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BBC Clock Inaccurate - 100 Days To Fix?

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the one-tricky-clock dept.

United Kingdom 487

mikejuk writes "The BBC home page has just lost its clock because the BBC Trust upheld a complaint that it was inaccurate. The clock would show the current time on the machine it was being viewed on and not an accurate time as determined by the BBC. However, the BBC have responded to the accusations of inaccuracy by simply removing the clock stating that it would take 100 staffing days to fix. It further says: 'Given the technical complexities of implementing an alternative central clock, and the fact that most users already have a clock on their computer screen, the BBC has taken the decision to remove the clock from the Homepage in an upcoming update.' They added, '...the system required to do this "would dramatically slow down the loading of the BBC homepage", something which he said was "an issue of great importance to the site's users". Secondly, if the site moved to a format in which users across the world accessed the same homepage, irrespective of whichever country they were in, it would be "impossible to offer a single zonally-accurate clock."'"

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487 comments

Not-so-accurate source (4, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43922399)

I'm not sure I can trust a source which says "it has been stated that it would take 100 programmer hours to fix" then quotes a paragraph stating 100 staff days. Regardless it is harder than it looks: the BBC doesn't want to get into the business of running a time server, nor trying to automatically determine which time zone any particular visitor to the site happens to be in (by, what, IP address tracing?).

Re:Not-so-accurate source (4, Funny)

Pinhedd (1661735) | about 10 months ago | (#43922451)

Come on, everyone knows that public sector workers only work for one hour per day. Programmers are no exception.

Re: Not-so-accurate source (2)

madprof (4723) | about 10 months ago | (#43922625)

Is the BBC public sector? That is an interesting idea. It is not taxpayer funded. It is licence fee funded.

Re: Not-so-accurate source (5, Insightful)

spacec0w (894586) | about 10 months ago | (#43922835)

I think most would consider the licence fee a sort of tax.

Re: Not-so-accurate source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922873)

A lot of people believe a lot of things that are wrong. Besides which the BBC makes huge gobs of cash from it's commercial arm selling DVDs and shows to other countries.

Re: Not-so-accurate source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922903)

Are you aware that they impose a mandatory license fee for all households? It is functionally equivalent to a tax, and therefore to most people would consider it "a sort of tax".

Re: Not-so-accurate source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922897)

The license fee is a tax as much as a ticket to a theatre you wish to vist is a tax.

You don't HAVE to pay the license fee.

Income tax MUST be paid if you work.
VAT MUST be paid if you purchase something.
Council Tax MUST be paid if you live in a house (not optional as vagrancy and squatting are optional).

Death and Taxes, no one ever said anything about televisions.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

Vulch (221502) | about 10 months ago | (#43922657)

No, "programmer hours" versus "staff days". As everyone who has worked in a large organisation, public or private, knows it is vitally important to have numerous committee meetings and consult all stakeholders to make sure all possible solutions have been investigated and a clear approach decided before any programmers get involved.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (-1)

JazzXP (770338) | about 10 months ago | (#43922455)

Syncing the webservers to an online atomic clock is fairly trivial. Then just run some javascript to convert to local time.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (5, Insightful)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about 10 months ago | (#43922547)

Seems simple until you start working through it. First you have to start tracking every goofy fall/spring variation in the world so you don't display a time that's an hour early or late. Then, do you just trust that the user has the correct time zone entered on their computer? Maybe they're travelling 3 time zones away. Do you use ip geolocation to get their approximate physical location and display that time? Say you do that. What if they're in NYC and surfing through their company VPN in Los Angeles? I guess on a tablet or phone, you might be able to get the location from the GPS. Wating for location fix...waiting for location fix...waiting for location fix.

At some point during the discussions, someone pointed out that it's a silly thing to worry about since any device accessing their website already has the time displayed or available at the gesture of a mouse or finger.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (0)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 10 months ago | (#43922591)

BBC should just display GMT.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (2, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43922597)

Why would a web site visitor want to know the local time of the page they're viewing?

Re:Not-so-accurate source (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 10 months ago | (#43922647)

GMT and UTC are important time references globally. I can see value in using them. And anyway, GMT isn't always local time in the UK.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922703)

BBC couldn't display GMT in the UK during the summer. Apart from causing mass confusion, there would be an uproar.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 10 months ago | (#43922673)

Why would I want to see the time of ANY time zone on a webpage that I don't view for that specific purpose (because, say, I want to sync my clock).

