Clocks play April Fools' joke

Some folks got a startle when it suddenly looked like they were running an hour late on Sunday. Blame daylight saving time.
Written by Joris Evers, Contributor
Were you fooled by your clock on Sunday? If so, you weren't alone.

Looks like not all electronic timekeepers knew that this year's daylight saving time started three weeks earlier than the first Sunday in April, when DST usually kicks off. Across the country, people woke up an hour early or thought they were running an hour late when glancing at a clock that had jumped ahead on the wrong day.

"The clock in my car was an hour off on Sunday," said John Sherwood, director of software engineering at CNET Networks, publisher of News.com. "I was thinking, 'I know getting out of the door with two little kids is hard, but this is getting ridiculous!'"

In Sherwood's case, the culprit was the clock in his 2006 Acura MDX. Patrons of a 24 Hour Fitness facility in Hermosa Beach, Calif., were thrown off by a pair of digital clocks that displayed the incorrect time. In other cases, people got tricked by VCRs and alarm clocks that also jumped ahead three weeks late.

Congress decided in 2005 to extend the period of daylight saving time by three weeks in spring and one in the fall, reasoning that providing more daylight in the early evening would reduce energy use.

But changing the daylight saving schedule has proved to be more involved than simply changing the clock on a different day. The shift has caused trouble with software set to self-adjust on the wrong day.

In the run-up to March 11, the day daylight saving time started, technology companies urged people to patch computers, smart phones and other products with clocks set to self-adjust on the wrong day. Many IT pros were struggling to apply all updates in time.

The move obviously affected calendaring applications, but also could have an impact on time-sensitive applications such as those that process sales orders or keep track of time cards. Analyst firm Gartner predicted problems including incorrect arrival and departure times in the travel industry, errors in bank transactions and cell phone billing software.

But like on April 1, no major disruptions were reported on March 12, the day after daylight saving time started, though some people were experiencing technology glitches. The bulk of the problems arose for people who had not updated their computers or had decided to postpone patching to the last minute, according to Microsoft.

If you were fooled by a clock on Sunday, make sure it gets updated, otherwise you're in for more fun on October 28, when daylight saving time was originally set to end, which now won't be until November 4.

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