The Packet Rat | The time lost in saving daylight

The Packet Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

A commotion deep in the family burrow stirred the Rodent from his already shortened slumber one recent Sunday morning. He stumbled into the living room to find his two sons attempting to perform an unauthorized field modification to his beloved Xbox 360.

'And what exactly are you gentlemen up to at this hour on a Sunday morning? I can't ever get you up this early during the school week.'

'We got up early to see if the world ended because of the DST change, Dad,' the younger ratling said. 'And then we found Microsoft applied a patch to the Xbox that keeps us from running our secret Linux partition on it, ... ' he trailed off as his brother slapped him across the back of the head. 'Oh. Never mind.'

'Well, that's one of those rare Microsoft feature changes that I can get behind,' the Rat smirked as he stumbled off to start the coffee maker.

Sometimes, the most genuinely well intentioned, seemingly innocent changes to the status quo can be the most painful to the people they are intended to help.

Take, for example, the changes to daylight-saving time that went into effect March 11. Rep. Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who unleashed this micro-Y2K crisis on an unsuspecting world, claims the extended DST will make people happier and safer, stimulate the economy and reduce crime ' all because of clocks being 'sprung ahead' three weeks early.

Clearly, Markey hasn't been hanging with the Rat for the past few weeks, or he would know better. The Rat's rage was almost palpable ' and it's not just because he forgot to update the time on his DVR and missed another episode of 'Heroes.'

The cyberrodent had been fairly dismissive of those who suggested looming doom from the early spring ahead. 'Y2K7? I worked on Y2K. I knew Y2K. Y2K was a budget line item of mine. And Y2K7, you are no Y2K.'

So he watched for the patches to come in, read the tech notes and started to roll out fixes in a leisurely, methodical way.

Further mocking the crisis, the Rat pulled together an interdepartmental task force that he dubbed Ides of March Minus IV Patch Triumvirate. He even got Ides of March Minus IV T-shirts printed for his configuration management team, with a picture of Markey dressed as Caesar extending a thumbs-down, and 'Et tu, Brute?' printed on the back.

As February rolled past, the Rat was pretty confident that he had nailed down all the spring-ahead leaks in his agency's computing base. But as the fateful Sunday approached, and the whiskered one put more and more applications through the Sunlight Savings Acid Test, he kept finding more fixes that needed to be made ' manually.

'Now I remember why my parents never set the clock on their VCR right,' moaned the Rat as he and his Triumvirate plowed through the potential timestamp annoyances. Finally, with one day left, the czar of clock-checking's task seemed complete.
But the patch-a-palooza didn't end at work. In a household as thoroughly wired as the Rat family's, it took a solid 24 hours to find every single programmable device that might not manage the usually automatic changeover.

'I need to fall back about a month to recover from all this fun,' the Rat told his better half that Sunday morning. 'Wake me when it's really spring.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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