Friday, November 02, 2007

seizing the daylight, cussing the Congress

Daylight saving time ends Sunday, even if your clock sprung ahead - MarketWatch -- Here's the story I could have used last week, when for a brief moment I became unstuck in time, and confusion reigned in the electronic cottage, thanks to two old Dells and two newer IBMs. Since the days when I delivered the PD (back then, it was a classy, conservative, less proletarian alternative to the Cleveland PRESS and the Cleveland NEWS, and I was its proud and relatively wealthy carrier who earned twice what my PRESS peers did), I've always thought it would be better for people to adjust themselves to the sunlight than it is for the country to adjust its clocks backward and forward, springing forward and falling back. Here's the official lowdown:

Daylight saving time is set to end Sunday at 2 a.m., a week later than usual, as new federal rules that shorten the period for standard time take full effect.

For most folks, that means setting the clocks back an hour. But there are those who may already have sprung ahead of the official time change, as some alarm clocks across the country jumped the gun last weekend, automatically setting back to standard time a week ahead of schedule. Computer operating systems that hadn't been updated did the same.

The problem: Their internal calendars weren't adjusted for the new rules.

Congress changed the daylight savings law in 2005, but didn't put it into effect immediately so potential software problems could be worked out, said David Prerau, author of "Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time." Prerau also was a consultant to Congress on the law extending daylight saving time.

After the law passed, manufacturers began programming the new dates into electronics.

But for those who own electronics with internal clocks that predate 2005 -- and have no way to change the daylight saving time settings -- the changing of the clocks could be a biannual annoyance, Prerau said. Those people might have to disable the feature altogether.

"It is annoying for people who have equipment that can't be changed," he said. "I'm hoping that anything new has new dates but (also) a relatively easy way to change the dates," just in case the daylight saving time rules change again in the future, he said.

Affected electronics

That said, most products will likely be unaffected by the schedule change, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. That's because most time-dependent products such as cell phones and computers get their time and date from a network.

It's devices that aren't connected to a wired or wireless network -- including many wrist watches, alarm clocks and VCRs -- that need extra attention. These often are the devices that need to be reset after a power outage, said Jenny Pareti, spokeswoman for the group.

"Anything that isn't connected to a network or a broadcast source will need to be manually reset," she said. If the product was made before August 2005 and it uses an internal calendar, owners should disable the daylight saving time feature and/or change the time manually, according to the group.

Older computer operating systems may also be affected, but there are often easy fixes that can be made to update them, she said. Microsoft, for example, has a page devoted to helping consumers get the correct updates.

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