20 July 2000
-- This issue carries the finale of Y2K articles
in the Newsletter. The articles are based on
the survey the secretariat conducted in preparation
for the 56th session of the Commission, held
from 1 to 7 June 2000. There were no unpleasant
surprises in the region and the Commission was
happy to waive the preparation of a second follow?up
report that it had requested a year earlier
That allows the secretariat to focus on other
important issues. Among them, the use of information
technology for development is, finally, gaining
global momentum. Both the opportunities
and challenges of the new digitized and connected
world are recognized, but not yet fully understood
and utilized. It is clear, however, that
the opportunities cannot be seized of without
concerted actions by governments, the private
sector, technology innovators and the international
community. Obviously, the United Nations
system is expected to play an important and
visible role in many areas of 'IT for Development'.
Above all, it is expected to demonstrate global
leadership in finding effective measures to
bridge the gap between the digital haves and
IT moves higher on the international development
Year 2000 will see an unprecedented number
of high-level regional and global intergovernmental
meetings on information technology for development.
The broad aim of the meetings is to find ways
to bring connectivity to where it does not exist
and to create local capacity to develop and
use IT in developing countries.
The High Level segment of the ECOSOC 2000 was
convened from 5 to 7 July 2000 at New York.
The outcome was a declaration under the theme
"Development and international cooperation in
the XXI century: the role of information technology
in the context of a knowledge-based global economy".
Regional meetings, including in Asia and the
Pacific, had been held in preparation for the
session. The next prominent United Nations
meeting to feature IT is the Millennium Summit
6-8 September 2000. Related stories are
on pages 5-8.
closes the Y2K chapter
The fifty-sixth session of the Economic and
Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific,
held from 1 to 7 July 2000, had no difficulties
in declaring a victory for the region over the
Governments in the region experienced only
minor problems and disturbances to the normal
conduct of business have been minimal.
What had been evident from media reports earlier
in the year was confirmed by the results of
a regional survey conducted by the ESCAP secretariat
for the follow-up report before the Commission.
The eventual success in overcoming the Y2K
problem can be attributed to the substantial
and persistent efforts in countries to rectify
critical systems in countries and sectors that
were the most vulnerable. As expected,
many small and technologically less advanced
members and associate members were largely spared
of Y2K problems because their computing environments
were PC-based and relatively new. Moreover,
automation had not penetrated into all aspects
of the production and distribution chain.
The pace of remediation was accelerated significantly
towards the end of 1999. Adequate resource
allocation and the persistent efforts could
have been the results of the awareness creation
efforts through various international, regional
and national awareness programmes, including
those of ESCAP and SIAP.
In the light of the smooth transition to the
new century and the reduced interest in the
problem, the Commission decided that the second
follow-up report, which it had requested in
resolution 55/3 for the fifty-seventh session
in 2001, had become unnecessary.
This does not mean that the work is over for
the region. The remediation of less important
systems continues in many countries (see the
table indicating budgeted resources).
In addition, the systems that were kept in operation
by backdating the system clock or that were
fixed temporarily will require attention in
benefits outweigh costs
Notwithstanding the considerable costs involved,
the fight against the Y2K problem has provided
useful lessons in the management of critical
information and information technology resources.
Many government departments and enterprises
have their IT management now on a firmer footing
because of better IT management tools and updated
In many organizations, the urgency of tackling
the Y2K problem forced many top managers to
become personally involved in critical information
technology issues. Chief executives are
now more aware of the integral role that information
technology plays in the organization.
Many were for the first time forced to respond
to related challenges in a systematic way, having
to quantify their information technology problems
and their probable impact.
The Y2K episode also emphasized the importance
of setting strict deadlines for information
technology projects and of clearly documenting
information technology systems.
The contingency planning experience gained
with Y2K will be useful for other types of emergencies.
Critical infrastructure protection is likely
to receive higher priority than before. Moreover,
more attention will almost certainly be paid
to careful evaluation during procurement of
hardware and software.
