back to article 70 London 999 calls lost due to clock-change IT glitch

The London Ambulance Service trust has confirmed that more than 70 emergency calls were not visible to staff due to a technical fault caused by a switch from British Summer Time last year. A control room IT glitch led to the loss of the calls in October last year, the service said. According to an article in the Health Service …

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Anonymous Coward

LOST IN TIME....

if this wasn't such a serious subject it say its just one of those things.

Unfortunately it isn't.

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Re: LOST IN TIME....

I second that. Of those 70, all it would have taken is one permanent serious injury or death directly related to this and I think this wouldn't have been a relatively minor article on a tech website six months on.

They were lucky the dice roll went in their favour. This time.

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Re: LOST IN TIME....

and it's not the first time that records have been lost

http://www.cs.ucl.ac.uk/staff/A.Finkelstein/las/lascase0.9.pdf

Shitty software development in both cases - you'd think that the LAS would be so much more careful after the 1992 debacle. DST is used across the world whether you like it or not and systems are designed to cope with it.

Where was their testing? Who the bloody hell is responsible for this software?

Heads should roll

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Unhappy

Re: Re: LOST IN TIME....

> Heads should roll

They won't though, will they?

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Mushroom

Re: Re: Re: LOST IN TIME....

>Who the bloody hell is responsible for this software?

Who the bloody hell is responsible for "daylight saving" pants-on-head retardation?

I wonder how many billions have been intestinally transported out of office windows for that kind of genius idea.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: LOST IN TIME....

>Who the bloody hell is responsible for this software?

Assume that's rhetorical, but just in case it's not - Northrup Grumman, US arms manufacturer. The parallel with Lockheed Martin getting the UK Census is astonishing! Basically these are THE two US spy plane/stealth fighter/bomber manufacturers (though Boeing is increasingly involved. Wonder which UK software/databases Boeing pwned.)

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Re: Re: Re: LOST IN TIME....

Its not Northrop Grumman.. CommandPoint hasnt been implemented at LAS yet.. they tried last year but it failed within hours and they rolled back to their old system.. it hasnt been tried again yet.

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Eventually ...

... we will figure out that resetting clocks twice a year is pointless.

And probably contraindicated.

Seriously, has "spring forward, fall back" ever been anything but a government imposed inconvenience on damn near everyone?

It sure as hell never made any difference to my planting schedule ... Nor my father's. Nor my grandfather's. Nor my greatgrandfather's. Nor my greatgreatgrandfather's. And I have (most of) their planting diarys going back to the 1830s.

Pick a local "high noon" at the summer solstice, and be done with it, for Gawd/ess's sake ...

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Re: Eventually ...

I only have to reset two of my clocks. The rest of them (including my watch) take care of it for me. Zero effort and zero hassle on my part.

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Re: Eventually ...

I'd say you live in the south of Great Britain. So do I. But people in Scotland have less daylight in winter, and if they say they want to keep summer and winter time, that's good enough for me.

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Facepalm

Re: Re: Eventually ...

No, they have exactly the same amount of daylight in winter. Playing with the clock just means that it begins and ends at different times.

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Re: Re: Eventually ...(@AndrueC)

But why? What's the point?

The solar system doesn't give a rat's ass what your "self changing clocks" have to say. Nor do my tomatoes.

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Re: Re: Eventually ... (@Evan Essence)

No, Sonoma, California, actually.

But that has no bearing on my point, now does it? The actual amount of sunlight doesn't change, despite where the gubmint arbitrarily places the hands on the clock.

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Re: Eventually ...

It's already a 24 hour world as far as a lot of people are concerned. My own start and finish times vary throughout the year as I need daylight (and reasonable weather) to do my job.

On that basis adjusting for summer time and different time zones is not really a problem.

The trouble is that most big institutions haven't realised this yet.

The tax year still starts on the old New Year's Day - and that changed in 1751.

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Headmaster

Re: Re: Re: Eventually ... (@Evan Essence)

Well to be pedantic, the amount of daylight varies with latitude - hence the midnight sun and constant night at the poles.

This effect is definitely noticeable when comparing the North of Scotland with Southern England.

Or California with Alaska. for that matter.

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Go

Re: Eventually ...

We should be the first country to use UTC permanently. It would be a minimal disruption for us, and might lead the way to every country using it and the abolition of time zones.

