netcurmudgeon (netcurmudgeon) wrote,

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Angels and Ministers of Grace Preserve Us

Large Congressional bills are often minefields of special little gems. One of the little gems in the Omnibus budget act of 2000 got us CIPA -- The Childrens Internet Protection Act, which lays down a Federal mandate for Internet censorship in schools and libraries. The recently passed Energy Bill has another such gem.

Daylight savings time is going to change. In March of 2007, instead of "springing forward" on the first Sunday in April, we'll pop ahead on the second Sunday in March. In the fall, we'll "fall back" a week later -- the first Sunday in November. This will net us an extra month of DST (and an extra month of getting up in the dark for us early-rising Northerners, but that's another rant for another day).

Why is this germane to a tech-oriented blog? Because every computer in the U.S. (less, of course, Arizona) will need to be patched. Windows, NetWare, Unix systems, Linux, PDAs, mainframes and manufacturing systems -- anything that automatically adjusts for daylight savings time -- will need updated software so that it springs forward and falls back on the right days.

For most Windows users this will probably be transparent. Some time in the next few months you'll see a "critical update" come through Windows Update that will refresh your PC with the new dates. Other OS producers will have to release patches too, and admins will have to get them applied by the witching hour.

Now, this isn't some Y2K doomsday scenario rerun. The worst thing that will happen if your systems are unpatched on the day after the new rules kick in is that you'll be an hour late for all of your appointments. At least, you will if you're a slave to your Outlook calendar like me. This is, however, a pile of extra work for IT staff for limited gain.

How limited? Well, one news article cited a figure of saving the equivalent of 1% of our daily oil consumption while the expanded DST is in effect. The statute directs that the Secretary of the Department of Energy "[n]ot later than 9 months after the effective date stated in subsection (b)" shall "report to Congress on the impact of this section on energy consumption in the United States." Congress is so sure of this savings that the next section says "Congress retains the right to revert the Daylight Saving Time back to the 2005 time schedules once the Department study is complete. "

So, this could be a whole lot of work for nothing. In the summer of 2007 our wise leaders in Washington could declare the whole thing null and void, and we get to back-out all of those patches we put in over the last eighteen months. Phooey on Congress.

Any new law that has over 1700 sections is a monster that should have been smothered in its crib. What ever happened to the government that governs best, governs least?

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