Week in review: Spring forward, fall flat

Thanks to a decision Congress made two years ago, daylight saving is starting early--and causing headaches for IT pros and consumers.

Daylight saving time starts Sunday and promises to bring headaches to legions of computer users.

Thanks to a decision Congress made two years ago, daylight saving is starting early--a change that could cause Y2K-like troubles for IT professionals, and even for consumers. The shift, for example, could cause trouble with software set to automatically advance its clock by an hour on the old date, the first Sunday in April, and not on the new date, the second Sunday in March.

Years of fretting over Y2K often focused on the fact that many computer programs were designed to enter years in only two digits--the last two--meaning that the 2000 might be mistaken for 1900. In the end, years of planning meant that there were no major crises and far fewer headaches than had been predicted.

With the daylight saving issue, the potential impact is seen as less severe, but there has also been far less preparation than there was for Y2K.

As the new daylight saving time switch nears, businesses are finding the update process to be complicated and time-consuming, particularly for Microsoft Windows e-mail and server software. To deal with the switch, software makers have moved to provide patches meant to adjust the clocks of computers and mobile devices automatically. Those updates are critical for many business users who depend on their PC or mobile calendar to tell them where to be and at what time.

However, the Microsoft update process is proving to be a headache for the people who look after corporate e-mail servers. Many say they have had difficulty with the software patches provided by Microsoft for its Outlook and Entourage e-mail client applications, and for the Exchange server software. For it to work properly, Microsoft says, the update process has to be done in a very particular and rapid manner.

With many large companies still struggling to patch their computer systems, a backlog has emerged for customers trying to get help. In some cases, IT workers have been waiting three or four hours to get telephone support from Microsoft, whose Exchange Server serves as the official calendar for many of the world's largest businesses.

Aiming to shorten that wait, Microsoft has boosted the number of people addressing the time-change issue. The company has opened up a "situation room" devoted to monitoring customer issues and providing support to the software maker's largest customers. The main situation room will be in Redmond, Wash., with centers in Texas, North Carolina and India overseeing things in the off-hours. Microsoft has also added more than 200 workers versed in Exchange and Outlook to its phone lines.

While CNET News.com readers debated the best solution and the need for patches, some questioned the need for the daylight saving program in general.

"It's just an archaic old leftover from way back when energy was at a premium," wrote one reader to the News.com Talkback forum.

To aid consumers, CNET News.com has addressed some commonly asked questions regarding the time shift: Click here for the link.

Out of tune
You could say it was the day Internet radio died. A key Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives slammed new federal rules that would require many Internet radio services to pay higher fees to record companies.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) had harsh words for . It proposes raising the amount that commercial Internet radio services pay to record companies by 30 percent retroactively to 2006 and in each of the next three years through 2009. Each station would have to hand over a minimum $500 royalty payment.

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