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One of the many provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 extends Daylight Saving Time (DST) by four weeks, beginning in 2007. Starting this year, DST will begin the second week of March and end the first week in November.
Whereas this is the first modification to the DST rules in the United States in 20 years, this is not the only recent change to DST around the globe. Western Australia and Brazil also made their own adjustments to DST start and/or end dates.
Systems and applications that process dates and times will be affected by this change. Unremediated systems, applications, and/or devices could exhibit any or all of the following problems:
Why is this a problem now, and whose fault is it?
Remediating this problem minimally encompasses adjusting the dates/times of future events already stored in devices and/or systems, and updating the rules which these systems use for calculations involving time zones.
The internal representation used to store date/time information bears greatly on how easily or automatically already saved future events can be adjusted. Similarly, how time zone rules and calculations are implemented bears directly on how easily these rules can be updated, or whether they can be updated at all.
Additionally, mobile devices are pervasive and indispensable today, as are enterprise and web-based calendaring systems connecting people across time zones, and organizational and political boundaries. Twenty years ago these things didn’t exist or they were an inconsequential novelty. Clearly that is not the case today.
As for fault, it is simply the case that most products do not readily accommodate time zone changes in all the ways they need to. Although time zone changes used to be relatively infrequent and of relatively small scope when they did occur, the impact of such changes is certainly wider than it used to be and we may see more time zone changes in the future than we have in the recent past. Consequently, implementations need to accommodate such changes more gracefully and easily in the future.
Is this another Y2K?
Counting and accounting for time has been a problematic since people starting doing so. It manifests in different ways at different times.
George Washington was born in 1732. In 1752, the British Empire switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. On the Julian calendar, George Washington was born on February 11. The switch added eleven days to the calendar, giving us the now familiar date of February 22 as Washington’s birth date.
In 1936, Boulder Dam went online, power supplied to Los Angeles changed from 50-cycle to 60-cycle current, causing the 100,000 or so electric clocks in that city to run 20% faster, thereby gaining twelve minutes every hour on Boulder Dam current. The remediation program is documented in an entertaining story in Invention & Technology Magazine.
Y2K was a set of circumstances which presented a number of real problems, accompanied by substantial hysteria and confusion. This upcoming DST change is a set of circumstances which present a number of real problems absent the hysteria, and with less confusion.
Is this a serious issue? The problem is real but the impact will vary among individuals and organizations. For at least some of those running Oracle Calendar, a very fine and popular product, it seems to be. As noted below, Outlook users will need to download and run a program to correct events already entered during the extended DST period. Some users of NetSwitcher, a very popular program among laptop users, report that their time zone unexpectedly changed from Eastern Time (GMT -5) to Brisbane (GMT +10) after installing Microsoft Hotfix KB929120 which accommodates a time zone change in Australia. Users of Microsoft OSes and calendaring products will need to apply some updates, as will users of many other OSes and calendaring products.
CalConnect, the Calendaring
and Scheduling Consortium, DST information
Information provided by Joseph Jackson of Computing Services at Carnegie Mellon University proved to be especially helpful in the preparation of this document.
Last modified: February 16, 2007
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