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Is the Internet Ready for Y2k? 68

THEsitemaster writes "Here is a story about how y2k compatible the net is. Although a White House spokesman has said it is compatible, there always is a chance that it isn't.... " Thank god we've got white house spokespeople to reassure us.
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Is the Internet Ready for Y2k?

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  • After all, Al Gore invented the damn thing...

    Sorry, it was too obvious.

  • Is it just me, or is the "complete story" link on the msnbc site broken?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    May Bill Clinton is hoping that come the year 2000 the internet will go down on him. (made me laugh)
  • Considering the percentages of *nixen out there, I feel pretty safe.
  • Yes and no - probably some bad code on the page. The text is there (the "complete story" link is just a pointer into the same page a bit lower), just doesn't get displayed.
    Use Lynx [] to access that page and you can read it.

  • .. until 2038, at least ;)
  • I forget where I read it, but I believe statistics show that a vast majority of Internet servers are UNIX (or some flavor thereof) which leads to the rest of the pack running NT to make sure that they're patched for Y2K.

    Then there's the hardware side of it and I'm fairly confident in CISCO.
  • Yea, great isn't it? .. Linux at home and quite a lot out there serving our connections .. I think it's 2038 or something that the 32-bit date field is good to under Linux isn't it? .. nice lot of time to move to a 64-bit architecture.

    Windows users might feel less happy, but even so .. it's probably still *nix that feeds all their connections too. Come Y2k, respect will be due ;>
  • as the backbones stay up, why does it even matter as long? It would be nice to keep the name servers, but it's not an absolute necessity. Besides i doubt anybody running a server that important would be stupid enough to let it fail.
  • er, um, i should have previewed. i restructured that first sentence and didn't move enough of it over...
  • Hey, so what if some web sites go down. They're only web sites.

    The date that worries me is January 2038, when time_t ticks over to a negative unsigned value and bad things happen to the large portion of the Internet that runs on Unix. I'm not sure how bad it'll be, but consider that

    • We're going to be relying more on the Internet for our everyday lives;
    • The problem is less intuitively obvious to people when the date isn't a round number;

    With luck, 64-bit machines will be in widespread use by then, and so for those of us with source code, it'll just be a matter of upgrading the hardware and recompiling. But it could be pretty messy, nonetheless.

  • I'm always a little suspicious of articles from MSNBC, and as far as I can tell, the point they are trying to make with this article is that we would be so much better off if the Internet were run from above by a government, or maybe, like, say, what about MSATAN!
  • Yea, great isn't it? .. Linux at home and quite a lot out there serving our connections .. I think it's 2038 or something that the 32-bit date
    field is good to under Linux isn't it? .. nice lot of time to move to a 64-bit architecture.

    Well.. I'm no expert, so please correct me if I'm wrong, but the 32-bit date field error in 2038 is common to all UNIX'es because of the UNIX specifications, right?

    The specs say that it should count the number of seconds since 1. January 1980, and it should all fit into 32 bits.
    So any code using this will probably get into trouble when it rolls over..

    nice lot of time to move to a 64-bit architecture.

    Well.. 38 years is a lot of time in the history of computers, but we shouldn't take anything for granted.

    Currently, there exists a lot of 32-bit computers, and 32-bit computers will continue to be sold for a while. I think there is a big chance that many of these will still exist in 2038.

  • Why does the yuppie-orientated press keep making
    the assumption that if something critical isn't
    controled by a large corporation with a team of lawyers its anarchistic and dangerous? I'd rather have a team of volunteers running the show than the propietary crap they seem to love.

    Well it was MSNBC...
  • Considering the percentages of *nixen out there, I feel pretty safe.

    .. so UNIX is Y2K compliant?
    That's news to me. I know there are UNIX versions that are not Y2K compliant. I have been so fortunate to actually work on Y2K testing, and Solaris 2.5 needed to be patched.. but I do not know how extensive the bugs were.

    Come on; there has to be many UNIX boxes running old OS versions out there. There are still people using dusty, old X-Terminals, for crying out loud.

    UNIX Y2K compliant? Don't count on it...
  • .. ok.. so the net wont stop completely, but it will get slower because of fewer links. Oh goody.

  • It's just a bit of FUD being spread by a poor journo in exchange for his next pay cheque (yes, that is spelt correctly). And as you say, it was MSNBC.

    Mind you, MSNBC has another article on why Gnome is better than Windows, so someone there has a clue!


  • Unfortunately even with source it's not quite that simple; consider file systems and network protocols which encode times and 32 bit fields.
  • While we're OT, the RC5 slashbox doesn't work either.
  • First things that come to mind when someone queries whether "the Internet is Y2K compliant" are
    a) they don't understand punctuation;
    b) they don't know WTF they're talking about.

    If they meant the infrastructure behind the Internet, then they should say so.

