Tuesday, March 13, 2007

How I survived Y2K7


So here we all are, wandering the vast smoldering wasteland remaining after Sunday's colossal Daylight Savings apocalypse, also known (to some) as Y2K7. It's ok to come out of your DST shelter now, although you'll be faced with a bizarre and alien new world where it's light at 7pm and it's not even St. Patrick's Day yet. Like the photo above, for example.

It turns out that, just like Y2K v1.0 a few years back, I didn't actually need to stockpile a bunker full of dried lima beans, condensed milk, and C4. Which is good, because both times I sort of forgot to panic and didn't buy much of anything. This time around I'd only managed to stockpile less than a day's worth of beer, and I only count it as "stockpiling" in retrospect, and then only because it's funny. Mildly.

So here's how various tech toys of mine weathered the latest storm:

  • The Linux box was easiest. It's Ubuntu 6.10 these days and is already up to date. Almost too easy. Here's a gratuitous picture of the install CD-R, although I'm afraid the tasty Ubuntu bits aren't visible at this resolution.


  • The Mac was only a little harder. Simple matter of downloading the right patch and installing it. I could've done this manually instead, but that wouldn't really be the Mac way.

  • Haven't sorted out the Blackberry situation yet. The instructions I saw made it sound like a major operation, with reflashing the whole OS and everything. So far I've been too chicken to try it, although the XP box that forwards mail to it has been upgraded, so I probably ought to get the two in sync. Simply changing the timezone to Mountain temporarily doesn't help, since it seems to reset that value

    I may just set the time to 'manual' for a while. That's what my wife did, but where's the challenge in that?

  • The aforementioned XP box, at the office, was updated by following detailed instructions from IT. They sent out a series of emails telling everyone it was MANDATORY to follow the instructions IMMEDIATELY, so I did, good corporate drone that I am. I haven't missed any meetings yet, so I guess that means I colored within the lines successfully. Although all things considered I might be happier if I missed a week of meetings and blamed it on those meddling idiots in Congress.

  • The other office machine is an old Win2k box. I've been meaning to nuke and repave it as a Linux box for a while now, and the DST thing may be the last straw that finally gets me to do it.

  • The old NEC PC-8201a I bought a while back cannot be convinced there's life after 1999. Right now it's like, totally sure it's, like, 1983. I also don't think it understands daylight savings time, period. You have to reset the hour manually, like you do with any other menial electronic gadget ( alarm clock, coffee maker, microwave, camera, etc.)

  • Speaking of cameras, if you look at the EXIF data on the top photo you'll see it says it was taken at 6:09 pm. I forgot to change the date on the thing before taking my "sunny at 7pm in March" shot.

    The picture shows part of the AT&T building downtown, plus a portion of one of the elm trees in Ankeny Park. If you can identify the bird, you have better eyes, or a better image enhancement app, than I do.

  • Solaris was the fun one. I decided I'd upgrade at least one machine manually, for the heck of it. Linux, Solaris, and OSX all use the same Zoneinfo mechanism, and once you've done one, there's not much more to learn from doing the others. I actually looked into prebuilt patches for the Sun box too, but Solaris patches have a way of forming an open-ended dependency tree, in which each patch relies on at least two additional patches you haven't installed yet. So the Ultra 30 became the lucky lab rat this time. Here's a photo of said machine, because I had one handy:


    It's really not that hard to do it the 'hard' way. You grab the source tarball from the official ftp site, hosted at the National Institues of Health (US) for some reason. Back up your existing timezone files (usually in /usr/share/lib/zoneinfo or some such) in case you do something stupid. It's best to just rename the whole directory to something like zoneinfo.old, and create a new empty zoneinfo directory. Unpack the tarball into a temp directory, and run the zoneinfo compiler zic on each timezone file, making sure to do the file named 'backward' last. They don't explain why; just do it. Go look at the zoneinfo directory you created and see if there's files there. If not, lather, rinse, repeat. Otherwise, you've now reached one of those rare times where you need to reboot. Time to kiss that precious 2000-day uptime goodbye. Sorry. Just think of the tasty new-DST goodness you'll enjoy afterward. It'll make it all worthwhile, almost.

    If you call yourself a real geek, you'll enjoy the zoneinfo source files. Sure, you could just treat them as mysterious black-box data files, but maintaining these files is obviously someone's labor of love, and they're heavily commented, full of all sorts of trivia and amusing anecdotes. If you've ever wondered what time it is precisely at the south pole, and why, you'll want to peek at the "antarctica" file.

  • I have to say I'm adapting less well than the electronics have. I look at the clock, look outside, and think it can't possibly be the time the clock says it is, government or no government. It's March, and there's hours of sunlight after I'm off work. It's just unnatural, that's what it is.

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