Compaq has pulled a bunch of manufacturers into the year 2000lowing US standard for millennium compliance. lifeboat with it.
In a letter obtained by PC Dealer, Compaq executive William Knocker told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that 23 vendors, including Dell, Olivetti, Fujitsu and Hewlett Packard, use the US National Software Testing Laboratory (NSTL) test to prove machines are compliant.
Knocker said: 'The implications of any regulatory criticism of the test would be considerable, both nationally and internationally.'
Previously, fix and diagnostic company Prove It 2000 had complained to the ASA that Compaq should not advertise its machines as millennium compliant (PC Dealer, 27 May). Prove It 2000's test checks the computer's real time clock RTC), while the NSTL test does not. The RTC is the ultimate date keeper in any computer, but Compaq has said this is not important because the BIOS can adjust any incorrect date information the RTC sends.
Jonathan Chapple, managing director of reseller Equanet, told PC Dealer: 'Compaq should not be singled out as the bad guy here. What about IBM, HP and the rest?' (PC Dealer, 8 July)
In an email, Chapple wrote: 'All PC manufacturers follow the same standard, so the entire industry is at fault here, not just Compaq. They just happen to be the fall guys.'
So, can all these vendors be wrong in backing the NSTL?
NSTL documentation says: 'It is physically impossible for the hardware clock to be year 2000 compliant as it supports only the last two digits of the year. For this reason, no industry standard personal computer can be made 100 per cent year 2000 foolproof.
'Ideally, a Motorola MC146818 compatible RTC that is century aware could be employed. In lieu of this more expensive hardware fix, a less ideal method makes the BIOS responsible for updating the century byte in RTC memory when the next century arrives.
'NSTL considered including a power cycle test to confirm the retention of century information. Providing such support in a free utility, however, would be highly cost-prohibitive. Nonetheless, a reboot test is an important part of the total year 2000 test process.'
Compaq asserted in its defence: 'The NSTL test is a full, proper and wholly independent test.'
The ASA, in making its judgment, is understood to be leaning towards the recently released British Standards Institute (BSI) compliance standard, which also dodges the RTC.
David Keech, BSI year 2000 project manager, said the BSI had not taken a stance on the RTC issue because it raised too many questions. The standard it had released was 'de facto,' he said.
If the BSI standard is used, the ASA will not uphold Prove It 2000's complaint because it fails to address the RTC issue. Anyway, Compaq does comply with the NSTL test. Buyers, including the government, are deciding the value of that compliance.
A letter obtained by PC Dealer, written by Cabinet Office central IT unit deputy director Mark Gladwyn, tells how the government is trying to make vendors sell it PCs with compliant RTCs.
He writes that current standards are 'adequate' for many purposes 'but not for all'.
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