A Rallying Editorial

Many computer users are currently worried about the Year 2000 problem. As the last minute of December 31, 1999 slips away, what will happen? Sure, everybody knows there'll be problems. But will they be just a few minor glitches that can be easily remedied by a good programmer? Or will our computers, sensing their impending doom, suddenly destroy themselves in a frenzied bout of mass violence?

Well, we don't know that yet. But on June 13, a wide variety of LX users got a taste of what's in store for us all.

People woke up that morning, a bright and cheerful day, thinking all was going to be well. The birds were singing, the sun was shining, and everything was fine. Palmtops were merrily humming along, making their owners' lives simpler: storing a phone number here, retrieving some e-mail there... nobody suspected a thing.

Then, suddenly, everything changed.

Somewhere in the world, somewhere on this tiny globe of ours, a user rebooted.

Nobody knows who it was, or where. It doesn't really matter. We don't even know WHY they rebooted; perhaps the user had been foolishly running an utested program, or maybe they were poking around in memory with LXPRO and PEEKed right into the bad side of town. Maybe they just accidentally hit CTRL-ALT-DEL. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: the reboot did happen, and when it did, that user got quite a shock.

"Software Carousel . . . Initializing." It seems like such an innocent little phrase, but not when you've been staring at it for the past minute waiting for something to happen. Even less innocent when you've been staring at it for the past HOUR waiting for something to happen. By the time you try to hit CTRL-ALT-DEL, and find that the unit doesn't respond, and fear grips your heart as you realize you're going to have to use the considerably more dangerous CTRL-SHIFT-ON, the phrase "Software Carousel . . . Initializing" has lost all innocence and now seems as horrifying as having your children go to visit Michael Jackson for "a fun-filled weekend at the Neverland Ranch."

All over the world, carefree palmtop users who rebooted were greeted with frozen machines. Many people panicked, trying almost anything to get their second brain working again. People backed up, erased, restored, reset, removed batteries... one user even went to the expensive extreme of tinkering with a memory module in the 200LX, resulting in a dead 4MB expansion board and a need for a 32MB upgrade. When people finally realized that they weren't alone, that everybody was having problems, and that the date 6-13-98 was to blame, it was almost a relief.

We may never know the full extent of the damage caused by the 6-13-98 bug (which has recently acquired the cute nickname of "the Junebug"). Thousands of hours were wasted around the globe as people desperately struggled to fix their palmtops. Even now, the saga continues: many drives were corrupted during the bug, and many users lost data in the panicky stampede. Some people are still experiencing problems, as files in the root directory dated 6-13-98 seem to make Software Carousel throw a fit.

Clearly, it was a clever virus planted by the Windows CE team at Microsoft. "We'll show those DOS LX users," they snarled, and maliciously distributed this insidious piece of programming. We must, of course, give them credit for their technical skill: they managed to distribute it almost universally (even among regular DOS versions of Software Carousel that have nothing to do with the LX!) and did it in a way that evaded detection. That's skill, and dedication. Why, I'll bet if we captured a few of these fiends and tortured them, they still wouldn't talk. "Software Carousel virus?" they'd scream as we struck them from all sides with our 200LX's. "What is Software Carousel? What are you talking about? Help! Help meeeeeeeeeeee......."

But we won't do that, because contrary to their evil plans, the 200LX has survived, and we palmtop users even managed to make a little progress in this, our darkest hour. Most of us will be making backups more often now, and this traumatic event has spurred many previously lackadaisical palmtop users to join the mailing list, or HPHand, so they'll never be without support again. They tried to beat us to pieces, but we have pulled together as never before, and the 200LX shall live on, and shall triumph over all other palmtops! And when the year 2000 rolls around, we, as DOS LX users, will know exactly what we need to do, because we've done it all before!

Whew. What an inspiring speech! I've got goose bumps. I need something to help me relax. I think I'll go play some touch-screen solitaire on my new 620LX.

Copyright 1999, David Sargeant.
Last Updated 1-2-1999

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