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Tackling Y2K on the desktop

Utility software maker Symantec will next week begin shipping its first Y2K auditing package for the desktop.

Looking to address the impact of Year 2000 problems on personal computers, utility software maker Symantec will next week begin shipping its first Y2K auditing package for the desktop.

Priced at $49.95, Norton 2000 1.0 pinpoints pieces of the system that aren't compliant by scanning data, applications, and hardware, including the BIOS and real-time clock.

A number of PC vendors consider the Year 2000 threat to the real-time clock as minimal and have been criticized for releasing computer systems that include non-Y2K compliant software.

Back to Year 2000 Index Page This has caused confusion among some PC users, caught between listening to their computer vendors and Y2K analysts, and toolmakers who have pointed out the vulnerabilities of applications that use the real-time clock for time and date reference.

Symantec executives said their product will address the real-time clock and those applications use it. "Small businesses and home users have heard the hype but don't know how it will affect their PCs," said Dana Prussoff, senior product manager at the company.

Norton 2000 uses a boot floppy to test and fix RTCs and the BIOS, thereby preventing users from inadvertently destroying data and program configurations during testing, the company said.

The product also pays close attention to spreadsheets and databases where data is constantly changing.

This feature of the product scans Excel, Lotus 1-2-3, and a handful of other popular spreadsheet applications. For recent Excel spreadsheets, Norton 2000 color-codes and annotates the spreadsheet to highlight and explain Y2K issues in each affected cell.

The new Y2K PC package also audits other popular software applications for Year 2000 compliance and compares those applications against a database of known Year 2000 compliance problems. The database is kept up-to-date using LiveUpdate, Symantec's utility program that locates and helps install hardware drivers and software updates specific to the user's system from over the Web.

The problem, often called the millennium bug, is rooted in the way dates are recorded and computed. For the past several decades, systems have typically used two digits to represent the year, in order to conserve memory. With this two-digit format, however, the year 2000 is indistinguishable from 1900, or 2001 from 1901.