Leap-Day Computer Monitoring Plan Is Set

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Leap-Day Computer Monitoring Plan Is Set

(02/24/00, 6:33 p.m. ET) By Reuters

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Reuters) - The United States and about a dozen countries will work together to track any automated-system failures sparked by a leap day next week that occurs only once in 400 years, the U.S. government said Thursday.

"It's a real issue that we feel obligated to keep track of," John Koskinen, President Clinton's chief aide for the year 2000 technology challenge, told reporters at a $50-million Y2K monitoring station.

Koskinen said he did not expect any major system failures, largely because organizations typically checked for leap-year compliance while trouble-shooting for the so-called Y2K bug.

"If there are difficulties, in many cases it will result in minor or modest glitches that can be remedied quickly if people catch it quickly," he said.

To keep tabs internationally, Koskinen will take part in scheduled conference calls every eight hours over a three-day period with national Y2K coordinators on the steering committee of the World Bank-funded International Y2K Cooperation Center.

This group includes Britain, Bulgaria, Chile, Gambia, Iceland, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, and South Korea. Australia and New Zealand have also been invited to take part because they can give early warning shortly after Feb. 29 dawns at the International Date Line.

The $50 million information-coordination center set up under White House auspices to track Y2K glitches will be operational from Feb. 28 to March 1. It will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. by about 75 federal workers per shift, about half as many as for the century date change, when it ran around the clock.

The greatest leap-day risk is to customized software used for record keeping or billing, especially where the number of days is central to the process being carried out, such as computing interest, Koskinen said.

Unlike the Y2K issue -- where the use of only two digits to signify the year was standard practice -- the potential leap-year problem results from misunderstanding the rule for when an extra day is added to the calendar.

Under the little-known three-step rule, February picks up a 29th day in years divisible by 4 except when the year is divisible by 100 -- unless the year is divisible by 400.

Thus, the year 2000 is the first leap year of its kind since 1600. The three-step rule was crafted for the calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 to better synchronize with the cycle of the seasons. The years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years.

Koskinen said previous testing found some software programmers knew enough of the leap-year rule to get to its second step. That would mean they could have coded 2000 as a normal year, in which February had 28 days, instead of the 29 required.

Koskinen, who chairs the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said he would brief the press on any glitches at 2 p.m., ET Feb. 29 and March 1.

At the final briefing, he said he would announce White House plans for the future of the state-of-the-art computer systems built for the rollover watch post.

-- Uncle Bob (unclb0b@aol.com), February 25, 2000

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