March 25, 1999 3:00 PM PST

New tool tests for Y2K compliance

Startup software maker Solution-Soft Systems plans to launch a tool that can test PCs for year 2000 compliance without taking them offline.

The Santa Clara, California-based company next week will roll out Time Machine Release 3, a date and time simulation tool that help users complete testing for the Y2K bug quickly, the company said.

The Time Machine works Back to Year 2000 Index Page by allowing applications to use simulated virtual clocks instead of altering the system clock, said Paul Wang, the president of Solution-Soft.

The year 2000 glitch can cause computers to read the year 2000 as 1900, as older computers were programmed to read a two-digit year date. The bug could cause machines to either crash or transmit bad information.

Unlike setting the system clock, Time Machine's "virtual clock" ensures that system operations are unimpaired. File time stamps and system logs will reflect the system clock, so that backup, logging, and other tasks operate properly, he explained.

"As a result, Y2K [testing] can be performed on production systems," Wang said. "This saves customers from having to purchase a dedicated testing environment with hardware and software."

Analysts said the simulation tool should help companies effectively tackle the millennium bug. "The whole idea of creating a virtual environment so you can set up testing outside of the operational environment is very valuable," said Jim Ayube, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group.

The Time Machine also has a new contingency planning feature--designed for applications that will not be Y2K compliant before the century date change--that sends the dates of applications back some 28 years. The new feature gives companies some leeway to complete unfinished Y2K testing while avoiding a system crash.

The capability could come in handy as a last resort, said Ayube. "Maybe if you're late in the game, something like this could be a benefit," he said.

Starting at a price of $2,000 per server, Time Machine release 3 will be available for Windows NT in the second quarter of 1999, with Unix versions planned later in the year.


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