What time is it?

By Shamus Posted Friday Mar 16, 2007

Filed under: Rants 32 comments

Daylight savings time is an absurd prank, and after 35 years I think I’ve had my fill of this. Steven recently said he wasn’t doing it. Admirable. I wish I could take that route. Right now my phone, my computer, and this server all disagree on what time it is. The server is an hour behind. My phone is an hour ahead. All three were in harmony until this goofy clock-changing business.

Here is the latest version of the Microsoft Timeserver.
Here is the latest version of the Microsoft Timeserver.
Making things worse is the fact that Microsoft’s “time” server is on drugs. I was on the phone with a friend in Boston, and both of us hit “synchronize” at about the same time. Except, the time it reported to me here in Pittsburgh was about three and a half minutes slower than the time it gave to my friend in Boston. What is the rationale for a service to keep your clock correct if it reports different times to various people in the same time zone? Even more odd is the fact that it takes the server almost 30 seconds to respond. 30 seconds!

My friend and I tried to imagine how the time server could be so useless. We eventually concluded that the time “server” must be some sad, middle-aged guy sitting in a windowless room with no clock somewhere in the bowels of the Microsoft offices. When someone queires the server, he gets a popup dialog asking the time. Then he has to run upstairs to the break room, look at the clock, and then run back and type it in. The accuracy of the system varies depending on whether or not he’s in the middle of a game of minesweeper.

Recently several people have linked to me or left comments that were directly or indirectly insulting or irritating, and instead of letting it roll off I’ve been tempted to respond with a salvo of excoriation. That’s no way to live. If you get mad every time you see someone being rude or idiotic on the net, you’ll spend your life in a state of perpetual Defcon 1 rage. At first I thought that perhaps the number of ankle-biting nitpickers had somehow multiplied, but then I realized I was just getting riled up more easily. I’ve been in a horrible mood and I’m taking things more personally than I should. Looking back, I can see I’ve been this way since the clocks changed.

Each evening I sit down to write one of the posts for the following day, and lately all I can come up with are rants. Not my usual semi-humorous rants, but bitter, angry rants that wouldn’t amuse anyone. Thankfully, so far I’ve had the wisdom and self-control to toss most of them. I’m glad I have a few DM of the Rings already written, because I don’t think I can make any funny in this condition. I’m thinking that “D&D is stupid, players are all idiots, DMs are all jerks, Peter Jackson is a hack, and I HATE THEM ALLLLLLLLL” isn’t really the right frame of mind for writing comics. It isn’t likely to lead to anything that will make people smile, at any rate.

I can’t blame the mood on DST for sure, but it seems a likely culprit. I’ve had some other problems this week that could also be the root of the problem, (trips to the hospital) but I’ve weathered much worse with a good deal more grace in the past. Whatever the reason for my foul temper, this week would have been a little less miserable if I wasn’t getting up an hour earlier every morning.



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32 thoughts on “What time is it?

  1. Scott says:

    Don’t sweat it, everyone has their off weeks!

  2. Matt says:

    I’m amused by bitter rants just as much as humourous ones :wink:

    My advice to lift your mood would be to take a day where you’re not really doing much and just waste it away – spend ages in bed, eat a bunch of cookies, ignore the internet for a while maybe (its full of depressing stuff as well as funny stuff)

    Possibly hard if your time is worth more than mine (my time is really really cheap) but getting plenty of sleep should at least put you back in sync with whatever time it supposedly now is

  3. MOM says:

    I don’t really know why the time sync didn’t work, but maybe the 3>5 min. are caused by the differences in longitude.

  4. Stark says:

    Well I certainly hope I’ve not been one of your irrtants with some politcal posts that occured earlier this week! If so I sincerely apologize.

    That said – I’m with you DST sucks. I enjoy the extra hour of light in the evening but not enough to make up for getting up that hour earlier. Add to that the fact that I support a little over 300 MS based PC’s and a gaggle of servers… well, I’ve been more than a little pissy this week too!

  5. Shamus says:

    “Well I certainly hope I've not been one of your irrtants”

    No. The ones that REALLY got on my nerves got nuked. I have a really old post that denegrates Bethesda for the sloppy job they did on Oblivion, and for whatever reason it’s like an ***hole beacon. Every couple of weeks some dolt drops a comment in that seven-month old post and tells me I’m dumb for owning an old graphics card. I don’t know why that post in particular draws so much poorly-articulated ire, but once in a while it causes me to have to kick some kids off my lawn. I have a couple of other old posts that have the same effect. This week it really got to me.

  6. Woerlan says:

    Sometimes I think it would be more helpful if everyone, schools, businesses and the like, just move their SCHEDULES one hour instead of the clocks. Less confusing, especially for time-sensitive electronics and programs.

