Volume 34, Number 8, August 1999

Gloom or Doom?

While some are working day and night to safegard their computer systems 
in preparation for the possible Y2K computer meltdown, others are conducting 
business as usual. So what should glass companies
be doing to prepare for the potential crisis?


by Tara Taffera

The reaction to the Y2K millennium bug is varied. Some businesses are putting plans in motion should the worst possible scenario occur, including refusing time-off for employees between November and January should personnel be needed to respond to possible computer glitches. According to an article that appeared in a recent issue of USA Today, approximately 75 percent of larger businesses report having Y2K contingency plans in place. But, on the small-business front companies are not as prepared, tending to deal with “problems of the moment” and worrying about “that computer problem” later. According to the article, about 73 percent of companies with fewer than 500 employees say they do not have contingency plans to cover possible Y2K disruptions.
While some glass companies may not have given the Y2K problem a second thought, others began thinking about it almost a year ago. Participants at the National Auto Glass Conference last year attended a panel discussion, Software Issues for Retail Glass Replacement and Repair Shops. Representatives from Quest Software, Mainstreet Computers, GlasPac/Total Solutions (GTS) and IBS were on hand to briefly discuss Y2K issues. While many attendees may have heeded the presenters suggestions, others may not have been so forward-looking. With this in mind, we decided to provide readers a synopsis of that panel discussion so you may prepare your computer systems, and your business, for January 1.

Scope of the Problem
More than three decades ago, computer programmers who wrote mainframe computer software saved computer disk space by designing year codes as two-digit entries: “67” instead of a four digit code, “1967.” Although the crisis may have more of a far-reaching effect on financial institutions and government agencies, the small businessperson, such as a glass/auto glass shop owner, may also be at risk.
Jan Huffstutter, national sales manager for GTS, outlined the Y2K problem for conference attendees.
Huffstutter explained that most auto glass technicians record dates as follows: 9/18/98 or 18Sep98. The problem date is 1/1/00. Huffstutter gave an example of when dates are used to calculate a billing date in auto glass replacement:
1.     An invoice is written December 15, 1999;
2.     Payment is due 1/15/2000;
3.     Computer stores the date 1/15/00;
4.     Auto glass shop runs a list of past due invoices; and
5.     Software reads 1/15/00 and says, “due 99 years ago” or it may never show up as late and you do not collect.
“No one really knows how much software is written this way or whether they will find it and fix it before it breaks,” said Huffstutter. So how does this affect you? There are three potential problem areas:
1.     The operating system’s clock;
2.     The applications running on the operating system; and
3.     The BIOS chip in the computer (contains clock with date).

“It is possible that your computer hardware is not ready for the year 2000. The system BIOS that runs the clock in your machine may not change over to the year 2000 correctly,” said Huffstutter.
So, how may glass companies ensure its computers are Y2K-compliant? Software that will test your system may be downloaded from the Internet at no charge. One organization providing this type of testing software is NSTL (log on to www.nstl.com or link to it from the www.glaspac.com website). NSTL has a product, YMARK2000, that will test your PC’s BIOS and hardware clock and tell you whether your PC is Y2K ready. This application will not run in Windows®, but can be started in MS DOS mode. Ron Zyzelewski of Quest Software also offered attendees year 2000 advice. Zyzelewski encouraged attendees to follow these easy steps to check if your computers have the millennium bug:
1.     Set the date to 12/31/99;
2.     Set the time to 23:59;
3.     Turn off the PC and wait one minute; and
4.     Turn on the PC and check the date.

Follow these steps to check if your computers have the leap year bug:
1.     Set the date to 2/28/2000;
2.     Set the time to 23:59;
3.     Turn off the PC and wait one minute; and
4.     Turn on the PC and check the date.

If glass shops determine their computers are affected with the millennium or leap year bug, Zyzelewski and Huffstutter say the individual must contact their hardware manufacturer and upgrade the BIOS. “This should take care of the problem,” said Zyzelewski. He reminds technicians that even if they perform the test and the dates are correct, they must remember to turn the machine off and on after January 1, 2000, to again test the system.
Technicians using auto glass products produced by Quest Software, Mainstreet Computers, GTS and IBS will be relieved to know that all products created by these companies are Y2K-compliant.

What Next?
So you’ve checked your system and everything seems to be in working order. No problem, right? Not so fast. Although you may have taken all the necessary steps to safeguard your computer system, it doesn’t mean the companies you work with have done the same. Many glass shops who depend upon insurance companies for payment may run into problems. According to the USA Today article, insurance companies are saying they won’t cover business lost or damages incurred from computer crashes. And, if you’re thinking, “It doesn’t matter, I’ll just sue company X,” think again. A bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives could prohibit lawsuits for the first 90 days of the year 2000.
While the above information may be helpful, we realize there are different issues associated with individual computer platforms, software and an “easy-fix” may not exist. But, if you haven’t begun to think about the potential computer problems that may occur on January 1, we urge you to do so.  

Tara Taffera is the editor of USGlass magazine.


USG

© Copyright 1999 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.