[LINK] DST in US changes - heads up

Jan Whitaker jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Mon Mar 5 22:28:20 AEDT 2007


March 5, 2007

Time Change a ‘Mini-Y2K’ in Tech Terms


Two years ago, when Congress passed a law to 
extend daylight saving time by a month, the move 
seemed a harmless step that would let the nation 
burn a little less fossil fuel and enjoy a bit more sunshine.

Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, 
predicted that children would rejoice at the 
prospect of an extra hour of daylight 
trick-or-treating on Halloween. But there is no 
rejoicing among corporate technology managers.

The change takes effect Sunday, as daylight 
saving time begins three weeks earlier (and ends 
a week later, on the first Sunday in November). 
And many companies are scrambling to reset 
e-mail devices, desktop PCs and big data-center 
computers used to automate payrolls, purchasing and manufacturing.

This puts the United States out of sync with the 
rest of the world for longer than usual this 
spring, almost certainly disrupting not only 
computers but also the business and travel 
schedules of companies, workers and travelers. 
Most of Europe goes to daylight saving time March 
25, two weeks after America, while most of Asia, 
Africa and South America do not observe daylight saving time at all.

Any device that has an internal clock looms as a 
potential problem and must be tweaked for the 
time change, usually with a software patch. Most 
internal clocks in computing devices are 
programmed for the old daylight-time calendar, which Congress set in 1986.

“It’s a massive amount of work to get everything 
in order,” said Kim Stevenson, a vice president 
Data Systems, a large technology services 
company. “And the do-nothing plan is a high-risk plan.”

The daylight-time shift, according to technology 
executives and analysts, amounts to a “mini-Y2K.” 
That is a reference to the rush in the late 1990s 
to change old software, which was unable to 
recognize dates in the new millennium, 2000 and beyond.

The fear was that computers would go haywire, and 
there were warnings of planes falling from the 
skies and electronic commerce grinding to a halt. 
Billions of dollars were invested to fix the 
so-called millennium bug, and there was no wave of computer-related disasters.

This time, with extended daylight saving time, 
the problem is subtler. The potential pitfall is 
a disruption of business, if the clocks inside 
all kinds of hardware and software systems do not 
sync up as they are programmed to do. In a 
business world that is increasingly computerized 
and networked, there could be effects on 
everything from programmed stock trading to 
just-in-time manufacturing to meeting schedules.

National hotel chains, one technology consultant 
said, have often automated their wake-up call 
services in one or two data centers. Having 
wake-up calls made an hour late for a couple of 
weeks, he noted, would certainly tarnish a 
hotel’s reputation for customer service.

For consumers, the greatest potential impact will 
be on e-mail and calendar programs like 
Outlook, used to schedule dentist visits, soccer 
practices, evening entertainment and other appointments.

The latest Windows operating system, Vista, is 
not affected, and for those running Windows XP 
Service Pack 2, online software updates have been 
pushed out automatically to correct the problem. 
Microsoft and 
are also making software patches and instructions 
available on their Web sites.

“This is mainly an annoyance for consumers, but 
it’s a major headache for corporate technology 
departments,” said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst at 

For the roughly 7,000 public companies in the 
United States, Mr. Hammond estimates the total 
cost of making computer fixes to deal with the 
daylight saving time shift at more than $350 
million. “It’s causing a lot of corporate 
technology people sleepless nights,” he said.

The impact extends beyond computers themselves. 
For example, utilities have begun deploying 
sophisticated time-of-use meters that measure 
electricity consumption, often at 15- or 
30-minute intervals. They charge different rates 
at different times of day ­ mainly for large 
commercial customers ­ as part of the utilities’ 
programs to manage peak loads on their grids.

Those meters have to be reprogrammed for the 
daylight saving time shift, sending technicians 
out for on-site visits costing $40 to $200 each, 
according to Rick Nicholson, an analyst at the IDC research firm.

The energy savings from extending daylight time 
are not great, but could mount, according to 
studies. A report last year by the Energy 
Department projected savings in electricity at 
four-tenths of a percent each day of extended 
daylight savings time ­ or three one-hundredths 
of a percent of annual electricity use. Daylight 
saving time modestly reduces evening electricity use.

Still, tiny savings each year could add up in the 
long run. The American Council for an 
Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit group, 
estimates that the cumulative benefit through 
2020 of longer daylight saving time would be a 
saving of $4.4 billion and 10.8 million metric 
tons less carbon spewed into the air.

The 2005 energy bill gives Congress the option of 
repealing the daylight saving time extension, if 
energy savings are not achieved.

But there is no turning back for the technology 
sector. The major software suppliers are offering 
patches and assistance to customers. The largest 
software company, Microsoft, has a Web site to 
help corporate customers and consumers, the 
Daylight Saving Time Help and Support Center, at 

“This is a challenge for the whole industry,” 
said Rich Kaplan, vice president for customer 
service at Microsoft. “But for most users, this 
is mainly a nuisance issue. It’s not as if you’re 
going to lose any data ­ your documents, e-mail, digital music or pictures.”

Gregor S. Bailar, chief information officer at 
Capital One, a large bank and credit card 
company, has led a lengthy program to get all its 
data centers and PCs ready for the daylight saving time shift.

For most people in business, Mr. Bailar said, the 
main problem is going to be synching calendars 
and meeting schedules. “My advice to the common 
Luddite is to confirm, confirm and reconfirm your 
appointments in March and April,” he said.

Or perhaps not. Mr. Bailar suggested another 
option: “What better excuse to miss that boring 
budget meeting, at least for a month?”

Jan Whitaker
JLWhitaker Associates, Melbourne Victoria
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com
personal: http://www.janwhitaker.com/personal/
commentary: http://janwhitaker.com/jansblog/

'Seed planting is often the most important step. 
Without the seed, there is no plant.' - JW, April 2005
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