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McGill Reporter
March 1, 2007 - Volume 39 Number 12
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Springing forward to a tech fall?

With daylight saving time coming three weeks earlier than normal this year, should we expect problems with our computers similar to the Y2K scare of 2000?

— Daniel Chonchol
Editor
DAUR Electronic Communication

Martin Robillard, a professor at the School of Computer Science, responds.

Illustration of a student missing a quiz because of time change
Jack Ruttan

The recently adopted Energy Policy Act changes the beginning and end dates of daylight saving time in the United States. For practical reasons, Canada has followed suit. Starting this year, we will be springing forward on the second Sunday of March as opposed to the first Sunday of April.

This change can impact a large number of software systems that perform calculations based on the local time and that automatically spring forward and fall back to account for daylight saving time. As a result of the Act, many software systems now have the wrong information about when to spring forward and fall back.

Without intervention, computers using such systems will set the clock forward three weeks late this year.

Should we expect chaos? With the number and variety of computing devices in circulation these days, it's hard to predict all that can happen.

However, as opposed to the famed Y2K problem, the solution appears to be relatively straightforward. Software vendors have already started distributing updates that replace the part of their products that "knows" about the daylight saving dates.

If you want to check your computer, just turn the clock to March 11, 1:59 a.m.

Got a question? Email neale.mcdevitt@mcgill.ca.

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