[LEAPSECS] How good could civil timekeeping be?

Poul-Henning Kamp phk at phk.freebsd.dk
Sat Feb 16 04:07:21 EST 2008

In message <CF12095B-F8D8-4C38-9F6F-F76FC6D56A75 at noao.edu>, Rob Seaman writes:

>I assert an inventory similar to Y2K is required.

Yes, you have repeatedly made that assertion.

Now, move away from the matter of UTCng and all that technical
stuff, move up a meta-level and look at the decision making process
for this:

Convincing people that you are right about the need for an extensive
and expensive inventory, will require you to parade a poster boy
example of some troubled code the inventory would uncover.

Y2K was immediately obvious to any accountant and could be exemplified
by three lines of code and two two-line datasets which everybody
with a pocket calculator could understand.

Leap seconds suffer from no such immediate obviousness, therefore
you face a much higher threshold for activation of due dilligence.

When you have to explain what leapseconds are for because nobody
know anything about them, before you make the case that removing
them might invite trouble, you face an uphill battle, because the
canonical thought process with the audience in that scenario is:

"If I've never noticed them before and I have lived through
23 of them, they can't be very important. They sound like
some sort of scout-badge for astronomers which is a lot of
trouble for everybody else. Good Riddance I say."

To avoid that, you basically need to find a piece of software that
will have trouble under UTCng, preferably trouble with significant
unwanted side-effects.

Then you can instead start your explanation by saying, "If leapseconds
are summarily terminated, this is an example of the mayhem we might
face...", then you make it sounds like leap seconds are actually
of some importance, and people will pay some more attention.

Loss of life is the jack-pot for you, but loss of millions will
probably do, due to Sarbanes-Oxley regulations.

And until you can and do parade such a piece of software, nobody
is going to take your claim seriously, and the more and longer you
talk, lacking the crucial exhibit A at your side, the more people
will assume you are the local village idiot.


Poul-Henning Kamp | UNIX since Zilog Zeus 3.20
phk at FreeBSD.ORG | TCP/IP since RFC 956
FreeBSD committer | BSD since 4.3-tahoe
Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence.

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