Wednesday, 01 May 2019 19:11

Japanese era change smooth despite Microsoft warning

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Japanese era change smooth despite Microsoft warning Image by LoggaWiggler from Pixabay

A warning by the ABC, based on a blog post by Microsoft, that the switch in the Japanese calendar could bring about problems similar to those expected for Y2K appears to have been somewhat overblown, with no reports of any turbulence as the 31st year of Heisei rolled over.

The ABC report on Tuesday cited Microsoft as warning that "the magnitude of the event may be similar to Y2K".

No source was provided for this warning, but it appears to be drawn from a blog post in April 2018, where Microsoft's Shawn Steele offered some advice about Japanese calendar eras.

In that post, Steele wrote: "The Japanese Calendar has Japanese Era Names that coincide with the reign of the Emperor. For most of the modern age of computing that has been the Heisei era. However the Emperor is expected to step down on 30 April 2019 which will bring about the beginning of a new era. Fortunately, this is a rare event. However it means that most software has not been tested to ensure that it will behave with an additional era.

"The magnitude of this event on computing systems using the Japanese Calendar may be similar to the Y2K event with the Gregorian Calendar.

"For the Y2K event, there was world-wide recognition of the upcoming change, resulting in governments and software vendors beginning to work on solutions for that problem several years before 1 January 2000. Even with that preparation many organisations encountered problems due to the millennial transition.

"After the era has changed it will be too late to test for compatibility problems. Therefore, the Windows 10 Spring Release includes a registry entry with placeholder information for the expected Era transition. This is intended to help users discover any software limitations around the expected change to the new era. Users are encouraged to ensure that their applications are well behaved before the actual era change."

iTWire sought Microsoft's take on the issue on Tuesday, but the company's PR handlers did not respond until Wednesday. Microsoft appeared reluctant to answer any queries, with the PR folk offering only a link to a rather anodyne blog post.

Despite asking a second time for a technical person who could answer queries, all the company spokesperson was willing to say was, "Microsoft doesn't have anything further to add on this, other to what is on the website I shared."

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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