It's what time? December 23, 2009 4:29 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to get "plus 21 hours offset" as a profile setting? I assumed when I went back to NZ that it was a daylight savings anomoly, but it hasn't seemed to autocorrect over time. Posted to MeTa in case I am missing something obvious that might help someone else later.
posted by Sparx to Feature Requests at 4:29 PM (49 comments total)

+1 day - 3 hours?
posted by DU at 4:38 PM on December 23, 2009


Unfortunately the drop down doesn't have that as an option. Just mentally add an hour after everything? Yes, I could do that (and have been), but I was hoping there might be a simpler solution.
posted by Sparx at 4:47 PM on December 23, 2009


I was hoping there might be a simpler solution

Don't go to New Zealand.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:52 PM on December 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Aren't those negative ones fundamentally broken? Like you can select -3, and it's the right time, but it's got the wrong date. And there's nowhere that has the right time and the wrong date, due to the date line.
posted by smackfu at 4:57 PM on December 23, 2009


They should just make it so that you can pick from a list of actual timezones instead of +/- a number of hours from the west coast of the US.
posted by floam at 4:59 PM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, I guess there is UTC+12, and UTC-12, and they are different. So I'm not right.

But only Baker Island and Howland Island are in -3 (UTC-12).
posted by smackfu at 5:00 PM on December 23, 2009


Don't go to New Zealand.

Have you not seen the weather here today? The sun, the slight breeze preventing heatstroke, the screaming monkeys from the zoo next door? I'll send you a photo

But this was actually a serious question about a minor niggle.
posted by Sparx at 5:02 PM on December 23, 2009


Unfortunately the drop down doesn't have that as an option.

I meant that as a humorous way of saying that your system clock might be a day ahead.
posted by DU at 5:13 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


A good point DU, but, unfortuntately, not the case.

(though I totally had to double check - paranoia can be a great thing)
posted by Sparx at 5:24 PM on December 23, 2009


Further to DU's point, NZ is in the first timezone. This was a huge issue in y2k when at least one island country tried to change their timezone so they could be first to see the sun in 2000. A search on the issue across MeFi revealed that daylight savings can be a very tricky thing to figure out, but it struck me that an additional option on the dropdown might not be a gamechanging alteration.
posted by Sparx at 5:29 PM on December 23, 2009


This has been noted before, and mathowie said he would fix it (and then shelleycat pointed out it had been promised before and not materialised). NZ needs to work on its critical mass.
posted by goo at 5:59 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, maybe an FP MeTa will tip the balance.

Thanks for the research, goo. I am actually rather relieved to see this is prob for NZers rather than just my fail at profile editing.

That said - hope me mods!
posted by Sparx at 6:16 PM on December 23, 2009


Sure, I just added +21 as an option.
posted by pb (staff) at 6:58 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks pb! Top notch!

Message actually written at 4:11pm. Actually!
posted by Sparx at 7:11 PM on December 23, 2009


Glad it works. I'm not sure how we missed this last time it came up.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:17 PM on December 23, 2009


And the time posted actually matches the time here in the kiwiland. Beautiful. Mods can close this one up if they see fit. Thanks again, pb!
posted by Sparx at 7:17 PM on December 23, 2009


Tell me, "Future Boy", what do I get for Christmas this year?
posted by gman at 7:21 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


A big stick and a box of eggs. Same as last year.
posted by Sparx at 7:26 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's because I'm Jewish, isn't it?
posted by gman at 7:29 PM on December 23, 2009


Absolutely. You'd prefer the two lumps of coal ?
posted by Sparx at 7:39 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yay for Kiwis! Back in the dark ages when I hosted an MSN chat room, we always joked that we were relieved when the Kiwis showed up because it meant the earth had survived another day.
posted by amyms at 7:41 PM on December 23, 2009


It may have been that they had not gotten the "earth survives" memo yet.
posted by Sparx at 7:44 PM on December 23, 2009


gman: Tell me, "Future Boy", what do I get for Christmas this year?

Geez man, you just got a whole new time zone! What more could anyone possibly want?
posted by Kattullus at 8:43 PM on December 23, 2009


Isn't there a Linux timezones file that has all the rules? I recall reading an article about it. Would have been a Wired-style piece, I think.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:50 PM on December 23, 2009


But this was actually a serious question about a minor niggle.

