Date Formats

How do you write the date? I worked with a CEO who demanded the company respect its international operations by writing the date this way: DAY-MONTH-YEAR, or 17/5/2019. That’s backwards from how I was taught to write it in grammar school when it was MONTH-DAY-YEAR. or 5/17/2019. What’s an Ugly American to do in a globalized world?

I still hew to the common American format in my writing and speaking when I need to insert a date into a sentence: “Today is May 17, 2019.” But Non-American English speakers prefer to say the day first, as in “The Japanese attacked on the 7th of December,1941.” This follows the “biblical” construction used in many formal religious and legal documents: “On the 7th day of December, in the year of our Lord 1941.”

But neither written or spoken expression works when managing a lot of files that are being reviewed and red-lined by clients and their lawyers. I need a format that will allow me to sort a directory and the contents of each subdirectory in chronological order. In that case I follow the ISO 8601 format which seems to me to make the most sense: YEAR-MONTH-DAY. For example. a document is named with the date first, in descending order of the time units’ “size” and then separated by hyphens with an underscore after the date and before the document’s name, followed by another hyphen, my initials, another hyphen and the version number: 2019-05-17_documentname_DCC_V1.ext

The ISO format can be sorted but every single-digit month and day –like “May 5” –must be preceded by a zero, (e.g. 2019-o5-17) or it won’t sort correctly.

The various options are bewildering without the International Standard Organization’s official guidance.

  • DMY: Day-Month-Year: this, according to Wikipedia, is “common to the majority of the world’s countries and is the preferred form used by the United Nations. This is what that old CEO wanted. But even then there are a lot of options when writing in that format. “17 May 2019” is expressed with a period after the date in German-speaking countries: “17.May 2019.” Then there is: 17/05/2019; 17-05-2019;17-May-2019; 17May19; “The 17th of May 2019”; 17/May/2019; Friday 17 May 2019; 17/v/19 (when the Roman numeral is used to signify the month by some schools and by the Vatican (to avoid using the names of months named after Roman pagan gods) and in Canada to make the format bilingual for English and French speakers.
  • YMD: Year-Month-Day: this is favored in East Asia and a few other countries and is expressed as: 2019-05-17 or 2019/05/17. ISO 8601 follows this format, but expresses it as a monolithic eight digit number for digital file names: 20190517.
  • MDY: Month-Day-Year: This is the U.S. format (also used in the Philippines and English-speaking Canada): May 17, 2019 or 05-17-2019 or 5/17/19/
  • YDM: Year-Day-Month: 2019.17.05 or 2019 17 May. This is how they write the date in Kazakhstan,Latvia, Nepal and Turkmenistan. In case you wondered……

Internet dates are defined by RFC 3339 and is expressed as YYYY-MM-DD.

So why get all global and follow the ISO standard? Wikipedia explains:

“One of the advantages of using the ISO 8601 date format is that the lexicographical order (ASCIIbetical) of the representations is equivalent to the chronological order of the dates, assuming that all dates are in the same time zone. Thus dates can be sorted using simple string comparison algorithms, and indeed by any left to right collation….The YYYY-MM-DD layout is the only common format that can provide this.”

Wikipedia: “Calendar Date”

OS insights and rantings ….

Having rebuilt two machines this weekend and not having the restore CDs  that shipped with the boxes, I have dropped $300 getting certified versions of XP installed via the Net and Microsoft’s Genuine Authentication thingy.

$150 for a XP license after I’ve paid for it in the past — but was too stupid to create recovery discs — is a) a lesson to myself and b) a warning to Microsoft that free beats the pants off of paid any day and that in this day and age, with Ubuntu getting better with every rev, the Giant of Redmond might want to go sit on the mountain and think real hard about a Windows 7 model that includes a free-kernel. The Win7 beta is free — and early adopters are reporting positive things. But come September, when it ships. The free ride ends.