The economic return of the Y2K layout should
also not be discounted. The information
technology systems that the remediation efforts
have put in place are better and will improve
productivity in the long-term.
Regulatory and monitoring authorities are another
group that were forced to look into the effects
of modern IT in society. The increasing
application of IT requires them to pay more
attention to how information is generated, stored,
transmitted and protected.
The Y2K saga demonstrated a great success in
information sharing through the Internet.
Without it, the awareness and the remediation
tools would not have evolved and spread as they
Results of ESCAP Y2K survey
The survey conducted by the secretariat in
February-March 2000 indicates that the member
and associate member governments of ESCAP spent
several billion dollars in preventing failures
and rectifying the Y2K problem.
Though the low response rate prevented us from
giving a precise expenditure figure or a comprehensive
picture of the regional response to the problem,
some interesting data emerged.
All 20 responding governments had created a
national task force or a dedicated agency to
increase awareness about the Y2K problem and
to coordinate the remediation work and contingency
planning in the public sector. Those bodies
were usually responsible for collecting information
about Y2K problems that occurred in the public
Most of the national coordinating agencies
collaborated closely with private sector industry
associations by organizing seminars and workshops
and disseminating information. Some governments
provided tangible assistance to private sector
enterprises through help desks and dedicated
consultants. Some governments created
economic incentives for private sector action
by allowing tax deductions on Y2K problem assessment
and remediation or by providing financial support.
problem-resolving efforts (in person years)
by selected governments
|Papua New Guinea
The expenditure figures on the Y2K problem
indicate that the awareness creation work and
remediation efforts peaked in 1999, although
many governments had started work in 1998 or
earlier. Some governments have allocations
also for the year 2000, presumably for non-critical
Among the governments that provided information
on their expenditure and budgets, Australia
spent the highest amount on resolving the Y2K
problem, followed by Turkey and Hong Kong, China.
The expenditure figures must be interpreted
and compared with great caution. Some
governments indicated that they did not have
a separate budget for the Y2K problem and that
the costs were absorbed within existing allocations,
typically from annual information technology
budgets. Comparison is difficult also
because of the differences in treating the cost
of fixing non-mission critical systems and the
replacement of equipment that was already at
the end of its life cycle.
Central government expenditure or
budget for Y2K work (thousands of US
Estimated awareness creation and remediation
|Hong Kong, China
|Papua New Guinea
|Republic of Korea
currencies were converted to US dollars
by using annual average exchange rates
for 1998 and 1999, and 31 March 2000 rates
for the year 2000. For data before 1998,
the average exchange rate for 1997 was
used. A hyphen (-) indicates the amount
is nil or negligible. Two dots (..) indicate
that data are not available.
The full cost of fixing the Y2K problem may
never be known because of difficulties in estimation.
Apart from the direct programming and replacement
expenditure, a comprehensive analysis would
need to consider opportunity costs. What
were the costs incurred because of non-optimal
and premature retirement of equipment or software
replacement? Were costly mistakes made
because of the last minute rush to become Y2K-ready?
Would the technological improvements that had
to be deferred because of the need to concentrate
on Y2K work have made better economic sense?
Were the efforts in creating awareness commensurate
with the problem? These and other questions
would need to be answered before a full analysis
of Y2K costs can be made.
The ESCAP questionnaire also asked respondents
to relate the Y2K expenditure or budget to the
total annual information technology budget.
A few governments provided information, but
the figures are not fully comparable due to
varying budgeting methods as well as differing
concepts as to what constituted Y2K expenditure.
For instance, if the information technology
budget was small and replacement was the main
mode of remediation, the ratio could easily
be 100 per cent or higher. The Government
of India had given an indication to departments
to spend 1-3 per cent of their annual information
technology budget on Y2K remediation.
Overall, the information provided was not considered
suitable for tabulation.