    To throw in a better idea: would IPv6 make it any more "Y2K-compliant"?

  • I've found it's a Netscape thing... either the MSNBC folks don't know how to code for more than one browser or they do it purposely so if we're desperate to read that information we'll go install IE. It's a usual thing on there that I won't be able to see the "complete story" with Netscape. All I can say is, "figures."
  • Lets assume that there is a company 'A'. 'A' is an engineering firm, doing yearly business in the tens of millions. Thier internal ifrastructure relies on thier network, and to a lesser (but still considerable) extent, the internet. No network, nothing gets done. Period. Thier sysadmin or MIS guy *knows* that if things aren't shipshape on Jan 3rd when people stroll back in, it'll be his head on a platter. If I may generalize, any network that is deemed important will be looked after by the time Y2K comes. I think even a good number of mom & pop ISPs will at the minimum try to find out if they are ready for rollover.

    If I were a cop, I'd try to keep my gun well oiled. Cause it could save my life.

    Since I'm in IT, I maintain my servers. Cause it could ruin my life. If I were the guy at company 'A' in charge of a Y2K inflicted server, I wouldn't blame them for letting me go in the least.
  • First, why do you talk to Bill Clinton?
    A: He has probably used the internet for only one thing (while putting the worlds oldest profession out of buisness),
    B: He probably hasen't ever heard of things like 'UNIX,' 'TCP/IP,' 'The First Amendment,' etc...
    C: The government can't do anything about it. (I would rather have no Internet then a government controlled Internet).
    D: His plan for declaring Martial Law on Jan. 1, 2000 woln't work!!! I have a gun, I'll go to Washington, I'll.... (hmm...all those bloody, violent games like, Commander Keen).
    E: Contrary to popular belief, Al Gore did not create the Internet. Even if he did use open-source software (which I doubt) he probably couldn't read the code anyway (execpt maybe BASIC).
    F: Out of the two monopolies (The Government and Micro$oft) in this country, why do they both seem to want control everything?

    For all the reasons stated above, it really dosen't matter what Bill Clinton says.

    That's my 1/50 of $1.00 US
    Big Brother is watching, vote Libertarian!!
  • Check me here, but the DNS system doesn't for the most part care about the date, does it? If I reset my name server's system time to 1/1/1980 and restart it, will anything that talks to it even realize this? If not, then worst case is the root nameservers run with weird dates until the OS bugs are fixed. OS bugs may take out a couple of the roots, but I find it hard to believe that all of the root nameservers will be inoperative due to OS-level Y2K problems, and BIND isn't going to have a problem as long as the OS is working remotely sanely.

  • Yeah, negative unsigned values are plenty annoying. They should be banned. ;^)
  • Who's to say that by 2038 we won't be running 128 bit or more machines? The computer architecture has evolved to this point in 10 years, from 8 and 16 bit, why do we assume this trend won't continue?
  • FAQ says to mail bug reports to
  • Tiny correction. The date is 1/1/1970 (is it the beginning of the era or the epoch? I forget.) Anyway, on 1/1/2000 I'll be celebrating Unix' 30th birthday (why everybody knows Unix was born on the first second of the 1st January 1970 :-)
  • First, I agree about the idiots.

    Second, it's not a matrix, it's a net. Free advice: overdosing on Gibson can lead to reality problems.

    Third, yes, the original arpanet was designed to go on functioning after a limited nuclear attack on the US. This does not mean that if you now take out several backbone(s) pieces simultaneously, things will not get very ugly. No, the 'net as a whole will not die. Yes, it might take you two hours to put in your trade order on E-trade.

    Fourth, I would like to remind you that a single moderately clueful piece of (the Morris worm) code brought down a large portion of the net in less than a day. There are doomsday scenarios (e.g. check which involve stealthy quickly-proliferating worms/viruses with highly unpleasant consequences (for the net, not for some individual machines).

    Obviously, the net will not crash on Jan 1, 2000. However you seem to be claiming that the net will survive anything that could possibly be thrown at it. That is a much more doubtful assertion.

  • Good point. So if something fucks up, I can sue Al Gore, right? (Or wait, does that damned UCITA thing cover this too?)
  • Did anyone else catch the name server / Internet confusion here?

    The Internet really comes down to 13 machines, called "root servers." These are the major "data traffic cops" for the entire Internet. If those puppies blow, the entire global network grinds to halt. [...] Network Solutions Inc. [...] runs two of the world's 13 root servers.

    So what they're talking about here is nameservers. Right. So if all thirteen root nameservers go down, DNS will be unreliable, yes. But you'll still be able to type "" into your web browser to read Slashdot. If you're really worried about DNS failing, start making those lists of important IP's now! :-)

    Ah well. As long as there is journalism, there will always be a few good journalists who do their research and get it right, and a large number who write about things they just don't understand and make glaring mistakes like this one. All you can do is laugh, ignore it, and keep doing whatever you were doing...

