storing timestamp data

Antoine Leca Antoine.Leca at
Thu Apr 1 09:50:44 UTC 1999

Lee Geoff wrote:
> I'm interested in storing date/time data in Ingres
> databases which are running on Unix servers. We are recording timed events
> on Unix servers as well as Windows 3.1 and NT PCs.  I have had problems with
> the apparent miss-handling of data when viewed before or after a DST
> transition.

We had this kind of problems when setting up a Internet standard for exchanging
calendars, agendas and schedules (it ends up in RFC2245, if you mind).

The net result was: either use UTC, or local time + offset from UTC.
Do not use local time without UTC offset, as no reliable method can be
set up to correctly retrieve the exact point of time afterwards (as you may
have experienced).

Using UTC times is native on Unix and NT (AFAIK), so this is the basic choice
there.  The problem comes with Windows non-NT PCs, since they run local clocks.
IMHO, and to be consistent with the above, no data that are not tagged with
the (best approximation of) UTC offset should leave the PC.

Traditional way of finding the best approximation are (in order):
 - search for an (up to date) Olson's package to interpret the information,
  perhaps by searching $(DJDIR)/zoneinfo/localtime in addition to 
 - if running on Windows 95/98, search the information in the registry
 - setting a mechanism dedicated to it (but it will end with one more
  mechanism, which tends to upset users)
 - ask the TZ environment variable
 - search the information on related softwares that may be present on the PCs
  (examples are mailing systems, e.g. Notes, and IP connectivity packages)

Do not use:
 - tzset and timezone, as it defaults to PST8PDT or EST5EDT on most compilers,
  without being reliably accurate on most workstations by lack of TZ
 - if your users are not Americans, do not rely on US-based rules; they are
  almost correct for Europeans (except that for example, this week, my UTC
  offset is wrong because my mail software is brocken on this respect...)

Hope it helps,


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