Springing ahead during spring break

Daylight-saving time will take place three weeks earlier than in the past.

by Mike Enright

Students looking to enjoy fun in the sun this spring break might want to remember to keep an extra eye on their flights – and their clocks – this weekend.

At 2 a.m. Sunday, daylight-saving time will “spring ahead,” adding an hour of daylight to the delight of anyone stricken with cabin fever.

The change comes three weeks earlier than usual as a result of a law passed by Congress two years ago to help reduce energy use.

And while the added hour will make the days a bit brighter, it might also cause a few minor headaches along the way with computer software used with everything from personal desktop programs to the systems managing airline flight schedules.

The problem, according to computer science and engineering professor Mats Heimdahl, is that many computer systems rely on dates in order to perform various tasks, and changing the date of daylight-saving time might cause confusion.

“It’s already been a nuisance for me because my contact manager – I use Microsoft Outlook – moved my appointments by one hour,” he said. “Outlook thought it was smarter than I was, so something went terribly wrong there.”

Heimdahl was also quick to point out he doesn’t anticipate the earlier switch being more than a minor inconvenience, in the end.

“I’m sure some people will miss a flight or two, or meetings because of this, but I don’t think the world is going to come to an end,” he said. “There could be a hiccup with international flights, though, and, of course, the general confusion when you switch over to (daylight-saving) time. It takes me a week to get used to it anyway.”

But airline officials say they are confident the change will not cause any major problems.

After simply saying it is ready, Northwest Airlines deferred to the Air Transport Association of America, an airline industry trade group, for further comment.

A spokesman for the association, David Castelveter, said airlines knew ahead of time about the earlier spring forward, and they are adequately prepared.

“They have been working for quite some time so that this would not or should not affect their customers,” he said. “We expect that all will be business as usual this weekend.”

Flying out on Thursday, sociology junior Iris Ramos, who plans to spend her break in Los Angeles, said she had no idea daylight-saving time was early this year, but she’s not too worried about it.

Ramos said she believes the airline industry is on top of it.

“I don’t think that’s something they’d just forget about,” she said.

Although he won’t be traveling anywhere this break, computer science senior Tim Hillukka said he’s going to be very aware of this year’s early changeover.

That’s because he is employed at Spanlink Communications, an information technology business that has been helping clients update their systems to “spring ahead.”

“So I’ll be working this whole weekend,” he said.

Banking officials said their systems are ready for the change, and they do not anticipate problems for customers.

“We have been preparing for the early time changes for several months now, and we’re confident it will be business as usual for all our customers,” said Peggy Gunn, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman.

TCF Bank spokesman Jason Korstange expressed similar confidence.

“We have talked to all our vendors and (information technology) people,” he said. “And they believe everything will go smoothly.”

Deputy Chief Information Officer of Academic and Distributed Computing Services Shih-Pau Yen said the University is also prepared.

For students who are traveling, Heimdahl said his advice is simply to think ahead.

“Double-check your flights, and double-check your alarm clock,” he said.