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Daylight-Saving Change Is Latest Tech Worry

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The Daylight Saving change has created a busy time for IT departments. All over the country, tech gurus are scrambling to recalibrate computers, Blackberrys, machinery and all kinds of electronic equipment, especially items with internal clocks. Most of these devices were programmed to spring forward under old guidelines.

Mark Schleifer is vice president of network engineering for Cogent Communications. He joins me now in the studio to talk about the challenge of avoiding a Daylight Saving disaster. So glad you're here.

Mr. MARK SCHLEIFER (Vice President of Network Engineering, Cogent Communications): Hi, there.

NORRIS: Now, this has been described as a mini-Y2K, referring to those doomsday scenarios about technology meltdowns when we pass into the new millennium. Is this really that big of a problem?

Mr. SCHLEIFER: It's more of a cosmetic problem for most devices and things. There are certain places where it could be more of an issue, like in healthcare, where medicine and things like that are distributed at a very specific time. But for most things, you know, somebody's looking at a clock and saying, well, the clock's an hour off, and I can adapt for it, right?

NORRIS: We do rely more on computer now to do the kinds of things that humans used to do. What are some of the sort of specific examples of worst-case scenarios, things that might happen?

Mr. SCHLEIFER: Anything that's schedule-based. Traffic signals and those kind of technologies have to take into account commute times. If they're off, the commute times will be off by an hour.

NORRIS: Now, what's going on, generally, in IT departments, you know, in big corporations right now?

Mr. SCHLEIFER: People are scrambling to get their patches loaded, and a lot of the patches are coming out late.

NORRIS: Patches.

Mr. SCHLEIFER: So that's where you change the operating system to make a small change to the system. If you're running Windows, for instance, you get - a patch for Microsoft comes in and says I'm going to change this code a little bit, or in the case of Daylight Savings Time, we're going to change the table it looks up to say when is Daylight Savings time and when isn't.

But I'm sure there's still going to be lots of things that don't get updated -phone systems, for instance. I'll bet people's phones will all have the wrong time on them for, you know, three weeks or four weeks, and then they'll adjust it when Daylight Savings Time used to be.

NORRIS: So is this indeed a busy time in IT departments?

Mr. SCHLEIFER: It's busy for everyone. I mean, if you think about the consumer side of it, right, think about TiVos. You want your TiVo to have the right time. Those poor people had to wait until the Linux operating system was patched before they could even push out the patch to the TiVos.

NORRIS: Oh my goodness, all those who want to tape "Grey's Anatomy," what are they going to do?

Mr. SCHLEIFER: Exactly, exactly. You'd hate to have all your shows be, you know, missed by an hour.

NORRIS: What if you're a small business, and you don't have an IT department that's just a, you know, a phone call away? What do you do?

Mr. SCHLEIFER: You're going to be running around, potentially, Sunday morning resetting the clocks on your equipment by hand - things like cash registers. Anything that's going to put the time and date on a piece of paper, you're going to have to check its clock to make sure it's right.

NORRIS: Mark Schleifer, I'm guessing that you're not going to have much time off this weekend. You're probably going to be springing into the office on Sunday.

Mr. SCHLEIFER: I think we mostly have our stuff intact.

NORRIS: Oh really? You're that confident?

Mr. SCHLEIFER: We're pretty confident about it. Our business is running Internet service for businesses, and we've already done our patches there, got that all out of the way.

NORRIS: The desk we're sitting at is wood, in case you want to knock right there to make sure that everything is okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of knocking)

NORRIS: Mark Schleifer is vice president of network engineering for Cogent Communications. He joined us here in our studio. Thanks so much.

Mr. SCHLEIFER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.