March 9, 2007 11:00 AM PST

Week in review: Spring forward, fall flat

Daylight saving time starts Sunday and promises to bring headaches to legions of computer users.

Thanks to a decision Congress made two years ago, daylight saving is starting early--a change that could cause Y2K-like troubles for IT professionals, and even for consumers. The shift, for example, could cause trouble with software set to automatically advance its clock by an hour on the old date, the first Sunday in April, and not on the new date, the second Sunday in March.

Years of fretting over Y2K often focused on the fact that many computer programs were designed to enter years in only two digits--the last two--meaning that the 2000 might be mistaken for 1900. In the end, years of planning meant that there were no major crises and far fewer headaches than had been predicted.

With the daylight saving issue, the potential impact is seen as less severe, but there has also been far less preparation than there was for Y2K.

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. 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.

However, 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.

With many large companies still struggling to patch their computer systems, a backlog has emerged for customers trying to get help. In some cases, IT workers have been waiting three or four hours to get telephone support from Microsoft, whose Exchange Server serves as the official calendar for many of the world's largest businesses.

Aiming to shorten that wait, Microsoft has boosted the number of people addressing the time-change issue. The company has opened up a "situation room" devoted to monitoring customer issues and providing support to the software maker's largest customers. The main situation room will be in Redmond, Wash., with centers in Texas, North Carolina and India overseeing things in the off-hours. Microsoft has also added more than 200 workers versed in Exchange and Outlook to its phone lines.

While CNET News.com readers debated the best solution and the need for patches, some questioned the need for the daylight saving program in general.

"It's just an archaic old leftover from way back when energy was at a premium," wrote one reader to the News.com Talkback forum.

To aid consumers, CNET News.com has addressed some commonly asked questions regarding the time shift: Click here for the link.

Out of tune
You could say it was the day Internet radio died. A key Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives slammed new federal rules that would require many Internet radio services to pay higher fees to record companies.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) had harsh words for a ruling released by the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board. It proposes raising the amount that commercial Internet radio services pay to record companies by 30 percent retroactively to 2006 and in each of the next three years through 2009. Each station would have to hand over a minimum $500 royalty payment.

See more CNET content tagged:
Y2K, Week in review, record company, Internet radio, Microsoft Exchange Server

5 comments

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Vista: Piracy paraphernalia detected...
<satire>
For all we know, it may not be a bug, when Vista corrupts an iPod plugged into it.

Perhaps deep down in a kernel-level process, this is what's happening, translated into plain English:

"Piracy paraphernalia detected on USB port 0. Engage sanitization routines.. starting with the directory sectors... done."

Or perhaps alternatively, there's the "can't stand 1-bit of competition" angle:

"Music device detected on USB port 0, scanning manufacturer ID.. Apple. Player is not a Zune.. true. Player is from our arch-rival.. true. Engage sanitization routines.. starting with the directory sectors.. done."
</satire>

/ Yes, I woke up too early today - without coffee. =;o)
Posted by unigamer69 (75 comments )
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Apple: non-Apple product paraphernalia detected...
For all we know too, it may not be a bug, when iPod refuses to work with Vista. Perhaps deep down in the core of the iPod OS, this is what's happening too, translated into plain English: "Non-Apple OS detected on PC. Engage incompatibility routines... starting with plugg-in I/O... done." Or perhaps alternatively too, there's the "can't stand that market-leading Windows" angle: "Unknown OS detected on PC, scanning manufacturer ID... Microsoft. OS is not from Apple... true. OS is from market-leading arch-rival... true. Engage incompatibility routines... starting with plug-in I/O... done"
You see, you can say it the other way around and it makes as much sense as your ignorant vision of the problem, because software should be developed in order to work with an OS, and not the OS that should be developed to work specifically with a device called iPod - or even more sense. :P
Posted by Fil0403 (1303 comments )
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It's the same old thing we heard seven years ago about Y2K
"Spring forward fall flat"? I don't think so.

Seven years ago, the Y2K issue was blown well out of proportion, no thanks to the news media's habit of sensationalizing everything--sometimes to the point of being utterly ridiculous. Nothing much happened at midnight December 31, 1999 as far as the world's computers were concerned; only a handful of systems were actually affected by the so-called "millennium bug", with most systems taking the change in stride. Now, in 2007, we are hearing about something that is being called "the next Y2K". I don't think the early DST change will cause nearly as much trouble as the news media told us Y2K would cause, if indeed the change wreaks much havoc at all. For PC clocks in home systems, a simple workaround for the new DST would be to simply disable the automatic DST update by removing the check mark from the box marked "automatically adjust clock for daylight savings time change" and changing the time manually. Schedulers for anti-virus and other automatically-triggered programs in PCs can be adjusted manually as well for the change. Businesses that depend on calendars may be affected somewhat by the change, but there is always the old technique of mentally adding one hour to the time on a a clock which still shows EST--or have we as a nation become so dependent on computers to do our bidding for us that we have become too lazy even to do that?
Posted by Jeffhs (4 comments )
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For those who are running older PCs, a simple fix
If you are running older PCs with older versions of Windows (yes, they are still out there!), here is the most simple fix ever - no patched, downloads, or updates needed! Just go to the "set date/time" screen (double-click on the clock) and turn off (uncheck) "Automatically Adjust Clock For Daylight Savings Time Changes"Then set your clock manually. Yes, you will have to do it again in the fall, but most of us are running around our houses resetting clocks anyway - what's one more? This will even work on XP or Vista machines - again, no downloads required. For those who were able to download and install Windows Daylight Savings Time patch - Great! it Worked!! But for those who didn't or couldnt, or the old-timers out there - here you go! And if the Govt. goes back to the old way after this "experiment", just turn the auto-change back on! Simple!
Posted by davejyd (8 comments )
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Wished it had worked
I advised all my clients running older copies of Windows operating systems about the TZEDIT.EXE patch that updated the TimeZone tables within the computers. The TZEDIT.EXE program worked perfectly. Just one hitch... despite the tables being updated, I've had several reports that the clock itself did not change over today (mine included).

I'm going to be dealing with lots of disgruntled customers, and will be spending significant time trying to figure out what went wrong.
Posted by JEfromCanada (32 comments )
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