  • How many people reading /. keep a list of important IP addresses with their computer?

    In case of RNS failure (its happened a couple of times) can you still read /.? The routers running the internet don't need DNS to keep routing, as long as you can put an IP address into your browser you will be happy.

    I've written a script which pulls out a handful of IP addresses from my bind cache every few hours, so I can drop back to an IP only level of connectivity when (not if) things break again. The biggest problem with broken DNS is sendmail implementations which require a DNS lookup before accepting/processing a connection.

    the AC
  • I was watching this press brief on C-SPAN last night. It looked like a cross of engineers and marketers answering the questions of idiot reporters. Most of the questions revolved around "So will (insert system here) crash past Y2k?!" followed by "No, most likely not. Next please"
    There were no technical discussions at all...which bothered me. I'd rather have a technical discussion than a fury of "No, probably not"'s...even if this totally confuses the reporters. :)
    When were we..or anyone else..assured of our safety from the words of a reporter?
  • You don't need a 64-bit architecture, you just have to redefine time_t as a 64-bit *variable* and recompile.

    This has been hashed out several times already since i've started reading /.


  • Better still, the Preferences page states that Slashbox problems go to CowboyNeal [mailto].
  • You know, a lot of people get really nervous when they have to speak in public. Granted, those people shouldn't get into politics. Granted, as well, that some of the things Al Gore said are outrageously funny and off the wall. But give the guy a little slack! I know I've said some dumb things under pressure, and I'm not even nervous in public. I sympathize with the poor guy who can't do anything right (sometimes it seems that I'm that way, too!).

    And besides, I invented SlashDot. :P
  • Having been one of the people on the panel, I agree that I would have loved to have a technical discussion. The one part that has been left out of some of the public information is that there is a technical resource site, and announcement available. The site is at: [] The 'technical' statement is available at: [] Jason
  • I think it's 2038 or something that the 32-bit date field is good to under Linux isn't it? .. nice lot of time to move to a 64-bit architecture.

    I think it's 2000 or something that the 8-bit BCD date field is good to under COBOL isn't it? .. nice lot of time to move to a 16-bit architecture.

  • No problems at all. I set the date on my two DNS servers to 1970 and 1975 to figure out why the hell they were not picking up the correct time. I did this this morning. I have had no trouble at all except for the fact the dates are not being set correctly using xntpd.
  • So since you are in IT and IBM say yep our OS is Y2K complient and so is our kit, so sleep well young man.

    Did we mention that those embeded chips in the transievers/dongle/timeprotected software are mission critical as well ;-)

  • The specs say that it should count the number of seconds since 1. January 1980, and it should all fit into 32 bits.

    Nope. POSIX defines it to count in seconds since 1/1/1970, and I believe that it should be an integral type. Common usage says it needs to be a signed type, to allow for dates before the beginning of time. Nothing defines the size, although 32 bits is a common minimum. The easiest is to make it equivalent to int or long, which usually means 32 bits on 32-bit architectures and 64 bits on 64-bit architectures like the Alpha.

    And we can practically guarantee that there'll be 32-bit machines in use in 2038. Look at the amount of 60's-era code that's still in production use today. Things aren't replaced until they break, and maybe not even then.

  • True, but how do you explain _Earth in the Balance_"? I suppose he was under a publisher's deadline? ;)
  • >So what they're talking about here is nameservers. Right. So if all thirteen root nameservers go down, DNS will be unreliable, yes.

    If I understand the distributed nature of DNS, even if these puppies blow, DNS will still return IPs for domain names. (It may require lots of sysadmins hacking the time-to-live values in their nameservers, but the problem can be patched over until these root servers are back online.)

    IIRC, root servers are just one step in the IP number lookup process. When a client needs to know an IP number of a domain name, it will look to the TLD nameserver -- the servers for .com, .uk, .org, & so forth -- for the IP of the given domain. If it hasn't verified the IP address for the TLD nameserver more recently than the time to live value, THEN the client will query the root server.

    In other words, the root servers only affect a tiny fraction of 1% of all of the nameserver queries executed.

    Methinks NSI is spreading a little FUD, hoping that they get the contract to manage the other 11 root servers.

  • Interestingly, Mozilla renders the /. frontpage with the BOSC slashbox just fine, while both IE and Netscape choke on it...
  • WTF do you think the whole 'Y2K' thing happened? Sheeeesh....what's that quate about historical things and repetition?'s not even history yet...
  • I know about nervous. As a grad student I taught first-year undergrads. After a couple years doing that, one student discovered that her friend had been in my class my first semester teaching. The friend asked "Does he still shake?"
  • Of course.. a misprint. I know it is 1970. I have no idea why I wrote 1980.. sorry.
  • Argh. I don't know why I wrote 1980. Of course it is 1970..

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."