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Turning The Year

Y2K

I'm sending this out a little early in case some of you Windows users need a Y2K reminder (the Mac operating system is safe from this, start reading at "Backups"). As mentioned in the summer issue of this newsletter, you can download testers and fixes over the net (www.unicore.com, www.mitre.org/research/y2k/, or www.Y2K.com) or buy them for about $40 at office supply and computer places (Norton 2000 and Check 2000 PC Deluxe are well reviewed: they are also supposed to fix two digit date problems in spreadsheets and database files). Don't just set your clock ahead to test things. If you've left it until now, you may as well wait until January -- people turning their clock forward for testing have caused problems with their backup software and some have had problems getting the system back to the correct date.

Here's a low effort minimal fix. For many machines the main problem is being on across the date change; this is called a rollover problem. If you turn your machine off before midnight on December 31st and then check (and if necessary set) the date first thing when you turn it on the next time in 2000, you'll probably be fine. Make copies (onto floppies or zip cartridges etc.) of any important files just in case you do have a problem. Be sure you do not automatically start any date dependent programs -- accounting, scheduling, daytimer and the like -- when your computer turns on. You need to tell such programs not to start automatically when your computer is first turned on in 2000: in DOS put REM in front of them in Autoexec.bat and in Windows move them out of the "StartUp" folder before turning off in December.

The date is stored in 2 places: the BIOS and the Real Time Clock (RTC). To set the BIOS you need to press a key to get into "setup" during start-up (usually Del or F1; instructions scrolling by during start-up will tell you). The screen you see after doing this depends on which BIOS you have. How to set the date should be readily apparent and fairly easy if you read carefully. BE VERY CAREFUL. Be sure you make no other changes -- doing so can cause your machine not to start. Save the change and continue booting. When Windows comes up, go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, Date/time, check the date and set it here (the RTC) if needed. Check to be sure the change holds by shutting down and then turning on your computer again. You can then return date depen-dent software to automatic loading.

In Windows 98 you should also check how two digit year entry for dates is interpreted in spreadsheets and such. Go to Start, Settings, Control panel, Regional settings (box comes up), Date tab, "When a 2 digit year is entered, interpret it as a year between" 1930 and 2029. Old Windows 95 does not have the same choice: you need a patch from Microsoft -- support.microsoft.com or call them and they will send it to you. You can make the "short date style" M/d/yyyy to show the correct year.

Backups

As you close your computer for the last time this century, be sure to make backup copies of all important data files onto floppy or other removable media. This is especially important with accounting, database and scheduling files where you might have Y2K problem with the software. You might even want to make 2 copies and write protect the disks of the really important files. Tech support departments abound with stories of folks who trashed their backup when trying to fix a problem.

If you do run into a problem you can contact the company and get a patch or an upgrade. You then rename the date mangled file (don't erase it yet, in case you find you need something from it) and load the file you saved as backup back onto the hard drive.

Archiving accounting and database files:

At the end of the year (or when you get your data entry caught up to that point), it is a good idea to put away a copy of your file so you can sort of go back in time if you need to. Be sure to change the name of the copy so you will not confuse it with the current data file. Now, after making the copy, it is time to delete older data from the current file (don't get overly enthusiastic here -- if you think you might need one year's worth of past data in the file, keep two). To look at the older data you just open the archived copy. Realize that it will generally be more difficult to do direct comparisons of data between the two files than within the same file.

This is also the time of year to review and revise accounting procedures (or lack thereof). I'm no longer doing Quickbooks training because I've found someone who not only does a good job with the software training but is a trained accountant so she can deal with those issues as well. Several of my clients have found Sarah Gunderson and her team at Accounting By Computer, 425-485-3437, very helpful with both procedures and software. ABC also sponsors user's groups for Quickbooks (3rd Thursday of the month, 7-8:30 pm, Kirkland Computer City) and Peachtree (3rd Tuesday of the month, 7-8:30 pm, Kirkland Computer City) so users of these packages can share tips, bugs, problems and, hopefully, solutions.

Upgrades

It is a good idea to upgrade your virus software before the end of the year. Be sure to download the latest definition set from your manufacturer's web site or call and order an upgrade. In fact, most of the virus software manufacturers are giving free, 90 day, fully functional "samples" to get everyone virus free for the new year (www.microsoft.com/msn/y2k/antivirus/AntiVirus.htm).

Other than virus software, I tend to be of the "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" school of thought. Be sure to test your software packages with regard to two digit year entry for 2000 before opening important files. This way you can get a patch if needed or at least know to use 4 digit years. Sometimes an upgrade is the only fix. You may also wish to upgrade if you need features an upgrade gives you or if you will be exchanging files with someone else who has upgraded.

Below are thoughts on some of the new upgrades/programs and why you might consider them. Please call us (523-0872) if you want help with any of these.

Microsoft Office 2000 -- If you are already in Office 97, Access has som major changes but otherwise I can't come up with any reason to upgrade unless you want a working version of Outlook.

Mac OS 9 -- easier internet control; current special $19.95 if you bought a "qualifying" computer or OS 8.5 after Oct. 5th 1999.

Adobe Golive -- My current favorite for web site design (they seem to have discontinued the competitive upgrade they have been running -- you might call and ask them before buying).

Adobe Photoshop 5.5 from 5.0 -- $199 less $70 rebate. Well worth it if you are doing internet graphics, otherwise no need to bother.

The Plus addition to Adobe PageMaker 6.5 -- $89.95 for a batch of templates, clipart and stock photos which most folks won’t use and an import filter for Microsoft Publisher 97 which designers might, unfortunately, need.

Adobe InDesign -- $299 for PageMager Illustrator, Photoshop or Quark owners (exp. 12/31/99?), $739 for others. Definitely worth looking at if you are doing lots of graphic design. Not worth it if you are just producing a newsletter or flyer once in a while (stick with PageMaker).

If Santa brought you a new computer, remember that someone can use your old equipment. If no school or organization wants it, try the Computer Charity Bank. They will recycle your old computer to a place it will be appreciated and you may even be able to take a tax deduction. Call and leave a message at 206-365-4657 and they will get in touch with you.

Give us a call at 206-523-0872 if you have further questions.

copyright 1998 Karen Seymour

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