Second wave of Y2K test tools rolls in







Year 2000 testing tools are bombarding the market. The GCN Lab recently looked at
five, the second batch the lab reviewed.


Three months ago, I took a first look at year 2000 tools for desktop PCs [GCN, Jan. 11, Page 1].


The feedback was overwhelming. It came less from readers than from merchants who sell
other year 2000 software utilities, each asking why I had not included their products.


Are you and your PC
ready for 2000?


Don’t believe all the gloom and doom you hear
about year 2000 testing of PCs. Here are seven true-or-false questions to clear some of
the fog.

True or False:


1.  All real-time clocks—even those in the latest Pentium
III systems—will fail year 2000 readiness tests.


2.  Because the RTC is hardware, it needs a hardware fix.


3.  Fixing the BIOS will fix the hardware.


4.  A fixed BIOS means a fixed PC.


5.  PCs running Microsoft Windows NT do not require BIOS fixes for the year 2000.


6.  When Jan. 4, 2000, passes, it’s safe to uninstall year 2000 test
software.


7.  Year 2000 is only a problem for computer dates.


Go here for answers.





Over the ensuing weeks, I received boxes and thick envelopes of readiness
software. I decided to take a look at a second batch.


In the end, my top choice remains Symantec Corp.’s Norton 2000, which received a
Reviewer’s Choice designation during the first set of reviews.


Compared with Norton 2000, the five packages I recently reviewed are incomplete. Not
one tests all five of a PC’s hardware and software layers.


Some excel in specific ways, but a combination of them would be necessary to get
complete answers on readiness.


The five layers that must be tested:


Some of the software vendors shuffle these five layers around or combine them.


Eurosoft Ltd.’s fix2000 is a solid MS-DOS tester for BIOS readiness. Its no-frills
ap-proach lets the user choose whether to install it in the autoexec.bat or the config.sys
file—a nice touch. But beyond that, fix2000 offers few choices.


Beware—fix2000, distributed in the United States by Reston Consulting Group Inc.
of Herndon, Va., might recommend installing a hardware component in the form of an ISA
card. But no hardware is needed. The software in fix2000 can do the necessary patching.


I considered leaving ClickNet Software Corp.’s ClickNet Y2k out of this review
because it requires a network connection. Its agents load onto a server directory. If you
have a server drive available, ClickNet Y2k could be a handy tool, although it is
difficult to use at first.


Its reports are powerful, and the clear presentation rivals—perhaps
exceeds—that of Norton 2000. I wish the tool could run on an individual PC without
the server.


ClickNet Y2k lacks a wizardlike interface to set up the testing process. But overall,
it shows the greatest promise in this batch of testing utilities.


Also in the not-so-easy category is the MS-DOS-based Y2KPC Pro from RighTime Clock Co.
Fix2000 has more polish, but Y2KPC Pro has essentially the same substance.


For one thing, this application ought to give the user a warning when the floppy disk
needs to be removed from the drive.


One of its applet, however, did catch my eye on the single floppy: viewcmos.exe.


The executable does exactly what its name says, letting you see all CMOS
information—the current time and date on the real-time clock, BIOS and operating
system, as well as the data stored in the chip’s memory banks.


Viasoft Inc. touts its OnMark 2000 Assess with good reason. On-Mark is what gives
Norton 2000 the underlying data-scanning component that clinched the Reviewer’s
Choice designation in January.


But OnMark lacks the other tools that make Norton 2000 the king of PC readiness tools.


OnMark 2000 Assess only checks data. It looks and acts a lot like Norton 2000, but
Symantec’s front end makes a scan setup much easier.


Viasoft offers free BIOS fixes downloadable from its Web site. Without components to
scan nondata layers, however, OnMark is off the mark.


Know2000 from Year 2000 Group Inc. was the least useful package because it has no
native BIOS tester or fixes.


Although it incorporates the YMark BIOS tester from National Software Testing
Laboratories Inc. of Conshohocken, Pa., Know-2000 cannot supply a fix in case the BIOS
fails the test.


What Know2000 does—and does well—is check the OS and applications.


Its color coding is odd: green for ready, orange for ready but with certain problems,
blue for no information, pink for never tested by the manufacturer, and black for not in
the Know2000 database.


The green coding makes sense, and the other colors stand out. Unfortunately, Know2000
does not have a constantly refreshed database downloadable from the company’s Web
site. If this tool could get together with one of the others, the combination would almost
make a year 2000 readiness testing suite.


And that’s the watchword here: completeness. The closer to 2000, the more
government managers need comprehensive tools and not partial solutions.  


The GCN Lab tested exclusively software-based year 2000 readiness tools for standalone
PCs.


The lab staff did not examine any hardware solutions or products with an enterprise
component.


Four desktop PCs served as the test machines:


The lab staff used the Ymark2000 utility from National Software Testing Laboratories
Inc. of Conshohocken, Pa., to determine that the Z-Select and ProLinea were not year
2000-ready. Visit the Web site at www.nstl.com to download the free Ymark utility.


The lab loaded and ran all five testing programs on each PC as appropriate, based on
operating system compatibility.


The lab rated each program for its ease of use, features, accuracy and thoroughness. A
good test tool should clearly explain its procedures and suggest fixes if needed. Ease of
use counted for 25 percent of the overall grade.


Lab staff examined each tool’s features, including, but not limited to, the
operating systems supported, reporting method, user advice and corrective
patches. The features counted for 25 percent of the overall grade.


The lab judged accuracy by how well a tool identified problems, particularly in the
BIOS. It had to examine at a minimum all date-related items within the hardware and BIOS,
and account for leap-year dates.


The lab assigned a grade based on the tool’s diligence in testing OSes,
applications and data files. To receive at least a C, a tool had to determine BIOS
readiness correctly. Failure to flag problems, false flagging or failure to test reduced
the grade. Accuracy and thoroughness counted for 50 percent of the overall grade.


For more information, visit the GCN Lab Web site at www.gcn.com/gcnlab.



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