But the obstacle is convincing people that 9am doesn't need to be the time to start work every single day of the year. And it really shouldn't be that difficult. Imagine you work 9-5 every day. Then your boss says "From next week, we need you to start at 8, and finish at 4." What would you do? Set your alarm an hour earlier. Everyone would be able to cope with this a lot easier than the current system of turning every clock in the place forward or back (and missing one, or going the wrong way, or forgetting entirely) and which could be staggered by individual companies, schools, etc.

Benefits include less of a peak during rush-hour traffic, no need for clock reconfiguration twice a year, and finally ending the debate over "putting the clocks back makes it dark on the school run. So start school later in the day, you damn idiot!"

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Re: Re: Eventually ... (@ Blofelds Cat)

The problem is that It's NOT a twenty-four hour world.

Remember, there are 365.25ish days in a year ... The math(s) gets ugly.

However, noon is still noon regardless. And it doesn't matter what the gubmint tries to proclaim, my critters & veggies follow the sun. Not your tax year.

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Re: Re: Eventually ...

I've always been in favour of year-round UTC (or GMT). But the way you describe adjusting the working day makes it sound like a tremendous hassle.

How many people really need to align their working day with the hours of daylight these days? Those who really have to, I suspect, do what they've always done: start earlier or later and finish earlier or later. For the rest of us, who spend the day in artificial light regardless of outside conditions, there's no point in the change.

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Re: Re: Re: Re: Eventually ... (@Evan Essence) (@Blofield's Cat)

And ... You really don't get my point, do you?

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Re: Re: Re: Eventually ... (@Evan Essence)

I carefully said that people in Scotland want to keep summer and winter time (which I presume they do). Don't argue with me, argue with them. I'm saying that since they're more affected (in summer as well as winter) I'm quite happy to accede to their wishes.

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Re: Re: Re: Re: Eventually ... (@Evan Essence)

To be unpedantic, since I mentioned both the south of GB and Scotland, I thought it was perfectly obvious I was talking about different latitudes.

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Unhappy

Re: Eventually ...

My work activities are such that daylight isn't important (or even, sometimes, visible). But I have my own story of the stupidity of DST.

For 20 years or more I cycled through central London to work. People used to say "You're brave", and I would answer with a self-deprecating smirk. When I moved to the country, I thought my cycle journeys would be safer and more enjoyable. They were, until the clocks changed.

The mornings, of course, were OK. At this time of year it gets light at about 6:30 in middle England. But it gets dark well before home time. Try cycling across the Cambridgeshire fens in the sort of darkness that I could never have imagined when I was a city dweller. The roads are narrow and bounded by ten-foot ditches. Many of the motorists are people who, as a result of inbreeding, only have a few thousand brain cells, and those are fully occupied rolling fags and tuning to Radio Dickhead. One night I had two near-death encounters (even with five lights on the back of my bike**) and I gave up cycling until BST.

** As a letter to The Times pointed out last week, many drivers are unable to see a bike when it's lit up like a Christmas tree, but they have no trouble spotting lots of cyclists without lights.

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Happy

Re: Re: Eventually ...

When they vote for independence, they can keep Summer and Winter time, and the Disunited Kingdom can abandon it. Simples.

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No need for daylight savings these days

Lots of people have flexi time. If they want to get up earlier so they can go home earlier, they can.

If schools want to change their start and finish times to match up with local lighting, then let them.

Why not stick to GMT all year round?

We will have to educate the muppets who think that going to Summer Time gives more sunlight in a 24hour period though.

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@Peter Jones 2

I don't think everyone would be able to cope as easily as that, especially not if (as you seem to be implying) the shift from 9-5 to 8-4 working wasn't imposed across the board by every single company, school, organisation and other entity whos working hours interact in subtle and not so subtle ways throughout the day.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't think

stating the bleeding obvious is pedantry!

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JDX
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Re: Re: Re: Eventually ...

>>No, they have exactly the same amount of daylight in winter. Playing with the clock just means that it begins and ends at different times.

Same amount as who? The Scots do have less daylight in winter than the rest of us?

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JDX
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Re: No need for daylight savings these days

>>Lots of people have flexi time. If they want to get up earlier so they can go home earlier, they can.

Unless they have children. You're still doing the school run in the dark for several months, which is depressing for all concerned

>>We will have to educate the muppets who think that going to Summer Time gives more sunlight in a 24hour period though.

I think you're falsely attributing that thought to people who don't actually hold it. Even thickos know the clocks change so we get more of the daylight, even if they don't understand why it works that way.