Most vendors, like Lenovo, no longer ship physical XP discs with their systems, but instead ask their customers to create their own backup CDs during the system set up. I, of course, do not create these damn discs, and like most other aggrieved users, only rue that day when the hard drive fails (as all hard drives inevitably fail).

Combine a few things and Microsoft is in a perfect storm. 1. It’s the Economy Stupid: No one wants to pay for anything if there is a free alternative. 2. Track record. Vista is being written off. All eyes are on Win 7. Consumers are   looking at OS alternatives and coming to the conclusion that an operating system should be as irrelevant to them on a PC as it is on a phone. E.G. — give me a device that doesn’t need to boot, have patches, get viruses, or otherwise require a full time nerd to babysit.

Consumer Linux is becoming more and more attractive. If Linux can get some solid driver support rolling for consumers’ peripherals, hide the heck out of the kernel (a consumer user should never be aware of stuff like GRUB and Wine) with a friendly GUI skin …. I could have rebuilt both of these two ThinkPads with Ubuntu but didn’t, and paid $150 per machine to build them back up on XP for one simple reason:  the people who will be using these machine expect to see XP on them. Me? I’m more than happy to mess with Ubuntu. My wife is not.

Microsoft can buy a lot of time and hearts and mind with one simple solution — go free at one level and make it up in volume on upselling. Seriously. Whack a consumer for a credit card in this market and free starts to rule. Give me a free OS to enable a device, and when I decide I want some added benefit … then hit me with the credit card. If Microsoft can get on the free-bandwagon and get free into the corporate mindset, they buy another decade of success without any problem.

Bye-bye to Netscape

End of Support for Netscape web browsers – The Netscape Blog

CNET’s Stephen Shankland reports on the end of an era, the Netscape browser. I remember downloading the earliest version in 1994, prior to an interview with Jim Clark, the founder of Netscape, and laughing at his suggestion I leave Forbes and go to work for an internet company. Stupid me.

Netscape put the fear into Microsoft like no other company because of the immense popularity of the browser, its head start over Internet Explorer, and the simple fact that most early users left the Netscape homepage as their default, making that page the most heavily trafficked piece of virtual property in the world. The question was how would Netscape monetize that traffic. For a great insight into those early browser wars and the first stirring of the Microsoft giant and the big antitrust browser wars of the mid-90s, read Charles Ferguson’s High Stakes, No Prisoners (major congratulations to Charles for winning the New York Film Critic’s award for best documentary for No End In Sight)

Netscape  brought aboard James Barksdale to bring the company to the next level, and eventually was acquired by AOL which was in the middle of its own identity crisis as it moved from essentially a rack of 56K modems to an internet service provider. I never quite figured out the play for AOL, which made some astonishingly stupid acquisitions including the infamous Time-Warner deal. There were noises about making Netscape a content play under Jason Calacanis, but when he left AOL after selling his blog network to them, the patient went onto the do-not-revive list.

Does anyone care about browsers anymore? Firefox has won my heart, now I am more interested in the application on the other side of the glass.

From the Netscape blog:

AOL’s focus on transitioning to an ad-supported web business leaves little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point many of its fans expect it to be. Given AOL’s current business focus and the success the Mozilla Foundation has had in developing critically-acclaimed products, we feel it’s the right time to end development of Netscape branded browsers, hand the reins fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox.”

Facebook’s snail mail and social network fatigue

Why do I get notifications from Facebook about 48 hours after the event occurs (invitation from a friend, etc.)? Amazingly stupid to act on an invite and then two days later, like a bad echo, get a useless email informing me that it all went down.

In general, being an antisocial kind of guy, the social networking fad is just that, a passing fad for me that hasn’t really lit me up in any meaningful way. Among the casualties:

Problems aside, I think Google’s Open Social initiative is on the right track — give me some permeability between social nets and their functional value will sky rocket — wall me in with a close system and it’s back to the knuckle-dragging days of Prodigy, AOL, and CompuServe.

And we know how that turned out.

