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Preparation Will Prevent Daylight Savings Time Change from Being a Computer Issue

Dow Jones News Service
By Rex Crum
2.28.07:


Act Early to Avoid Computers' Daylight-Saving Time Problems.

By now, everyone is used to the "spring forward, fall back" saying that reminds them to properly set their clocks to go on and off daylight-saving time. And computers and other electronics products have also been programmed to respond to the biannual time changes.

But this year, things are different. Thanks to a couple of brief paragraphs buried within the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a piece of legislation passed by Congress 18 months ago ostensibly with the intention of saving the U.S. 100,000 barrels of oil a day, daylight-saving time will start March 11, four weeks earlier than previously, and will end Nov. 4, two weeks longer than in prior years.

That change presents the possibility of computer and network headaches for individuals across the U.S.

The issue comes from the fact that most computer software was programmed to automatically adjust whatever internal clocks or timing mechanisms they have, based on daylight-saving time beginning on the first Sunday in April. The move to the earlier daylight-saving time start presents the potential for everything from a desktop computer to a network server to a personal digital assistant stamping relevant information with a time that is one hour off from what it should be.

"An example would be if you have a big teleconference meeting scheduled with a customer in Japan," said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst with Forrester Research. "You could get up and find that the meeting's already over because your email or other timer didn't have the right time."

It sounds like shades of Y2K, the pre-2000 fear that computer systems would crash and airplanes would fall from the sky because every computer would not correctly recognize the "2000." While some minor incidents occurred, the end-of-civilization scenarios that some doomsayers foresaw never took place.

And they won't likely happen with the daylight-saving time change, according to computer industry officials and analysts like Hammond. Still, it's advised that a person take some steps and look up some information that could help prevent their electronics from suffering any minor time-change-related issues.

Most problems can be avoided by checking with network operators' or device makers' Web sites for information on how to download software patches that can program the device to recognize the switch to the earlier daylight-saving time start.

Apple Inc. (AAPL), for example, has set up its Mac OS X to handle the changes to daylight-saving time. Anuj Nayar, an Apple spokesman, said that Mac users have already had access to a software patch that is automatically sent to their computers through the Mac's software update application.

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) offers information on its Web site that explains that running the new Windows Vista operating system, or Windows XP with the company's Service Pack 2 upgrade, will have no problem with the time change. However, other versions of Windows require visiting Microsoft's site in order to get information about how to download any necessary patches that will properly reset their computer systems.

David Millman, chief executive of Rescuecom Corp., a Syracuse, N.Y., chain of computer service and support centers, said that while there probably won't be any major problems from the daylight-saving time change, doing some due diligence, such as checking with a device maker's site now, should provide the necessary insurance to avoid headaches later.

"It's a challenge. And it's more than just resetting a clock. But spending some time looking into the matter should help take care of problems," Millman said.

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