Time change could cause headaches with gadgets

March 09, 2007|By MIKE HIMOWITZ

The nation's early switchover to daylight-saving time Sunday is likely to interrupt more than your circadian rhythms. It could make life tougher for computers, smart alarm clocks, personal data assistants and other gadgets that automatically switch over to daylight-saving time. And that could make life tough for you.

The reason: Many devices manufactured before last year are programmed to expect that daylight-saving will begin the first Sunday in April, as it did for 20 years. They have no way of knowing that Congress changed the law to extend daylight-saving time by a month, starting this year.

So humans have to find some way to tell these gadgets to start DST three weeks earlier and end it a week later than they did before. Or they can turn off automatic DST detection and adjust the time manually.

Many corporate information technology departments have been working overtime to solve this problem. But if you use Microsoft Outlook or similar programs for departmental scheduling and personal appointments, make sure you check all times and dates carefully for the next three weeks.

If you depend on yourself for tech support, be sure to set your regular clocks and watches ahead when you go to bed Saturday night or when you wake up Sunday morning.

To be perfectly clear, that means setting the time an hour forward. If you go to bed at 11:30 p.m. tomorrow, set the clock to 12:30 a.m. And check each dial Sunday morning to make sure that automatic software you weren't aware of hasn't repeated the job.

Likewise, when April 1 rolls around, check your clocks and other gadgets to make sure that old daylight-saving time software hasn't kicked in and reset the time an hour ahead for the second time this year.

Most cell phones should update themselves without your help because they synchronize with the carrier's system clocks when they're turned on. But check Sunday to make sure your phone shows the right time - particularly if you use it for alarms or reminders of appointments.

Computers pose a different set of problems. If you have a new PC running Microsoft Windows Vista, there's no reason to worry. You're also likely to be OK if you regularly update Windows XP or your Mac operating system online. DST patches are part of the regular update packages for those systems.

For older PCs running Windows ME, Windows 98 or earlier versions of the operating system, Microsoft has no patches. You can turn off automatic daylight-saving adjustment by accessing the clock from the Windows Control Panel, clicking on the Time Zone tab, and removing the check mark from the box that forces automatic DST updates.

You also can download a program that allows you to adjust the start and end of daylight-saving time on any version of Windows.

For detailed help with this and other daylight-saving time problems, you'll find a set of links for computers, PDAs and other devices at baltimoresun.com/daylightsaving.

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