Boss Digital


Your outdated version of Windows Media Player 6 will still work after the Y2K38 bug ends civilization

Please leave others some toilet paper: At 03:14:08 UTC on January 19, 2038, time will stop. Yes, it’s an overly dramatic statement, but it’s not entirely untrue, as computer systems are concerned. At that time and date, the Unix Epoch, which started on January 1, 1970, reaches its limit. It’s known as the Y2K38 or Y2038 problem and could cause unpredictable issues in various time-reliant software and electronics.

The reason is that Unix time is counted in seconds with a 32-bit integer, meaning that it has a hard cap of 2,147,483,648 seconds before it creates an overflow error. That equates to roughly 68 years, so 1970 + 68 = 2038. In the best-case scenario, a 32-bit system will roll over to -2,147,483,648, which is 20:45:52 UTC on December 13, 1901. However, most systems referring to the Unix_Timestamp () command will likely crash unless the overflow error is handled.

Although the number of existing legacy systems is significant, most newer personal computers have transitioned to 64-bit (x64) architectures, and operating systems have followed suit. More recent hardware running an x64 OS (i.e., Windows 10 or later) will not have issues in 2038, nor at any future date that we can conceive.

It may seem intuitive to the average user that going from 32 to 64 bits would double the epoch time. However, binary is exponential, so it is much, much more. A 32-bit integer is limited to values of positive or negative 2^31 or the two billion+ seconds previously mentioned. Upping the system to 64 bits means we now have positive or negative 2^63 seconds at our disposal, meaning it will be 292 billion years before an x64 system’s clock could overflow. To put that in perspective, that’s about 21 times the estimated age of the universe.

Twitter/X user Enderman demonstrated a complication that will occur on 32-bit Windows 10 systems in 2038. The OS displays some minor but very quirky behavior when setting the date forward (tweeted video below).

Similar and more severe issues can occur in unpatched software, even if the app runs on a 64-bit computer with the most up-to-date x64 OS. I have already witnessed this phenomenon in some old abandoned (by the developer) 32-bit PC games.

Early versions of Windows Media Player (WMP) seem to be an exception. Windows experimenter Bob Pony recently discovered that WMP 7 and newer have no error handling for dates beyond 2038. The software just crashes. Strangely, WMP 6 and older have no issues running after the declared doomsday.

The seemingly weird behavior doesn’t mean you should immediately downgrade from WMP 8 to WMP 6. Microsoft most assuredly has a planned patch that will fix the issue before the Epochalypse, as some have called it.

As mentioned, most PC users do not need to worry too much about it because they have moved on to x64 designs. Of more concern are embedded systems. Computer-driven components integrated into larger devices or interconnected systems like cars or medical equipment may malfunction because of the overflow.

Some of these parts are impractical or even impossible to update or retrofit. For example, the ABS (brakes), ESC (stability), and TCS (traction) control systems on many older cars could have trouble. The same is true for automatic four-wheel drive. Airplanes, household appliances, and cell phones have many embedded systems, from clocks to GPS to accelerometers.

Should we panic? For the most part, no. Engineers are already working on fixing what can be fixed. The deadline is still 14 years away, and most components and software coming out right now are already running on x64 architecture. Significantly older machines and programs will have the most problems.

If you are old enough to remember the Y2K bug, you’ll recall that people melted down as 2000 approached. People were sure the nuclear arsenals would fly, and power grids would shut down because the two-digit year (99) would roll over to 00 and make computers go haywire, thinking it was January 1, 1900.

There were no stores with cases of water or generators in stock where I lived. However, those who stockpiled and panicked shopped found that the world did not end when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000. It seems insane to think of it that way now, and it will undoubtedly be the same in the days following New Year 2038.

Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top