Microsoft patches Windows 98 date holes

It turns out that Windows 98, touted to be fully year-2000 ready when it was released last year, has some date display issues.

Microsoft made the announcement at the same time it made available an update patch for the operating system.

“The patch is for Windows 98 for some year 2000 issues,” said Neil Froggatt, Windows marketing manager at Microsoft Canada Co.

“There’s a collection of issues that we’ve identified and addressed. But one thing to keep in mind is that all of the issues we’ve identified typically have something to do with incorrect display and don’t post any risk to data.”

Microsoft said the update patch addresses the following issues:

• a date roll-over problem where, if a system is booting at the precise fraction of a second when the date rolls, the system clock may display an inaccurate time or date for a second or less;

• if a user opens the “Date/Time” applet in Control Panel and sets the date to Feb. 29 of a leap year and then uses the and buttons to change years, Feb. 29 might be displayed for other years in the applet. The date will not, however, be applied;

• when a user makes a phone call using the “Phone Dialler” applet, the log file created after completion of the call displays the year portion of the call date incorrectly;

• when using DOS XCOPY in real mode with the optional parameter “/D:date” XCOPY does not accept years entered as two digits, except for the years ’80 through ’99. The message “Invalid date” is displayed. When using XCOPY in protected mode from within Windows, two-digit dates are accepted but are recognized as being within the 20th century (for example, 02/05/01 is seen as 02/05/1901);

• some year 2000 issues have been reported in connection with Java Virtual Machines based on the Sun Microsystems JDK Versions 1.1.1 to 1.1.5. For example, if a Web site uses Java and makes use of the java.txt.SimpleDateFormat class library and the user enters four digits for the year, the date functions may truncate the year and use only the first two digits;

• a problem with lagging IP lease dates where, if a user logs onto a LAN on or after March 1, 2000, and runs WINIPCFG.EXE from the “Run” command or IPCONFIG.EXE from the DOS virtual machine, the dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) client reports the IP lease date as having been obtained on the previous day;

• with the Microsoft Foundation Class Library, after the year 2000, programs that use the COleDateTime function may improperly parse a date. For example, 02/05/2000 may display as 2/05/100;

• when entering credit card information in versions of Microsoft Wallet that precede 2.1.1383, users must enter the month, day and year for expiration dates beyond 2000. Otherwise, information may be parsed incorrectly. For example, entering an expiration date of 5/01 could be interpreted as May 1 rather than May 2001.

• if a programmer codes to ADO or OLE DB and uses data access components such as adDate, adDBDate or Dbtype_Filetime, chooses to use an international date format with periods as separators and specifies a year by two digits earlier than 60, then the date may be translated as a time;

• if the regional setting in Control Panel is set to use two-digit years, then the “Date/Time Picker” function may not return the proper date; and,

• if a user selects “Properties” then “Custom” on a WordPad or Word document, the custom date setting will not accept 2000 as a valid entry when entered as “00.” All two-digit dates are assumed to be in the 20th century, and if the time zone is set to the Far East, the date properties will lose a day when the year is entered as 2000.

“It’s a fairly comprehensive list,” said Michael Gartenberg, vice-president of Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., “and it shows me that Microsoft is doing a pretty good job here in terms of owning up to the responsibility and making sure that these things are taken care of. But I haven’t seen anything here that’s a major show-stopper that would get someone really nervous.”

Gartenburg said the fix is a minor update.

“This is kind of crossing all the Ts and dotting all the Is. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the complexity of the Y2K issue, and how end-user organizations really have to look in all of their corners and under their couches and everything to find these problems because they are going to exist.

“Frankly, this should be a wake-up call for organizations to do some in-house testing of their own software, or spreadsheets that are written by folks who aren’t taking Y2K issues into account,” Gartenberg advised.

Yet Gartenberg said the Microsoft patch might not be necessary, and shouldn’t be grabbed by just anyone running Windows 98.

“If I was an organization, I’d probably think twice before installing it and see if any of these things actually applied to me or not. I wouldn’t just go ahead and install things blindly, because it’s likely there’ll be another fix down the road as someone uncovers even more issues,” he said.

Gartenberg said that the whole issue is a little embarrassing to Microsoft because Windows 98 was supposed to be fully Y2K ready, but that it’s a minor embarrassment and not likely to cause widespread consumer-confidence problems.

“Had Microsoft done something like try to deny it or had someone else discover it first, then all of those things would have had more serious ramifications, but they did the right thing,” Gartenberg said.

The patch is available from the Windows Update site at

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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