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2005/05/16 2038 time overflow

© May 2005 Tony Lawrence

This article (link dead, sorry) says Y2038 bug "may hit Unix, Linux machines"

Sheesh, you think so? No, it's not "may": if current Unix and Linux OSes are still running in 2038, yes, they WILL overflow their time counters. And so will any Windows box still using 32 bit time, so I have to wonder why this article singles out Unix. Never mind that: apparently all Windows machines will be 64 bit by then but all Unix boxes won't. That's the price we pay for reliability, folks.

Two immediate thoughts come to mind: how many computers (Unix or otherwise) will still be running 32 bit OSes thirty three years from now? OK, as that article suggests, you might have some embedded systems kicking around. I doubt it (how many embedded systems from the 70's are still running now?), but it could happen. Ask a more realistic question: how many of those use date calculations for anything where the owners wouldn't be aware that they did?

Some applications apparently don't care a bit about the current date. Something might just be monitoring inputs from some source and deciding when to trigger some event. There might not be any obvious use of time. But, the system may still calculate elapsed time, and that could cause a glitch or even a crash when the counter overflows. Those are probably pretty rare and very specialized. Most embedded systems very obviously use dates and times: usually tracking elapsed time is part of the systems very reason for being. We're billing customers here for usage, making logs with time stamps, or whatever: it usually wouldn't take any real brain power to see that a black box system must be doing time calculations. Those systems will be replaced, because the people using them will know darn well that they need to. They'll probably be replaced before that for other reasons anyway.

I'll be ninety years old in 2038. I doubt I'll care much about anything to do with computers by then; I also seriously doubt that this awful Unix 2038 bug is going to cause anyone else to lose any sleep. Or any data.

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-> time overflow - Y2038 bug may hit Unix, Linux machines


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Mon May 16 15:54:51 2005: 512   BigDumbDinosaur

I'll be ninety years old in 2038...

I'll have you beat by three years -- assuming I'm still protoplasm when the 32 bit UNIX clock zeros out. <Grin> I might still be fiddling around with computers then (old habits die slowly), but I doubt that I'll be overly worried about running out of time.

Wed May 18 05:48:51 2005: 534   KimPetersen

Actually most programmers know that this is a problem - time tells us that programs will run at that time with 32 bit time_t, but fortunatly it seems that the programmers of todays operating systems are a heck of a lot smarter than those of days gone (i can remember several times in the 80's where the y2k problem was deliberatly incorperated into programs because of cost benefit - "and besides this program won't run in 10-20 years" - but it did).


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