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Y2K problems still lurking near deadline

With just hours remaining before the New Year, some experts are warning that rosy predictions of an uneventful Y2K arrival may be premature and that at least some software glitches are bound to surface.

With just hours remaining before the New Year, some experts are warning that rosy predictions of an uneventful Y2K arrival may be premature and that at least some software glitches are bound to surface.

Y2K related problems most likely will crop up, say government officials, despite testing of software claimed to be fixed. What's still in question is the severity of the problems, and whether they will affect crucial systems.

Testing at the Social Security Administration (SSA) recently showed that even the best-prepared computer systems can still have Y2K bugs lurking in renovated code.

To demonstrate how Y2K-ready its computers were, the SSA paid an outside company to double-check its work and discovered that there were nearly 2,000 errors it had missed earlier. John Trollinger, a spokesman for the SSA, said 42 million lines of code had been tested to find the errors.

"They were insignificant and will not disrupt the delivery" of SSA services, the agency said.

But the discovery underscores the necessity of testing Y2K updated systems for readiness.

"In our work, we've found one error for every 10,000 lines of renovated code," Data Integrity's Doug Black said. Data Integrity is a company that provides independent verification services to companies and government agencies. "We always find problems," he added.

Ed Yardeni, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, said he is "still skeptical" despite a report on Y2K readiness rolled out earlier this week by the Gartner Group, which predicts a New Year with no catastrophic events due to Y2K. "It would really be the greatest miracle in human history if every system has been fixed. I don't think we've left enough time to properly test the systems that are fixed," Yardeni said.

The Meta Group is warning that there could be more errors than has been thought in computer software, and that test cases haven't wrung out enough problems. The information technology analysis firm said that in most cases companies have only tested about 20 percent of the updated code, possibly providing a false sense of security.

"We can't escape our history," said Leon Kappelman, an associate professor at the University of North Texas. "Even when we have third party testing, we can't escape big business history of quality assurance. Will there still be problems with renovated systems? Yes."

Kappelman said 90 percent of big businesses have so far experienced some form of Y2K glitch but that only 2 percent of the problems caused the companies to halt business.

Indeed, government officials and the Gartner Group acknowledge there will be some problems caused by the Year 2000 technology problem, but that they will be isolated and not catastrophic.

Quantifying how many problems will occur and if they will stop businesses from providing services is impossible, said Kappelman. "What does this mean for what's about to happen? Stuff will break."

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