Businesses report few snags with time change

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

America's computer-dependent society survived the early switch to daylight-saving time Sunday thanks to adjustments by computer technicians and installation of software patches that correctly rolled back virtual clocks on computer monitors.

Computers didn't crash. The bug, caused when Congress changed the schedule for daylight saving, proved to be little more than a minor headache to businesses.

Among problems that were reported: Some customer-service call centers struggled to open at the proper hour, and calendar software displayed incorrect meeting times, prompting some confusion for businessmen.

Southeast Missouri State University and Cape Girardeau's two hospitals fixed their computers with software patches before the time change.

To get its 3,700 computers through the time change, the university installed software patches on its network through an automated system. "We only had one machine that wasn't updated all the way," said John Weber, assistant vice president of information technology. He said the university subscribes to a computer service that provides patches for computer viruses and other problems.

Southeast Missouri Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center also adjusted their computer programs in advance of the time change.

"We had no problems," said Jay McQuire, director of information systems at Southeast Missouri Hospital.

At Saint Francis Medical Center, technicians fixed most of the 1,200 computers to make the proper time change. "Not all the computers were able to receive the update from Microsoft," said Andrew Welker of the medical center's information systems staff. "We went around to computers one at a time. We patched as many as we could beforehand."

Only 40 of the medical center's computers didn't change to the proper time.

Welker said staff spent part of Monday fixing the time stamp on computers that failed to adjust to daylight-saving time.

But the time issue had no impact on medical services or the operation of computer-controlled equipment, said Dan Williams, clinical information systems administrator.

TiVo Inc. warned subscribers last week that their digital video recorders might display the wrong time for three weeks and that some scheduled recordings might need to be altered. At least some TiVos ended up showing the wrong time Saturday in advance of the switch, but the devices made the time corrections as of Sunday.

Computer 21 in Cape Girar-deau offered free patches to adjust computer clocks. But few people took advantage of the offer, said Ryan Allstun of the Computer 21 staff.

Microsoft provided an automatic update to computers that solved the problem for many of its customers. Even for those people whose computers didn't adjust automatically to the time change, the problem was relatively minor, Allstun said. It primarily affected schedules and calendars, he said.

"I don't believe it is a huge deal," he said. "For basic home users, it probably is not even noticeable."

The time switch traditionally has occurred in April. The earlier start stems from a 2005 federal law that sought to save energy by shifting more natural light to the evening hours.

Computers and other devices without patches programmed before the 2005 law will keep standard time until April 1, unless manually changed. If time is changed manually, users may need to adjust it again April 1 when daylight saving would traditionally begin.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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