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Novell posts free Y2K patch

The networking giant posts a free patch for NetWare 4.10 for making that product Year 2000 compliant.

As expected, networking giant Novell has posted a free patch for NetWare 4.10 for making that product Year 2000 compliant.

The update is available on Novell's Year 2000 update site and, in response to dissatisfied customers, networking powerhouse Novell has changed its upgrade policy for making a version of its software Year 2000 compliant.

"We said we would do it in the fourth quarter. It's now the middle of the fourth quarter," said Blake Stowell, a Novell spokesperson.

In August, the company decided against charging users of its NetWare 4.10 operating system for a full upgrade to NetWare version 4.11, which makes the operating system Year 2000-ready. Instead, the company said it would post a free Year 2000 update patch for NetWare 4.10 on its Web site in the fourth quarter, thus escaping the possibility of lawsuits filed against the company by disgruntled customers who claim there is not enough time to do a full upgrade before the year 2000 arrives.

Prior to the decision, customers had been told they would need to pay for an upgrade to version 4.11 to ensure their software would continue to work after the century date change. The upgrade also included new features. The upgrade policy was the subject of a complaint lodged with New Zealand Commerce Commission in June, according to press reports in that country.

Novell executives at the time said that the complaint was part of the reason for the change of heart, but that customer reaction worldwide had shown that many users felt there was no time for upgrading. Novell also said that although it will now offer the free patch, the company may begin to charge for an upgrade at some point in the future.

The Y2K bug comes from antiquated hardware and software formats that denote years in two-digit formats, such as "98" for 1998 and "99" for 1999. The glitch will occur in 2000, when computers are either fooled into thinking the year is 1900 or interpret the 2000 as a meaningless "00." The glitch could throw out of whack everything from bank systems to building security procedures, critics warn.