  7. Retlor says:

    DST kills kittens. I don’t get the theory behind it, who the hell wants more daylight anyway?

  8. Julia says:

    I developed a migraine (the second of my life) Thursday of last week, and even after the pain and sound sensitivity abated, I’ve been really futzy, myself. I don’t know if the time change has aggravated it, but it wouldn’t surprise me. :P

    (I’ve been pissier than usual this week, as well…. At least I got to run around wishing people “Happy Pi Day!” on Wednesday.)

  9. Janni says:

    Move to Arizona or Hawaii. Where we really don’t do the DST thing. :-)

  10. SteveDJ says:

    Perhaps writing about something more light-hearted could raise your spirits? I heard about something today and immediately thought it might be a fit here on your site. I recall you had a post some time ago when you were activating more security/spam-filtering on your site (not sure where it is right now).

    Researchers at Microsoft have developed a new form of CAPTCHA — those things that you have to answer when making a post to prove you are a human. Instead of using distorted numbers/letters, they use pets!

    You can check out what they have done here: http://research.microsoft.com/asirra/ (I don’t know how to turn that into an active link).

  11. bbot says:

    Not that this helps you at all, but the shoreline school district delays the start of school until 10:00 the week after the time change.

  12. Thad says:

    Over here in NZ, we switch off DST tonight. Usually the only reason I know is because my computer tells me. (ALthough one of them has been setting back an hour for a while for no reason.) And they are talking about extending it next year to take advantage of the long summer nights (he says, looking out at the rain.)

    Just as long as you get to keep your stapler.

  13. Yunt says:

    DST irritates me in principle as much as in practice.

    In the city, people run by the clock. You change it an hour, or 6, and people change their lives accordingly. We spend most of our lives indoors, insulated from the sun, with our lights on because we live in dark, artificial caves.

    In the country, people run by the sun. They milk the cow every morning at whatever-o-clock because that’s when it needs to be milked. The spend their time outdoors tending crops and animals, etc.

    The only time it truly matters whether the sun and the clock agree is when you have to make a phone call from the country to the city or vice versa. I’d love to see the “savings” proven in terms of hard data, I can’t imagine it comes anywhere near the theoretical savings congress made this decision on.

    And incidentally, I use pool.ntp.org. I can’t necessarily speak to its *accuracy* but it never takes 30 seconds to respond and the precision is totally acceptable.

  14. Myxx says:

    Shamus, I couldn’t agree more. I’m the director of a tech consulting company in SoCal, and we support on the order of roughly 4300 Windows-based systems. Man, there hasn’t been mad scrambling like we saw near the end of last week since Y2K. We got to not only change times, but time zones, since Mexico decided not to adopt the new Pacific Daylight Time. And to think, we get to change it all again next year. How wonderful. I hope nobody is running Win2k by then, because I’m just going to ignore them all and let them suffer.

    But this week I’m just blown. No energy, no enthusiasm, nothing. While I’m not on the irritable side, I’m definitely in a funk that my family has noticed. I was preparing to blame it on 9/11 security measures, or even global warming, but I think the assumption that DST is the culprit is far more plausible. The timing is definitely right…

  15. Zerotime says:

    If you want to hear a really stupid daylight savings story…

    Western Australia, where I live, has fairly recently rushed in daylight savings over the summer, so instead of being GMT+8 for a few months, we’re now GMT+9. This isn’t so bad, because New South Wales and Victoria (on the east coast) have their DST as GMT+11, so we get to stay the usual two hours behind them all year.

    Queensland, which is just to the north of NSW, doesn’t do daylight savings at all, and so they’re only an hour in front of us, despite being on the other side of the country.

  16. Phlux says:

    So the question is: what about DST is it that makes us grumpy? I can attest to having been in a foul mood this week, and up until now I’d been quick to blame it on stress at work, which has been at a particular peak recently. I hadn’t ever really considered how daylight savings kind of alters my sleep cycle. It really is like you’re waking up an hour earlier.

    I am a little reluctant to believe that is a huge deal to my body, since the adjustment happened on a sunday and I slept in pretty late that day. Still, we’re often told how sleep cycle affects all kinds of things, so maybe it is.

    When travelling I generally don’t have difficulty adjusting to timezone shifts, and I travel east more often than west, so going from Central to Eastern timezones should be similar to DST. I’m not generally in a foul mood when I travel east, though. At least not that I can remember. Granted when this happens I’m usually on a vacation, so stress levels are lower.

