Windows Diary: Spring Ahead, Fall Back, System Crash? - InformationWeek

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3/8/2007
12:37 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Windows Diary: Spring Ahead, Fall Back, System Crash?

Like a Nostradamus prophecy, my 1999 prediction about Y2K proved correct after that nonevent came to pass (I predicted it was going to be much ado about nothing.) This Sunday, March 11, though, I'm concerned about glitches surrounding this year's early arrival of daylight-saving time, resulting from admins who haven't been proactive enough in making sure their systems have been properly updated.

Like a Nostradamus prophecy, my 1999 prediction about Y2K proved correct after that nonevent came to pass (I predicted it was going to be much ado about nothing.) This Sunday, March 11, though, I'm concerned about glitches surrounding this year's early arrival of daylight-saving time, resulting from admins who haven't been proactive enough in making sure their systems have been properly updated.I had the first real (as opposed to theoretical) inkling that something was indeed up this morning when our administrative assistant here at work pointed out that all the times for regular meetings scheduled for the rest of March had been inexplicably kicked forward by one hour in Lotus Notes, while the April meeting times were still OK.

Sure enough, a check of the literature turned up this IEEE Computer Society article, which noted:

"The odds are good that the appointments you've made with U.S. or Canadian associates through Microsoft's Exchange or IBM's Lotus Notes or Domino are going to be off by an hour in the last three weeks of March 2007."

A check of Lotus's support information shows that the vendor (IBM) is advising users to both update their operating system and check their Lotus Domino server configuration.

Pursuing the operating system angle further, we see that, heck yeah, it is indeed the operating system that's the hub of the DST problem. According to Microsoft's own support site, the list of products which require an update to get around any DST issues includes:

  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows XP Home SP2
  • Windows XP Pro SP2
  • Exchange Server 2000 and 2003
  • Outlook 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2007
  • SQL Server 2000 and 2005
  • Office Live Meeting
  • Windows Mobile
  • Windows CE-based devices
  • Fortunately, Windows Vista isn't affected. In most other Microsoft cases, automatic update will take care of any operating system issues.

    OK, so it doesn't look like this is going to be huge deal for consumers. (And maybe "System Crash" in my title is a bit hyperbolic.) As Microsoft's support site explains this issue, this year's March 11 start of DST

    "results in a new DST period that is four weeks longer than in previous years. Unless certain updates are applied to your computer, the time zone settings for your computer's system clock may be incorrect during this four-week period. In particular, you must make sure that both your Windows operating system and your calendar programs are updated."

    However, businesses -- especially e-commerce sites -- need to be especially attuned to the DST issue, because failure to update could have huge implications. As a separate Microsoft support document notes:

    "The change in DST will have an effect on many automated and technology-reliant products. Individual consumers, small to medium-sized businesses, and large enterprises may be affected by the new change in time. Computer-system related issues include, for example:

  • Calendar / scheduling applications
  • Date / time calculations (current and historical)
  • Transaction logging (UTC vs. Local Time)
  • Tariff billing applications
  • In many cases, making the necessary changes to accommodate the new DST legislation will be a relatively minor task. Users may need to manually adjust the time on their devices when the change occurs. In other cases, more substantial efforts may be required. In some cases, systems and applications may need to be updated directly, while in others, the application may simply inherit or "read" the date and time information from the underlying system that it resides on so the changes need only be made to that underlying system. Given the broad range of technology in use today -- and the integration of systems between customers, vendors, and partners -- business and IT managers should determine what actions should be taken to mitigate the affects of DST 2007 on their organizations."

    And to think, I was just worried about losing that hour of sleep.

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