Every computer user already HAS a clock.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 10 months ago | (#43922717)

Its a fair point, but the BBC world service on radio always announces the time in GMT (pointedly not using the French UTC), so it is sort of appropriate for the BBC web site to also report the time.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922769)

GMT and UTC are actually different, anyway. The BBC announce GMT because the pips are GMT, not UTC. (GMT is defined in terms of astronomical time, centred in Greenwich, while UTC is defined in terms of absolute time, as counted by an atomic clock, with the occasional added leap second to keep it in line with GMT).

Re:Not-so-accurate source (4, Insightful)

MrDoh! (71235) | about 10 months ago | (#43922661)

Bingo. I deal with clients using our system globally, with ships crossing timezones/the dateline, handling requests booked in from other timezones, by people who travel around the world. In the end, the exceptions to any rules got silly. So the server's on Zulu time and everyone can look down at their own computer's clock/wristwatch/phone and figure things out. To be fair, there's some excellent tools for calculating all this, but keeping on top of it, and the risk if something changes and we miss it? Not good. Makes me wish the entire world was on one timezone/date, and everyone just got used to waking up at a different time around the globe. "What time is it in Cairo?" "Same as here mate" "what time do the wake up?" "whenever they feel like it, it looks like" And handling Brit/US officers? /groan. the date formats, THE DATE FORMATS! If only everyone used YYYYMMDD. Still, least I don't have to worry about having to figure out if to add tax or not depending if the shipment starts/stops/goes through certain ports and in what currency, at what rate. That was the stuff of nightmares.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922771)

Time on the web page only makes sense if there is some significance to it being a particular time, in this case BBC time. There are times and dates on the BBC website, and those are all given in one particular timezone, that which the BBC uses. The time on the web site would therefore show that particular timezone as well, so that if there is "talks have been delayed until 5 p.m." on the web site, you can glance at the clock and understand when that is.

You could get the BBC time once, calculate the offset to the local clock and then update the web site time locally. That would eliminate accumulated drift of the local clock and take the time zone offset into account. It would usually be accurate to within a second, probably, but depending on network delays and local clock events after the initial synchronization (NTP steps the time, different daylight saving rules, etc.), it could be off by much more occasionally. There's also the question of how to get the initial time information. If you just put it in a generated script file or in the HTML, any caching would wreak havoc with the web site time. Since there are many cache infrastructures out there which ignore all caching directives, particularly no-cache directives, you would have to play URL tricks to make sure that the time is not cached. I don't think it would take 100 programmer hours to implement something like this on a simple web server, but for integrating it into the BBC server infrastructure, 100 hours for planning, implementation and testing might even be a little on the low side. Those are not fire-and-forget changes either. Someone would have to make sure that the system keeps delivering accurate time. It's probably not worth it.

so trivial that is done by computers visiting it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922785)

But then again, it's easy for someone to do the "what timezone and preferences are set for the viewer" when the viewer is the only one doing the request.

Doing that on a webpage for everyone who will have various desires, wants and needs isn't trivial.

And since it's implemented already on just about every visitor's computer, they really SHOULD consider removing it.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (4, Insightful)

Inda (580031) | about 10 months ago | (#43922457)

It's a cop-out, nothing more.

Display the time in GMT. State that the time is in GMT. Offer a drop down menu showing "-12h" to "+12h", save the option in a cookie. Or don't. No one from the licence fee paying British public would mind if it only showed British time.

Use someone else's time server. There are plenty to pick from. No need to run your own.

It took me 2 minutes to type this. Who wants to implement it by Friday?

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43922513)

I can't see anyone going to even the small amount of effort needed to set their time zone on the BBC web site clock when there's one in the bottom right hand corner of their screen at all times.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (2)

Smivs (1197859) | about 10 months ago | (#43922559)

...there's (a clock) in the bottom right hand corner of their screen at all times...

That's not a clock, that's my workspaces! The clock is in the TOP right corner.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (4, Informative)

Faluzeer (583626) | about 10 months ago | (#43922527)

It's a cop-out, nothing more.

