Archive for October, 2009

Death to Daylight Saving Time

Friday, October 30th, 2009

It’s that time of year again – time to walk from room to room and change all our clocks. For some of us, this nonsensical ritual involves staring blankly at the coffee maker while we try to remember how to set its time. On the way to work some of us will try to remember how to set the clock in the car and fiddle with it at stoplights. At work we may find the clock in the meeting room is an hour off. It may stay that way for the next month.

Daylight Saving Time (DST) may have made sense when we were an agrarian society but today it costs us a fortune in added complexity of modern electronic devices. I worked for several years making TV settop boxes. There were two components to the design and implementation of the settops that required significant work yet provided no particular feature or benefit to the consumer. One was the handling of Daylight Saving Time (DST) issues in the program guide and the other was content protection. Not much can be done to minimize the added cost, time, and complexity of content protection so long as the content owners insist on getting paid. However the wasted time and lost productivity caused by designing around DST produced no economic benefit for anyone. It was just headaches, pain, and expensive labor.

Over the last few years the period for which DST is in effect changed from the more traditional dates. This forced software updates to millions of computers and those software updates had to be implemented and tested. This cost money and diverted resources from far more meaningful tasks. In addition, the incomplete distribution of these updates caused confusion and consternation.

The pros and cons of Daylight Saving Time:

On the bad side

· Added expense developing all products and equipment that understand time

· Added delays testing and delivering these products

· Problems with automatic backups when time goes backward

· Problems with automatic anything when time goes backward

· Danger to children waiting in dark mornings at bus stops

· The DST induced longer days are a major contributor to global warming

· DST causes cancer, acne, and flatulence

On the good side

· It provides a twice a year reminder to check the batteries in your smoke detectors

· It, ummmmm…

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I can visualize a better world when the burden of DST no longer exists. Join with me in this vision and work toward the elimination of this costly, archaic blight on the design and implementation of electronic devices. With any luck, next spring we can split the difference between Daylight Saving Time and Standard Time. We can spring forward one HALF hour and never again have to spring forward, fall back, or worry about what the software does when time suddenly jumps an hour backward.