Software glitch brings Y2K deja vu

Software running on thousands of computers worldwide will become inoperable in a few weeks because of an obscure date-related glitch, and developers are rushing to create and apply patches.

Sound familiar? Software maker PTC, a specialist in product lifecycle management applications for engineers and product designers, has rekindled memories of the Year 2000 bug, or Y2K, as it scrambles to patch a glitch that will render most of its products inoperable after Jan. 10. The flaw was discovered late last week, and PTC engineers have been working around the clock since then to create and test patches, PTC spokesman Joe Gavaghan said. Two patches that address some of the company's most widespread products were released early Friday, and fixes for other applications are on the way.

The flaw involves the way the programs handle date entries, Gavaghan said. To be able to recognize dates, PTC programmers had to set a date for infinity. They chose 2 billion seconds since 1970--when the Unix operating system was developed and Year Zero for many Unix applications. That number brings PTC software up to Jan. 10. After that, the software will be unable to recognize dates and will no longer operate. "It's not something where they would lose data," Gavaghan said. "The software just stops working." Unix itself uses a similar method to resolve dates, but developers chose an infinity value of 4 billion seconds, the maximum a 32-bit system can process. That means that most Unix programs will continue to operate until 2038.

News source: C|Net

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