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LDS
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Hire dumb developers - get dumb software

As long as even "big companies" try to hire dumb developers because they are cheaper, all you get is dumb software. Managing summer time switches in 24x7 app may be tricky (especially when you fall back because you have duplicate times) but that's what makes the difference between a smart developer and a dumb one (maybe from a country where there is no summer time switch....). And about companies like Northrop-Grumman, remember what happened to F-22s when they crossed the Internationa Date Line for the first time...

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JDX
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Re: Hire dumb developers - get dumb software

It's the developers who don't think they make mistakes who are the dangerous ones.

These things don't cause problems because of dumb developers, but because of lack of proper testing.

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Devil

Re: Hire dumb developers - get dumb software

OK, I'll bite. What did happen to F-22s when they crossed the International Date Line for the first time?

Very well, then, I'll Google:

http://www.dailytech.com/Lockheeds+F22+Raptor+Gets+Zapped+by+International+Date+Line/article6225.htm

DailyTech, 26 Feb. 2007: Lockheed's F-22 Raptor Gets Zapped by International Date Line

Six Lockheed F-22 Raptors have Y2K-esque glitch of their own over the Pacific

Lockheed's F-22 Raptor is the most advanced fighter in the world with its stealth capabilities, advanced radar, state of the art weapons systems and ultra-efficient turbofans which allow the F-22 to "supercruise" at supersonic speeds without an afterburner. ...

But while the simulated war games were a somewhat easy feat for the Raptor, something more mundane was able to cripple six aircraft on a 12 to 15 hours flight from Hawaii to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. The U.S. Air Force's mighty Raptor was felled by the International Date Line (IDL).

When the group of Raptors crossed over the IDL, multiple computer systems crashed on the planes. Everything from fuel subsystems, to navigation and partial communications were completely taken offline. Numerous attempts were made to "reboot" the systems to no avail.

Luckily for the Raptors, there were no weather issues that day so visibility was not a problem. Also, the Raptors had their refueling tankers as guide dogs to "carry" them back to safety. "They needed help. Had they gotten separated from their tankers or had the weather been bad, they had no attitude reference. They had no communications or navigation," said Retired Air Force Major General Don Shepperd. "They would have turned around and probably could have found the Hawaiian Islands. But if the weather had been bad on approach, there could have been real trouble.”

...

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Facepalm

And that is why...

The safety-critical systems I worked with ran everything on GMT. The local time was simply translated to and from GMT when required.

There really is no excuse for this sort of thing.

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Re: And that is why...

But all real computer hardware and operating systems DO operate on UTC. Local time display is handled at the desktop/GUI level.

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Re: Re: And that is why... (@vagabondo)

UTC here.

GMT was all very well in it's day, but we've moved on ...

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Headmaster

Re: Re: Re: And that is why... (@jake)

GMT is the actual time-zone in these longitudes (Scotland). It is now defined with respect to UTC and not the local/solar time in Greenwich Park.

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Unless you're running an atomic clock, UTC = GMT. The name was changed to appease our French amis who were sulking because the world runs on London local time and meridians and not Paris (as they wanted in 1884).

Oh, and Jake, DST may not matter to dirt farmers, but modern society is a tad more complex than that. Sure every school, factory and shop could decide when they were going to adjust opening and closing times to fit in with local daylight, but do you really think that would be easier or less confusing than having a government mandated day for everyone to do it? Now, if only we could convince good ol' Uncle Sam to follow the same dates as the rest of the world - we've done it for autumn (sorry, fall), just spring to sort out ...

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@Chris Miller

GMT is the name of the time-zone used in the UK. Time-zones are designated by governments as an administrative convenience. GMT was also used as the name of a time standard prior to 1928, when the time standard's name was changed to UT1. The time within the GMT zone is set at UT1. Computers, satellites, NTP etc. use UTC. UTC has been established since 1961 and is now maintained (by means of leap seconds) to approximate UT1 (and hence GMT).

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JDX
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Re: And that is why...

>>The safety-critical systems I worked with ran everything on GMT. The local time was simply translated to and from GMT when required.

There really is no excuse for this sort of thing.

I think you're oversimplifying. Converting all times to UTC is not a universal fix for DST issues. The moment you have an event which spans a DST cross-over, or you are working with a date in the future after the next changeover, problems start to creep back in.

When countries move their DST changeover date (USA did recently), even more difficult.

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Vic
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Re: Re: And that is why...

> The moment you have an event which spans a DST cross-over,

>or you are working with a date in the future after the next changeover,

> problems start to creep back in

No.

