March 5, 2007 10:00 AM PST

IT pros battle clock and code in time change

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

As the new daylight saving time switch nears, businesses are finding the update process to be complicated and time-consuming, particularly for Microsoft Windows e-mail and server software.

New laws dictate that daylight saving time (DST) in the United States will begin three weeks earlier than usual on Sunday and end one week later than usual on November 4.

To deal with the switch, software makers have moved to provide patches meant to adjust the clocks of computers and mobile devices automatically. Those updates are critical for many business users who depend on their PC or mobile calendar to tell them where to be and at what time.

The trick, however, is actually getting the updates installed. Business and consumer electronics users across the United States say working through the sometimes unwieldy patch process is proving to be more than a little difficult.

The Microsoft update process is proving to be a headache for the people who look after corporate e-mail servers. Many say they have had difficulty with the software patches provided by Microsoft for its Outlook and Entourage e-mail client applications, and for the Exchange server software. For it to work properly, Microsoft says the update process has to be done in a very particular and rapid manner.

"The fact that I still have no idea if the patch worked--and what will happen on March 11th--is curious to me. And I (imagine) that it may be a rude awakening to many others."
--Jenny Fielding
COO, Switch-Mobile

"The (question) is when to patch what--and in what order," Larry Wahlers, senior systems analyst for Concordia Technologies, said in an e-mail.

Others are finding the directions too complex.

"Microsoft should have been better prepared with the Exchange (tool for recalculating and rescheduling appointment dates that are affected by DST). I think it's very difficult to follow their 25-page outline," said Pasquale Pescatore, senior technology analyst for Canadian retailer North West. "They don't make it intuitive."

Microsoft acknowledges that the instructions for updating aren't exactly credit card-size.

"What's not clear to some people is that we provide a lot of documentation of these tools. It's not a single page," said M3 Sweatt, chief of staff of Microsoft's customer service team.

The process is complex because a number of applications in a corporate computer network have time stamps and are therefore affected by the DST change. The first challenge is identifying the various software packages that need to be updated, said Eric Vishria, vice president of marketing at Opsware, which makes a software-updating tool.

"The second challenge is identifying, on each one of those, all the different pieces that need to be patched or updated," he said. "Not only your operating system, but also your applications, your custom applications...Time is such an important element in so many applications, (from) calendaring to bank transaction processing. IT people are the ones (who) are going to have a lot of the challenges."

Pescatore said he had no problem updating his company's Unix servers, just those running Windows.

One problem, Concordia's Wahlers said, was that the instructions from Microsoft kept shifting. "Microsoft kept changing the Web sites, the information, the order in which to patch things, to the point where absolutely nobody, including Microsoft, had any idea as to what to do."

But Microsoft's Sweatt insisted that the updated instructions were for different network configurations and weren't actually being changed.

There are four common types of users, Sweatt said: those of Outlook Web Access, third-party messaging, BlackBerry server and Good Mobile Messaging Server.

"The steps in which you deploy significant updates may change, depending on your scenario," he said.

North West's Pescatore said he and many of his colleagues got so frustrated with the error messages they were receiving on the update tool that they gave up and began patching each manually. But since the company has about 5,000 employees, he had to settle for getting updates done for just the company's top brass before Sunday.

After testing the calendaring appointment function of Outlook, the results were inconsistent: some appointments were moved forward an hour to comply with the new DST, while others were not, corporate tech managers said.

"And it didn't seem to matter who the user was," Wahlers said. "There was no rhyme or reason for how it behaved. Even on the same user, the March appointments might not be fixed correctly, while the fall appointments were."

Users of smart phones, including those not running on Windows Mobile, are similarly bewildered by the DST update process. BlackBerry Pearl user Jenny Fielding said in an e-mail interview that when she received the patch from her carrier, she initially thought it was junk mail. Nonetheless, she installed the software.

"To be perfectly honest, I am not sure what happened next (or) if it was fixed...It never said, 'download successful' or anything like that," wrote Fielding, chief operating officer of mobile voice over Internet Protocol provider Switch-Mobile. "The fact that I still have no idea if the patch worked--and what will happen on March 11th--is curious to me. And I (imagine) that it may be a rude awakening to many others."

