Ore.-based trucking firm could not access any of its accounting information yesterday. According to the Small Business Administration, the business will have to purchase an upgrade to the system to make it Y2K-compliant, and the agency is assisting the company in getting the upgrade.

The U.S. Postal service reported that a small number of automated retail scales displayed the Jan. 1, 2000, date when first started yesterday morning. The date was easily corrected, but officials said a few receipts may have Jan. 1, 2000, printed on them instead of Jan. 3.

In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) experienced a Y2K problem with a database of reservists and regular staff that FEMA uses to deploy personnel when a disaster is declared. The system apparently went down right after the rollover. A workaround has been developed. As of late yesterday, the code had been repaired, and testing of the system was underway. The system is expected to be re-deployed later this week.

Federal Housing and Urban Development officials reported some minor glitches with some of its systems, including one with the Single Family Insurance System that prevented users from terminating Federal Housing Administration mortgages. The system has been repaired.

The White House Y2K team headed by Koskinen will continue monitoring the Y2K front on a day to day period over the week. The team is expected to hold a briefing at the end of the week.