Display the time in GMT. State that the time is in GMT. Offer a drop down menu showing "-12h" to "+12h", save the option in a cookie. Or don't. No one from the licence fee paying British public would mind if it only showed British time.

Use someone else's time server. There are plenty to pick from. No need to run your own.

It took me 2 minutes to type this. Who wants to implement it by Friday?

Hmmm

GMT is only "British time" for half of the year. From the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October, we are on British Summer Time, which is GMT + 1. Given how many people get confused over summer / daylight savings time, I am sure that setting the BBC clock to GMT all year round would generate a lot of complaints.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922611)

Indeed. And other nations will follow different Daylight Savings Time rules. Everyone knows that Togo is x hours ahead of the UK? Aha, for 20 days a year it isn't!

On the other hand, this is such an obtuse problem that I am sure there are plenty of companies out there who have developed solutions. They'd probably charge the BBC hand over fist for it though.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

Shinobi (19308) | about 10 months ago | (#43922879)

GMT is a geographical division. So even if you're on DST, you're still in GMT, NOT GMT+1. The zones do not shift just because of DST.

WHO CARES (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922533)

who cares?

BBC cannot use my PC's time, because it is wrong! We don't want their time, because it's not ours!

I would remove the damn clock in this situation as well. Who the hell cares, and for those who do care...buy a damn clock.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

Kiwikwi (2734467) | about 10 months ago | (#43922691)

Sigh. The fact that you think British time equals GMT speaks volumes to your lack of understanding of the complexities of time.

(And what is "British time"? Do you mean UK time? What about overseas territories?)

More importantly, if the clock on the user's own computer isn't "good enough", what is? Just agreeing on the requirements could easily take 100 staff days.

The US government has http://www.time.gov/ [time.gov] which has most definitely taken 100 staff days to create, plus on-going maintenance.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 10 months ago | (#43922755)

It's a cop-out, nothing more.

It's a fit of common sense.

What is the use case of a clock on a website?

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about 10 months ago | (#43922757)

It's a cop-out, nothing more.

Sheesh... It's a freaking clock!!

Yes, it's a cop-out, but why is this even a story on Slashdot? And what is the point of duplicating clock functionality that's already on someone's computer anyway?

It took me 2 minutes to type this. Who wants to implement it by Friday?

Again, what is point of doing that on the bbc web site?

Re:Not-so-accurate source (3, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | about 10 months ago | (#43922495)

I'm not sure I can trust a source which says "it has been stated that it would take 100 programmer hours to fix" then quotes a paragraph stating 100 staff days

I think that's 100 programmer hours to fix the problems, and 100 staff days to field calls from a nation whose hobby is complaining about things that don't matter.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 10 months ago | (#43922505)

BBC doesn't want to [...] automatically determine which time zone any particular visitor to the site happens to be in

How do they handle this for their TV broadcasts?

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43922519)

Their TV broadcasts (and the live streams of the channels) occur in a single timezone.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 10 months ago | (#43922747)

Are you sure about that? With good equipment, you can pick up their TV signals surprisingly far.

And then what about their radio broadcasts, which are worldwide.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43922809)

The TV broadcasts are at least ostensibly only to be received in the UK. Leakage happens but obviously anyone receiving the signal has no expectation of a standard of service, and therefore the BBC's accuracy requirement doesn't apply. The World Service is a global broadcast and is formatted as such, e.g. it doesn't include explicit time references.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922857)

The primary target for the main BBC arm broadcasts are in a single time zone.

BBC Worldwide are different. I don't know how they handle time.
BBC America (damn you getting Orphan Black before us) would handle time the same as any other US broadcaster I guess.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 10 months ago | (#43922509)

They don't have to run a time server, they just need to keep their time server updated; once an hour from is probably enough. There are also a variety of cheap hardware add-ons (even for Windows) that pull accurate time from radio beacons or GPS.

As for the time zone to display, they ask the browser for its configured time zone and use that. Presumably, that's what the user considers his time zone.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

jez9999 (618189) | about 10 months ago | (#43922517)

the BBC doesn't want to get into the business of running a time server

Then they're pretty damn lazy. It's very easy, especially with the kind of money the BBC has, to do just that.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43922543)

And they could run a burger joint easily too, but they're a publicly-funded organisation, they're not permitted to throw money at activities outside their remit.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 10 months ago | (#43922629)

And they could run a burger joint easily too, but they're a publicly-funded organisation, they're not permitted to throw money at activities outside their remit.