    Here’s a good experiment if you live in central or mountain time: Take a family vacation (there’s some stress for you). One year take a trip to Disney World in Orlando (time moves up and hour or two) next year take a trip to disneyland in california (moving back an hour or two). Is there a difference in everyone’s mood? More fights? Less? This could (in a really really nonscientific kind of way) tell us two things:

    1) If there is a negative effect from losing an hour vs a positive gaining an hour.

    2) Which is actually the happiest place on earth: DisneyLAND or DisneyWORLD.

  17. Phlux says:

    Oh, and in my case, I think Microsoft was a contributing factor. If in 2005 they hadn’t been so busy delaying vista for another year+, and had released a patch for their operating system when the DST change was signed into law, instead of waiting till the last minute, it would have barely impacted anyone at all. Instead I had to spend the better part of a week patching and fixing calendars.

  18. Ryan says:

    Man I hear ya on the DST thing. I worked LONG nights and weekends of overtime building the user experience for the DST update guide for a large software company (that will remain nameless – in my post, at least).

    Not only did we have approximately 10 days to get the thing prepared and shipped, it was like hitting a moving target. There were many, many, many variables to overcome, so I’m impressed we were able to come up with what we did in that time. Actually, now that I think about it, hitting a moving target is a poor analogy. It was more like avoiding being hit by moving targets, sort of like this:


    So, yeah, I understand your frustrations with DST quite intimately.

  19. Cineris says:

    I am in absolutely the same boat. This whole week has been giving me a thrashing, especially in the sleep department (and elsewhere because of it) and I blame DST.

    I also find the Windows Time Server to be disturbingly inaccurate. I remember I used to synchronize with the Windows Time Server and found myself fifteen minutes behind every other clock I encountered. I usually do run my clocks a few minutes forward, but fifteen minutes…? That guy was clearly deeply engrossed in a game of minesweeper when I queried him.

  20. theonlymegumegu says:

    Heh, a friend of mine and I recently had a conversation about how stupid DST is. My viewpoint is that it’s essentially an outmoded policy that’s no longer needed and we only really continue to do it as tradition. It was funny, somehow that conversation seged over to how the US should adopt the metric system too (in fact, we’re one of *3* countries in the world that doesn’t! What the heck is wrong with us?) I think we were just in a “the US is bass-ackwards” mood at that point.

  21. Will says:

    Like Janni said, you could move here to Arizona. Considering we get 300+ sunny days a year, we don’t need to save one damn bit of daylight. Heck, if we could bottle, ship and sell it, they could do away with the state income tax. And it’s all top-quality stuff. The kind that can fry an egg on the sidewalk and still get your seatbelt buckle hot enough to give you a second degree burn.

  22. Dirk says:

    Microsoft continues to humiliate itself in this. In any Unix the time zone data files were updated long ago, making the change rather invisible. More important (since it’s globally applicable), you just use NTP to synchronize time for Unix machines. Here, I’ll do it manually now.

    [email protected] ~ $ time sudo ntpdate time.deakin.edu.au
    17 Mar 23:12:47 ntpdate[31685]: step time server offset -153.455540 sec

    real 0m0.745s
    user 0m0.000s
    sys 0m0.000s

    That’s .745s total real-time to elevate privileges and perform the entire NTP session. That’s a couple of process starts, with an authentication process and networking. The total CPU time wasn’t even 1ms, most of the time was idle network waiting. This is on a rather ordinary, year-old machine, with a humble internet connection.

    On Windows it mostly times out, that’s how slow and broken the whole process is. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the “time server” really was an old man. I’m not even sure he’s alive any more – I haven’t seen the time update system work for half a year, and have decided to stop caring. Having to adjust the time manually on occasion is pretty tolerable compared to some other Windows “genuine advantages”.

  23. Corwin says:

    “Which is actually the happiest place on earth: DisneyLAND or DisneyWORLD?”

    I demand a cage match to determine the result! Two theme parks enter, one theme park leaves. Thunderdome!

  24. Polk says:

    Oh, man, I thought it was Adventure Time.

  25. gruther4 says:

    Okay, I’m going to stick my nose in here in defense of DST. I live in Manitoba, Canada, and this week is the first time the the last 4 months or so where I’ve driven home from work while the sun is still up. This isn’t crazy overtime… this is 6:30 sunsets. Worse in December (4:30). You probably don’t need DST in Arizona, or the other southern states, but here the effects are more noticeable.

    DST isn’t just for farmers (although, growing up on a farm, I can empathize with that)… sunlight during the working day does two major things: it reduces the number of auto accidents (daylight is much safer for driving), and it saves energy because people don’t have their lights on as much.