That's not what MetaTalk is for.

Oh, it is? Well, you can't tell by looking...
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:47 PM on December 23, 2009


fff: It would make sense to a) use UTC on the server, and b) something like /etc/timezones to handle the user offsets & DST changes.

But, I guess for historical reasons, what we actually get is the server using its local time (including local DST) and the consequent issues for anyone who a) isn't in US time zones, and b) has their own DST changes to deal with. For example, I have to change my profile's time offset twice a year when the MeFi server goes into and out of DST; I assume people in places with DST that doesn't match up with the MeFi server's idea of DST start/finish have to change the time offset in their profile 4 times a year.

(Not a complaint as such, more an observation and statement of the issues that running local time on the MeFi server creates for non-US users. Give that MeFi has grown like topsy over the years, I'm quite prepared to believe that finding & fixing all the time-related bits in the code would be an absolute bastard.

Also, there'd be that whole inherent "MeFi is a US-centric website, so [insert justification for dismissing minor gripes from non-US users]" issue to deal with. Not that the mods say this - but fixing it would no doubt distract pb from creating ponies, thus raising the ire of some users.)
posted by Pinback at 11:51 PM on December 23, 2009


Scrap the dates altogether and replace them with message ID numbers. It all works out the same: posts appear in order of time of posting. The actual, specific time doesn't matter one jot.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:08 AM on December 24, 2009


and b) something like /etc/timezones to handle the user offsets & DST changes.


While I agree totally, I've also had to deal with enough legacy systems to not pass judgment. Annoying shit is annoying.

In other news, the update totally worked off the bat on my XP-running netbook whereas on Vista I had to kill a cookie to get it to stick. So, yes, I killed a cookie at Christmas. Long live the new flesh. Or something.
posted by Sparx at 12:28 AM on December 24, 2009


You're thinking of this post from October. While the Olson zoneinfo file is used by glibc on Linux, it is not Linux specific in any way and is used by lots of applications that need to do date/time conversions.

And yes, all servers should absolutely be in the UTC time zone, and it's always been embarrassing that MetaFilter works the way it does. But it's also a bit of a sore spot as it's been brought up countless times in MeTa and I'm sure they're tired of hearing about it.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:29 AM on December 24, 2009


Actually, the server shouldn't be in *any* timezone. It should just distribute seconds-since-1970 (which is UTC in a way). Then the browser can format that however it wants using the local timezone, libraries and system clock. In general, this would also eliminate a lot of parsing of date strings.
posted by DU at 3:25 AM on December 24, 2009


We absolutely agree that storing dates in UTC is best, and then choosing an actual timezone would be preferred. The last time this came up I did some research into biting the bullet and moving to a more acceptable timekeeping system. It's not impossible, it's merely close to impossible. We have ten years worth of dates that need to be converted to UTC. The problem is that our server has been dutifully switching between standard and daylight time throughout those years. So it's not a straight calculation—we'd need to calculate historic daylight times for all of those dates to get them to UTC.

So let's imagine we can't solve that. We move on to the timezone vs. offset front where we're working in a development environment that doesn't support converting between timezones. I couldn't quite believe it either, but ColdFusion does not have any built-in functions to convert between timezones. I figured I must be missing something, so I went over to ask the CF gurus at StackOverflow here, and I didn't get a good answer. ColdFusion is built on top of Java, and there are some libraries to support timezone calculations there, so that's an area to explore. But without moving to UTC first, we're only solving half the problem.

The third problem is that some locales arbitrarily change daylight savings time each year. If some underlying Java system is keeping track of everything, great. Someone out there must be keeping track of the times when a dictator decides that daylight savings time goes into effect NEXT WEEK. But we don't want to be in that business.

I know the timezone issue is annoying, especially if your daylight savings system is different from the US system. But an offset is a simple system that works no matter what timezone we store dates in and no matter what various locales are doing around the world.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:32 AM on December 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


So it's not a straight calculation—we'd need to calculate historic daylight times for all of those dates to get them to UTC.

But you personally don't have to calculate anything, as there are libraries to do this. For example if you were writing your conversion script in perl then you have DateTime::TimeZone which turns it into a trivial 3 line program to calculate an offset based on a given timezone and a given timestamp. Under the hood it takes care of all the nasty historical cruft about when daylight savings changed and so on.

