Year end, decade end, Y2K and related matters

In just under six hours it will be midnight here in California and now seems like a good time for some reflection.

2009 has had ups and downs. Obama has at least not been as bad as Bush. This is not to say that Obama has been particularly good. But since Bush set the bar very low it is not difficult for Obama to distinguish himself. And since I did not expect great things from Obama I have not been as disappointed as those whose souring hopes were reflected on their innocent and naive faces at his inauguration. I have learned never to expect anything approaching intelligence or honesty from any politician. Thus my expectations of political disappoint are usually confirmed and if on a rare occasion some member of the political classes shows some glimmer of intelligence or honesty then I can be pleasantly surprised.

The decade as a whole suffers from the dishonesty, hubris and mendacity of Bush, Cheney and the rest of that disreputable bunch of conservatives, neo-conservatives, fools, liars and thugs. As I write this the USA is still in Iraq involved in a unnecessary war which has killed and injured many and cost much. The total cost of Iraq is already about One Trillion Dollars and the final cost is unknown. But of greater importance are those killed and injured and their families. History will judge Bush harshly for Iraq. And Bush bungled Afghanistan which now has the possibility of turning into a fiasco.

Another thing I have heard recently is mention of Y2K. Often with some nervous laughter about how silly everyone was at the time. Yet many people either forget or did not realize that there was a lot of testing done to make sure that the disaster scenarios did not occur. Embedded microcode in controllers was tested. Software was patched and new servers with updated operating systems were installed. In 1999 I was working at Sun Microsystems as part of the team administering the java.sun.com website and some related sites. I was chosen to be responsible for Y2K readiness for the servers our group administered. During 1999 I did testing and documentation of test results. I followed the activities of other people within Sun doing Y2K testing. I read about Y2K testing on technical email lists as well as the general press. I determined that our servers were fine. And I could jokingly say I was Y2K ready since I had two cans of Spam and a six-pack of Jolt cola. Seriously I did have supplies because having at least two weeks of food and water are prudent when living where earthquakes occur. And remember two weeks of supplies is a lower limit not an upper limit. So I was fairly confident. Confident enough that in November 1999 I reluctantly left Sun after 13 years to join a startup

Thus on December 31, 1999 came around I watched the news as the time was changing around the world and there did not seem to be any major problems. I decided to do one more test just to satisfy myself. Just before I left Sun a server had installed in a Scandinavian country which had the java.sun.com content but was not yet listed in DNS; thus there was no traffic going to the server and only a few people in Sun even knew about it. I remembered the IP address because just before I left Sun I had helped deploy software and content on the server. So I entered the IP address in my browser and the page loaded perfectly just like I expected. I smiled and left for a New Year's Eve party being thrown by some friends of mine; Mike and Karen. For the past two decades I have attended their NYE party and had a wonderful time. And in just about an hour I am heading there again.

Be safe. Have fun. I look forward to 2010 being better than 2009. And I sincerely hope that the next ten years are better than the past 10 years.

Have a Happy New Year.


Perry E. Metzger said...

Agreed on Obama. I'm unpleased by what he's doing but he's merely the ordinary awful we're used to rather than the transcendent awful some people seem to ascribe to him.

I think far too many people see that Y2K was not a disaster and forget that there is a reason for that, which is that we fixed the things that needed fixing. There's a bad lesson here, which is that if a problem is really thoroughly addressed in the way people think problems should be dealt with, everyone assumes it wasn't a problem in the first place. Only if the effort to fix it ends in disaster do people believe the problem was real.

Fred Curtis Moulton, Jr. said...

Exactly. And also consider how often people fail to think clearly about risk.