Computing Now Exclusive Content — January 2010

News Archive

July 2012

Gig.U Project Aims for an Ultrafast US Internet

June 2012

Bringing Location and Navigation Technology Indoors

May 2012

Plans Under Way for Roaming between Cellular and Wi-Fi Networks

Encryption System Flaw Threatens Internet Security

April 2012

For Business Intelligence, the Trend Is Location, Location, Location

Corpus Linguistics Keep Up-to-Date with Language

March 2012

Are Tomorrow's Firewalls Finally Here Today?

February 2012

Spatial Humanities Brings History to Life

December 2011

Could Hackers Take Your Car for a Ride?

November 2011

What to Do about Supercookies?

October 2011

Lights, Camera, Virtual Moviemaking

September 2011

Revolutionizing Wall Street with News Analytics

August 2011

Growing Network-Encryption Use Puts Systems at Risk

New Project Could Promote Semantic Web

July 2011

FBI Employs New Botnet Eradication Tactics

Google and Twitter "Like" Social Indexing

June 2011

Computing Commodities Market in the Cloud

May 2011

Intel Chips Step up to 3D

Apple Programming Error Raises Privacy Concerns

Thunderbolt Promises Lightning Speed

April 2011

Industrial Control Systems Face More Security Challenges

Microsoft Effort Takes Down Massive Botnet

March 2011

IP Addresses Getting Security Upgrade

February 2011

Studios Agree on DRM Infrastructure

January 2011

New Web Protocol Promises to Reduce Browser Latency

To Be or NAT to Be?

December 2010

Intel Gets inside the Helmet

Tuning Body-to-Body Networks with RF Modeling

November 2010

New Wi-Fi Spec Simplifies Connectivity

Expanded Top-Level Domains Could Spur Internet Real Estate Boom

October 2010

New Weapon in War on Botnets

September 2010

Content-Centered Internet Architecture Gets a Boost

Gesturing Going Mainstream

August 2010

Is Context-Aware Computing Ready for the Limelight?

Flexible Routing in the Cloud

Signal Congestion Rejuvenates Interest in Cell Paging-Channel Protocol

July 2010

New Protocol Improves Interaction among Networked Devices and Applications

Security for Domain Name System Takes a Big Step Forward

The ROADM to Smarter Optical Networking

Distributed Cache Goes Mainstream

June 2010

New Application Protects Mobile-Phone Passwords

WiGig Alliance Reveals Ultrafast Wireless Specification

Cognitive Radio Adds Intelligence to Wireless Technology

May 2010

New Product Uses Light Connections in Blade Server

April 2010

Browser Fingerprints Threaten Privacy

New Animation Technique Uses Motion Frequencies to Shake Trees

March 2010

Researchers Take Promising Approach to Chemical Computing

Screen-Capture Programming: What You See is What You Script

Research Project Sends Data Wirelessly at High Speeds via Light

February 2010

Faster Testing for Complex Software Systems

IEEE 802.1Qbg/h to Simplify Data Center Virtual LAN Management

Distributed Data-Analysis Approach Gains Popularity

Twitter Tweak Helps Haiti Relief Effort

January 2010

2010 Rings in Some Y2K-like Problems

Infrastructure Sensors Improve Home Monitoring

Internet Search Takes a Semantic Turn

December 2009

Phase-Change Memory Technology Moves toward Mass Production

IBM Crowdsources Translation Software

Digital Ants Promise New Security Paradigm

November 2009

Program Uses Mobile Technology to Help with Crises

More Cores Keep Power Down

White-Space Networking Goes Live

Mobile Web 2.0 Experiences Growing Pains

October 2009

More Spectrum Sought for Body Sensor Networks

Optics for Universal I/O and Speed

High-Performance Computing Adds Virtualization to the Mix

ICANN Accountability Goes Multinational

RFID Tags Chat Their Way to Energy Efficiency

September 2009

Delay-Tolerant Networks in Your Pocket

Flash Cookies Stir Privacy Concerns

Addressing the Challenge of Cloud-Computing Interoperability

Ephemeralizing the Web

August 2009

Bluetooth Speeds Up

Grids Get Closer

DCN Gets Ready for Production

The Sims Meet Science

Sexy Space Threat Comes to Mobile Phones

July 2009

WiGig Alliance Makes Push for HD Specification

New Dilemnas, Same Principles:
Changing Landscape Requires IT Ethics to Go Mainstream

