7-Eleven systems hit by Y2k-like glitch

Customers at convenience stores operated by 7-Eleven Inc. were a little inconvenienced early this month when the company’s point-of-sale systems experienced a Y2k-like glitch.

Dallas-based 7-Eleven confirmed that on New Year’s Day, the cash registers at its 5,300 stores identified the date as Jan. 1, 1901. That left the company’s main systems unable to process credit card transactions until a patch was ready, a spokesperson said. However, the manual process of using imprint machines and other back-up techniques to handle credit cards kept business humming. The snafu “didn’t have much of an impact on sales,” the spokesperson said. The bug, attributed to proprietary point-of-sale software, may not have been Y2k-related but the company still can’t say what caused the problem. The company spent US$8.8 million upgrading its systems before the year 2000 changeover – a relatively small amount, because the chain had already installed a series of Y2k-compliant software packages and systems during the 1990s.

Y2K strikes Norway one year late

All of Norway’s modern high-speed Signatur trains ground to a halt on Sunday, Dec. 31, hit by a year 2000-type problem that surfaced one year late, the daily Dagbladet newspaper reported.

The 13 long-distance Signatur trains – and 16 new airport express trains – refused to start that Sunday morning because the on-board electronics were unable to recognize the date Dec. 31, 2000, according to the newspaper. Engineers temporarily fixed the problem by resetting the trains’ clocks to Dec. 1, which has given the national railway company Norges Statsbaner and the German manufacturer of the trains, Adtranz AG, one month to find a permanent solution, Dagbladet quoted officials of the two companies as saying. Although normal year 2000 checks had been carried out, no one had thought of checking how the system would respond to the Dec. 31, 2000 date, officials told the newspaper. The year 2000 problem – caused by many computers using just the last two digits to represent the year and thus failing as 1999 changed to 2000 – was expected to hit systems on Jan. 1, 2000, but few problems were reported after organizations worldwide spent billions of dollars on fixes. Another potentially dangerous date, Feb. 29, 2000, a leap year anomaly, also passed quietly.

HP co-founder dies at 87

William R. Hewlett, co-founder and former president of Hewlett-Packard Co. and one of the U.S.’s foremost business leaders, technologists and philanthropists, died at his home earlier this month of natural causes. He was 87 years old.

Hewlett, who retired from active management of HP in 1978, made important contributions throughout his career in technology, science and business. Together with David Packard, who died March 26, 1996, he founded Hewlett-Packard in a one-car garage in 1939. While Hewlett is perhaps best remembered for his scientific expertise and Packard for his business acumen, either could have stepped into the other’s shoes at HP, and often did. While at Stanford, both Hewlett and Packard were influenced strongly by the teaching of one of their professors, Frederick E. Terman, a pioneer in the field of radio engineering. At Terman’s urging, the two young men explored starting an electronics company. On Jan. 1, 1939, they founded Hewlett-Packard Co. with US$538 in personal capital.

CA fires employees over sex e-mail

A small group of former employees of Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) contend the business software maker fired them during December for sending sexually-explicit e-mail, according to a recently-published report.

A group of at least 10 employees, who worked at CA’s Herndon, Va., office, were let go for violating the company’s e-mail policy, the Washington Post report states. In one particular case, a female employee, who worked as an administrative assistant, said a supervisor called her into his office on Dec. 21 and notified her that she was being fired for violating the company’s e-mail policy, the Washington Post report states. Several other fired employees shared similar stories, the report said. The woman, identified as Michelle Layne, told the Washington Post that she was not shown the explicit e-mail she allegedly mailed. Layne said she was unsure whether she had violated the policy, according to the report. She said that many people in the company, including senior managers, send sexually-explicit joke e-mails.

L&H CEO outlines layoffs, recovery plan

Troubled software vendor Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products NV (L&H) has already begun laying off a total of 1,144 of its employees worldwide in a move to consolidate the company, L&H’s CEO said recently. The move came three days after L&H received bankruptcy protection under Belgian law and announced the resulting layoffs.

“Our work force will be reduced by more than 25 per cent,” said John Duerden, L&H president, CEO and managing director in a conference call with analysts and reporters. Specifically, 435 people will loose their jobs in the U.S, 351 people in L&H’s Asia/Pacific operations and 208 people will be made redundant in Europe, Duerden said. A Belgian court granted L&H’s second bid for concordat – the Belgian equivalent of U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As part of the concordat ruling, the court appointed three composition trustees to oversee L&H operations during the provisional six-month protection period. The recovery program is expected to last over the next 12 to 18 months, and as part of that plan L&H has withdrawn from the PC software business and has closed down its Korean operations, Duerden said. Furthermore, operations in Singapore will also be greatly reduced.

Microsoft faces discrimination suit

Seven African-Americans have filed a US$5 billion racial discrimination lawsuit against Microsoft Corp., alleging that the company passed them over for promotions, discriminated against them in hiring and firing practices, and forced them to endure “plantation-type mentality” at the company.

Six of the plaintiffs added their complaints recently to a case that was filed in June by Rahn Jackson, a former account executive in Microsoft’s Washington, D.C., office, who accused the company of passing him over repeatedly for promotions in favour of white men or women despite his more than eight years with the company and 17 years of sales experience. Ironically, Jackson’s case was randomly assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, the same judge who in June ruled against the company in the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust case. A statement issued by the company said Microsoft has a zero tolerance policy toward discrimination in the workplace.

Spam crime doesn’t pay for pair

Steve Shklovskiy and Yan Shtok, both 23, have been sentenced to two years in prison and must pay more than US$100,000 in restitution for their role in a September 1999 spam spree that included 50 million e-mails that overwhelmed many large ISPs.

Authorities said the pair used PCs with commercially-available software to “harvest” e-mail addresses, then sent a mass e-mailing, asking recipients for a US$35 “processing fee” in exchange for a chance to work at home stuffing envelopes. More than 12,000 people were duped. AOL Inc., AT&T Corp. and MindSpring Enterprises Inc. were among those swamped by customer complaints.

Angry hacker releases customer data

A hacker angry at the outside activities of GlobalCentral.com, a Casper, Wyo., Internet service provider, has released customer information to Computerworld (U.S.)

On Dec. 12 and 13, Computerworld (U.S.) received e-mails containing detailed information about customers signing up for Internet access through GlobalCentral. The e-mails included such personal information as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, bank routing numbers, as well as the clients’ names, addresses, telephone numbers and the terms of their contracts with GlobalCentral. Although the e-mails appear as if they originated from Netmart.com, a Web-hosting company in Miami, a spokesperson said his company isn’t involved with the release of the customer data. Rick Koerber, president of GlobalCentral, said the hacker was angry at the company’s support of the Anchor and the Sofaith.org programs. According to information at its Web site, the Sofaith (Society of Families Anchored in Truth and Honor) project is an “organization of individuals committed to further the common objective, traditional morals, values and truths that will help strengthen and maintain the family as the fundamental unit of society.” The Anchor program was started to promote Sofaith’s agenda, which is to protect society against assaults on the family, including assaults by “militant ideological homosexuality.”