Volume 92, Issue 78

Tuesday, February 16, 1999


Y2K - Problem or Paranoia

Cleaning Western's wires

Cleaning Western's wires

By Sabrina Carinci
Gazette Staff

After a university announcement to extend this year's winter holiday break by a another week, Western students can relax for seven extra days while administration and staff sort out potential problems associated with the Y2K millennium bug.

"We're well under way and everything should be alright," says Mike Bower, senior director at information technology services. He explained the university has budgeted approximately $4 million to make the primary administrative systems – the computer systems which record student grades and information – Y2K compliant.

He points out the system was fairly old to begin with and was in need of an upgrade anyway. "We've been making changes all along, so it'll be more than $4 million," he says.

According to Bower, the rest of the computer systems on campus will be ready for the year 2000 in approximately six months. "Our biggest problem is that there's a lot of equipment out there that we don't know about because ITS is not involved with all purchasing," he says, referring to any type of scientific equipment which uses a computer chip such as elevators or scanning and testing equipment.

Dave Riddell, senior director of physical plant and capital planning services at Western, feels the decision to extend the break was a wise one when possible glitches are taken into consideration, such as electric burnouts and disruptions to the water supply.

Riddell says most of the university is ready for the changing year and any problems will be based on factors out of the university's control.

Brian Whitelaw, a systems administrator for the City of London, says over $1 million has been spent in London since the city started working on the Y2K millennium bug approximately two years ago. "Everything hasn't been taken care of yet, but everything is under control," he says.

Whitelaw says the city is presently working on a $600,000 upgrade and testing of London's water supply system. The city has also been working on upgrading the business information systems' computers longer than anything else and therefore they are in good shape.

"I think you have to expect some surprises," Whitelaw says, adding the potential problems are endless. "Ontario Hydro, for example, is extremely confident that everything will be okay, but even they are going to operate in a precautionary method on Dec. 31.

"If we hadn't done anything we could see a collapse of the banking system, a possible contamination of water supply, traffic light control failures, police systems failing and even 911 not working," he points out, adding these are all ideas which have been researched and are being tested by the city.

By the year 2000, Whitelaw said London will have spent over $2 million on changes and upgrades. However, Whitelaw points out this is low in comparison to cities such as Ottawa. "Their total budget is about $20 million," he says, although he was unsure about the composition of the money.

"We've been very fortunate because our equipment lease is up this year and we'll be replacing a lot of it – we've been putting a clause on all purchase orders in that anything we purchase must be year 2000 compliant."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999