Not a Dream Date With Y2K

Horizon Information Group, a Boston consulting firm, found that some year 2000 problems in Microsoft's Excel spreadsheets aren't spotted by several widely used Y2K compliance tools designed to detect just such defects.

The issue centers on Excel's "date()" function that treats all two-digit years as belonging in this century, not the next one. A date of 05 will be read as 1905. If the date function is plainly visible within the spreadsheet, Y2K watchdog programs should be able to highlight the problem. But if a programmer has imbedded a date function inside a formula, and renamed it, the function may lurk undetected.

That is just what happened when Horizon ran tests of Excel spreadsheets using some common Y2K trouble-shooting tools by Viasoft Inc., Symantec Corp., 2000 Tools Group Inc., Greenwich Mean Time -- UTA, ClickNet Software Corp., Advanced System Technologies Inc., and IST Development Inc.

Only the IST Year 200 Analysis Suite read inside formulas with user-defined names to locate DATE functions, said Allen Falcon, Horizon Group's president. (

Microsoft said the issue is not a Y2K "bug." It has plainly explained how the DATE function works and provided remedies for the potential problem. .

But Falcon warns that if the date functions remains undetected and unremedied, spreadsheet programs could fail. "For companies that rely on spreadsheets and desktop databases as corporate tools, whether for finance, acounting, of business planning, it's a serious risk. I'd put this an 8 on a scale of 10."

Va. Tech's Wireless Grant

The National Science Foundation has awarded Virginia Tech a three-year, $1 million grant to underwrite research on wireless communications, a specialty of Virginia Tech's Mobile and Portable Radio Research Group. The researchers will focus on development of wireless Internet systems in neighborhoods, campuses, and ultimately, cities.