In spite of a high level of advance attention,
problems were encountered in critical sectors,
such as nuclear power plants, the power grid,
telephone systems, and banking services and
equipment. Luckily, none of the problems
was classified as major. The embedded
chips did not cause as much problems as anticipated.
Consequently, the national emergency centres
that had been set up by many governments to
monitor the rollover had very little to report.
The most typical problem was equipment
or software displaying or printing a wrong year
for the year 2000, but without any impact on
the core functionality of the system.
Many organizations were prepared for such incidents
and did not consider them as problems.
Many system failures or malfunctions were reported
without a detailed identification or description
of rectification of the problem. In some
cases, however, it was indicated that the problem
could be fixed quickly.
Government forms and documents to go online
In December 1997, the Australian Government
made a commitment to putting all appropriate
Government services online by 2001. Since then,
Australia has made considerable progress.
In its latest strategy paper (the Government
Online Strategy in April 2000, see http://www.govonline.gov.au/projects/strategy/GovOnlineStrategy.htm),
the Government outlines a seamless national
approach to the provision of online services.
The strategy includes a remarkable statement
that online users should not need to understand
how Government is structured to interact with
it easily and safely.
All actions related to the strategy are time-bound.
For instance, from June 2000 all new non-commercial
publications are to be made available online
concurrently with other modes of dissemination,
and by December 2000, all forms for public use
will be available for download and electronic
Government agencies are required to develop
and publish their "agency online action plans"
by 1 September 2000. The plans ensure
that all agencies systematically audit their
information and services to determine which
of these should be delivered online, and a timetable
for delivery. The Office of Government Online
has developed guidelines to assist agencies
in this process and they are published on the
web site, http://www.govonline.gov.au/publications/GovernmentOnlineActionPlanGuidelines.pdf
the gap, cross the divide
The ECOSOC 2000 high level segment agreed unanimously
that information and communication technologies
(ICT) are central to the creation of the emerging
global knowledge-based economy and that they
can play an important role in accelerating growth,
in promoting sustainable development and eradicating
poverty in developing countries.
The ministerial declaration agreed upon at
the end of the high level segment on 7 July
2000 reads as if ICT can do almost anything.
The list of opportunities for economic growth
and human development is long, extending from
electronic commerce to access to financial markets,
from generating employment to providing opportunities
for investment, from improved agricultural and
manufacturing productivity to the empowerment
of all sections of society, from long-distance
education to telemedicine, from environmental
management and monitoring to prevention and
management of disasters. ICT can foster sustainable
development, empower people, build capacities
and skills, assist small-and medium-sized enterprises,
reduce poverty and reinforce popular participation
and informed decision-making at all levels.
However, before ICT can make all that happen,
the general recommendations in the declaration
need to be translated into action by governments,
the private sector and international organizations.
Extensive infrastructure and capacity building
is required universally, but most urgently in
developing countries and countries with economies
in transition. That requires strong leadership
from governments and coherent and innovative
actions by the international community, and
commitment by all members of the international
community at the highest level.
Almost hidden in the declaration is a call
for international efforts to fasten the development
of suitable and affordable equipment and applications
for the poor people and communities and for
developing countries. Its availability
is a precondition for the fulfilment of most
wishes on the list.
ECOSOC recognized that the ICT revolution had
opened up vast opportunities for economic growth
and social development but also was posing challenges
and risks. It called for urgent and concerted
actions, at national, regional and international
levels, for bridging the "digital divide" and
building digital opportunities and putting ICT
firmly in the service of development for all.
It wanted to bridge the "digital divide" and
to foster "digital opportunity". It had
no difficulty identifying the lack of infrastructure,
education, capacity building, investment and
connectivity as the major impediments to the
participation of the majority of the people
in the developing countries in the revolution
ECOSOC declaration also emphasized the importance
of diverse local content production in order
to create culturally and linguistically diverse
ECOSOC also called for effective collaboration
between governments, multilateral development
institutions, bilateral donors, the private
sector, the civil society, and other relevant
stakeholders, to transfer technology to developing
countries on concessional and preferential terms.