UTC is monotonic. If one event happens after another, the UTC date for that event is later than the previous event.

So you're never dealing with an event "in the future".

Converting from those UTC dates back to local times might give slightly "odd" results on page views, but you only get odd calculation results if you're trying to calculate using those local times. Calculating with UTC gives you a nice monotonic variable that doesn't cause problems.

Vic.

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JDX
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Re: Re: Re: And that is why...

>>So you're never dealing with an event "in the future".

I don't care what time system you use, next Tuesday is in the future. I'm not talking about issues of "is it 1am or is it 1am again". I'm talking about a person creating an event that runs from 1500 today until 1500 in 4 months time... we have a problem with the human's understanding what that means, which can lead to misunderstood behaviour... the event lasts 1 hour more less than the user expects and this has some weird side effect nobody thought off.

So it's not a direct problem of tracking times, but indirect problems where requirements miss edge cases, or users don't understand the system... ultimately user error but the problems still remain.

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Vic
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Re: Re: Re: Re: And that is why...

> event that runs from 1500 today until 1500 in 4 months time

This is the usual GIGO situation; if a user can't think through what he means, errors will occur in any system that allows that user any form of control over anything.

If the user specifies that something ends at 1500 localtime on a particular day, then that is what happens. If he happened to mean that the task lasts for a certain number of hours, there's no amount of defensive programming or farting around with timezones that will prevent him saying one thing and meaning another.

> ultimately user error but the problems still remain.

Them's the breaks. You either trust humans to get their act together, or you don't. Does this user want the job to end at 3pm, or does he want it to last (n*24) hours? Whichever design decision you take initially, some user will get it wrong. This isn't something for which code design decisions should usually be blamed...

Vic.

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@Chris Miller

"Unless you're running an atomic clock, UTC = GMT. The name was changed to appease our French amis who were sulking because the world runs on London local time and meridians and not Paris (as they wanted in 1884)."

You know, not everything in the world is about the French vs. the British, and Britons blaming things on "the sulking French" or whatnot is getting just bloody tiresome. (I'm neither French or British, in case that matters.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coordinated_Universal_Time tells us:

'The official notation for Coordinated Universal Time is UTC. This notation arose from a desire by the International Telecommunication Union and the International Astronomical Union to use the same notation in all languages. English speakers originally proposed "CUT" (for "coordinated universal time"), while French speakers proposed "TUC" (for "temps universel coordonné"). The compromise that emerged was UTC, which conforms to the pattern for the notations of the variants of Universal Time (UT0, UT1, UT2, UT1R etc.).'

...

'UTC was officially initiated at the start of 1961 (but the name Coordinated Universal Time was not adopted by the International Astronomical Union until 1967).'

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@vagabondo

"GMT was also used as the name of a time standard prior to 1928, when the time standard's name was changed to UT1. The time within the GMT zone is set at UT1."

Not exactly. "GMT" is nowadays synonymous with "UTC+0". UT1 is the mean solar time on the Prime Meridian at Greenwich, which is not used as the civil time in Britain (or anywhere else) anymore.

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Well it could have been simple

Just use Unix-timestamps and convert to local time whenever you need it. Then you'll only need to either worry about or tolerate leap seconds.

Of course you need to hire people who aren't to dumb.

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FAIL

Re: Well it could have been simple

UNIX timestamps are only OK up until a date (can't recall from memory) in January 2038...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Well it could have been simple

"UNIX timestamps are only OK up until a date (can't recall from memory) in January 2038..."

That was when timestamps were 32bit.

Timestamps have been 64bit (even on 32bit chips) for a long time now, for this very reason.

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Coat

Re: Well it could have been simple

What, you mean like people who know the difference between to and too? ;-)

Sorry.

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IT spec - phone spec

For many years switches have avoided DST for simplicity and prior confusion, but smaller VOIP and office PBX's have synced to local ntp servers and applied DST - sometimes incorrectly (many US products) apply one or other US zones by default.

The problem is more complex as call centres (and lets say the Met) use call data records (CDR) but assume incorrect DST offsets and end up an hour or so out.

I suspect this is another .gov.uk spec written by highly paid but technically unskilled consultants or the "injuns" blindly followed the spec.

Pay peanuts...

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Re: IT spec - phone spec

"by default."

Oh. You mean operator error?

"We don't care; we don't have to. We're the phone company."

And that's the truth! (Ta, Lily)

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