Probably not the best [express.co.uk] example.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922529)

Hmm if only there existed a protocol like NTP and public NTP servers readily available.
You're an idiot, maybe you should apply to work for the BBC.

The timezone is a lesser problem, not insurmountable, besides, you can always show GMT of BST in the UK and elsewhere.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

Bananenrepublik (49759) | about 10 months ago | (#43922603)

trying to automatically determine which time zone any particular visitor to the site happens to be in (by, what, IP address tracing?).

This might help: getTimezoneOffset documentation [mozilla.org].

Re:Not-so-accurate source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922665)

They can also just set a Date object to a UTC time and read the local time from it.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

pe1chl (90186) | about 10 months ago | (#43922745)

Right now their problem is that people with their clock incorrectly set will see an incorrect time.
They probably don't want to change that into a situation where people with their timezone incorrectly set will see an incorrect time.
(as that will probably largely be the same group of people)

Re:Not-so-accurate source (1)

Firehed (942385) | about 10 months ago | (#43922613)

The timezone thing is a legitimate concern, but there's virtually no reason to not have ntpd running on your servers anyway. Depending on their level of server (non-)automation, it could conceivably take a non-trivial amount of time to set that up if it wasn't already, especially if there's software logic that doesn't like time running in reverse should it have to sync up in that direction.

Re:Not-so-accurate source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922865)

Big diff between handing an NTP server running and having a public NTP server being hit by crap tons of people.

BBC time == UK time - whats the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922441)

When visiting the website of UKs BBC one would expect to see the time from the BBCs location (UK), not from the local PC. Just like when watching a TV station and seeing a clock on the screen it would show the time at the location of the stations studio - what else!?

Re:BBC time == UK time - whats the problem? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43922605)

Why show the local time on a web site? The gripping hand is, aside from being a cute widget, there's little reason for a clock to be there.

Re:BBC time == UK time - whats the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922783)

Because that same website, or nearby pages, have schedules and promos for broadcasts/webcasts that might interest the reader, who will otherwise need to translate the scheduled time into his local time.

This isn't what the local-time clock by itself would accomplish, of course, but it explains why a GMT website might need to know the viewer's local tz.

Re:BBC time == UK time - whats the problem? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43922821)

The scheduled content is only available in the UK, where a single timezone applies. For example the iPlayer is unambiguous about the current time because there is no ambiguity about what time zone the viewer is in.

Re:BBC time == UK time - whats the problem? (1)

pe1chl (90186) | about 10 months ago | (#43922777)

Of course this is true when you see a clock in the picture, but when I tune to the BBC and press the info button on my remote, I still see the overlaid clock in local time.
And when I press the EPG button to see their schedule, I see the schedule expressed in my local time. So "the nine o'clock news" airs at 22:00.

This is possible because this data is all transmitted relative to UTC and my receiver translates it to local time. And it only works because I cared to set
the timezone for my receiver when it went through its initial setup wizard.

What they probably are worried about is the viewers/users who do not have things like this correctly set.
After all, when your PC clock is not correct and you are on internet, you must have done something wrong. Probably set the timezone incorrectly.
(home versions of windows are by default synchronizing their clock to time.windows.com and Apple stuff probably is no different)

User's time, not BBC time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922467)

I think the article mistakenly thinks that the BBC wanted to show "the time at BBC".

They'd been displaying the wrong time, only because users had the wrong time set on their local machine.

What the BBC said was that they would find it difficult and expensive to accurately show the time at the user's location, when the user's time settings were wrong.

Re:User's time, not BBC time (1)

neokushan (932374) | about 10 months ago | (#43922577)

Considering that cheap spammy ads are able to determine your location so they can offer HOT, SEXY LADIES IN YOUR AREA, I think the BBC can manage.

Re:User's time, not BBC time (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about 10 months ago | (#43922817)

And why would they waste time an effort over something so ultimately pointless? It's actually amusing hearing everyone rip on the BBC for not wanting to waste money on a worthless webpage clock.

