UC Berkeley News
Web Feature

UC Berkeley Web Feature

Daylight Saving Time gotchas may get you

– Got a hot meeting Monday morning? You may need to double-check your watch, your calendar, and your key ring.

Daylight Saving Time (DST) goes into effect this weekend, as timepieces "spring forward" an hour at 2 a.m. Sunday. The 2007 change is occurring three weeks earlier than usual, thanks to a bill that slipped quietly through Congress in 2005 in an effort to cut energy consumption.

Campanile clocks
Changes in the Daylight Savings Time schedule will affect everything from the Campanile's clocks to the time locks on some campus doors. (Photo by Steve McConnell/UC Berkeley)

Normally, DST just means remembering to set your various clocks - bedside, car, microwave, office cubicle - ahead an hour as you start the week. But in this highly technological society, changing the time of the time change is having unintended consequences that stretch far and wide, as computers, VCRs, cell phones and other devices that "automatically" compensate for DST have to be taught that there's a new set of rules in effect. On the UC Berkeley campus, this ripple effect stretches from individual desktops to centrally managed servers and calendaring applications to time-programmed door locks.

"For the campus, problems will mostly be at the annoyance level," says Shel Waggener, Berkeley's chief information officer and associate vice chancellor for IT. "The vast majority of campus systems have been patched or will be manually adjusted over the weekend. However, it's likely some issues will slip through."

CalAgenda, the campus's centralized calendaring tool, is expecting some DST-related glitches, and the support team has been applying patches to the calendar server in recent weeks to minimize them. Problems are most likely to crop up for events entered into CalAgenda months ago that are scheduled to occur during the next three weeks. The bottom-line advice? Confirm the time of meetings that occur during the two DST-change windows (March 11 to April 1 and Oct. 28 to Nov. 4). More detailed information is available on the CalAgenda website.

A quirkier complication is that time-based locks on some campus doors may not unlock on schedule Monday morning. That's because these T3 programmable locks, which are set to open and lock daily at specific times, are hard-coded to the old Daylight Saving Time schedule and cannot be reprogrammed. Facilities Services has distributed detailed instructions on dealing with these recalcitrant locks (also available online) that boil down to three choices: Disable the DST-synchronization feature (and plan to manually reprogram the lock twice each year), be patient (have a cup of coffee while you wait for that hour-late unlocking for the next three weeks), or buy a new lock.

Then there's the computer sitting on your desktop or lap. Computer manufacturers have been putting out updates to their operating systems and programs in recent months that should prevent DST-related problems from occurring. But because the number of potential combinations of desktop platforms and applications is nearly infinite, and because the order in which patches are applied can make a difference (updating program B could cause the already-patched program A to revert to the "old" DST configuration), the possibility of disruption remains.

Nor are the potential problems merely local. Berkeley's central Information Services and Technology unit, along with dozens of departmental tech support teams, has been laboring mightily to get the necessary DST patches in place, not only on individual desktops but on the servers, databases and centralized applications that keep the campus in synch. A compendium of DST advice and update links is available on the IST website.

One of the biggest challenges has been that manufacturers were somewhat slow coming to grips with the need for updates. "Some vendors started providing patches six months ago, but many patches didn't start arriving until the last six to eight weeks," Waggener says.

In some cases, no patch should be needed, because many of the systems in question - cell phones, video recorders, calendaring applications - get their time from a central time source like the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In other cases, updates have been installed, but it will be next week before anyone knows if the update had the desired effect (and no unintended side effects). "There'll be lots of small issues we will be double-checking over the weekend and on Monday." says Waggener, "In many cases its simply lower risk to apply the fix and monitor the situation after this weekend than to try to fully test all possibilities before hand."

That's because the stakes are relatively low, even if patches don't get made or don't work. Unlike the Y2K doomsday scenario (when there were widespread fears - all unrealized - that the changeover to the new millennium would cause massive failures on old computer systems that weren't designed to deal with 21st century dates), the campus consequences of missing the earlier Daylight Saving Time change are things like meetings that don't start on time, or doors that open an hour late. "The big difference between Y2K and this is, in the worst case, we'll have a three-week window where things don't synchronize," says Waggener.

If in doubt, look up, for a low-tech solution: The Campanile's four giant clock faces are scheduled to be reset to the new time early Sunday morning.