It's almost exactly one month until Daylight Saving Time (DST) changes take effect in the U.S. and a growing number of other countries. The week of February 12, Microsoft will start pushing out to Windows users updates that they will need in order to keep their computer system clocks running on time.
It's not just Windows -- other than Windows Vista, which Microsoft already updated to be ready for early DST -- that needs updating. Exchange Server, Outlook, Dynamics CRM, SQL Server Notification Services, Windows SharePoint Services, Office Live Meeting and/or Microsoft Entourage all will be impacted by the early move to DST, according to Microsoft officials.
"This is is like a mini-Y2K (Year 2000)... with much less potential impact, but also much less time to prepare," said Jeff Centimano, a principal consultant with a Microsoft Gold partner and a Windows Server Most Valuable Professional (MVP). "All in all, I'm not losing any sleep over this one like I did with Y2K. The emergency food stuff in the basement is for bird flu... not DST chaos."
But some other IT pros don't seem as prepared as Centimano. On the "You Had Me at EHLO" Exchange blog, some Exchange users have been grumbling about how long it took Microsoft to release a tool that would update older versions of Outlook for the change.
One user reported that the Exchange DST Daylight Saving Time patch "killed one of our database servers." Several other users were unclear about when and whether Microsoft had made a promised Exchange Time Zone Update Tool available for download.
(It appears Microsoft made the Exchange Time Zone tool available for download on February 7.)
Microsoft is working to get the word out and dispel confusion, officials said.
"Unless certain updates are applied to your computer, it is possible that the time zone settings for your computer's system clock may be incorrect during this four week period" from March 11, the day DST takes effect this year, through April 11, the date it would have taken effect before the U.S. government decided to make the move to an earlier DST, Microsoft's DST support site explains.
(The change also affects time zone settings between October 28, 2007 to November 4, 2007, the dates when DST was set to end vs. when it will now actually end.)
"When your time zone settings are incorrect your clock may be off by one hour, and certain applications running on your Windows based computer may not display the correct time," Microsoft's support site continues.
To alleviate this problem, Microsoft is delivering free patches and tools -- quite a number of them --for updating its customers' software. The Windows patches will be pushed out via Windows Update and Automatic Update starting next week. The DST patches won't be part of the Patch Tuesday bundle, as they are not considered security updates, Microsoft officials said.
Update: A Microsoft spokesman clarified that while Microsoft will begin delivering the updates starting tomorrow (February 13) via Automatic Update (AU), "we already has patches out late last year and available on MU (Microsoft Update)and AU as a recommended update. They were also recently updated to include a bunch of late-breaking time zone changes."
Users and IT administrators will have to go and download other non-Windows patches and tools from Microsoft's Web site. (Office 2007 users, like Windows Vista users, don't need to apply the patches, as Microsoft was able to incorporate the timezone fix into its latest version of Office.)
Microsoft is advising users to apply the patches "from the root," said M3 Sweatt, chief of staff of Microsoft's customer and partner satisfaction team, which is part of the company's Core Operating System Division.
For IT administrators, that means first patch Windows Server versions running Exchange Server. Next, patch the client machines connecting to those servers. Then patch Exchange Server itself, followed by any mobile devices connecting to the network. Finally, patch any other calendaring applications that are part of the scenario.
or home and small-business users, Microsoft recommends they patch Windows and then apply the Outlook Time Zone Data Update tool, which Microsoft recently released for free download. The order is important here. As Microsoft notes on its support site:
"(I)t is preferable to run the Outlook Time Zone Update tool or its Exchange counterpart as soon as possible after the time that the Windows operating system time zone patches are applied to all machines. If meetings between March 11, 2007 and April 1, 2007 are scheduled after the operating system patches are applied but before the tool is run, they will erroneously be moved one hour earlier. To correct such calendar items, organizers should manually update such meetings to ensure they are scheduled accurately for themselves and all invitees."
Another precaution Exchange users and administrators might want to take is to "list the start time in the subject line (for calendar appointments) for the next few months," said MVP Centimano.
Microsoft has been working on patches and fixes for nearly a year. Last summer, the company decided to create a centralized Web site providing all of its DST guidance in one place, said Sweatt.
"Large numbers of usesrs are not having to go and read a Knowledge Base article," Sweatt said, "so we're trying to make things easier for them."
Accordingly, Microsoft is planning to step out its information-dissemination campaign via blogs, Webcasts and e-mail letters over the next three to four weeks to get users onboard.
Microsoft is hardly the only vendor affected by the DST changes, Sweatt said.
"We don't know everything that will be affected at the line-of-business and third-party application level," he said. Microsoft's own applications are looking good, in terms of not needing DST patches. None of the Windows Live or Xbox Live services needs fixing, either, Sweatt said.
"Most people I know are still in testing with all this stuff," said Centimano. "I's very last-minute. But blame the government for that, not the software vendors."