Windows Mobile program manager Udiyan Padmanabhan said a successful installation of its DST patch will result in a system reboot, and a "successful installation" notice will be displayed.

An update to the patch will be released Monday in response to customer feedback, Padmanabhan said. The update removes the manual steps in the initial DST patch and no longer requires Windows Mobile 5.0 users to specify between the Pocket PC or Smartphone versions.

Installing the Windows Mobile 5 update for employees' mobile devices hasn't proved nearly as challenging as with Outlook and Exchange, Pescatore said, though he still plans to update each device manually. "We don't have a lot, thank God."

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated how many weeks earlier the new daylight saving time will begin this year. It starts this Sunday, March 11, three weeks earlier than last year.

See more CNET content tagged:
consumer electronics, patch management, Microsoft Corp., information technology, instruction


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
huh? what's the issue?
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by dirk goedseels (39 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Missing the point
The problem isn't with the system clock. The problem is with the time adjustments across the enterprise e-mail systems (Blackberry and things like that).

Let me see if Apple's addressed this... oh yeah, they don't have anything to compare to that.

For all Microsoft's faults (and there are MANY), I much prefer Exchange over Lotus Notes. I truly loath Notes.
Posted by Vince66 (27 comments )
Link Flag
You can't blame this on on Microsoft
Seriously, making a three week move to daylight savings time is NOT worth the effort. And I'm not convinced (by the documents I've seen) that there will be any savings in power.
Posted by Marcus Westrup (630 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Then Again...
...pretty much all other OSes can shift it w/ little to no heartache... why can't Microsoft?

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
Y not?
I schedule and appoinment at 9:00am. It will still be at 9:00 am oafter the time change because all my clocks will change. why is the patch F^&gt;king around with outlook or any program? All it should be doing is making the change on the system clock automatic - like the existing one that has shipped with each system since -95. I don't remember if 3.1 had an auto time change on it.

Either way what is hard about this unless m$ programmers are so inept that they have totally bunged up the entire interface. Some would argue that they have. Calendars and clock apps should read the system, not recreat the wheel.
Posted by zclayton2 (130 comments )
Link Flag
Oh no! It's Y2K 2.0!
Isn't that why the switch to DST happens early Sunday morning - to minimize any adverse impact?
Lots of extra hours for MIS this weekend.
DST=O.T. for I.T. ;)
Posted by punterjoe (163 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What Am I Missing
If I've got an appointment at 3PM on Sunday.
After the time change, it will still be 3PM.

Why all the problems, it's not like this is something new. Software should be getting the time / date from the System. Update the system, and all the rest of the programs will now have the updated time.

The only problem my office is having is our Manual Time clock will have to be reset.
Posted by pgp_protector (122 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Problem
The problem arises on existing appointments.
For some reason existing appointments can shift in obscure ways (1 hour back, 23 hours forward, etc). There does not seem to be a rhyme or reason for it (of course, there probably is).

All in all, it's not such a tough transition, but it does seem to affect some organisations, more than others.
Posted by d_sugden (5 comments )
Link Flag
I am not sure why MS is messing with appointments instead of just changing the clock. Why move the appointment times? That is such a backwards approach to the nonproblem. Just instruct the clock to change on a certain date. Nothing else needs to be affected.
Posted by educingone (2 comments )
Link Flag
I Already Have A Problem With Windows Mobile
Shortly after I got my Windows Mobile Pocket PC 2003 PDA I traveled to a different timezone. After landing I changed my PDA's timezone to my new location. Fine. Entered a few appointments into the PDA. Fine. After I returned to my original timezone, I adjusted my PDA again. Well, to my horror all of my PDA's Outlook appointments were off by 2 hours -- the difference between the travel timezone and home timezone. I then had to go back into Outlook and correct all appointment times. From that point on, whenever I travel I do not change the PDA's timezone, I just manually change the PDA's clock to match local time.

