Daylight Savings Fallout

Its the time of year I've been dreading. Daylight savings in Western Australia starts today. In its wisdom, the state government decided to trial daylight savings from three years. Previously, daylight savings had been resoundingly rejected by the people in a referendum. But obviously, we don't know whats good for us so a little daylight savings therapy will help us make the right decision next time.

Last year daylight savings created all manner of problems for us. In order to manage an increasingly complex schedule with work and family commitments my co-pilot and I have been using iPAQ rx1950 PDAs to maintain appointments for work and home. By syncing with the same PC, its possible to keep the devices more-or-less up to date with each other.

With the introduction of daylight savings we had to put the clock forward one hour at the end of October. You would think that you could just adjust the PC clock by 1 hour. Unfortunately this does not work - it keeps resetting to the "correct" (not) time. OK, well maybe we can just change the timezone to GMT+9. Bzzzt! Wrong again. If you do this all of the appointments in the diary are now wrong by 1 hour. I guess they are stored in some absolute time format, rather than being in local time. Eventually, Microsoft released an operating system update to fix the clock under Windows. But no fix was available for PocketPC, so the calendar on the mobile devices were still out of sync by one hour. Depending on where an appointment was entered it may or may not have the correct time in the Outlook database. Eventually, we had no confidence in the appointment time and resorted to writing the time in the appointment description.

Thankfully, this year Microsoft has released a fix for the problem. Unfortunately, it seems to only partially work. Read on for a tale of woe, or skip forward to discover what I learned.

A Tale of Woe

There are a number of steps outlined. Firstly, you need to install "August 2007 cumulative time zone update for Microsoft Windows operating systems". But wait, no FIRSTLY you have to prove to Microsoft that you still have a valid Windows license by downloading and running a validation application. This is of course because Windows users cannot be trusted. After installing the time-zone update I got this:

"Update cannot be installed as a newer or same timezone update has already been installed on the system"

OK, well I didn't install it but perhaps it installed itself...

Next you need to run the "Outlook Time Zone Update Tool". After agreeing to the license agreement it churns away before saying this:

"Either there is no default mail client or the current mail client cannot fulfill the messaging request. Please run Microsoft Outlook and set it as the default mail client."

WTF? There is a default mail client. It happens to not be Outlook and there's no way I'm going to change it. And why does it need messaging to change the time zone? Although it complained that the "operation failed" while setting the time zone, it still seems correct. You can check it Outlook under "Tools -> Options -> Calendar Options -> Time Zone". It should say GMT+8 Perth with "Adjust for daylight saving time" checked.

Next you need to install ActiveSync 4.5. For me, this terminated with the same error above about the mail client. Still seems to work though... Of course, since I updated ActiveSync I now have to establish a new sync partnership because the old one was obviously not good enough.

Next you need to install the "Daylight Saving Time 2007 Update Tool for Windows Mobile". This runs, but appears to do nothing.

Next you need to do the "Additional Steps Required", which is to change the timezone to a different time zone, and then change it back again. Not surprisingly, this did nothing. I rebooted the PDA. The time was still wrong.

OK, maybe something DID actually go wrong, so I tried the "Windows Mobile users who do not connect to their PC" instructions. I downloaded a little CAB file from the link, copied it to the PDA via ActiveSync, then ran it by clicking in the PDA file explorer. It proceeded to unpack itself then promptly rebooted the machine. Does that mean it worked or not? I don't know - the time is still wrong. Tried installing it again and it says that it can't uninstall the previous install so I guess it did SOMETHING.

Eventually, I gave up in dispair. I hunted around for alternative solutions. I was about to install this one when the time seemed miraculously to have corrected itself. Perhaps the crucial missing step is to sync the device or something like that.

Hope springs eternal, so I proceeded to check my diary. Looking on the positive side, MOST appointments are correct. It now looks like I start work an hour later which I guess could be useful. My choir session on Monday nights which previously finished at 10:30 has now become a multi-day event after shifting 2 hours later. Likewise, events (like Birthdays) that were previously full day events are now multi-day events (1am to 1am).

Lessons Learned

So what have I learned?

  • Microsoft excels at producing junk. Oh, wait a second... I already knew that.
  • An organisation with incredible resources cannot properly solve a simple but important problem. Its not rocket science. Its not even science. Its just book-keeping. Its not hard.
  • Microsoft seems to love gratuitous "linkage". Do I really need to change my email client to update the time zone? Of course not.
  • Daylight savings sucks. If its not broken, don't fix it. People can't handle change. Machines are even worse.
  • While some stuff is now working, a significant number of my appointments are wrong. I still have no confidence in the product and will probably have to continue writing the times in the appointment descriptions.

No doubt I'll calm down in a few days, but at the moment I feel that a drastic solution is called for. The problem is that this sort of experience is more the norm than the exception. I've come to expect it now from Microsoft. Being perpetually disappointed leads to a lasting resentment.

On the positive side, Leopard is just out so I've no excuse not to ditch my Windows box. I recently broke my phone, so hopefully I can find a new one with a decent calendar on it. Or maybe there is a nice portable Java MIDP calendar app that can sync with a desktop. Then I can ditch the PDA as well.


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