ICT for development programmes could draw from
best practices and experiences of countries
and communities that have already implemented
them. However, it is necessary to make
adjustments according to national priorities
Whether the greatly improved access to information
and convenient communication will create a new
development paradigm is to be seen. One
ECOSOC speaker said that the world is entering
an age of interim paradigm.
National programmes recommended
ECOSOC declaration recommended creating national
programmes for putting ICT in the service of development.
It suggested including in them the following broad
areas of action.
- Establishing a transparent
and consistent legal and regulatory framework
that foster ICT development including, as
appropriate, by removing impediments to growth
in the ICT sector
- Development of the basic
infrastructure necessary for connectivity
including for most remote areas
- Application of ICT, wherever
possible, in public institutions such as schools,
hospitals, libraries, government departments
- Generation, development
and enhancement of local content transmitted
by ICT through, inter alia, the introduction
of local language character sets
- Promoting access to ICT
for all by supporting the provision of public
- Measures to bring down
connectivity costs to make it affordable,
including trough market based mechanisms and
competition, as appropriate
- Development of appropriate
policies to promote investment in ICT sector
- Making the necessary
investment in human resource development and
strengthening the institutions and networks
for the production, acquisition, absorption
and dissemination of knowledge products
- Technical preparation
of national manpower for securing national
capacities to administrate information system
and to develop sustainable ICT projects
- Promoting the digital
enhancement of already established mass media
- Developing strategies
to link established technologies such as radio
and television with new technologies such
as the Internet
- Promotion of the creation
of technological incubators linked to universities
and centres for research
for the United Nations...
ECOSOC delegates agreed that the United Nations
system, and ECOSOC in particular, could play
a key role in promoting synergies and coherence
of efforts directed to expand the development
impact of ICT.
Before that, however, several speakers implied
in no uncertain terms that the United Nations
reaction was overdue; some even declared that
its current development approach is backward.
It became clear, as one industry CEO said in
his address, that in a borderless world everyone,
including the United Nations, had to work differently.
To start with, it was declared that ECOSOC
should review the mandates and activities of
its subsidiary bodies dealing with ICT with
a view to establishing modalities to provide
the United Nations and governments with comprehensive,
practical and action-oriented advice on policies
and programmes and on new developments in the
field of ICT for development.
The United Nations system, and ECOSOC in particular,
was asked, among other requests, to:
- Demonstrate global leadership
in bridging the "digital divide" and promoting
- Create a coherent system-wide
ICT strategy that would ensure coordination
and synergy among programmes and activities
of individual organizations of the system
and transform it into a knowledge-based system
- Bring together the relevant
actors from the public and private sectors
to build partnership
- Support national actions
through providing assistance to developing
countries and countries with economies in
transition aimed at integrating them into
the networked knowledge-based global economy,
and strengthening their capacity in building
infrastructure and generating content
- Serve as a global forum
to accelerate and to promote universal access
to knowledge and information, contribute,
as appropriate, within their respective mandate
to the development of norms and standards
- Contribute, especially
at regional level, to a more systematic, ongoing
identification, review and dissemination of
ICT expertise, best practices, case studies,
other information and reliable data on ICT.
(In other words, become a "knowledge bank"
in this field).
