Microsoft preps customers early in hopes of avoiding DST fallout

Microsoft preps customers early in hopes of avoiding DST fallout

Summary: November 4 is just around the corner. Now's the time to make sure any Microsoft products that store or use time are updated before Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the U.S. ends for the year, the Softies say.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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November 4 is just around the corner. Now's the time to make sure any Microsoft products that store or use time are updated before Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the U.S. ends for the year, the Softies say.

Hoping to head off the confusion and problems a number of customers experienced in the spring when DST kicked off three weeks earlier than usual, Microsoft is turning up its messaging around DST. On September 14, the company held a Webcast designed to educate customers about the pending fall DST changes.

"We got feedback that our (spring DST) information was too little, too late," acknowledged Rich Kaplan, vice president of supportability and customer and partner experience.

Following a request by Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, Microsoft set up an early warning system to head off product/customer support issues on a variety of fronts, including DST, he said. Microsoft's system is tracking news groups, call-volume analytics and feedback from a set of key partners to help the company get its ducks in a row, going forward, Kaplan said.

Microsoft officials attempted to hammer home a few key points during the Webcast:

  • DST isn't a U.S.-only issue. Various countries are on all kinds of schedules. Companies which have employees located outside the U.S. and/or who do business with those outside of the U.S. need to make sure their timing systems are in sync. Australia, New Zealand and Egypt recently changed their DST observances. Venezuela is likely next (and rumored to be making the move on September 17, according to Microsoft's latest info).
  • Lots of Microsoft (and non-Microsoft) products are affected by DST changes. There are the usual suspects -- Exchange Server, Outlook and Windows Mobile. But a number of other products need to be updated properly as well, including SharePoint Server, Windows client and server, SQL Server, Dynamics CRM, Visual Studio, custom line-of-business applications and more.
  • It wouldn't hurt customers who applied DST patches to their products and services this past spring to apply the latest DST patches again this fall. Microsoft has been adding and updating available DST patches throughout the summer. There's no harm done by repatching already properly patched systems, Microsoft officials said, and repatching just might catch any improperly or totally unpatched clients and servers. If repatching is a major pain, Microsoft advises customers to check out the diagram on its customer support site to determine the minimum number of patches it should apply before November 4.
  • Customers who paid Microsoft for DST patches for older unsupported products do not have to pay again for the fall round of patches.

It sounds like Microsoft is planning to issue time-zone/DST-related updates and patches on a regular basis year-round, going forward. Late 2007/early 2008 should be when Microsoft releases the next batch of DST updates, followed by a mid-2008 one, officials said during the Webcast Friday.

Any worries or questions you have regarding DST patching as the end of DST approaches?

Topic: Microsoft

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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12 comments
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  • Too little, too late.

    Microsoft systems can not be relied on. Manual updates are common for any client that uses this OS.
    nomorems
  • Quite amazing

    Why does this require a patch at all? Why isn't it a simple update of a timezone database? As pointed out in the article, jurisdictions change their timezone offset reasonably frequently. While the most common reason is for some form of daylight saving, it isn't the only one.

    A much better idea is to subscribe to an internet time service that updates a local database whenever changes are promulgated. It could use a standard protocol to advise of current offsets and planed changes that any application could request information from.

    I might even work the same way my system clock is updated now on a regular basis.

    MS (and Apple and Sun and whoever) should never have to issue another "DST patch" ever again (one should never have been needed in the first place).
    Fred Fredrickson
    • Updating a TZ database is a patch.

      A lot of patches aren't modifications to executable files, they're modifications to
      databases. Even where there is a database that needs to be updated, it'll still go out as
      a patch.
      Resuna
      • Patch the BOX, not every APPLICATION

        I mostly agree with what Fred said: that maintenance of a timezone database should be as ubiquitous as PC clocks automatically changing forward and back an hour in the spring and fall. Could even be an enhancement to NTP.

        Modern operating systems (unix, MacOS) use a central timezone database on a machine, and all applications use that ONE source of timezone data. Apparently Windows doesn't.

        Resuna's point is valid, but having to patch many databases is still suspect. Why are there so many databases in Windows which have timezone rules data?

        I suspect those Windows patches update both applications AND data (and sometimes that line is fuzzy). Having to patch it in SO MANY PLACES is the issue. Programmers have a word for that: brittle, meaning software that is "easily broken".

        LEARN MORE:

        For those unfamiliar, a "TZ database" stores the rules about when to change clocks forward and back. Unix and Mac machines use the "olson timezone database" -- Windows doesn't. More info here:

        http://www.twinsun.com/tz/tz-link.htm

        Timezones issues with computers actually get very complex. Further reading available here:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timezone

        Network Time Protocol - keeping computer clocks synchronized worldwide:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_Time_Protocol
        mikecepek
    • Congress to blame

      A better idea would be to tar and feather the idiots in congress who thought changing the days whe DLT went into and out of effect was a good idea.
      I've no doubt the cost of this useless change in both IT dollars and productivity have been huge. More than any perceived, and non-existent energy savings or boost to retail sales, or what ever excuse they've come up with this week.
      carlino
  • RE: Microsoft preps customers early in hopes of avoiding DST fallout

    Isn't there much more interesting news about Microsoft? Mary Jo, you're putting me to sleep.

    What about the "stealth" updates of Windows Updater? Why are you ignoring that issue? Or Microsoft's defeat in court (US court finds that the EU court's antitrust rulings are correct)?

    These are real issues. The rest are so boring that dust is beginning to settle all over this blog. Come on now, get with it!
    mannyamador
  • RE: Microsoft preps customers early in hopes of avoiding DST fallout

    Oops, let me correct myself. It was the Court of CFirst Instance that affirmed the findings of the Europe Competition Commission. My bad...

    But I wish Mary Jo would comment on those other issues. Lots of others already have.
    mannyamador
  • How about refunds?

    Nice that they're not charging victims a second time, but how about refunding the
    people who had to pay for a timezone update the first time?
    Resuna
    • Why should they have charged in the 1st place

      I am more shocked that Microsoft was allowed to charge for the DST updates in the first place. I fully beleave that they can get away with not offering ALL patches for free, but come on... something like this is just pure crap.

      We have three windows 2000 servers here at work, and damned if I was going to give M$ money for the DST patches. I did find a Site that has created there own patch, and it seems to work great.... and the best thing, IT'S FREE..

      Check it out here:
      http://www.intelliadmin.com/Daylight%20Saving%20Fix%20Download.asp
      Qlueless
  • RE: Microsoft preps customers early in hopes of avoiding DST fallout

    I think that I am glad I live in Saskatchewan -- We do not have daylight savings time here and so are immune to the problems and expense which it is spawning. :-)
    Nostredamus
  • Stock up the fallout shelter...

    'cause we're all going to die once again, when the world stops revolving because clocks are off by 60 minutes. ;-)
    IT_Guy_z
  • RE: Microsoft preps customers early in hopes of avoiding DST fallout

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