I get those ads for USA sites. I'm in the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922849)

So I don't think they have it working.

Re:User's time, not BBC time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922869)

The point is that the BBC hold them to a far greater standard of accuracy than the HOT SEXY LADIES IN YOUR AREA

What a load of old cobblers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922471)

You have a javascript time widget on the page, it requests the time - just once - from the server (which has the correct time) using ajax or something, and the widget just increments the time from there. How hard could that be? It sounds like a tutorial exercise more than an actual problem.

Re:What a load of old cobblers (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 10 months ago | (#43922515)

This is how I would have done it too, but then I started to think whether the JavaScript incremental timing would be accurate enough. So maybe you want to add an extra synchronization every 15 minutes or so.

Um.. what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922475)

Can't they just get the current unix timestamp from the server, get the difference between local time and just display local time + difference? That would only be one extra http call per page load.

Re:Um.. what? (1)

dejanc (1528235) | about 10 months ago | (#43922607)

There are several things involved:

Firstly, they need to get user's timezone. There are javascript methods to do this, but are not always reliable, especially if they don't want to depend on the client having javascript support. Of course, they could always just ask the user to pick the timezone, so that issue could be solved. E.g. Formula 1 [formula1.com] solved it nicely, though I am not sure which method exactly they use (their javascripts are not obfuscated, but I can't be bothered).

Bigger issue, in my opinion, is showing exact time. Assuming their servers all keep exact time and that everybody is happy with their definition of the exact time (which is a big assumption to begin with), BBC would also need to take into account latency between server and client. E.g. it takes about 1/3 or 1/4 of a second for me to load a single random page with a GET request from BBC.

For an example of pain it takes to give users correct time, visit The official U.S. Time [time.gov] page. It's a java applet, presumably because anything client-side can't be trusted to actually count a second as a second. Granted, that page is ancient, but you can still see that it's not really trivial.

100 days is not exaggerated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922479)

Anyone who has ever had to deal with timezones, summer and winter times, in combination with user settings and preferences on the PC / in the browser knows that it is virtually impossible to get a accurate clock in the browser that satisfies all visitors.

Content delivery network, Caches??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922485)

It seems a ridiculous to not corret the time, but may be there are technical complexity due to content delivery networks, and caches on servers side.

single zonally-accurate clock? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922491)

What's all this nonsense about a "single zonally-accurate clock". The is the British Broadcasting Company. They should be showing the world GMT (Greenwhich Mean Time) all the time everywhere. Oh, and never mind all this British Summer Time nonsense either. Should not take more than a day to put up.
 

Re:single zonally-accurate clock? (1)

Vulch (221502) | about 10 months ago | (#43922681)

C is for Corporation. It stopped being a Company at the end of 1926.

They have a point! (1)

rajats (891347) | about 10 months ago | (#43922499)

By the time they fix the clock, it'd be 100 days and the clock would be slower by 100 days! Then they'll try to fix again and the clock would be slower by 100 days again! ....ad infinitum... Better to break that cycle by not embarking on this journey!

A simple remote clock design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922503)

Keeping two clocks in sync is VERY easy, especially with the age of the Internet.

Step 1. Ensure your servers have a good NTP source and are updated nightly.

Step 2. Your clock widget makes a tiny Ajax call to a "clock" REST API, getting the current server time.

Step 3. Subtract the local computer's time vs the server time to create your Server-Host Delta

Step 4. Update your widget every second/minute, adding the delta from the local clock to compute the "real" (or trusted) time.

Step 5. Send the AJAX call once an hour or every 5 minutes if needed to keep in sync.

Is it reallly that hard? A web page doesn't need microsecond accuracy. Likely minute level is fine, and the above solution would provide that beyond a reasonable level.

Re:A simple remote clock design (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43922531)

So your algorithm for determining the time on the local computer is

local time = (local time - remote time) + remote time

?

You realise that simplifies to:

local time = local time

Re:A simple remote clock design (1)

archshade (1276436) | about 10 months ago | (#43922887)

So your algorithm for determining the time on the local computer is

local time = (local time - remote time) + remote time

?

