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The ACCU passes on review copies of computer books to its members for them to review. The result is a large, high quality collection of book reviews by programmers, for programmers. Currently there are 1949 reviews in the database and more every month.
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The Year 2000 Software Crisis
William Ulrich&Ian Hayes
0 13 655664 7
Prentice Hall
Chris Hills
Appeared in:
The Millennium problem or Y2K as it is known to its friends. Is it 'The End Of The World As We Know It' or a lot of hype? This book will tell you. It not only explains what the actual problem is (date handling in software and hardware at the 1999 to 2000 roll over) and how it arrived (use of a 2 digit year field), but what the ramifications are and how to solve them. Apart from the causes of Y2K the book looks at strategies and planning. It is in some respects a single topic project managers guide. It does, however, show how far the tentacles of the problem will reach, as many are not at all obvious. It also discusses costs. All projects take time, which equals money.

As an aside the average figure from companies who have done the work is about£1 per line of code or 3/4% of gross turnover which ever is greater. (I know of a large UK company whose MD has said there will be no money spent on Y2K. It must come out of other budgets!)

The book is current (i.e. not based on theory from 5 years ago) and international in outlook, it is not US centric. The frightening thing is that in Europe most SW houses are gearing up for the ECU in 1999, they will address Y2K after that! The legal section is interesting and again not US centric. The lawyers do not really know and will not know until it has been argued in court. This is a global problem with every legal system seeing it differently, but the book does take a look at what the problems will be, if not supplying the answers. Being forewarned is half the battle.

This book has, initially, a 2.5 year life span. This is about as long as some programming or methodology books. It will also make fascinating reading in years to come, or fuel for the campfire if it all goes wrong. This book is not for software engineers but managers, or any one who has to convince managers, that there is a real problem and not just something that can be done in a few minutes at no cost. Y2K is a management problem.

Be warned though this book does not list all the places where the problem will occur, it is not a technical book that will tell you where the problem is and which bytes to fix. For example it does not describe how the PC BIOS does or does not cope with the rollover.

This book gives the subject complete coverage but it is not a 'doom gloom and hype' book. It is worth having if only as a project management book. All companies using computers should have at least one book of this type and this one is as good as they get. It should be read by at least one manager with the clout do something.

What really disturbs me is that the Y2K problem is just the best documented of a wide class of problem. All programs that manage time and date information are vulnerable to use outside a valid range. Just as food products have a use before date, software should include a 'do not use after' date. - Francis