Someone out there must be keeping track of the times when a dictator decides that daylight savings time goes into effect NEXT WEEK. But we don't want to be in that business.

Yes exactly, the Olson zoneinfo file tracks all that stuff so that you don't have to. You just install the updated tzdata file on the server periodically. (Actually, in the example of perl's DateTime::TimeZone, it looks like the module's data is autogenerated from the Olson file so really you don't even have to worry about that, just keep the module uptodate from whatever is on CPAN.)
posted by Rhomboid at 8:26 AM on December 24, 2009


If we're talking about a one-time batch operation then we could probably use Perl for the job, but any runtime functions need to be in ColdFusion. The Olson zoneinfo file is great, but it's not useful to me if I can't use it in my environment.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:11 AM on December 24, 2009


Looks like there's a non-standard Java library for working with timezones and the zoneinfo file called Joda Time. It's fairly easy to work with Java classed in ColdFusion so that's an avenue we can explore.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:17 AM on December 24, 2009


This was a huge issue in y2k when at least one island country tried to change their timezone so they could be first to see the sun in 2000.

Um. Did they think timezones controlled the rotation of the earth or something?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:44 AM on December 24, 2009


It's Christmas in New Zealand! And pb deserves some cookies.
posted by goo at 10:16 AM on December 24, 2009


pb programs reindeer using only tinsel and pinecones.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:20 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This was a huge issue in y2k when at least one island country tried to change their timezone so they could be first to see the sun in 2000.

Um. Did they think timezones controlled the rotation of the earth or something?


Nope - but timezone lines are quite arbritrary and often have kinks in them to accomodate geographic boundaries - NZ itself is only a single timezone because there's a bit of creative zoning to fit in its gigantic arse some western points.

As such, when Kiribati decided it was actually on the west side of the International Date Line, quite coincidentally only a few months before the turn of the 'millennium', it was widely recognised as being a bit of a dick move done purely for the sake of some tourist dollars. Still, there being no actual international law describing how a country defines itself relative to the IDL, they were, technically, the first country to see the dawn of that fateful day of the y2k apocalypse.
posted by Sparx at 1:52 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's because reindeer don't keep time.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:53 PM on December 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


They're no good at melody, either.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:06 PM on December 24, 2009


So... if you knew someone in Australia,, for example. And perhaps they lived in Sydney... and weren't particularly bright.

What timezone thingy would you tell them to adjust their settings to? It would probably be really annoying to use Meta/AskMeta for a few years on the wrong time settings, I would imagine. Not that that is MY problem. I'm much cleverer than that.
posted by taff at 8:09 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should imagine that this fictional person should use the "+19 hours" setting for the time being; on March 14 of next year (when the US begins DST) it will need to be changed to "+18 hours", and then again on April 4 (when Sydney ends DST) it will need to be changed to "+17 hours". There will be two similar required changes in the fall, corresponding to Sydney beginning DST (October 3, "+18 hours") and the US ending DST (November 11, "+19 hours"). Or in general if at any point the server reports the wrong time you can just take however many hours off it is and add or subtract that amount from your current setting.

It never occurred to me before going through this exercise how lucky I am to be in the same time zone as MetaFilter; that seems like a real PITA.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:14 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


*squeaks about being on UTC +10.30*
posted by Wolof at 5:22 AM on December 25, 2009


I think Rhomboid's advice would be very helpful to someone living in the Antipodes, especially if they were a bit of a twit. And I"m sure they would be very grateful for the advice. And appropriately sheepish.
posted by taff at 4:05 PM on December 25, 2009


I used to set my timezone to Mathowie Standard Time. But when he started adding moderators and travelling, it just made a mess of things.

So now I set it to Moon Time.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


pb, the people of New Zealand thank you (I just rang them to check).
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 12:43 AM on December 26, 2009


Clearly pb loves Sparx a more than me. No no, it's cool *sniff*.

(Heh, thanks for the change!)
posted by shelleycat at 9:38 PM on December 27, 2009


The third problem is that some locales arbitrarily change daylight savings time each year.

*raises hand* Um, yeah, we like to do that in New Zealand. We really are annoying huh?
posted by shelleycat at 9:42 PM on December 27, 2009


Clearly pb loves Sparx a more than me

That's amore

/Dean Martin
posted by Sparx at 2:14 PM on December 29, 2009


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