Current Year 2000 Plans Deficient

Many organizations have ignored or mishandled the most difficult and potentiallyharmful aspect of the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer date problem, according to Dr. FrankCullen, co-founder and head of technology development at the Atlanta-based informationtechnology firm Blackstone and Cullen. Recently, Cullen warned of the inadequacy of mostY2K strategies, saying, "Not only did testing begin very late, but the things thatare finally being done are dangerously incomplete."

"Most of the 'solutions' for Y2K we've seen, when they exist at all, areprogram-centric," he observed. "Many people think that if they've checked andfixed their program code they've solved the problem." However, the compatibility ofprogram code is, in Dr. Cullen's words, "less than half the issue.""Programs," he pointed out, "are primarily conduits for data. Thefundamental reason for their existence is data. They crunch it, store it, sort it, find itand produce it."

That's problematic, especially for the midrange and mainframe systems that are thebackbone of many enterprise information systems, where millions of data records aren't inY2K compatible formats. Plans that focus primarily on program code - without addressingall sorts of invalid data formats - risk creating more problems than they fix.

Corrupt data with invalid dates, or rules that the software can't interpret because offormat, can cripple the most pristine executable code. According to Cullen, "the dataissue has been largely ignored by firms putting remediation and testing plans intoplace."

Invalid data is a very common source of program errors - even without the implicationsof the century change. "When mainframes go down, 90 percent of the time it's becausegarbage data has gotten into some routine. Something strange happened - a PC front end waspassing ASCII characters into a non-numeric field, for instance, so your program blows up.The failure isn't only because of the program code, but also because of the data it had towork with," continues Cullen.

Programs will also fail, Cullen claims, when the dates don't come through in the waythe executable expects. "Programs can be 'Y2K-compatible,' and they can make callsfor four digit date fields all day, but when the datasets they're chewing on only carrytwo digits, you've got a problem."

The large volume of data that organizations accumulate and utilize daily poses aproblem, and accounts for at least some of the reluctance to face the data conversionissue. "For every line of executable code, there are thousands of records of data, inthousands of incompatible, possibly unknown formats," Cullen noted. "The dataproblem is at least twice the magnitude of the code problem."

The cost and time required to manually test and convert data can be considerably higherthan that of repairing faulty programs. "Without automation, banks of programmers canspend thousands and thousands of hours seeking out problems in data formats," Cullensaid. Those programmers must be paid from ever-tightening budgets, as Year 2000preparations consume more and more IT dollars and businesses lose revenue due to crippledinformation systems.

Sun and Quark Forge Joint Marketing Agreement

Sun Microsystems and Quark announced an agreement in which the two companies willcombine marketing efforts that encompass future Quark Digital Media System (QuarkDMS) andQuark Publishing System (QPS) software solutions, and Sun hardware and the Solarisoperating environment. The two companies will engage in communicating the advantages ofQuark products on the Sun platform to publishers and digital content managers.

The objective of the agreement is to combine marketing and technical support efforts toensure optimal performance and support of current and future releases of Quark solutionsrunning on Sun Enterprise servers and the Solaris operating environment. Both companieswill offer technical training and support toward this new endeavor, as well as createjoint marketing and sales initiatives.

Web Sites Creating Special Legal Issues

Marketing on the Internet is not without legal ramifications, cautions Sam Byassee, anattorney at Smith Helms Mulliss & Moore. Byassee states that the following are keyconcerns that companies should evaluate in regard to their Web sites:

Make sure that you own the content on your site. Make sure that all your editedtext, graphics, page layouts, links and coding are either owned by your company or thatyou have permission to use them.

Sorting domain names and trademarks. Domain names must be unique to each site. Inaddition, companies may have difficulty using their trademark names because it has alreadybeen claimed as a domain name by someone else.

Product liability issues. Selling products over the Internet can expand productliability issues. The unsettled question involves the extent to which operating a Web sitesubjects the owner to litigation in any remote locality from which the site might beaccessed.

Copyright violations. Copyright laws apply to all materials on the World Wide Webjust as they do for books, newspapers, magazines and recordings.

Pulling Information into your site. While linking and transferring between sites isacceptable, you can run into problems if you transfer information from another site andframe it within your site. This practice may be considered a violation of copyright lawssince the frame must alter the format of the remote material.

Obscene, defamatory materials. A number of sites allow visitors to leave comments.This can lead to legal problems if your visitors post defamatory or obscene comments or ifthey upload someone else's copyrighted materials onto your site.

Trade and company name conflicts. What happens when Company A in Washington beginsselling products over the Internet and Company B in Toronto with the same name sues youover trademark infringement because you are marketing in their natural territory throughthe Internet? Opening up a nationwide market can also open your company up to nationwidetrademark issues.

Mercury Interactive Teams Up with Ernst & Young LLP

Mercury Interactive, a provider of application testing solutions, has entered into anagreement with Ernst & Young LLP which will use WinRunner and TestDirector in its Year2000 Accelerated Conversion Centers. Mercury Interactive's TestDirector speeds the testingprocess by associating tests to business processes and provides a visual framework fororganizing tests. WinRunner automates GUI functional testing for client/server andmainframe applications. Ernst & Young Year 2000 specialists will use WinRunner andTestDirector to develop testing scenarios to assist clients in preparing theirapplications to be Year 2000 compliant. Ernst & Young's Accelerated Conversioncenters, located in Costa Mesa, California and Chicago, provide the data centers,computers, software tools, networks and technical staff to perform efficient Year 2000program conversion and testing for clients.

