POSTSCRIPT / December 28, 1999 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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After computers, people themselves are Y2K-ready

WE said last time that you better have enough cash on hand to last you two weeks as the world crosses over to the new 2000 with the Y2K or Millennium Bug snapping at its heels.

Now it seems you don’t have to run to your bank to withdraw all your money for fear that the Y2K Bug would gobble up the bank’s computerized files at the first tick of the clock after midnight of Dec. 31.

If you saw those glorious ads in yesterday’s STAR, you would know that the major banks have been safely brought to full Y2K-readiness.

Some of them are: Allied Bank, Far East Bank and Trust Co., Robinson Savings Bank, Metro Bank, Traders Royal Bank, Banco Filipino, Bank of Commerce, Rizal Commercial Bank Corp. and RCBC Savings Bank.

In fact, as their Star ads announced it, most of them will be open half day during the Y2K holidays — on Dec. 31 (Friday), Jan. 1 (Saturday) and Jan. 2 (Sunday) — to serve their clients.

The Central Bank has directed the banks, upon request, to give accounts statements to their clients before yearend. It also advised the public to withdraw only the amount they normally need during long holidays as their money is safe with the banks.

* * *

AS the countdown progresses, it seems that the expectant crowds in Metro Manila and elsewhere are getting to be Y2K-ready themselves. Not in the technical chipset sense, but in a pleasant festive sort of preparation.

The commercial hub in Makati radiating from Ayala Avenue is being rushed into a state of Y2K-readiness. Similar massing of Y2K revelers is expected in other big open spaces such as the Luneta in Manila, the elliptical Quezon Memorial circle in Quezon City, and the Town Center in Ayala Alabang.

We will be part of the throbbing humanity around the globe that will spill out in public places to welcome, or to confront, Y2K in appropriate style.

* * *

IN case reminders can still be heard above the din of the preparation, we interject the thought that aside from looking up to the sky for celestial direction, and probably fireworks, we suggest that we also take time to look inwards.

After all, the dawning of a new year is actually just the physical flipping of the calendar, the mechanical changing of the digits in the clock. The substantial and more meaningful change is, or should be, within the individual. If he cares to change at all.

Change for the better, if we may press the point, is preferably in relation to other people in our personal network.

* * *

THE same networking principle applies in handling the Y2K or Millennium Bug problem. It is not a matter of just ensuring that each machine or device using a computer chip is ready for the crossover to 2000.

It is moreover also a problem of ensuring that after each machine is made Y2K-compliant, all other machines linked to it should be made to function together in one Y2K-compliant system.

For instance, it is not enough that the hardware of a bank is Y2K-compliant. It is important that all other banks and related systems it deals with are similarly Y2K-compliant. The failure of just one element in the system may spell disaster for all those linked to the network.

Another illustration: A jetliner may have Y2K-compliant equipment to fly trouble-free. But if other systems that it has to work with, such as flight controllers, radar, communication and related systems are not similarly Y2K-compliant, the plane could encounter serious navigation and landing/takeoff problems.

This underscores linkages. It calls attention to the fact that one’s computer is no longer a stand-alone unit in this interdependent world. The entire worldwide web conceivably could start to collapse with one millennium blunder of one key member of the network.

* * *

WE might have taken a big bite when we presumed last time to give advice on handling the dreaded Chernobyl or CIH virus. We ventured the opinion that CIH might be hiding in redundant files with .rb* extensions and suggested that such suspicious files be deleted.

When we talked about our new procedure evolved from tinkering with infected files, we were hoping that experts would jump in to enrich the discussion. No expert has sent any comment, but we did get some reactions from some fellow PC users.

Cedric Bagtas using an easy.net address wrote to share an inexpensive way of securing and updating anti-virus software. He said he gets free downloads from www.shareware.com.

We have not tried the above site, although we have secured a few free software from other websites. From Netcenter, we have downloaded a free copy of Netscape Communicator 4.7. Many other software, including the very useful Adobe Pagemaker and Photoshop and a fantastic casino gaming software, were downloaded, free, from www.tucows.com.

* * *

WHEN you buy a major computer component, such a motherboard, a hard disk or a Pentim processor, you are given a CD that is sometimes loaded with supplemental software, including an original (but OEM) Trend PC-cillin 98.

Once you have the PC-cillin and the other software installed, even if you got them for free, you can use the Internet to update them without fear of being rapped for piracy.

But we do not recommend your searching the Internet for freeware and downloading every other program that looks interesting. That will clog your hard disk and slow down processing.

* * *

THE problem of some users in the Philippines is that their anti-virus software were either borrowed or pirated. As a result, they are afraid or unable to update them via the Internet.

Anti-virus software that is not periodically updated, as in the situation mentioned above, is useless against the newer virus strains.

Another reader, Graham Haigh of BF Homes, reports that McAfee and Norton often fail to spot the CIH virus. He did not say so, but maybe the software being used had not been, or could not be, updated.

He adds: “I have found ‘Sophos Sweep’ anti-virus software effective. It detects several CIH variants and removes them, along with a whole raft of other Trojans. A free evaluation version can be downloaded from www.sophos.com. The latest version is dated Dec. 6.”

Haigh also welcomed our occasionally running computer bits, saying that this makes Postscript “a low-cost convenient forum to share ideas and experiences, and a useful resource for computists (considering that) not everyone can afford the expensive PC Magazines!”

* * *

FOLLOWING the procedure we described last time for tracking down suspected CIH virus without benefit of scanning, reader Jet M. Gonzalez using a skyinet address sent us this SOS:

“I found this file 76194a2a.rb0 in C:\Program Files\Norton SystemWorks\…\Quarantine! What should I do? I am just an ordinary computer user.”

As we’ve said often, we’re no expert ourselves and are in fact waiting for the real pros to log in and share their expertise. So we sent a cautious note to Gonzales (and, we’re hoping, others similarly situated may pick up a few points from it).

* * *

THE response to Gonzales said in part: “Note that the .rb0 file appears to be in the Norton folder. It could happen that this is merely Norton’s listing of the Chernobyl or CIH virus. To know more about the file, you go to it and check its properties by right-clicking the mouse while pointing at it.

“Remember that I’m not going by the textbook, but just by logic. There is the possibility also that when you go to this file and it happens to be infected with the CIH virus, your action might trigger its going into action again and creating another .rb* file.

“It seems to me you have a Norton anti-virus software. Why not update it via Internet, then scan your disks, and clean away any virus that may be detected?

“Another thing you can do is: Go to Start/Find/File… and look for “76194a2a.*” (Note the wildcard asterisk as extension.) If you find an original file named “76194a2a.*” (with an extension other than .rb* ) aside from the suspicious “76194a2a.rb0” I would say you should consider deleting “76194a2a.rb0” If there is also a “76194a2a.rb1” I would also delete it.

“That’s what I would do if I were you, but as usual I’m hesitant to tell you to do that because my procedure has not been validated by experts.

“Have you been getting ‘insufficient memory’ messages? Has your computer been sluggish or hanging at times? These are some of the symptoms I know of Chernobyl infestation. If you have these symptoms, you may want to consider deleting all files with .rb* extensions like I did. But the correct and normal procedure is to update your anti-virus software, scan your files, and clean away any virus found.”

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 28, 1999)

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