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January 12, 1998


Every second counts two

Accountant turned Y2K bug fixer S Jayaraj's
invention can cut the conversion time by half!

As the deadline for fixing the millennium bug trouble nears, armies of hacks toiling away at antique code find time is slipping through their fingers at an ever-increasing pace. But an Indian entrepreneur has brought hope with a method that will cut solution time by 50-60 per cent in the trillion-dollar Y2K business.

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Chartered accountant turned bug fixer S Jayaraj of Madras claims that his method does not involve any physical or logical expansion of the two-digit date fields. What the solution looks at is the compiler rather than the database or the programmes.

At present, database or programme-level corrections require, on an average, 6-7 lines of code. Jayaraj's method involves 2-3 lines of code - "a generic statement and a neutralising statement", as he puts it.

Apart from this, the correction is done at the compiler level, which automates the repeated testing processes involved in other methods.

Currently, one has to look for a problem date field area in every database or programme separately and do the correction and testing.

"Testing takes about 45-50 per cent of the cost and time of a Y2K solution. When the corrections are done at the compiler level one can invoke the feature as and when one encounters a date field problem area in the database or a programme,'' explains Jayaraj.

The conventional method for millennium compliance involves physical expansion of date fields from the current six-digit spaces (the 'mm/dd/yy' format) to eight-digit spaces (the 'mm/dd/yyyy' format). This accommodates the century value into the existing date fields using compression techniques; encapsulation or subtraction of 'x' years from the century value, thereby buying 'x' years; and the windowing technique where added programme lines make the program cleverer to infer the century.

Because Jayaraj's method will reduce conversion time due to lesser lines of code and automation, it is expected that there would also be a 40 per cent reduction in costs as a consequence.

This is despite the fact that most companies, which have taken up Y2K contracts, are paid on the basis of the number of lines of code they write. But the conversion projects are strictly time-bound too and those failing to deliver within deadlines may face legal trouble. A solution cutting down the conversion time assumes significance, Jayaraj points out.

Madras based Orbit Infocom Limited; a company run by Jayaraj's brother, does Y2K training and is sponsoring Jayaraj's efforts.

Since the new solution is compiler-based, Jayaraj is planning tie-ups with compiler companies - including multinational players such as IBM, Computer Associates, MicroFocus and Indian firms like HCL and Soft Tech, so that the solution can be incorporated in their compilers.

While Jayaraj currently has a demonstration of his solution (with two-digit date fields) which shoots date field problems such as indexing, sorting and date comparison; on the anvil are plans to publicise the new method by a larger demonstration through a press meeting on January 21.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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