Daylight Savings: Y2K All Over Again?

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

In 2005, as the price of gasoline spiked, Congress quietly passed a measure to begin daylight-saving time three weeks early this year. If the sun stays up later, went the logic, U.S. energy consumption would go down.

The problem is that while they told us all of the switch, they didn't tell our computers or our cell phones -- or any of the zillion other digital clock-driven devices that have come into our lives since Congress last messed with the calendar in 1986.

"Even little stones that are thrown in a pond have a lot of unintended ripples, and this is certainly one of them," said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., who has kept tabs on all the updates and software patches that companies are now making.

"Planes won't fall from the sky," he said, "but there are going to be a lot of little, minor annoyances that make people's days a little more hectic, a little more painful."

What Will Be Affected

Daylight-saving time would ordinarily have begun on the first Sunday in April. Instead, it'll begin this weekend.

If you're like most of us, you'll get up Sunday morning and reset the clock in the kitchen, and the one on the microwave, and the old clock in the living room, and so on and so forth.

But what about your computer? Or the clock in your cell phone? Or let's say there's a stock you're hoping to buy online just before the market closes Monday.

Here are some things of which computer specialists say you ought to be mindful:

Computers: If you have a new one, running, say, Windows Vista, Windows XP Service Pack 2, or Apple's OS X, you'll likely be fine. Newer machines either know that daylight-saving time has moved up, or software patches were sent out online.

If you have an older operating system, though, you'll have to change the computer's clock on your own, and you may have to un-change it when it thinks the clock is supposed to spring forward on April 1. No big deal, but there are tens of millions of older machines out there.

Electronic Calendars: Microsoft Outlook is just one of many programs people use to keep themselves on schedule. Stand forewarned: Even Microsoft says to get on the phone and check your appointments during the three weeks in March when we were supposed to be on standard time.

Cell Phones: You should be OK, but you should also pay attention, say tech consultants. Your cell phone typically receives time signals from your service provider, and the major ones have been updating their systems to avoid trouble.

But some consultants say you ought to check your bill when it comes at the end of the month. That long call you thought was finished before off-peak hours ended? It may not have been.

Handhelds: If you have a BlackBerry, a Palm or the like, many models will need an update. If you have one through your employer, they may well be taking care of it for you. If not, or if nobody's gotten in touch with you, go to the company Web site for instructions.

Online Trading and Banking: This is an area where everything could be fine, or things could get tricky. If you're making any time-sensitive transactions, double-check. Some systems could be an hour off.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...