Remember Y2K? Oh, boy, I do, especially as I had to spend part of New Year's Eve in a data center on 1 January 2000.
Apparently, some of the fixes people made to their software back then solved the problem...for a time:
A Register reader, having sold a vehicle, filled out the requisite paperwork and sent it off to the agency, which is responsible for maintaining a database of drivers and vehicles in Blighty. An acknowledgement was received, which helpfully noted that it been printed in 1920.
Sadly, we doubt Doc Brown was involved in this one. A spokesperson for the agency told us that "it looked like a blip when printing the date on the letter", although we're mindful of the quick and dirty solution to the Y2K problem a large number of engineers opted for back in the day.
Rather than rewriting code to handle a four-digit year, many opted for a windowing approach, where systems would treat the 20 years from 00 to 19 as being from the 2000s.
New York parking meters stopped accepting card payments as the year turned, and some Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) sold by Trimble (formerly PeopleNet) threw a wobbly as 2020 arrived and a disconnect between GPS and server clocks left gear in a continuous reboot cycle.
In the case of the latter, it meant some US truck drivers were forced to switch to paper-based methods for logging until borked units could be dealt with.
A windowing approach also caused problems for a hardware manufacturer back in 2016...and will again in 2032, apparently...which will give them plenty to do before the 2038 problem ends civilization.
Every part of the world has now entered the '20s. There is a "UTC-12" time zone for ships at sea traveling between 172°30'W and the International Date Line (180°E/W), which as you might imagine is 12 hours behind UTC. So at noon UTC on January 1st, it's midnight UTC-12, and the whole world has the new year on their calendars.
The last inhabited places to get here were the Hawai'ian Islands two hours ago.
Specifically, it's 2020 in the UTC+14 zone occupied by Kiribati and Kiritimati, the latter being somewhat to the east of Hawai'i (UTC-10). So begins the 24-hour period where some part of the world goes from 2019 to 2020 every hour (or, in the case of India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Newfoundland, and a couple of other places, at the half- or quarter-hour).
So welcome to the '20s, Kiribati.
Apparently the morning people haven't let up in their assault on us night people:
[S]o far, legislation to go on year-round daylight saving time has passed in at least seven states, including Delaware, Maine and Tennessee this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oregon was the most recent, approving year-round daylight saving on June 17.
“After the 2018 time change, I don’t know what happened, but people got grouchy,” Oregon state Rep. Bill Post, a Republican who sponsored the bill, toldthe Oregon Public Broadcasting network.
The grouchiness is not just in Oregon. A month earlier, Washington legislators adopted year-round daylight saving time. California voters have approved the same, and sometime as early as next month, the California state Senate is expected to review the matter, according to state Assemblyman Kansen Chu, a Democrat and the bill’s author.
OK, let's review: clock time is completely arbitrary. It has no relation to the iron-clad astronomical motion that determines when the sun comes up and when it sets.
I think the permanent DST idea attacks the problem from the wrong side. Maybe the problem is that so much of our life requires people to get up and go to sleep when their bodies don't want to. Changing wall-clock time twice a year just shuffles the furniture.
But, hey, let's apply our energy to this anyway. It's easier than fixing real problems.
NPR and other outlets reported earlier this week that the far-north Norwegian island of Sommaroy planned to abolish timekeeping:
If the 350 residents of Sommaroy get their way, the clocks will stop ticking and the alarms will cease their noise. A campaign to do away with timekeeping on the island has gained momentum as Norway's parliament considers the island's petition.
Kjell Ove Hveding spearheaded the No Time campaign and presented his petition to a member of parliament on June 13. During the endless summer days, islanders meet up at all hours and the conventions of time are meaningless, Hveding says.
Only, a subsequent press release admitted the whole thing was a marketing campaign:
NRK.no revealed today that the initiative to make Sommarøy a time-free zone was in fact a carefully planned marketing campaign, hatched by the government-owned Innovation Norway.
The story has been covered in more than 1650 articles in 1479 different media, including CNN, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Independent, Time, El País, La Repubblica, Vanity Fair and Der Spiegel, potentially reaching 1.2 billion people. The value of the coverage is estimated to 11.4 million USD - a pretty good return on investment for Innovation Norway, which spent less than 60,000 USD on the campaign.
Paul Koning, one of the moderators of the IANA Time Zone group--the group that maintains the Time Zone Database used in millions of computers, phones, and applications worldwide, including The Daily Parker--was not pleased:
That's very disturbing. It's problematic enough that not all governments give timely notice about time zone rule changes.
But if in addition we have to deal with government agencies supplying deliberately false information, the TZ work becomes that much more difficult.
Difficult indeed. The group has to deal with dictators changing time zones with almost no notice, political groups attacking the spellings of time zone identifiers, and all sorts of hassles. For a government agency to do this on purpose is not cool.
