DST 2007 -- too big to judge

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/06/29 03:31 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/06/29/3597126.aspx

Based on The Dark Knight Returns, with apologies to Frank Miller (and to the people who really were working hard during the recent DST crisis):

siao fan: you stand for everything i believe in, michael. i've always wanted to be the kind of guy you are (except maybe socially). i can't understand how you can think DST thing was a good thing to have happened.

michael kaplan: you'd just think i'm senile.
i'm sure you've heard old fossils like me talk about pearl harbor.
*koff* excuse me.
fact is, we mostly lie about it. we make it sound like we all leaped to our feet and went after the axis on the spot.
hell, we were scared. rumors were flying, we thought the japanese had taken california. we didn't even have an army. so there we were, lying in bed pulling the sheets over our heads--
--and there was roosevelt, on the radio, strong and sure, taking fear and turning it into a fighting spirit.
almost overnight we had our army.
we won the war.
since then, presidents have come and gone, each one seeming smaller, weaker ... the best of them like faint echoes of roosevelt ...
jesus, i'm talking too much.

siao fan: go on ...

michael kaplan: a few years back, i was reading a news magazine -- a lot of people with a lot of evidence said that roosevelt knew pearl was going to be attacked --
--and that he let it happen.
wasn't proven. things like that never are. i couldn't stop thinking how horrible that would be ...
... and how pearl was what got us off our duffs in time to stop the axis.
but a lot of innocent men died.
but we won the war.
it bounced back and forth in my head until i realized i couldn't judge it. it was too big.
he was too big ...

siao fan: i don't see what this has to do with the DST thing being good.

michael kaplan: maybe you will.

A few days ago I was in the audience at an interesting panel discussion moderated by M3 Sweatt, the Microsoft Director who among other things championed the DST efforts throughout Microsoft (ref: his DST-tagged blog posts!).

The panel was really an interesting opportunity, for several reasons.

For one thing, I got to visit with Beth Scott again (I think I last saw her like 6-7 years ago when I almost took a job in her org; my how time flies...).

Oh, I also got to talk to M3 for a bit, too.

But the panel itself was also interesting, as it really highlighted a lot of the lessons learned by groups throughout Microsoft (in Outlook, in WINSE, in Exchange, in .NET, in CRM, and so on).

Many of the stories were entertaining, though appropriately self-deprecating, and people clearly felt quite humbled by the experience.

One thing I am sure of -- no matter how many barrels of oil it may have saved us, it cost the country a lot more in the IT resources spent.

I was disappointed by one thing, though -- the fact that no one pointed out one of the biggest lessons, in my mind -- that DST2007 has mirror versions of itself pretty much every year for as long as there have been computers with clocks and calendars supporting DST -- both inside and outside of the US.

The entire IT industry, including Microsoft, was hit hard by a problem they have had early warnings about, for decades.

And they never paid attention.

And yet, it was DST 2007 that got everyone off their duffs to finally fix this bug.

But it cost the induistry a ton of money.

But it mobilized huge resources to finally fix problems inflicted on the entire world for many years.

But a lot of good people lost time. And money. And sleep.

But we are addressing the real issues now.

It's too big.

DST is too big.


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Mihai on 29 Jun 2007 12:21 PM:

Some old saying: "smart people learn from other's mistakes, regular people learn from their mistakes, and idiots never learn"

So (at least in this instance) MS was not smart ;-)

Nick Lamb on 30 Jun 2007 5:20 PM:

"The entire IT industry, including Microsoft, was hit hard by a problem they have had early warnings about, for decades."

I received a routine vendor update months (years?) before the event containing the new time zone rules, and all I had to do was remember to schedule routine maintenance to restart any long running processes which were affected  (or the entire system at my option). So, no, not the "entire IT industry", was hit hard just the part that still thought local time was more than a display value.

Most ordinary users, who do run Windows, have never had the clock working correctly, the DOS / Windows clock is like the one on an old VCR. It starts out showing the wrong time, so you fix it, but then a few months later you notice that it's back to flashing 12:00 (or in the case of Windows, it has mysteriously gained or lost an hour). So users learn that it doesn't work properly and they ignore it. By now many people own several time-telling devices that don't bother them with DST twice a year, they just work. Their Windows PC remains stuck in the 20th century where you had to do everything manually.

Although Miller's work on Dark Knight Returns was excellent, I prefer writers who do something a bit more radical with the tired superhero cliché, rather than just making their heroes... tired. Gaiman's change of pace in Black Orchid comes to mind.

Wilhelm Svenselius on 2 Jul 2007 1:47 AM:

Nick: You know, Windows has been able to synchronize the time using NTP since at least XP, and it has been able to automatically correct for DST for longer than that. I've been able to depend on it always showing the correct time for quite a number of years. Before XP, there were free third-party apps that also perform this function. I think those are still around for people who want more control over how their OS synchronizes time.

Michael S. Kaplan on 2 Jul 2007 4:25 AM:

The actual problem has less to do with Windows than with applications, for the most part....

Yuhong Bao on 20 Aug 2012 1:37 AM:

At least MS is much better with time zone updates now. I wonder exactly when was the last time the time zone data was updated before DST 2007.

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