‘Millennium bug’ may lock off-campus computers

Matt Kuhns

Students who access Project Vincent from their own computers could be locked out of the system in the year 2000 due to a flaw with internal clock systems.

Thomas Ivers, senior in management information systems, said many ISU computer users could be locked out of Project Vincent by a problem commonly called “the millennium bug.”

In many computers, particularly older ones, years are defined by only the last two digits.

Thus, internal clocks will be unable to differentiate between 2000 and 1900.

This problem could result in many students being unable to access Project Vincent, Ivers said.

When computers log into Project Vincent, they are issued “kerberos tickets,” which are a form of identification, he said.

The potential problem results from a check performed by the Project Vincent server comparing its clock to the clock of a computer attempting to access it.

If the computer’s internal clock time is more than a few minutes off the server’s clock, it will not receive kerberos tickets and will be denied access to Project Vincent, Ivers said.

Ivers said the possibility of this problem occurred to him after reading a recent story on the millennium bug.

He said he contacted Frank Poduska, systems analyst at the Computation Center in Durham Center, who confirmed the problem.

Poduska said computers that aren’t 2000-compatible will be unable to access Project Vincent.

Because the problem would result from flaws in a user’s computer, people need to find a solution on their own, he said.

But help will be available for students with 2000-incompatible computers.

Poduska said the Administrative Data Processing Office can assist students with the problem, and that the Computation Center will offer help in the near future.

Estimates of how many students will experience this problem vary.

Most major computer manufacturers offer information on their products’ 2000-compatibility on their Web sites.

According to the IBM Web site, all of their current models are 2000-compatible.

All Gateway 2000 computers containing Intel Pentium-based systems are 2000-compatible as well, according to the site.

Macintosh users should not have a problem accessing Project Vincent because all Macintosh computers are equipped to handle the year 2000, according to Apple Computer site.

Poduska cautions students to not place stock in “magic cutoff dates,” because many factors can contribute to the 2000 problem.

He recommends students test whether their computers are 2000-compatible by advancing the date to just before midnight on December 31, 1999.