[tz] [PATCH 1/1] Add UTC to zone tables

Steve Summit scs at eskimo.com
Sun Mar 13 13:12:23 UTC 2016

J William Piggott wrote:
> If you were offered a million dollars to guess which category holds
> the UTC _file_, what would you pick?

That would depend on which world I lived in and whether I was
willing to prostitute truth for a million bucks.  In a world
where the universal time "zone" has been commonly but incorrectly
associated with one particular geographic location, I'd certainly
know what the expected answer was, but I would definitely be
feeling the same gut-wrenching dilemma unfortunately faced by
smart students everywhere when faced with a multiple-choice test
question where the answer clearly expected by the test-setter is
not, in fact, the right answer.

> I think users searching for UTC know enough about it to
> associate it with GMT, and GMT with Greenwich, and Greenwich
> with London/Britain.

That is certainly the traditional expectation, but it is not only
wrong, it has caused actual, significant, some would say serious
problems, such as versions of Microsoft Windows where it's
effectively impossible to run a computer on UTC, because the only
approximate choice is GMT, but if you choose that it assumes
you're in England and helpfully switches to BST for you during
the appropriate periods.  We'd do well not to do anything that
enshrines those mistaken assumptions and expectations.

Presenting a geographically (and graphically) based time
zone selector is a handy and useful user interface feature,
but it need not and should not entrench the notion that
geographically-based is the only way to go, or that UTC is
geographically based (or a time zone at all).

The tz database should lead here, by presenting UTC as a unique
top-level choice.  We should absolutely not follow existing
muddled practice in this area.

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