Windows has date flaws May 18, 1998

Microsoft Windows 98, now under Justice Department scrutiny, is the only
fully year 2000-ready operating system from Microsoft Corp.


Other Microsoft OSes aren’t quite there yet, even though company
officials describe the current Windows 95, Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and Windows NT 4.0
releases as “compliant, with minor issues.” The company earlier had said its
32-bit operating systems were ready for 2000.


“Each operating system has unique issues that we’ve tried to
address with updates,” said Chris Barker, a Microsoft architectural engineer.


Few federal government agencies have even begun testing their Microsoft
applications, said Gayle Finch, year 2000 project coordinator for the Health and Human
Services Department.


“We’ve been focusing on our large legacy systems, and I think so
has everybody else,” Finch said.


Federal agencies, however, will be getting around to those applications
soon and may be waiting for Windows 98, Finch said. “I believe that that’s
Microsoft’s mainline strategy for year 2000 compliance, and naturally they’re
going to make everybody buy it,” she said.


Some employees in HHS are still using Windows 3.x, Finch said. “Like
most government agencies, we don’t typically get the latest and greatest as soon as
it’s available,” she said. “And frankly, some of the stuff is overkill for
your typical user who is still doing mostly word processing, e-mail and a spreadsheet or
two.”


The newly revealed problems in current versions of Win95’s
winfile.exe stem from the Windows File Manager, which does not display dates beyond the
year 2000, and from the Date command in command.com, which cannot interpret two-digit year
dates expressed as, say, 00-79.


Fixes for the winfile.exe and command.com files, for instance, are in a
win95y2k.exe file that administrators can download free from Microsoft’s Web software
library at http://www.microsoft.com/ithome/topics/year2k/product/win95.htm.


All Win95 operating systems also have some century date issues involving
the Date tab in the Find File or Folders dialog box, for which Microsoft so far has
provided no separate fix. The Date tab displays only two-digit year date fields, and after
2000 it cannot display the correct year.


The tab also fails to return correct answers in searches for file changes
occurring past 12/31/99.
Microsoft officials said they have no separate fixes yet for the Date tab problems, but
they advised installing Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or a later version of the browser.
Netscape Navigator and earlier versions of Internet Explorer do not have the File Find
fix.


Internet Explorer, a central item in the Justice Department’s
antitrust investigation of Microsoft, contains a variety of updated system files, Barker
said.


As Microsoft updates files over time, Barker said, it often puts the new
files first into Internet Explorer, Office or other Microsoft applications that
immediately need such files.


Microsoft engineers expect to finish their year 2000 testing of Windows NT
3.51 soon.


Administrators can find more about year 2000 fixes at the sites http://www.microsoft.com/year2000  and http://support.microsoft.com/support.


Microsoft lawyers, apparently worried about a separate legal assault by
Microsoft users, have issued strongly worded liability disclaimers about the
products’ ability to display and properly compute dates after Dec. 31, 1999.


“In no event,” the official disclaimer notes, “shall
Microsoft Corp. or its suppliers be liable for any damages whatsoever including direct,
indirect, incidental, consequential, loss of business profits, punitive or special
damages, even if Microsoft Corp. or its suppliers have been advised of the possibility of
such damages.”           


GCN senior editor Michael Cheek contributed to this story.


 


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