- Contribute to the creation
of a distance-learning programme
- Promote universal access
to knowledge and information as a means of
...and for the whole international community
The international community, including the
relevant international organizations, Funds
and Programmes and specialized agencies of the
United Nations System were called upon to urgently:
- Promote programmes to
intensify cooperation especially South-South
cooperation in ICT for development projects
- Explore new, creative
financing initiatives for ICT through appropriate
involving all relevant stakeholders, including
the private sector
- Devise measures to substantially
reduce the average cost of access to the Internet
within developing countries
- Promote measures to increase
the number of computers and other Internet
access devices in developing countries
- Explore measures to facilitate
access to ICT training
- Find ways to facilitate
investment in the research and development
of technologies, products and services that
would contribute to raising the literacy and
skill levels in developing countries
- Encourage research and
development on technology and applications
adapted to specific requirements in developing
countries, including distance learning, community-based
training, digital alphabetization, telemedicine,
interoperability of networks, and natural
disaster prevention and mitigation
- Facilitate the transfer
of information and communication technologies
in particular to developing countries and
- Support capacity building
and production of content
- Explore and define ways
and means to strengthen the use of ICT in
small and medium sized enterprises in developing
countries and countries with economies in
In preparation for the ECOSOC high-level segment
in the year 2000, ESCAP organized a Regional
Round Table on Information Technology and Development
for the Asian and Pacific Region in New Delhi
from 20 to 21 June 2000. The Round Table
identified the lack of sufficient expertise
within Governments to deal competently with
the complex issues involved as one of the weakest
links in designing policies for hastening the
transition to a digital society.
The following provides a summary of the Round
Table recommendations. Many of them are
found in the ECOSOC declaration in one form
- The problems and issues
faced by countries in the region in terms
of readiness for the digital era should be
systematically identified; awareness of those
problems and issues should be created.
- Extensive human resources
development initiatives in the region should
be encouraged and facilitated. Creative partnerships
between Governments, non-governmental organizations
and private sector companies are essential,
but Governments need to provide the impetus.
- Community and private
sector participation in integrating ICT into
the economy and society should be encouraged
and models of partnership between government,
the private sector and non-governmental organizations
should be created. In that, the unique
global competitive advantage that the Asian
and Pacific region in the field of IT-enabled
services should be made use.
- Encourage e-governance
and develop and demonstrate cost-effective
integrated solutions based on information
technology in the areas of education, health
care, particularly in rural areas; environmental
education; employment, particularly in rural
- Create special programmes
to enable landlocked and island countries
to take full advantage of the location-independence
of digital economic opportunity.
- Create special programmes
also to exploit the manufacturing and service
opportunities afforded by ICT to small and
medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to compete
in the global marketplace.
- Create channels for
sharing experience and information, and for
the development of norms and standards towards
international standardization. Organize
a forum for experts, academicians, business
representatives and government policy makers
to meet periodically on a regional basis.
- Design technical assistance
and technology transfer programmes to harness
intraregional competencies to assist the transition
of member countries into networked societies
and economies. Where Governments seek technical
assistance to carry the process forward, international
bodies such as ESCAP could maintain panels
of experts in the region that could assist
the efforts of national Governments in countries
that do not have the requisite expertise.
The experience of developing countries such
as India, which are believed to be forging
ahead, could be used to foster South-South
cooperation in this field.
- National/local language
interface should be encouraged to facilitate
the rapid diffusion of ICE technologies.
- A special fund should
be created at the regional level to facilitate
the achievement of the objectives envisaged
in the above recommendations.
needs to be measured
The New Delhi Round Table proposed that international
agencies, including ESCAP, should create a single
composite index of readiness of each country
for the digital era. The following components
were suggested. Obviously, some of them
are easier to measure than others.
- Access to facilities, such
as information infrastructure; basic telecommunication
infrastructure; Internet availability and
affordability; Network speed and quality;
bandwidth availability; availability of hardware,
software, services and support in the local
- Education and training
- Networking of the society:
incorporation of information and communication
technology (ICT) into the way that things
are done in the society, the economy and government
and the proliferation of online communities
- Network policy: a supportive
policy environment, including telecommunications
policy and cyber-laws
- Evolution of appropriate
ownership and management models of network
- Evolution of appropriate
business models that spur the flow of private
investment into the digitization of the society
- Degree of optimisation
of costs by full use of economies afforded
by the convergence of technologies: scope
for cost reduction and increasing the spread
and reach of network access.
network computers emerging
The number of computer users in developing
countries can be expected to expand rapidly
only when the equipment and applications become
available at a much lower price than today.