I think the confusion around this issue is one of relativity. Some software engineers handle appointment time scheduling relative to other users (who may be in different timezones), while other engineers handle the time in absolutes. In the case of Windows Mobile 2003 there was an attempt to adjust appointment times relative to others in different timezones. But the implementation was flawed, thereby messing up all my appointments. For all practical purposes I cannot use the timezone setting.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Link Flag
We here in Australia had this issue last year.

This is fantastic news!

At least now there will probably be official support and perhaps an official windows update for future scenareos.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by d_sugden (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You know very little about OS'es...
Every OS we have here (Linux, Windows, OpenVMS) needs a patch. DST isn't a Microsoft problem, but being a Microsoft hater sure seems to be a problem with many folks.
Posted by rstinnett (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Needs a patch? Yes. Can Handle a Patch? Not Really.
Read the article again, please.

It mentions specifically that patching Windows (and in turn Outlook, etc) has caused a lot of headaches.

Meanwhile, all my Linux servers got patched in one go from a simple single script (w/ no side-effects), and the Mac @ home patched w/o a problem as well.

So... why is MSFT so sloppy about it?

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
Salaried employees == the way to get skilled labor at Wal-Mart prices.
Posted by rstinnett (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I get paid for mine
...and I'm salaried.

It's all in how you negotiate, my friend. :)

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
It's so simple! check this out!
Here in Brazil, every year we have to update our DST schedule. So, we are expertise, hehe...
Check this:
<a class="jive-link-external" href=";langpair=pt%7Cen&#38;hl=en&#38;ie=UTF8" target="_newWindow">;langpair=pt%7Cen&#38;hl=en&#38;ie=UTF8</a>

or in portuguese

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by daniellopes (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks for costing me more money and making my kids less safe..
is all I have to say to the genius behind this proposal.

I know for the much of the lower 48 daylight savings is a benefit for a month or two either side of the summer, but here in Alaska it does the exact opposite.

We have to turn our lights back on in the morning (just as it was starting to get light again in the morning) and our kids have to go to school in the dark. Not a particularly good thing with the ice pack melting, the slick roads of March are not much fun.

So having the extra hour may benefit you, but it's about time those of us negatively affected by DLS should be allowed to opt out.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
and where do you think apps get their time info from?
hence it IS definitely an OS issue, as that is providing date and time
info to all apps.
And YES, this issue has been solved already in Mac OS X, so I don't
care about this issue
Posted by dirk goedseels (39 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Worst part are the execs
Don't know about you, but the execs in my company are the ones who use scheduling most and also the biggest cry babies. This won't be fun.
Posted by theitdude (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TZEDIT This!!!!
Updating the Windows OS isn't the problem at all (like the other OSes)...other than for those with many pre-Win2003 servers/pre-XPSP2 workstations.

It is most definitely an APPLICATIONS problem (i.e. Outlook, Blackberry, Notes, Java RTE, etc).

Why in the world do some Applications/libraries imbed the start/end times when it could be determined from the OS? (i.e. CDO Exchange update). I know why Outlook stamps the timezone on calendar entries...just something you have to live with.

The fun part (in the Exchange world) was deciphering the recommended order to apply all the updates. That's bad enough, but then throw a Blackberry server in the mix spend a lot of time trying to explain why all this is necessary.

As for the execs comment by theitdude: AMEN! They do tend to be a little helpless sometimes...BUT they sign the paycheck!

Wait till Congress decides to change the dates next year after examining the impact...

Posted by Kings X Rocks! (89 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft has a patch available.
Windows users/administrators can find what they need here:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

Posted by Dave_Brown (46 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do we even need DST?
I don't see what it helps.

What purpose does it serve?
Posted by bluemist9999 (1020 comments )
Reply Link Flag
All about energy "savings"
Although, how much remains to be seen...

-Longer days, less electricy for lights???? [More for a/c!].
-Longer days, people are more apt to get out after work and DRIVE somewhere??? [gas comsumption!]
-Longer days, more yard work after getting home...sweat...evening shower. [water usage is up!]

