I might have mentioned this but one of the tasks I’ve been doing quite a bit of, this year, is sitting in for missing LIMS system admins. For example, when someone’s LIMS System Admin leaves and you need someone to fill the gap – that would be me doing the filling.

Just Another Manic Monday?

In any case, Monday didn’t start well. I was sent an issue to resolve and what I started to realize is that the date/time stamps were off. Of course, I spent quite a bit of time verifying that the date/time stamps actually were off and then trying to think what could cause it.

Honestly, I’ll admit it, I was totally stumped. I ran out of ideas. At one point, I was just sitting at my desk staring at all the data wondering what crazy thing could be going on.

And then I finally remembered something and hopefully most of you have remembered it, too.

Date/Time Stamps

Let me go back a little bit: keep in-mind that in systems where there are multiple time zones of people using the system, that the date is stored in UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) and then system users see the times converted into their own local time. Each system works a little differently, but that’s the basic idea.

Thus, I’m sitting at my desk looking at the dates in Eastern US time and, fortunately for me, the lead person I’m working with is in the same time zone so our conversations don’t require time conversions between the two of us.

What does this mean? It means that we look at the dates that, in one place are in UTC, and in another place, five hours behind that time. Monday morning, they weren’t – they were only four hours behind.

You Probably Guessed it, Already

If you didn’t figure this out before I did, I’ll give in and tell you – most of the US switches between daylight savings time and standard time. This is no great surprise to anyone. We are aware of this especially since, often times, we are converting our local time and the time with people we are working with in another time time.

But UTC is not a time zone. The time doesn’t switch between daylight savings time and standard time.

As an aside, and something that might fool you, at first, is that the US is not in daylight savings time as other places. Thus, the Eastern US time zone might be five hours behind the UK most of the year but there are weeks when it is only four hours and other weeks that it is as much as six hours, because we have different schedules for the switch. But this is independent of UTC.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

One Thought to “System Admin Date/Time Problem”

  1. Brian Meadows

    This whole thing about summer and winter time is an enormous nonsense. If you need (e.g.) school times (the most oft-quoted reason, at least for me) to change between summer and winter, then *start them an hour later* between November and March. Honestly, is 8am April – October and 9am November – March THAT difficult to remember? Slowly but surely, individual countries are starting to see sense and junking the idea, but as usual with anything sensible, the USA and UK will be amongst the last to adopt it (feet and inches, anyone?). It’s an enormous pain when (as I do) you have to coordinate with folks in the southern hemisphere whose clocks also change, but in the opposite direction, so you get two-hour swings, but three different times as per your example.

    For those countries that feel they still must change their clocks, surely it wouldn’t be beyond the wit of man to switch them all on the same dates? Have some flunky at the UN draw lots for the date, if you can decide it no other way!

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