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Don Burleson Blog 








System Date errors and computer application exposure

IT Tips by Donald Burleson

The DST and database corruption

Even today, there were dire warnings about the possibility of widespread database corruption from a ?MINI Y2K? bug!  This DST threat caused a huge scramble in the IT industry last week as millions of people rushed to patch their OS and database software. 

  • Oracle patch - I have my Oracle-related 2015 DST patch notes here.

  • PC patch - Even our lowly PC's were affected by the ?Daylight Savings Time?, and Microsoft has a quick downloadable patch here.

  • Linux Patch - There are even threats from the quantoid world of Linux.  This web site claims that there is a date bug waiting in UNIX.

?January 19, 2038 is a date which will live in infamy. It is on that day that the 32-bit integer storing the number of seconds since the beginning of The Epoch will overflow, causing death and destruction unseen by the world since the Y2K Bug.

As they did in 2000, software will spectacularly crash, hardware will explode, appliances will go haywire and attack their owners, and nuclear missiles will simultaneous launch and destroy the world.?

Actually, the 32-bit servers of the early 21st century are rapidly going to the same scrap heap as our Timex Sinclair, Commodore 64 and 8088 PC's.  By 'scrap heap?, I mean that they will be in high demand on eBay.  This eBay search shows that you can sell your old Timex Sinclair for up to $20 cash.

Is the date panic legitimate?

I experienced my first date-related outage back in the 1980's when every single IBM mainframe in the world crashed (I think it was on a March 1st, 1988, but I could be wrong). 

As I recall, on March 1st, the date algorithm messed-up the day computation, creating a ?false? February 29th, when it was really March first.  No big deal, eh?  As I remember, it caused one of the greatest computer outages the world had ever seen.  Literally, 80% of the world's computing power was off-the-air, all because of a simple date math error!

A year that is designated as a ?leap year?, is very special, with a 29th day of February, a whole new day to mess-up electronic calendars everywhere.

As a refresher, a year is a leap year if the year is divisible by 4 but not divisible by 100 unless also divisible by 400.  OK, how hard can it be to code those rules correctly?

Well, it must have been difficult on the IBM mainframe.  The failure was widespread and the whole world of ?Data Processing? stopped for an hour as panicked coders applied emergency patches.  BTW, the term ?Data Processing? was replaced by the term ?Information Technology? because the computer nerds said that ?IT? was a really cool acronym and ?Data Processing? was not cool.

Logical Database corruption and the DST patch

Despite all of the dire warnings, it appears that a neglected system will continue to function.  However, the more insipid threat is of ?logical data corruption?, where dates and timestamps are off by one-hour.

In systems that communicate with other systems, this could cause widespread data inconsistencies and we have seen applications that did not behave as expected because of internal date storage issues.



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