Thank goodness I'm not in Congress...

My only issue with this DST change is this:

Why couldn't the vendors have gotten their updates out last year sometime? MS updates started showing up in mid-Dec, Blackberry update the second week of Feb. By that time, executive calendars were chock-full of appointments during the dreaded "extended DST" weeks.
Posted by Kings X Rocks! (89 comments )
Link Flag
Don't need it
it's just an archaic old leftover (like most of the Gov't!) from way back when energy was @ a premium. Turns out the "survey" that prompted this stupid early BS is like 30 years old!! (rolls eyes!!)

We should do away with DST all together, not extend it further!! SHEEEESH!!
Posted by drwho (37 comments )
Link Flag
Feel Good Government Blundering
The government wants to feel good like it's actually doing something to help cut back on the global warming.

But when you calculate all of the actual cost involved in implementing all of this... they'll realize that the 4 weeks they've saved were more than eaten up by the extra power consumption used by a larger than average midnight crew working much longer hours trying to get every single piece of equipment patched so that no problem will occur. Add to that the belayed delivery of certain company's patches and total savings end up either break-even at best or in the red.

And that doesn't even count the personnel time and costs involved as it only calculates the additional electricity and transportation which these additional staff had to use to save those mere 4 weeks.

The government should keep their hands out of things they know nothing about as they only screw up things royally.

Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
Reply Link Flag
maybe im dumb - still dont see the
problem.. if you are in the middle of
the day and the power goes off for 1 hour,
at powerup you slip in the time change,
whos to know ??
if all the other 'time zones' change their
clocks - - then NOTHING has happened -
except the SUN seems to be out of whack !?!# LOL
It almost sounds like you are confusing this
UTC part.
Posted by tedtks (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Daylight Savings Time (DST) starts this week. As you may know, DST provides us more sunlight. You probably also know that more sunlight means the Earth gets hotter. Therefore, DST causes global warming!

Don't believe me? When do we use DST, summer or winter? And when is it hotter, summer or winter? Still don't believe me? When did DST first start in the 1900s, when the Earth started warming! It's no coinky-dink!

Stop global warming now! Do not set your clocks forward this weekend!
Posted by ToddWBeaver (1415 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are you that seriously cracked?!
DST was created to allow farmers "more day light time" in which to do their farming.
It has nothing to do with global warming.

Your "theory" is based on the idea that someone can control the rotations, and speed of such, of the earth and sun.
Posted by ShadowGryphon (52 comments )
Link Flag
The problem is with Windows and its applications...
Let's get a few things straight.

Firstly DST exists. Stop arguing about the virtues of it and just
live with it. DST means more to people who live closer to the
poles and less to those that do not. We live on a sphere and the
sphere's tilt towards the sun changes. We therefore need time
adjustments for certain latitudes.

Secondly other countries have had to cope with shoddy
operating systems and applications with respect to handling DST
changes. DST changes can be made on political decisions and
even religious decisions. Australia changed DST rules for the
Olympics and Commonwealth Games. Most recently they even
introduced them for Western Australia. South American DST
rules commonly change. DST changes occur.

Part of the solution is to have applications rely on the OS for
time zone data and not to re-invent the wheel. So, the OS owns
the time zone data. The other part of the solution is to have a
time zone mechanism that can record DST data historically and
into the future. The Unix zoneinfo mechanism does this and that
is why Unix derivatives such as Solaris, Linux and Mac OS X are
streets ahead of Windows in this regard. zoneinfo updates have
long been available for these operating systems.

DST exists. MS needs to embrace it and handle it properly.
Personally I'm pleased that the US has changed its DST rules
given the attention it is receiving - maybe the rest of the world
will now benefit from future MS considerations.
Posted by huntc (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
...but maybe not Vista
Well kudos to MS - it does look as though Vista at least brings
itself up to some of the functionality of zoneinfo further to my
last post i.e. past and future DST rules can be captured. The
future looks brighter :-)

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

(Additional registry keys in Windows Vista)
Posted by huntc (4 comments )
Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.