New solutions fix problems small & large

The government's century date-change problems span a range of systems, from the unseen processors that run federal and military buildings' security systems to mainframes that handle the distribution of government checks. More and more, industry vendors offer solutions that cover that same span.

CTA Inc., Rockville, Md., is offering a consulting service for assessing and fixing century date-change problems in embedded systems. The term "embedded" is used to describe processors that are running behind the scenes in systems that manage everything from stoplights to the gates at the entrances of parking garages to weapons systems components.

CTA's Process

CTA's service begins with testing to find out whether a system recognizes the four-digit date change. If a problem occurs, CTA contacts the vendor that supplied the software— provided the company still exists— and works with it to find a way to correct the problem. If the company no longer exists, CTA develops a solution using bench testing, a database tool and risk assessment.

CTA gained knowledge of embedded systems through a contract it has held for nearly 20 years with the Navy to supply embedded systems on fighter jets, a CTA official said. The company decided to apply the expertise gained in the project to a service focusing on embedded software in response to customer requests.

Another century date-change solution announced this month comes from Vion Corp., Washington, D.C. Vion announced that it is making century date-change testing and evaluation hardware available for free to all Hitachi Data Systems Skyline and Pilot mainframe owners.

The hardware, called HDS Run Time Extensions Environment, comprises two components: Time Machine and Time Warp, said Bobbi Terkowitz, a spokeswoman for Vion.

Time Machine is designed to trap any instructions that are date-sensitive so that they can be revised, Terkowitz said. To carry out a test, the user selects a date after Jan. 1, 2000. The program's instructions are run twice— once with the current date and once with the future date. If the results differ, that part of the instruction will be flagged, Terkowitz said.

"The machine compares and creates a log of all locations in the program that were sensitive to the date change," Terkowitz said. It does not replace any of the old code, but it complements solutions that do replace old code by finding tricky instructions that do not look as though they have anything to do with a date but in reality do, she added.

A separate piece, Time Warp, is designed to provide a quick, but not permanent, fix for agencies that are falling behind on their century date-change compliance. Time Warp scans code and adds 100 years to any result that does not make sense as a negative number, such as an age.

NeoMedia Tackles Cobol

NeoMedia Technologies Inc. recently announced Adapt/2000, a major upgrade to its Cobol Year 2000 toolset that will assist government agencies coping with a wide variety of Cobol dialects and file systems.

Adapt/2000 Release 3.0 is a cross-platform toolset designed to provide automated source-code conversion to agencies that implement IBM Corp.'s recently announced millennium language extension (MLE), which is designed to automate a "windowing" Year 2000 fix. Windowing involves changing how a computer reads a two-digit year rather than changing the date itself.

Government agencies that adopt MLE can use Adapt/2000 to increase the amount of automation in the IBM program. Although the product works in conjunction with an IBM program compiler, Adapt/2000 can be used on many mainframes and minicomputers, including those manufactured by Hewlett-Packard Co., Digital Equipment Corp., Unisys Corp., Wang Laboratories Inc. and NCR Corp.

Adapt/2000 will ship in the second quarter and is priced starting at $20,000 for Microsoft Corp. Windows NT versions and $30,000 for Unix, according to NeoMedia.


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