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Microsoft receives an ‘F’ for daylight savings time change March 10, 2007

Posted by Matsu in Business, Information Technology, Microsoft, Software, Technology, Windows/Microsoft.
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Man and Giant clockExactly how difficult can it be to change a server or application one hour forward or backward? It turns out to be a far more difficult task than Microsoft can handle.

Where I work we have two Exchange 2003 servers handling about 1,500 accounts (faculty, staff, and students). Well, we’ve been planning the Daylight Savings Time (DST) change for weeks. There was supposed to be a way in which a systems administrator could run a Microsoft-provided utility that would adjust all appointments between March 11th and April 1st (the U.S. Congress decided to make the time change 3 weeks earlier this year).

It turns out that just changing the system clock would not solve the problem of everyone’s appointments being an hour off. Microsoft wrote the Exchange software so that it counts the number of hours (or minutes) from a fixed point in time, like so many minutes from January 1st, 1990 or something like that. Therefore, just changing the system clock and the client computer clocks wasn’t enough to solve the time shift.

After spending several hours trying to get the Microsoft solution to work, my network staff finally gave up and called technical support. Believe it or not, Microsoft would NOT help. They informed us that while they would be glad to take our money, the DST problem was not a critical problem so they would not be able to help us. They were only taking total system outage calls and not minor problems like DST. So much for vendor support. Open source is looking better and better!

Microsoft Time Zone WindowNow, we are going to tell our users that they will need to run a client-side utility and hope that it will fix some or most of the appointments in their calendar. It was run on my account and it only fixed about half of my appointments. And, there’s no pattern as to why that is. Some appointments that worked are recurring, some are not. Some are very old, some are recent entries. What a hassle!

Microsoft receives a failing grade for their handling of the daylight savings time change.

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Comments»

1. Shawn - March 12, 2007

Not quite the mini-Y2k to which some have eluded, but a thorn in the paw for certain. Updating our Exchange Server wasn’t really an issue after an appeal to the major blogs and webposts persuaded us not to fool with it…a 4.5hr hold time with support to purchase a $4k patch that may or may not fix a problem with the calendering functionality of the Outlook Web Access component, which by the way no one within our company uses anyway, seemed like a bit much (we are still running Exchange Server 2000, but plan to upgrade in the next few months: a much wiser investment of the $4k I believe) However, that was just one issue, we still needed to update the OS software for that server along with 4 other Win2k servers and 1 Win2003 server, not to mention all of our Win2k, and XP workstations and POS registers. Strangely enough the server OS update was a breeze. We opted to bypass the tzedit utility and create the registry update and refresh according to Microsoft’s step by step instructions. And Win2003 and XP required nothing more than a trip to the Windows Update site. But our good fortune stopped there. Prior to the weekend I created a test environment and added a logon script to the Computer Configuration of the Group Policy containing my test computer running Win2k. We have 2 domain controllers, one is technically our backup, but apparently Microsoft did away with backup domain controllers so we have 2…hmmm. Anyway, I manually replicated the settings and powered up my test computer. A few minutes later…whola…my registry settings updated successfully and all was good in elfland…so I thought. [Fast forward a couple of days to Sunday morning/afternoon] I received a call from my supervisor stating that the store supervisor contacted him and said her computers had not updated their time. He said it wasn’t an emergency and we would check on it Monday morning. Just to be safe I tunneled my way into each of our servers from my house and verified that at least they had updated properly, and indeed they had. So the problem was with the logon script. I then connected up to one of our unrestricted POS terminals and determined that it wasn’t an issue with desktop restrictions as its time had not updated either. For some reason the script was not being applied. Monday morning I began my task of troubleshooting the script. During my quest I determined that I could not run registry updates at the user level on a restricted desktop, which made since. Being that I only have 5 users that run Win2k in an unrestricted environment I figured it would be easy enough to manually update those few machines and focus my efforts on creating a script to update our more numerous restricted desktops. Eventually I developed a solution that utilizes a command line RunAs replacement utility called CPAU. This utility allows me to run a command in an alternate security environment and it allows me to pass the username and password (encrypted if I like) unlike the RunAs command that only sends the username and prompts for a password. I know it isn’t the most elegant solution but it works and right now thats a big relief.

2. Matsu - March 12, 2007

Shawn – What a hassle! Could Microsoft make it any more difficult? I’m glad you found a way to run the updates using the CPAU command. I am not familiar with that, but it sounds like it would come in handy when you run into security issues with users running a patch. I hope the dust has begun to settle for you, now.

3. Shawn - March 13, 2007

The most frustrating aspect of this ordeal was the fact that the original computer level script patched some machines but not on others, and it didn’t seem to be a restriction issue. As for the CPAU utility it most generously extended a helpful hand and pulled me through this scenario. I don’t know if it would be of any use to you in your environment but it can be downloaded here http://www.joeware.net/win/free/tools/cpau.htm

4. hyrum - March 16, 2007

word!


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