On the standardization of calendars

Have you picked out your wall calendar for 2007? Are you wed to the calendar view in Outlook or Notes or have you moved your calendar onto the web? Whatever you use, whether it is a DayTimer or a Treo, a 3″x5″ index card or Chopper Girls in Bikinis from the auto body shop down the street, give some thought to imprecision of our calendars.

Marking time is one of the primary forms of standardization in civilization. We can assume the pattern detection of moon phases and seasons by our bipedal antecedents lead to the type of monster calendars evident at Stonehenge, Mystery Hill, and other equinox/solstice calculators which continue to amaze us in their precision. There are two types of astronomical calendars: tropical and synodic. Tropical calendars measure the mean interval between vernal equinoxes — basically Stonehenge-types of calendars. Synodic are tuned to the moon phases and more associated with Islamic calendars. Combined calendars which blend tropical and synodic systems, are associated with the Jewish and Chinese calendar system. From the excellent FAQ on the subject:

“Three distinct types of calendars have resulted from this situation. A solar calendar, of which the Gregorian calendar in its civil usage is an example, is designed to maintain synchrony with the tropical year. To do so, days are intercalated (forming leap years) to increase the average length of the calendar year. A lunar calendar, such as the Islamic calendar, follows the lunar phase cycle without regard for the tropical year. Thus the months of the Islamic calendar systematically shift with respect to the months of the Gregorian calendar. The third type of calendar, the lunisolar calendar, has a sequence of months based on the lunar phase cycle; but every few years a whole month is intercalated to bring the calendar back in phase with the tropical year. The Hebrew and Chinese calendars are examples of this type of calendar.”

The calendar we are now working from in the West — the Gregorian — came about as the church attempted to fix the dates of the major religious feasts, particularly Easter. Wars have been waged over the topic, and indeed if you are Greek Orthodox, December 25 would not be Christ’s birthday — that would come a few days from now on January 6.

From Contrary to Popular Belief:

“In the sixth century C.E., a monk, Dionysius Exegius, began counting the years from the year of Jesus’s birth, which he miscalculated to be four to eight years later than the actual date. Since Jesus was born during the lifetime of Herod the Great, his birth has to take place before Herod’s death in 4 B.C.E. … so while most Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25, Jesus was more likely born in the spring — sometime before 4 and 8 B.C.E.”

And to close on a final pedantic point: Leap Year does not occur every four years. February 29 only occurs when the number of the year is divisible by 4 — except in centenary years not divisible by 400. To quote Contrary to Popular Belief: “…the year 2000 was a leap year, but the year 2100, while divisible by four, will not be a leap year because it is not divisible by 400.

Me. I prefer to go lunar and refer to the months, not by their current names, nor the post-French revolutionary conventions, but as the “Harvest, “Wolf” and “Hunter’s” moons. In deference to the need for sophisticated meeting management, I’ll soldier on under the weight of Lotus Notes and hope, somehow, for full synchronization and notification in ’07 on some new handheld device, as my Treo’s days are numbered.

Lunch over IP: The natural history of the @ sign

Lunch over IP: The natural history of the @ sign

Reading Bruno Giussani is a delight. This history of the “@” or “at” sign is a keeper. Bruno is my favorite Swiss blogger and info theory blogger out there.

“The precise birth date of e-mail is unknown, but technology historians set it somewhere in late 1971, when a then 30-year old American computer engineer, Ray Tomlinson, did what he unassuming calls “a quick hack”. He successfully sent the first electronic message from a computer to an account (his own account, in fact) on another computer.”

A second thought on Second Life

While pulling dead flower stalks out of the ground yesterday another Second Life thought came to me. Here it is:

Second Life is, unto itself, an island, and islands sink in the big ocean of the Internet.

Hit the wayback machine to 1993 — Prodigy, CompuServe, and AOL are at their zeniths. None of them interoperate. To participate in a chat with a celebrity on CompuServe, one must subscribe to CompuServe. Their mail systems didn’t speak to each other. Their content didn’t flow. They were islands — the metaphor in those days was “walled gardens.”