    As a programmer, I’ve had to deal with all the horrible constructions that surround the concept of time, and I admit that they are frustrating. I believe that concepts like DST and time zones could be implemented in a way that would make everyone’s life easier. However, if for no other reason that a few lives saved from auto accidents, I think that the concept of DST has merit. When you are shifting your internal clock, or synchronizing hundreds of PCs, just imagine that you are doing your part to save a few lives.

  26. Jimmie says:

    I’ve been in one of those funks, too and have been doing a lot of thinking about why.

    I think that DST is part of it, but not all of it. A big part of it is seasonal. This is the time of the year when I generally hit my lowest-point when it comes to energy and creativity. They say that February is the cruelest month, but it’s a piker compared to the beginning of March. The weather is still cold and dreary most of the time, but once in a while you get a peek of the spring weather you’ve been anticipating for two months. Baseball – the true harbinger of spring – is revving up spring training and you just know that soon, very soon, winter will be done. But not for another couple of weeks because that’s the way March is.

    Now toss on top of that this early DST switch and you jam two problem righ in on top of each other.

  27. Yahzi says:

    It’s not DST – it’s Microsoft. Constantly being reminded that incompetent fools broke your computer and got paid a hundred billion dollars for it, while you have to actually make your products work just to earn chump change, is enough to piss off any programmer.

    Of course, I live in Arizona. We don’t have DST – we have enough daylight, we don’t need to save any. So maybe I don’t know what I am talking about.

    Na… it’s Microsoft.


  28. milieu says:

    I absolutely despise DST, and so does my wife. Every year, it hits, and for a month afterwards, my sleep schedule is screwed up, and I’m surly and homicidal.

    The latest justification for changing it (energy savings) is crap. If it’s lighter when people get home, then it will be darker when they left that morning. Ergo, whatever lights they delay turning on in the evening were probably on that morning.

    The only study by the DOE in the US is over 30 years old, and used very questionable methods. A more recent study by grad students looked at energy usage before and after the DST shift in two Australian states, one with and one without DST. There was no energy savings, and, in fact, a slight increase in the one with DST.

    The only reason for DST is that retailers like it because they have studies showing people are more likely to go out and buy things when it’s light out.

    Argh. Hate hate hate. Thanks for letting me use your blog for my little rant, though. ;)

  29. Deoxy says:

    DST is a net LOSS of lives and energy. There are more wrecks with the switchover each spring, and the energy “savings” (as was just pointed out) is really just using it at a different time of day.

    OK, here are the “defenses”:

    1. Saves energy: summary above (not even close).
    2. Saves lives: ditto.
    3. “I like it” – OK, so GET UP EARLIER ALL BY YOURSELF. Leave the rest of us alone.
    4. It’s better for society for some reason that can’t be quantified: OK, then adjust once and NEVER ADJUST BACK.

    DST is at least in the top 10 of stupid things ever done by any government anywhere, and that’s saying a WHOLE WHOLE lot.

  30. gruther4 said: I live in Manitoba, Canada, and this week is the first time the the last 4 months or so where I've driven home from work while the sun is still up.

    I would much rather wake up in sunlight than drive home in sunlight if I had to make a choice. Sun in the morning is also likely to prevent more accidents than sun in the evening… by evening you’ve had all day to wake up and caffeinate. :P

  31. HeroOfHyla says:

    I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with daylight savings time because I’m in Arizona. However, I’m still affected by it because I like to check webcomics right when they update. I have to wait another hour to check during part of the year. Quite irritating.

  32. Sambucus Nigra says:

    You know, DST is a crucial thing for people who are night owls instead of morning birds. When we can, we burn the midnight oil and go to sleep at 5 or 6 A.M. to wake up a bit past noon. Because this is the way we are. We like peace and quiet of the night.
    Sometimes it even influences our job choice.
    To us, this additional hour of sunlight is a vital bonus to the basic long term sanity.
    Where I live, during the winter time period it’s pitch black at 4 A.M. for over half of the winter. Northern parts of Europe – or Canada – tend to be like that.

    What would IMNSHO amount to the best overall solution, humanity-wise, would be to stick to summer time and never change it back again. To give everyone an additional hour of light after work, when one tries to shake off the stress and come to terms with being at home again and this home’s demands. To give him that slightly bigger chance to treat himself and the rest of the world as human beings.

    Because otherwise, it leads to more stress, more winter depression, shorter play time for children after school and pathological policies of not going out and not letting children go outside at 5 P.M., because it’s dark and what do they think?

    Yes, half of the people you meet in the streets are like that or would be when placed in that situation. Do not overestimate them. As a species, we are most of the time useless at logical thinking.

    And this all always makes me sad.

    Sorry for the posting necromancy, Shamus…

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