Archive for Saturday, March 10, 2007

Time change may wreak havoc on some companies

March 10, 2007

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KEEPing personal devices on track

Individuals aren't immune to problems caused by the earlier start of daylight-saving time. Evaluate your devices and software and download the updates now.

¢ What's affected: Home computers and mobile devices such as BlackBerries.

¢ What to do: If you use Windows Vista and Office 2007 programs or the latest version of Mac OS X, you should be OK. Otherwise, visit www.microsoft.com and click on the daylight-saving time updates to see if your PC needs updating. Find Mac updates at www.apple.com/ support/downloads.

If you use a BlackBerry, Palm or other personal digital assistant, look for downloads on the manufacturers' Web sites. Also check for updates at the Web sites of companies whose software, printers and routers you use.

¢ Staying on track: If you rely on electronic calendars, check meetings to make sure they are properly adjusted for the time change. Until April, it's also a good idea to note the time in the field for the appointment name - for example, "Dentist, 11 a.m." - to avoid mistakes.

Sources: Microsoft, Circuit City, Sytec

— Daylight-saving time is causing some unexpected headaches for businesses and workers.

The annual switch to capture an extra hour of light always causes confusion, but daylight-saving arrives at 2 a.m. Sunday - three weeks early this year because of a new federal law.

The change is causing problems, particularly for corporate information technology departments, which must update software that is set to automatically turn the clock in April, not March.

"To have such a dramatic change in something that's so fundamental has sent a lot of things off for a loop," said systems engineer Jeff Dixon at SyTec, a Raleigh information technology consulting and services company.

Potential problems, including missed meetings and mis-timed stock trades, are more inconvenient than mission-critical. Still, Dixon and others say the fixes have been anything but easy.

Adjusting software programs to comply with the new dates set out in a 2005 law has been "very painful" for businesses, said Matt Cain, a vice president at research firm Gartner. "I think there's been a lot of frustration."

Unlike the copious preparation many companies made for Y2K, software and hardware vendors and customers have been complacent about the daylight-saving time switch, he said.

What's more, some vendors released multiple versions of the program changes, called patches, forcing information technology staffs to update and re-update their systems.

Employees are most likely to notice problems with calendar programs such as Microsoft Outlook.

Fixing the corporate version of Outlook takes four software update patches applied in a specific order and a fifth program to correct appointment times that might have been incorrectly bumped to an hour earlier, Cain said.

Even then, employees need to double-check their appointments, particularly if they were set up while the updates were happening.

"It's unclear whose meetings have to move and whose don't, because some are correct and some aren't," said Kevin Angley, information technology manager for SAS in Cary, N.C. "It's a nightmare."

Businesses also have had to update the areas where their technology affects consumers.

Time Warner Cable has updated the software in its cable boxes and digital video recorders to ensure accurate recording.

Progress Energy employees are reprogramming 56,000 meters that keep track of the times when customers use energy and bill them accordingly.

In many cases, customers are at the mercy of their service providers as they hope that their daily lives continue to run smoothly Monday and over the next few weeks.

But consumers need to take a look at their own devices. Personal computers and mobile devices such as BlackBerries also need patches to work correctly; manual updates will provide only a temporary fix.

Microsoft, Palm, BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion and other vendors have posted downloads on their Web sites.

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