Cautionary tale on Office 2000 from airport systems supplier

The first service pack for Microsoft Office 2000 was released last week. But anyone planning to upgrade to the latest version of...

The first service pack for Microsoft Office 2000 was released last week. But anyone planning to upgrade to the latest version of Office 2000 should take note of a bug that cost one software developer more than £10,000 in lost productivity, writes Cliff Saran.

AVC, a company that specialises in public display systems for airports, found that a passenger information application running in Ghana's Kotoka airport failed when it was moved on to Office 2000 and Windows 2000.

The application worked fine under Office 97 and Windows NT 4, said AVC. It was based on the Access 97 database in Office 97 and was written to query an Access database using the MS "approved" DAO middleware (Microsoft's Data Access Object).

However, when Office 97 was replaced by Office 2000 and Windows 2000 two weeks ago, the Access database on which the application was based could no longer be accessed, said AVC.

"Our team has wasted a couple of hundred hours on this problem," explained Robin Colclough, chief executive officer of AVC. "There has been an interruption of [the passenger information] service at Kotoka." For a brief time, passengers at the airport were unable to receive gate, baggage and incoming/outgoing flight information, he said.

He said that after several calls to Microsoft technical support it emerged that the problem was not with MS Office at all, but with the Microsoft Visual Studio 6 development suite that had been used to write AVC's passenger information system.

While the application was developed in the latest version of this development suite, the latest service pack (SP3) contained a bug in the programming libraries that ship with Visual Studio, Colclough told Computer Weekly.

As a result of the bug, the Access application thought it was still using the previous version of MS Access instead of Access 2000, making the newly upgraded Access 2000 database an unrecognisable file format.

Microsoft has subsequently offered AVC a work-around that fixes the problems in the programming libraries. But the cost to AVC of this unexpected hitch in moving from Office 97 to Office 2000 has amounted to more than £10,000, according to Colclough.

Microsoft is putting bug reports on its KnowledgeBase database on the Web (, but Colclough has complained that this database is not intuitive.

He said it is difficult to track down whether the problem his application was experiencing had been previously reported in KnowledgeBase.

Failure at take off

  • Moving from Access 97 to Access 2000 caused application to fail

  • Data stored in Access 2000 database was unavailable due to a bug in Visual Studio 6 development tool

  • Visual Studio's programming libraries were selecting the incorrect version of Microsoft's database middleware

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