By Mikkkeee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
o Blacksun Research Facility [BSRF]
o Black Box e|zine
Introduction .......................................... 1
Understanding the Problem ............................. 2
Valid Fix ............................................. 3
Recompiling ........................................... 4
64 bit systems ........................................ 5
What to Expect when Coding ............................ 6
Important Future Dates ................................ 7
Conclusion ............................................ 8
Time is a big topic in our life time. Time has been one of the most
significant elements on our minds as we progressed into the 21st century.
Everyone all over the world knows about the year 2000 problem not due to
its technical significance but due to the large media attention it
recieved. Now don't lie to your self you ph33red the advent of year
2000, your mom bought extra bread and water and you heart was beating like
hell while the clock ticked down, but hey you made it. Now you may ask
what is this article about that y2k bug? Hell no, that bug was mircosoft's
bug, even though Unix systems remained in pretty good shape as time ticked
into the 21st century, it was all due to the way Unix treats time that
made the os immune to that particlular problem. So you ask again what is
this 2038 title and you soon realize the Unix os is in deep trouble, not
in the year 2000, but in 2038. Windows users feared the year 2000, but
Unix users will look on to the future with a dreaded stare, cause 2038
2: Understanding the Problem
To understand what this bug is all about we have to look at the core
of the problem. Unix measures time using a simple method, it counts seconds,
nothing fancy just seconds. Now everything needs a beginning, a birth and
on 12:00:00 AM January 1, 1970 (GMT) the birth of Unix time was born. A
Unix clock contains exactly the number of seconds that has elapsed since
that date. Now filestamps also use this simple counter which is maintained
by the file system code in the kernel. We can't understand those long strings
of seconds, so library functions have been coded to convert that string
and give an output of something we humans could comprehend quickly, like
Mon 12 19:54:19 1998.
<BR>Now the problem arises because the majority of C proggies use a library
of routines called the standard time library (time.h). Time.h establishes
a standard 4-byte format for storing time values. It also does the converting,
displaying and calculations of time values. This 4-byte value believes
the beginning of time was midnight January 1,1970, and at that moment the
value of time was '0'. Now a signed 4-byte integer has a limited value
of 2,147,483,647 , which is the heart of the 2038 problem. The time
value has always been stored as a 32 bit signed numbers. This means that
the maximum value of time before a roll-over to the negative side causing
an invalid time value is achieved in 2,147,483,647 ,which gets converted
to the dreaded January 19, 2038 at 3:14:07 GMT. ( Iam not sure but i think
Eastern US will be the first to experience the problem ) .
3: Valid fix
Okay so now we know the background behind this problem, lets see how
we can fix it. There are really two ways that could implement a valid fix.
Time could be treated as an unsigned quantity which it already is. This
would allow it to take on values beyond January 19, 2038 and will allows
us to progress to the 22nd century with no problmes. This theoretical
idea is nice, but it has its drawbacks. Many C programs have already been
compiled with time being a signed quantity. So days in 2039 will be seen
by the Unix box as being older than days in previous years. This will
have to call a recompilation, so that might take a while to do.
5: 64 bit Systems
The other more logical solution is to replace the 32-bit systems with
64 bit systems. Now like the first solution this solution also has drawbacks.
64-bit systems are still relatively new. Many systems in use still deal
with number values represented by 16/32 bit systems. 64 bit systems are
the future, but at the moment they are still expensive. If we implement
processors that understand 64- bit systems, unix will be able to track
time correctly till all our grandchildren and their children pass away.
This approach is truly the most logical so this plan might be the valid
6: What to expect when Coding
Now that we have a good understanding behind this problem, what should
we look foward to when we code programs. Hopefully, if a coder is reading
this article, they should get the idea that system design and software
specifications must be designed with long term goals. Software, unlike
hardware doesn't wear out, so we should code with a goal past our time.
Heh, millions are still using DOS and Windows 3.1 when we see those os's
as obsolete. Code should be flexible, reliable and compatible. We should
foreshadow updates and expansions which should be made to suit the future.
Now don't feel bad, Unix isn't the only os with problems heading its way,
wipe that tear off your eye as we get ready to hear more. Now I won't go
indepth into these listing, but you should now have an idea after reading
this article of how the futue will look like.
7: Important Future Dates
o 2030 - A break point in the windows os. The year 2029 will remain 2029
but 2030 will be interpreted as being 1930.
o September 30, 2034 - Unix os will experience an overflow in the
o 2038 - See this article
o 2041 - The IBM mainframe internal clocks will not exceed 2041, but this
problem has not been confirmed by IBM.
o January 1, 2046 - Amiga systems will experience date failure.
o 2116 - IBM PC hardware will experience problems similar to Unix's 32 bit
o 2184 - Windows NT, which uses 64 bit integer by 100 nanoseconds as its
increment will fail in 2184.
Now don't be too pessimistic about the future. Technology will hopefully
implement logical corrections for these problems. Hey remain optimistic,
2038 is a long way from now, just remember what the coders 30 years ago
were foreshadowing for the year 2000, nothing! hahahah!
Well the greetz goes out to the Blacksun Research Facility
team for always sticking together through all our hard times.
Also lots of greetz goes out to Box Networks [.box.sk]. Also tons
of greetz goes out to the many visitors of bsrf,
from the msg boards to the irc channel, and all the cool people I
forgot to mention
If you find any errors or have some more information to add to this
tutorial, please email me at email@example.com
and i'll do what I can to fix it up.