N. Carolina - Duke University - about 10 minor bugs

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Duke enters new millennium without dreaded Y2K snags

Updated 12:00 PM ET January 12, 2000

By Greg Pessin, The Chronicle, Duke U.

(U-WIRE) DURHAM, N.C. -- Sipping coffee and Coke, eating brownies and watching CNN, 10 Duke University administrators spent a woefully sober turn-of-the-millennium in the Tel-Com building, monitoring campus computers for Y2K-related glitches.

After none appeared, most of the officials left around 1 a.m., and the Y2K command center closed without incident around 2:30 a.m. Jan. 1, 2000.

The University and Health System spent a combined $75 million replacing outdated computer systems and another $19 million fixing other machines. So far, only a few minor bugs have cropped up in individual departments' systems, and these problems were fixed shortly thereafter.

"It was kind of anticlimactic," information technology consultant Neal Paris said of the command center mood. "If there had been problems in other parts of the world, there would have been a sense that it was coming closer and closer and then arrived."

Office of Information Technology administrators were most concerned about the campus losing power, which could have resulted in lost data on campus UNIX systems and forced the University to fire up its emergency generators.

After command center officials checked all power supplies and other vital systems, including the acpub system, they decided the campus had temporarily averted the problem and they turned their attention toward bugs that could appear in the next few months.

About 10 minor computer glitches appeared throughout the Duke University Health System, David Kirby, manager of Medical Center Systems Programming, said in a statement. He could not be reached for additional comment. Since the new millennium rang in with little more than a few sparks and surprises, computer commentators and political pundits have debated whether the Y2K bug was all hype and hubbub or a true threat averted by concentrated effort.

And ever since the bug came to light, the University has maintained the middle ground, spending conservatively and hiring few consultants.

"I've always thought it was over-hyped, which is why we, while taking it seriously, didn't spend all that much on it," Executive Vice President Tallman Trask wrote in an e-mail. "It's the consultants who made all the money; fortunately, we didn't pay much of it. And so far, no serious problems, nor do we anticipate any."

Bugs in the financial aid and sponsored programs computing systems were among the few glitches reported to OIT. Both were fixed the day they were discovered. "I know the work done at Duke was good work. It was time and money well spent," said Paris, who was in charge of solving the Y2K problem on the University side.

"Y2K resulted in the University focusing on [information technology]," he said. "Departments were running a lot of old PCs, and it involved replacing them, plus getting old operating systems up to date. For our critical systems, it was absolutely critical. We found specific things that had to be changed or things wouldn't have worked correctly."

The biweekly payroll system, a function that could have experienced glitches after the changeover, went smoothly when employees' checks were printed last week.

Paris said that the biweekly and the monthly system, which will run soon, were tested repeatedly over the last few months.

OIT will collect the final Y2K report from each of the University's departments next week, but will still be on guard in case other programs, like accounting functions that run at the end of the fiscal year, turn up any glitches.

"I have not heard of any Y2K problems at Duke-if there were any, they were pretty minor; I'm sure this is because a great many people worked hard to identify potential problems and addressed them early," President Nan Keohane wrote in an e-mail.

"By the time the new millennium rolled around, every part of the University had done what it needed to do to be in compliance. But that didn't happen by accident," she added.

(C) 2000 The Chronicle via U-WIRE


-- Lee Maloney (leemaloney@hotmail.com), January 17, 2000

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