A large number of articles bubbled up in my inbox (and RSS feeds) this morning. Some were just open tabs from the weekend. From the Post:
In other news:
And now, to work, perchance to write...
The day after a 3-day, 3-flight weekend doesn't usually make it into the top-10 productive days of my life. Like today for instance.
So here are some things I'm too lazy to write more about today:
Now, to write tomorrow's A-to-Z entry...
The European Union Parliament today voted 410-192 to allow member states to end Daylight Saving Time in 2021:
The vote is not the last word on the issue but will form the basis of discussions with EU countries to produce a final law.
The countries have yet to take a stance.
A parliament report in favour of operating on a single time throughout the year said scientific studies link time changes to diseases of the cardiovascular or immune systems because they interrupt biological cycles, and that there were no longer any energy savings.
What this actually means requires one more EU-wide step:
All 28 member states would need to inform the European Commission of their choice ahead of the proposed switch, by April 2020. They would then coordinate with the bloc's executive so that their decisions do not disrupt the functioning of the single market.
Last year, the European Commission proposed abolishing the seasonal clock change after an EU-wide online poll showed overwhelming support. It has been accused, however, of rushing through the vote ahead of European Parliament elections in May.
Countries that wanted to be permanently on summertime would adjust their clocks for the final time on the last Sunday in March 2021. Those that opt for permanent wintertime would change their clocks for the final time on the last Sunday of October 2021.
The British government has yet to offer any formal opinion on the proposal, which risks creating fresh problems over the status of Northern Ireland after Brexit.
I think we can predict, just by looking at longitude, which countries will go which direction. The UK has made noises that it will keep the twice-yearly time changes, thank you very much. My guess is that Portugal, Spain, the Baltics, and other countries at the western ends of their time zones will opt for standard time, while other countries will go to summer time. That would prevent the problems I outlined when this measure first came into the news a few weeks ago.
The EU could vote this month to end Daylight Saving Time in 2021, but it turns out popular support for the measure may have been...überwiegend Deutsch:
Time is up for European Union-mandated daylight savings time. The European Commission and European Parliament have agreed on that. All the relevant committees in Parliament are for the change, according to Germany's conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) MEP Peter Liese, who has devoted a lot of time to the issue.
Now that the lead committee on transport and tourism has given its blessing, by a large majority, EU lawmakers could vote on the change by the end of March. After that, all 28 member states will need to rubberstamp the ruling.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's brash statement back in September, asserting that the amendment would go ahead quickly, has proven to be premature. At the time, Juncker was referring to an overwhelming response to an EU online survey, where an unexpected 80 percent of respondents said the practice of changing the clock twice a year was outdated.
But the survey was not representative, with 3 million of the 4.6 million votes coming from Germany. This led to diplomats from smaller EU countries complaining behind closed doors that the European Commission wanted to impose German will on the other states through sheer populism.
That's great, but some member states want to keep daylight saving time. Won't that be fun.
Oh, I love these stories. On today's Daily WTF, editor Remy Porter describes the world I grew up in, where dates were dates and 30 December 1899 ruled them all:
If you wanted to set a landmark, you could pick any date, but a nice round number seems reasonable. Let's say, for example, January 1st, 1900. From there, it's easy to just add and subtract numbers of days to produce new dates. Oh, but you do have to think about leap years. Leap years are more complicated- a year is a leap year if it's divisible by four, but not if it's divisible by 100, unless it's also divisible by 400. That's a lot of math to do if you're trying to fit a thousand rows in a spreadsheet on a computer with less horsepower than your average 2019 thermostat.
So you cheat. Checking if a number is divisible by four doesn't require a modulus operation—you can check that with a bitmask, which is super fast. Unfortunately, it means your code is wrong, because you think 1900 is a leap year. Now all your dates after February 28th are off-by-one. Then again, you're the one counting. Speaking of being the one counting, while arrays might start at zero, normal humans start counting at one, so January 1st should be 1, which makes December 31st, 1899 your "zero" date.
Our macro language is off-by-one for the first few months of 1900, but that discrepancy is acceptable, and no one at Microsoft, including Bill Gates who signed off on it, cares.
The Basic-derived macro language is successful enough inside of Excel that it grows up to be Visual Basic. It is "the" Microsoft language, and when they start extending it with features like COM for handling library linking and cross-process communication, it lays the model. Which means when they're figuring out how to do dates in COM… they use the Visual Basic date model. And COM was the whole banana, as far as Windows was concerned- everything on Windows touched COM or its successors in some fashion. It wasn't until .NET that the rule of December 30th, 1899 was finally broken, but it still crops up in Office products and SQL Server from time to time.
The .NET epoch began 1 January 2000. Except for DateTimeOffset values, whose epoch began on the non-existent date 1 January 0. Or DateTime values (now deprecated) which start at the beginning of the Gregorian calendar in 1753. (Same with SQL Server datetime types.)
The bottom line: dates are hard.