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The danger of Daylight Saving Time

What's the real risk?

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Comment If the fuss currently being made about Dubbya's attempt to save energy by making the US go to Daylight Saving Time a fortnight early reminds me of anything, it's the hype we had to endure eight years ago about the Millennium Bug.

At the time, we were told that computers hard-coded to accept only 19xx dates would be crashing here, there and everywhere - quite literally, in the case of those aboard airliners. A slew of companies touted everything from expensive consultancy to PC patches. Much FUD was spread, and a fair bit of money was made.

However, come 1 January 2000, most of the work had already been done. The skies were notably clear of bamboozled Boeings, and while there were still a few problems, some with serious consequences for those affected, more were caused by the arrival of 2001 - possibly because 2000 was 366 days long, not 365, but that's another story.

So, will the DST changes be the 2007 equivalent of the Millennium Bug? Various commentators and some software companies have latched onto it as a potential disaster, and are hyping up the need to patch servers and workstations - but DST happens every year.

It wouldn't be the first time that servers have got their clocks out of step, either. After all, the US and Europe only managed to synchronise their shift to DST a few years ago, after decades of being a week or so out of sync.

Obviously, US server administrators need to make sure their systems "spring forward" on the right date - and that means applying patches and having the helpdesk staffed-up for 11 and 12 March - but is the fact that for a fortnight they'll only be four to seven hours behind the UK really significant?

Still, there are areas of business where electronic trading has grown hugely since 1999, and which are very much dependent on timings, such as financial trading and travel. If I were flying anywhere or booking appointments in the US in mid-March, I'd triple-check everything. ®

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