Now, back to where we stand today. I use TCP/IP to get to Second Life. I don’t have to spend a dime to get an account or avatar. I only part with money when I want to upgrade to a premium account which gives me the right to buy “land” and become an economic operator. But, and this is the key “but” — I can’t host that “land” on my server. I can’t develop it and maintain it and profit from it on my terms, only Second Life’s.

Yes, Linden Labs is a very “open” company, building Second Life atop a lot of open architectures, and yes, Linden is trying to open up its APIs. This Linux Journal article is a good place to get the background. 

“More than the blip of CopyBot, there are deep problems that need to be addressed in the context of creating an open source version of Second Life, notably as far as security is concerned. Most of them have to do with how open source clients would interact with Linden Lab’s servers, and how it might be possible to allow users to run their own Second Life servers – effectively creating separate virtual worlds based on the same protocols.”

When and if the 3D equivalent of HTML emerges (wasn’t it supposed to be VRML?) then I would be very interested in the development of a 3D presence for myself or my company. Until then, Second Life feels eerily similar to Prodigy, a 3D walled garden.

Standardization of Publishing Platforms

SPECIAL: “Winning Online” — A Manifesto

Mark Cahill (one of the smartest guys on the topic of publishing technologies) points to this Editor & Publisher manifesto by Tom Mohr – formerly head of KR Digital on newspaper websites. Mohr posits that if newspapers want to get their acts together online, they need to converge on a common standard and set of tools. Mark and I kicked around a business plan two years ago on this very model — there is no viable reason in the world, aside from sheer hubris, for a publication to own its own CMS, metrics, and ad servers.

“Newspaper online infrastructures dot the United States like a thousand points of light. It is a massive waste of financial and intellectual capital. As Knight Ridder proved, multiple newspaper websites of all sizes (from the Biloxi Sun Herald to the Philadelphia Inquirer) can sit on common platforms and deliver Pulitzer Prize-winning quality.”What, specifically, is meant by common platforms?

“They include a common content management system, common classified marketplace solution, common ad serving capabilities, a common ad network, shared content and feature functionality within key channels, a common underlying technical infrastructure and common supporting financial systems, metrics and analytics.”

In a book I ghost-authored with some Gartner experts — Multisourcing — the panoply of IT enabled systems was stacked up against their impact on competitive and strategic advantage … a riff on Nick Carr’s polemic against the value of IT. Only the most rarified, business-transforming, bet the company initiatives deserve internal development, most, if not all systems from lowly lights-on, cost of doing business IT system such as email, can be outsourced or managed against cost.

That the publishing industries insist on building their own web infrastructures is ludicrious. It’s time for a major systems provider like IBM Global Services to step in with a common platform and let the publishers focus on what their true business is — incisive journalism.

Thank Mark for the pointer.

Standards gone wrong

In researching my project on the history of technology standards I came across two interesting random standards disasters.

The first is the 1904 Baltimore fire. A massive conflagration in the downtown district forced the call for backup fire fighters to go out to Washington D.C. and surrounding communities. A special train was made up in Washington to rush assistance to the overwhelmed Baltimore fire department. Upon arrival the out-of-town firefighters learned their hose couplings wouldn’t fit on the Baltimore hydrants. Lots of capacity, but no connections. This lead to the national standardization of fire hydrant couplings.

The other random disaster was the loss of the $125 million Mars orbiter in 1999 when one group of engineers used the English standard of measurement and the other groups used the Metric system. When navigational commands were transmitted to the spacecraft it spazzed and was lost forever.

Anyone know of any other significant SNAFUs due to incompatibilities where loss of life, property or sanity ensued because of plugs that didn’t fit, rulers that didn’t measure, or IT systems that couldn’t communicate? I bet there are some amazing tales of corporate mergers that foundered on the rocks because of the latter.

Exit mobile version