Has anyone hacked the time zone problem with the cloud?

Has anyone hacked the time zone problem with the cloud?

world_time_zonesWhew, I made it through another month of March without embarrassingly shirking any business meetings. March is always the most challenging month for me to uphold the standard I set (and expect of others) of arriving on time for meetings.

The difficulty stems from a combination of two primary factors: traveling across time zones, and the onset of daylight savings time in some geographies.

To make matters worse, a few years back the Americans in their infinite wisdom decided to shift the daylight savings threshold date out of kilter with the other ‘developed’ countries in the world that practice this heretical religion. [Note: I’m fundamentally opposed to the concept of daylight savings time. Not only is it unnatural and unhealthy, but why battle Mother Nature?]

time_zone_hackMost, though not all, of my devices and software automatically update for daylight savings time. However, when traveling across time zones, my devices’ behaviors are inconsistent: some automatically adjust to the new time zone (e.g. mobile phones), whereas my laptop and tablet do not adjust.

Regardless, the time zone adjustment sucks, because then my Google calendar shifts all my meeting times. For example, if I schedule an 8am breakfast meeting in San Francisco next week while sitting at my desk in Paris today, once I land at SFO my Android calendar will show my breakfast meeting at 5pm.

The discrepancy here is so flagrant that I can’t help but notice. In contrast, when traveling from say, Paris to London, it’s not hard to be tardy by an hour for every meeting. Fill up a diary with a handful of appointments and a business trip thrown in, and the whole system becomes unwieldy.

I thought I was so clever…

I’ve circumvented this problem by deactivating any automatic time zone adjustments and simply manually set the clock on all my devices when I land in a new time zone. So as far as my laptop is concerned, I’m permanently on Paris/CET time. This hack has worked well for me for years. Even the synchronization with my Palm Desktop calendar used to function just fine via CompanionLink (until CompanionLink became a piece of junk).

Wanted: a time zone hack

However, there is one major flaw to my workaround. Two-factor authentification systems that generate a security token on the device, like those for online trading or banking, do not work. Apparently the algorithm in these secure token generators uses the time zone as an input.

Surely there must be solution to this… is there? If anyone has cracked this nut, I’d love to hear from them!

The world is flat. Communication is instantaneous. Air travel is inexpensive and accessible. Yet we’ll always have our time zones.

12 Responses

  1. Rhet Butler

    I agree. Meetings are difficult to manage when Daylight Saving Time (DST) or Summer Time starts.
    I just use this worldclock ahead of meetings http://www.timejones.com/WorldClock . Thanks for the nice article!

  2. Lynn

    I know this is sooo rudimentary, but I title my calendar items with the local time, like “Breakfast with Sam at 8am” so that I know for sure when it is…

  3. C Scott Willy

    You do know that when you create an appointment in Google Calendar, you can set the timezone. So when you create you 8am appointment in SFO, just set the timezone to west coast–problem solved. Used it for years and there are zero issues.

    • mark bivens (@markbivens)

      thanks for your comment. it’s a good suggestion that perhaps works well for some people. not for me however, as i’ve tried that in the past but i find it very inconvenient. rather than simply clicking on a calendar day and typing ‘8am mtg Tanaka’ which automatically populates the google calendar at the right time, i must:
      1. click on a calendar day
      2. type ‘8am mtg Tanaka’
      3. then click Edit Event
      4. then click Time zone
      5. then painstakingly scroll through a drop-down list box to the correct time zone
      5b. or on the iPad: type in a city in the desired time zone, which takes even longer
      even if i’m paris while scheduling a future meeting in tokyo with ‘Tanaka’, my simple brain defaults to the understanding that if i write ‘8am mtg Tanaka’ i truly mean 8am local tokyo time, not 8am paris time for a meeting in tokyo.

    • Jeff Abrahamson

      You don’t have to set the country in google calendar, just the city. So I leave the country set to France but set London in the list of frequent cities (a much smaller list) and I’m done. You’ll notice that France has (for you) cities of Paris and San Francisco, probably.

    • C Scott Willy

      Cannot solve all your usage issues, but…
      Plan A: assuming you are using the web version of Google Calendar, when clicking timezone gives two drop downs. The first one is as you said. But the 2nd dropdown is a short list of timezones you have used. Mine shortlist has China, France, and ET USA which solves 95% of my timezone issues.
      Plan B: is to add the three-letter time zone abbreviations after the time. e.g. “Call at 6pm PDT” or “Call at 6pm CET”. As the TLAs for TZs are not standardised, China Standard Time does not work. JST for Japan, I used it and at one to time for China.
      But you are right, Google should be smarter and set the TZ for you based on the City.

    • mark bivens (@markbivens)

      oh wow, i didn’t realize google would detect the tla of the time zone (plan b). that definitely helps, thanks!

  4. Niccole

    Simple everyone goto UTC, world wants to be this global economy so just need global timezone

  5. Luis

    Your mobile knows the time zone because it receives the info from the current connect antenna.
    One R&D idea is that during the wifi handshake also your device (laptop of other) could also use the local time zone in order to update it on you system.

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