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Nashville Scene Y2K For Dummies

Will my business crash? Might want to check now

By James Hanback Jr.

FEBRUARY 15, 1999:  THE YEAR 2000! For the past couple of decades the sound of those words has struck terror in the hearts of people who fear that the end of the 1990s will bring with it global disaster and chaos.

Weather patterns, the prophecies of Nostradamus, the threat of nuclear war, and now, on top of everything, the Millenium Bug have consistently weighed on the minds of Americans, whether the actual threat of disaster was real or hyped.

As if one doesn't already know, the Millenium Bug (Y2K Bug) is the computer glitch that could cause some hardware and software to treat the year 2000 as the year 1900, creating all sorts of technologically date-dependent snafus.

Thanks to almost constant media attention throughout the past two years (and daily since 1998 rolled over into 1999), Y2K has some people concerned enough that they're stockpiling food and moving to the country to get out of the way of the panic they anticipate in the streets. Others maintain that there will only be a few small technological burps to overcome, and we'll have much more to fear from unenlightened panicky neighbors than the computer glitch itself.

In any case, Y2K-watchers point out that while big business and government are currently working to control the impact of Y2K on a national level, a majority of small businesses have thus far neglected to upgrade, or in many cases even to test, their computers and technology for Y2K-compliancy.

With that in mind, EMpact Event Management has planned a Feb. 15 "Y2K Conference" to help small to mid-sized business owners learn about Y2K and what it could mean for them. The one-day event will be held at the Nashville Convention Center. Michael Hyatt, Franklin resident and best-selling author of The Millenium Bug: How to Survive the Coming Chaos, will be the keynote speaker.

Hyatt, who has worked in book publishing for the past 20 years and is described as "a part-time programming enthusiast" on the inside jacket of his book, has appeared on more than 350 television and radio programs to discuss the bug.

"The conference will demonstrate the potential outcomes and risks of not protecting your systems," says Richard Pharris, an official with EMpact. "Participants will hear real world stories of how those that have undertaken the challenge of Y2K compliance have avoided disaster."

According to Pharris, 50 to 80 percent of small to mid-sized businesses risk "significant" system failure as a result of Y2K. He adds that most of the solutions to be discussed at the conference are easy to implement, but that more complex systems will take more time and effective planning.

Conference participants may register by calling EMpact Event Management toll-free at (877) GO EVENT, or locally at 367-1824. Pricing for the conference is $250 per person and includes a lunch.

While conference-goers learn how Y2K may impact their small businesses, Jason Kelly, author of the novel Y2K: It's Already Too Late, will be in Nashville to promote his book through Feb. 12. He plans to present a seminar and book signing at the Brentwood Barnes & Noble (1701 Mallory Lane) on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m., and at the Nashville BookStar (4301 Harding Road) on Thursday, Feb. 11. at 7 p.m.

Kelly authored technical manuals for IBM's Santa Teresa laboratory from 1993 to 1997. He left to pursue his freelance writing career. His novel chronicles what Kelly says "lies just around the corner": chaos.

In the book, Los Angeles is destroyed by fire and riots, while people all over the country fight each other for food. Medical technology fails, leaving those dependent on it to suffer and die and, as a final insult to the United States, the Chinese navy has decided to take advantage of the country's technological woes, steaming stealthily toward Hawaii.

On top of all that, the novel's hero--Mark Solvang--operates the one surviving technological business after New Year's Eve 1999. Solvang attempts to use his own Year 2000 repair firm to restore the world to order, only to find that there are others exploiting the Y2K meltdown who do not necessarily want the world "restored."

Kelly says he chose the Y2K topic for his novel in part to make people more aware of the problem.

The battle continues

Vanderbilt University math student Bennett Haselton has made news again after releasing the latest version of his Internet filtering-software cracking program CPCrack and, on top of that, discovering a new security hole in Microsoft's Hotmail Web e-mail system.

Both items hit CNET's news.com Web site on Thursday of last week. According to the reports, the Web e-mail hole could allow a malicious user to send incriminating e-mails that can be falsely traced to another user's computer. The hole is known in Hotmail, but thought to be present in most other Web e-mail services.

A patch for Hotmail was in the works last week.

Unrelated to the Web mail hole is the new version of CPCrack, which successfully decrypts the Cyber Patrol Internet filtering program's administrator password. The CPCrack user is then allowed to unfilter his or her Internet access.

Haselton, 20, who was profiled in the Nov. 5 Scene cover story, developed the software partly in protest to the Child Online Protection Act signed into law by President Clinton last year.

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