Data General Number One

Data General Corporation today announced that its AViiON(R) family of servers is theleader in the worldwide NT midrange server market for 1997. According to InternationalData Corporation (IDC), Data General achieved a 28 percent share in this market segmentbestingCompaq/Digital, NCR, and NEC, among others. IDC defines midrange servers as thoseshipped with prices between $100,000 and $1,000,000.

Data General's NT-based AViiON family includes the entry-level AV 2150, which isavailable with single or dual 300-MHz Pentium II processors; the AV 2700 deskside serverand AV 2700R high-density server capable of stacking up to 12 dual 400-MHz Pentium IIprocessor systems in a single cabinet; the AV 3700 and AV 3700R, which have up to four400-MHz Pentium II Xeon processors; and the powerful AV 8600 enterprise server, with up toeight 200-MHz Pentium Pro processors. Entry-level AV 2150 servers start under $3,500.

Free Y2K Scanning Tool

Accelr8 Technology Corporation launched Ignition 2000, a free scanning tool designed toinitiate the Year 2000 process within companies. Ignition 2000 identifies the level ofdate density, the number and type of files in a code set, and the number of lines of codewithin the application environment. Used as a stand-alone tool, it will provide anindication of the Year 2000 date-related issues to assist in determining the severity ofthe Year 2000 problem. Ignition 2000 is available on Accelr8's home page and runs on Windows 95 and NT.

Skills Gap Costing Millions

The inability to find skilled workers is costing U.S. hi-tech companies millions inpotential revenue, according to a Select Appointments of North America survey, a specialtystaffing provider. Select Appointments surveyed 300 CEOs, presidents, and other topmanagers and discovered that three out of four hi-tech companies surveyed have an unmetneed for skilled workers. Two thirds believe that this skills gap is affecting theirability to remain competitive compared to a survey average of 50 percent. Companiessurveyed varied in size in both numbers of employees and annual sales figures.

According to the survey, 85 percent of hi-tech companies queried believe that closingthe skills gap (i.e., employing a fully trained, fully staffed workforce) would have adirect positive impact on sales. In fact, one-in-ten surveyed believe that closing theskills gap would double sales, and one-in-four said it would increase sales by 50 percentor more.

Attachmate Wins Excellence Awards and Announces INFOConnect

Attachmate Corporation recently won several prestigious awards in the areas ofdocumentation and technical publications. The Cincinnati Publications Team received firstand second place in the Cincinnati Editors Association 30th Annual PublicationsCompetition, Technical Writing category.

Gwen Clopton received first place for the INFOConnect Host Publishing System GettingStarted Guide. Sharing honors with Gwen are Bill Haynes (Engineering) and Chris McGlynn(Quality Assurance).

Brad Lindamood received second place for the RLN Client Administrator Guide, and ScottTolson in RLN technical support shares in this honor.

In a related story, Attachmate Enterprise Group recently won an award for exemplarysupport of the goals of the Technical Support Alliance Network (TSANet). TSANet strives tofacilitate the exchange of information between member vendors to solve customer problemsthat span multiple hardware and or software systems. As a longtime member, Attachmate hasbeen committed to working directly with other vendors to resolve important customerissues.

"Attachmate has been a very active participant in TSANet and has conscientiouslypursued the resolution of multi-vendor support issues with TSANet member companies. I'mvery pleased to acknowledge their significant contribution to TSANet," said DennisSmeltzer, executive director of TSANet.

Attachmate also announced INFOConnect Millennium 32-bit and 16-bit are Year 2000-readyand are Euro monetary symbol compatible.

In addition, the INFOConnect Millennium products are enabled for a new add-on utility,INFOConnect Management Console (IMC). The INFOConnect Millennium products include SilentInstallation capabilities, enabling large volume installs without administratorintervention.

Millennium series has the ability to recognize Unisys kerberos installations. SinceUnisys has implemented kerberos authentication support on their A-Series, INFOConnecttransport module "finds" that the Unisys software is present and it utilizes itto negotiate a kerberos authenticated connection.

Safeguard Against DES Cracker Threat

When the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFP) DES Cracker project built low-cost,unclassified hardware that recently cracked the widely used Data Encryption Standard (DES)in less than three days, it shook the foundations of organizations ranging from thefederal government to the corner bank. Unaffected by the tumult are customers of VASCOData Security.

VASCO's solution to the DES threat resides in the use of its Digipass tokens, hand-helddevices that provide a one-time password capability. People accessing a bank account orcorporate database must have both the token and a memorized password or PIN number intheir possession; thereby, creating a two-factor authentication. Since this methodexponentially increases the guarantee that users are indeed who they say they are,organizations can grant or deny access with virtually 100 percent security. Since theVASCO Digipass token provides digital signature capability, financial institutions canverify data has not been altered, in addition to confirming the identity of the user.