Two recent initiatives promise to deliver personal
computers at 200 dollars and below, which would
be a welcome break away from the strategy by
which the industry is maintaining absolute prices
constant by increasing computer performance
and making inefficient applications for them.
PC World.com reported recently that professors
and students of the Indian Institute of Science
at Bangalore, and engineers from Bangalore-based
design company Encore Software are using their
spare time to design a sub-$200 handheld Internet
appliance to the masses in India and in other
developing countries. A prototype of the
Simputer (SIMple comPUTER) is expected to be
ready in August 2000.
At the same time, Oracle Company announced
that it is starting to sell a network computer,
labelled as New Internet Computer (NIC) at $199.
Adding a monitor would cost another $100.
Both are using Linux as operating system. Simputer
will use Intel's StrongARM CPU and will have
16MB flash memory. Its monochrome LCD
will have touch pane for pen-based computing.
A local language interface is also being planned.
The buyers of Oracle's NIC have been promised
free lifetime Internet access with an associated
service provider. That is in the United
States, and is likely to come with "strings
of 23 and 29 June 2000.
The network computer concept may not be viable
in circumstances where basic connectivity is
not available because of undeveloped, and often
hugely overcharging, telecommunications sector
and non-existing or expensive service providers.
The development of lightweight and affordable
computers must nevertheless be welcomed.
There should be a huge market for digital learning
devices, for instance.
modems to become faster
In a significant development, the International
Telecommunications Union (ITU) recently agreed
on three new standards for voice band modems
that will significantly reduce download times
and speed up web browsing.
Despite the emergence of DSL (digital subscriber
line) technologies, voice band modems are expected
to be around for many years to come. The advantage
of analogue modems is that they do not require
any special installation by the network provider,
leaving upgrades to the direct control of ISPs
The existing 56K modems are based on the V.90
recommendation which gives a theoretical data
transfer rate 56 kilobits per second (kbps)
downstream and up to 33.6 kbps upstream.
However, that speed is never achieved in practice.
The first new recommendation, ITU-T V.92, will
- Increase the maximum data
transfer rate towards the network by more
than 40 per cent to a new maximum of 48 kbps
on the best connections;
- Significantly shorten
start-up times on recognized connections,
- Provide the ability to
put the modem 'on-hold' when the network indicates
that an incoming call is waiting.
The enhancements will offer opportunities for
improving access to interactive services and for
exploiting voice response facilities associated
with Internet browsing. The first modems
supporting the new V.92 standard are expected
in market soon. Flash upgrades are also
expected to become available for modems supporting
The same ITU working party also initiated approval
of a new recommendation on data compression
techniques and procedures for facilitating modem
and connection fault-finding. The new data compression
recommendation V.44 is based on the LZJH compression
algorithm, developed by US-based Hughes Network
Systems, and gives an improvement in compression
of more than 25 per cent beyond the existing
recommendation (V.42bis) and a data compression
ratio in the region of 6:1 for a typical Web
browsing connection. The combined result is
that data throughput rates will be in excess
of 300 kbps compared with typical values of
150-200 kbps today, thus significantly reducing
download times and speeding up web
The third recommendation, V.59, defines new
procedures for facilitating modem and connection
Source: ITU press release
"Voiceband Modem Standards Take Another Significant
Step Forward" of 4 July 2000
turn to join the mainstream
21 June 2000. Networked, mobile and customisable
were the keywords when Bill Gates revealed the
substantially new Microsoft strategy. The
strategy, labelled as the biggest strategic announcement
in five years, is based ? of course ? on nothing
else but the utilization of the Internet in conventional
and innovative ways.
Mr Gates said that the Internet is now entering
its next stage of development, where smart software
will take the initiative in visiting hundreds
of Web sites and collecting information.
He said that new opportunities are created for
buyers and sellers to find each other, and for
product marketing and profit making.
Mr Gates predicted that the keyboard will be
relegated to the sidelines and replaced in some
cases by handwriting or speech recognition interfaces.
