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End-of-the-week bug to eat GPS

Satellites outlive their 20 years' life expectancy

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A mini millennium bug (a buggette, perhaps?) is going to strike at midnight next Saturday (21 August), as the GPS systems' counter rolls back to zero. The GPS system –- that’s global positioning satellites -- keeps track of time by counting the number of weeks since it went into operation, but it was only programmed to count the weeks for 20 years, and the end of the cycle will be reached at the weekend. US officials have issued warnings to people who rely on GPS - pilots, climbers, fishing vessel – while in the UK the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has said it has no obligation to warn users because GPS is a US system. Whatever happened to the 'Nanny State'? End of the week bug or not, the satellites are not going to fall out the sky though. The problem will be with handheld receivers, and then probably only those older than five years. The kind of problems users are likely to run into are: the receiver will be unable to locate the satellites, so it won't work; it will take longer than usual to find the satellite; it will appear to be working, but won't be showing correct information. Stateside, military and commercial systems are well prepared, and in the UK the Ministry of Defence says that it has completed all necessary fixes to its systems. The US warned that small businesses and amateur users could be hit by the bug. ®

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