Synthetic DNS Stirs Controversy:
Why Breaking Is a Good Thing

New Approach Fights Microchip Piracy

Technique Makes Strong Encryption Easier to Use

New Adobe Flash Streams Internet Directly to TVs

June 2009

Aging Satellites Spark GPS Concerns

The Changing World of Outsourcing

North American CS Enrollment Rises for First Time in Seven Years

Materials Breakthrough Could Eliminate Bootups

April 2009

Trusted Computing Shapes Self-Encrypting Drives

March 2009

Google, Publishers to Try New Advertising Methods

Siftables Offer New Interaction Model for Serious Games

Hulu Boxed In by Media Conglomerates

February 2009

Chips on Verge of Reaching 32 nm Nodes

Hathaway to Lead Cybersecurity Review

A Match Made in Heaven: Gaming Enters the Cloud

January 2009

Government Support Could Spell Big Year for Open Source

25 Reasons For Better Programming

Web Guide Turns Playstation 3 Consoles into Supercomputing Cluster

Flagbearers for Technology: Contemporary Techniques Showcase US Artifact and European Treasures

December 2008

.Tel TLD Debuts As New Way to Network

Science Exchange

November 2008

The Future is Reconfigurable

2010 Rings in Some Y2K-like Problems

by George Lawton

Numerous computer systems worldwide had trouble recognizing the year 2010 in dates, causing problems for many users and systems administrators. The problem has been referred to as Y2k.01.

The most serious problems emerged in Germany and Australia where millions of payment cards stopped working. It has also affected text messaging systems, causing the messages on Windows Mobile phones to appear as the year 2016. Symantec enterprise security software, SpamAssassin, SAP printing spools, and Palm smart phones were among other systems reporting problems. In most cases, patches or workarounds have already been deployed or made available.

"The nature of the problem in this case was a miscoding problem that showed up in different places in different ways," said Rob Enderlee, senior industry analyst with the Enderlee Group. "A lot of these things are written well in advance and they just did not test them through the date cycle."

Stupid Programming Tricks

The date problems emerged from several programming inconsistencies or temporary fixes. The most common problem was the year 2010 appearing as 2016. This problem originated in confusion between binary number encoding (BNE) and binary coded decimals (BCD). The numbers 0–9 are consistent in both systems. However, BNE codes the number 10 as 0x0A, while BCD uses 0x10. BNE treats 0x10 as the number 16. Thus, software that spans systems using the different encodings misinterpreted 2010 as 2016.

Another problem, which caused 2010 to appear as 1910, resulted from a Y2K temporary patch that became permanent. The original Y2K problem lay in the many computer systems that used two-digit representations of the year. These systems would have interpreted the year 2000 as 1900. One "temporary" fix was to reprogram the system to add 100 years to a window of dates after 2000. Systems that set this window at 10 years stopped adding 100 years on 1 January 2010.

In other cases, the problem occurred because the developers didn't expect the software version they were working on to still be in wide use after 2010. For example, SpamAssassin had a problem misclassifying some email as spam because of a feature that uses the date to help determine whether an incoming message is spam. The feature is based on the observation that spammers frequently send their messages from future dates so that they stay at the top of the inbox. SpamAssassin had included a rule to flag messages dated after 2010 as spam, but the company released an update six months ago to change the flag to messages dated after 2020.

When in Doubt, Halt

In Germany, the Y2k.01 problem affected 30 percent of smart payment cards—about 30 million cards in total. The banks developed new software for the card readers so that they wouldn't have to replace all the cards.

The problem started when software running on the cards couldn’t recognize the date that card readers were feeding it, said Raymond Wizbowski, marketing manager at Gemalto, which makes the affected payment cards. The readers therefore refused to proceed with the transaction. "This situation can occur in complex software systems, where all the combinatorial test cases can't be covered," he explained.

"Faced with the unknown, the cards are programmed to choose the most secure option (i.e., prevent the transaction) in order to maintain the highest security."

In Australia, Bank of Queensland's Electronic Funds Transfer Point of Sale terminals rushed into 2016 in the new year. The terminals process credit and debit cards and began interpreting each card as expired. A Bank of Queensland spokesperson said a temporary fix was implemented 2 January 2010, and a permanent software update subsequently solved the problem altogether.

The updating system in Symantec's network access control (NAC) software had trouble updating new virus definitions. The NAC software checks to see if companies have the latest software to protect against new malware, and it began interpreting downloads in the new year to be out of date. The interim fix was to time-stamp all updates as of 31 December 2009 with increasing revision numbers. Symantec has since released an automated update to the client for recognizing new malware definitions with the correct date.

SAP had a problem with the date used to determine when to delete printing spool requests. As a result, all new print jobs scheduled for deletion after 2010 were set for 2100.

Palm Pre phones initially weren't synchronizing PC and phone data, and the calendar wouldn’t work at all at the year's end. Palm issued an OS version that fixes the problem.

The date system in Windows Mobile smart phones running on OS 6.1 or 6.5 conflicted with the central text messaging gateway. One workaround is to use the phone’s own clock to stamp incoming messages rather than the gateway.

George Lawton is a freelance technology writer based in Monte Rio, California. Contact him at