My BlackBerry is caught by the Daylight Savings Time fiasco

Is there anything as senseless as Daylight Savings Time? Perhaps there were historically valid reasons to move clocks back and forth every spring and fall. But there surely isn’t one now, and there are plenty of reasons to stop this rediculous ritual.

One reason, of course, is that it’s a pain in the butt. If the entire world moved together, adjusting clocks at the same time, that might be okay. But the entire world doesn’t move together. Sometimes San Francisco is eight hours away from London. Sometimes it’s not.

We’re not even consistent within the United States. Arizona, for example, does not do Daylight Savings Time. So, sometimes San Francisco is one hour away from Phoenix. Sometimes it isn’t.

In this increasingly interconnected world, inconsistent time differentials are stupid. It became stupid long before the Internet, of course. The telephone turned long-distance communications into real time communications for the masses. When telephones became ubiquitous, DST should have gone away. But it’s still not too late to kill it now.

Another reason is that the whole scheme is inconsistent. If the reasons for DST were legitimate, then it would be easy to determine the optimum dates for resetting the clocks. However, the reasons are not legitimate, and so the fall-back and spring-forward dates are arbitrary. That is why participating countries often do so at different dates. That’s why the U.S. government could decide to jigger with DST, as I blogged in February’s “Daylight Savings Time, It Is A-Changing.” Stupid, stupid.

A month after that posting, I was caught by three DST-related software issues – see “Three Daylight Savings Time Follies.” That’s more trouble than I, personally, had with Y2K. And now, I’ve been caught again.

You see, not everyone picked up on Congress’s change, and so there are many devices programmed to adjust according to the old scheme, which had clocks “fall back” on the last Sunday in October – that’s October 28, 2007. However, this year Congress changed the fall-back date to November 4, 2007. It’s incredible that my new BlackBerry 8700g – purchased in August – didn’t know about the DST change.

So, while I’m sitting here in New York (GMT-5), the only way to keep receiving network time sync signals, while displaying the correct time, was to manually adjust the time zone to Caracas (GMT-4). Presumably, next Sunday I’ll have to adjust it again back to Eastern Time. Stupid, stupid.

RIM posted a couple of BlackBerry DST fixes for Internet-only users like me, who don’t use a BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The first recommendation is to manually move the time forward and back during this period.

That might be the most compelling reason to drop DST – because there are more and more servers, desktops and embedded devices that try to encapsulate and comprehend DST, and who need to understand DST in order to process data in logs, check to see which file has been updated more recently, and so-on. Even having a good time standard isn’t enough, not when you’re not sure exactly what a time-stamp means.

Keeping all those algorithms up to date, when they can be changed arbitrarily by governments, is an impossible task. It’s becoming more impossible all the time. Let’s simply be done with it.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick
3 replies
  1. quark
    quark says:

    I just want to say that I completely agree with you. DST is an archaic and completely senseless thing to be having in the 21st century. According to Wikipedia, the whole idea of DST started in 1906 and gained widespread use in 1916 as a wartime measure to conserve coal!

    Adding daylight to afternoon (which is what DST is supposed to accomplish) generally benefits retailing, sports and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours, but unlike what I have believed until reading about DST on Wikipedia, it actually causes problems for agriculture instead of helping.

    DST in our now almost completely connected world is just insane. I wonder what will be required to get rid of it alltogether.

  2. David
    David says:

    I agree DST can be a pain to work with in technology but the idea of getting rid of DST for this reason just seems silly to me. We should be improving the technology to better support our lifestyles not the other way around.

    I guess it depends perhaps a little where you live and what activities you do but in Australia most people love DST. I enjoy DST since it means that there is enough sunlight for me to go surfing after work. As well as have beach bbq’s and other great activities.

  3. Nocturnal
    Nocturnal says:

    Assuming (and this is a big assumption) that DST has benefits that are quantifiable then what that means is that the time zones are wrong. I don’t really care if I live at -5 or -4 or whatever. What I care about is that my timezone doesn’t change twice a year. If the ‘old’ timezones are wrong, fix them! I personally prefer non-DST because this makes it dark earlier and that benefits my astronomy hobby (note my username). Silly reason, I agree. Just as silly as wishing it to be light longer. Wouldn’t you want more light in the morning? It’s all arbitrary.

    Of course the time at which the sun sets and rises depends not just on your time zone but also on your position on Earth. So if you really want more or less daylight you could move closer to either timezone barrier 🙂

    I agree that lacking technology is in general no reason to change our ways. But it can in some cases help to highlight the folly and implications of decisions being made by generally ill-informed people. When you change the date of DST, equipment fails. International airplane schedules need to be redone. People are going to be late/early for appointments. If you’re going to make such changes the (difficult to calculate) cost should be subtracted from the (difficult to calculate) benefit.

    How many people get hurt each year because they are groggy for several days driving to work after DST changes? There are probably statistics about that.

    In summary, if DST is so great, let’s have DST year around! But let’s get rid of it already. Especially in this time of flexible hours it’s pointless to change the time to affect behavior.


Comments are closed.