Industry analysts had earlier blamed Microsoft
of being blinded by its phenomenal success in
marketing larger and larger operating systems
and applications and not paying sufficient attention
to Internet application development.
Now Microsoft appears to have put its full
muscle behind the new strategy, which in Mr
Gates' words promises to deliver "you ain't
seen nothing yet". The time will show
whether those deliverables will be a match to
mobile digital devices developed elsewhere,
and whether Microsoft will be able to deliver
a competitive operating system for small devices.
Creating robust mobile applications for the
masses is tougher and technologically more challenging
than manufacturing conventional PCs and software.
In that race, there is no one clear leader,
and all key players are forming vertical and
horizontal alliances or merging. Alliances are
needed because the delivery of services depends
on many technologies and requiring collaboration
of all players, including equipment and software
manufacturers and service and content providers.
One hurdle preventing the creation of truly
mobile data networks is the slow speed of wireless
data transfer. However, the developers
of third generation mobile phone standard have
promised to move that barrier in a couple of
by browser crashing?
Ever been annoyed when your precious Internet
session gets aborted because the browser starts
hanging? You are not alone. There
is no way of preventing crashes altogether in
a typical office or home environment.
However, understanding why programs get stuck
might ease some frustrations.
The tendency of a program to fail depends on
how carefully it has been designed and coded
to work in all circumstances. Applications
consist of many programs and only one weak link
is needed to spoil an otherwise fine package.
These are some other features that make browsers
and other programs crash:
Users run today several applications simultaneously.
For instance, authoring a document may require
a word processor for typing, spreadsheet for
calculating tables, a graphics program for creating
charts, and an Internet browser for searching
references on the Internet. All applications
use the same memory, hard disk, keyboard, display
and processing unit. As the load gets
heavier, the likelihood of the operating system
not being able to allocate the resource or device
requested by the application increases.
A failure in resource allocation can halt the
program in question, and if you are "unlucky",
all programs that you are running.
When the requested resource is being used by
another application, there should normally be
a message from the operating system indicating
that a particular resource is not available
and requesting the user to wait (and release
resources by closing other applications).
Sometimes the operating system interprets these
unexpected situations wrongly and sends wrong
messages to users.
Automatic closure of program
One of the main tasks of an operating system
(e.g. MS Windows, Unix, Linux) is to protect
the programs and data in the computer from corruption.
If a program causes an error, the operating
system asks it to correct the error. However,
when the error is serious, the operating system
closes the programme and informs the user that
an illegal operation has been performed and
that the program has been or has to be closed.
Sometimes the fault is in the operating system
itself. In MS Windows, the blue DOS-like screen
requesting the user to restart is an indication
of a problem in the operating system itself.
-CTRL?ALT?DEL is a useful -- and all too familiar
-- key combination to detect and close a non-responding
application. Sometimes the computer gets
stuck so badly that nothing but switching off
the power helps.
Web browsers are crash
As personal computers have become more and
more powerful, software designers have not needed
to create smart, neat and crash-proof programs.
Considering that browsers are performing relatively
simple tasks (mostly retrieving and rendering
ASCII files), their memory and disk space requirements
To some extent, the features that are built
into the browser packages can explain the size
and complexity. In fact, the most popular
browsers consist of several applications integrated
into one. Netscape, for instance, comes
with web browser, HTML editor, and email messenger
cum Usenet newsgroup reader.
The likelihood of browser crashing is higher
if multiple pages are viewed in separate windows
Non-standard HTML coding
If web pages are coded by using non-standard
HTML, some browsers, especially the older versions
may crash or not display the content properly.
The Editor quite frequently encounters sites
that show nothing on the screen under Netscape
4.7 but work fine under Internet Explorer 5.
A look in the page source code reveals, however,
that the ASCII coded page has been received.
The fault is primarily with the content provider
who has not checked that the pages work under
different browsers. Such checking would
be unnecessary, of course, if the browsers complied
with the standard HTML syntax in the first place.
END OF NEWSLETTER