You realise that simplifies to:

local time = local time

No it's not, it's:
Thread 1:
while(1){
delta_t = remote_time - local_time;
sleep(5 mins);
}

Thread 2:
while(1){
display_time = local_time + delta_t;
update_clock(display_time):
}

This actually simplifies to:
display_time = local_time + (remote_time - local_time)
or
display_time = remote_time

But with the advantage of only polling the server every 5 mins, not every time you want to update the clock. 5 mins is probably to frequent for the application, but in the correct order of magnitude.

Re:A simple remote clock design (1)

samjam (256347) | about 10 months ago | (#43922535)

It is harder than that, ntp is hard. ntp takes hours to stabilize before it will believe it has a decent idea of the time.

How do you know how long it took to get the time request from the BBC over http?

Do you think you might get two side-by-side PC's showing different times (out by 10 seconds) depending on link contention when they made their request?

BBC cannot solve this problem.

I've already done this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922551)

took me about 15 minutes...

Has it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922563)

The BBC home page has just lost its clock...the BBC have responded to the accusations of inaccuracy by simply removing the clock

Just clicked onto bbc.co.uk, the page which declares itself to be the "homepage" in the tab header. Lo and behold, right under the sections menu, is a nice little clock displaying the time.

Is there any other source for this?

Re:Has it? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 10 months ago | (#43922627)

Not seeing it here in Australia. Maybe I have to browse anonymously.. or maybe us Aussies are being cut off at last. No more allowance from auntie!

100 days? (4, Interesting)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 10 months ago | (#43922587)

Counting all the administrative overhead, the "testing", etc., this may well seem plausible.

It took one large Luxembourgish bank nine months to change SUPPORTED_OS = MAC into SUPPORTED_OS = Linux32 in a configuration file in a jar named LuxTrust_Gemalto_CryptoTI_Adapter_LIN32_1.4.jar (yes, they did indeed accidentally put the Mac config file into the Linux jar... it's that stupid...)

Another bank [www.bcee.lu] is celebrating the first year anniversary of this same bug right now as we speak :-) (unfixed yet, of course)

Reason for the slowness (in both cases): when fixing such a mixup, according to their procedures, the entire test suite (... which incidentally, didn't catch this bug in the first place...) needs to be re-run, and this takes weeks, and so they shy away from the expense.

So we end up in the paradoxical situation where the presence doesn't reduce the number of bugs seen in production, but actually increases it. Rather than catching bugs early, the test suite instead perpetuates existing bugs...

BBC cannot win (5, Insightful)

NeeNahNye (2454474) | about 10 months ago | (#43922599)

The situation is crazy and I have every sympathy with the Beeb. The clock design itself is very nostalgic for those of us of a certain age who have grown up with the BBC. They naturally created a simple clock that reflects the user's local time. A handful of morons who cannot set their computer's clock properly complained that the BBC's clock was inaccurate. The BBC cannot be expected to implement a global solution which cannot rely on the local host having any accurate time information and takes into account time zones, geographical location etc even if the issue of running an accurate server-synchronised clock is trivial. Also note that everything they do is heavily scrutinised by rabid right-wing politicians and licence-fee payers. My only gripe with the Beeb is that that it's acquiesced to these stupid complaints and withdrawn the clock rather than telling the complainants where to go.

Re:BBC cannot win (1, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 10 months ago | (#43922759)

Other websites manage to display the time correctly without the stupid hack of "show the computer's local time."

Maybe the reason that everything they do is heavily scrutinised by rabid right-wing politicians and licence-fee payers is because the BBC are corrupt to the core. [minx.cc] Seems like extra scrutiny is not only warranted but heartily welcomed.

Re:BBC cannot win (3, Insightful)

Splab (574204) | about 10 months ago | (#43922801)

Really?

Do tell how they do that - getting the server clock is trivial, making sure your JS is keeping time accurate between requests is pretty much impossible.

Figuring out what time to show is bloody hard, especially since the people complaining are those who in the first go didn't manage to set up their computer correctly.

Oh, and a script pulling the time at intervals from some server(s) is going to be expensive; remember the massive amount of users and data the beeb handles.

I think they did the right thing.

Java owns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922601)

100 staff days to fix an innacurate clock?

Oh java-san, How I love you, you perpetual generator of employment ^__^

Or they could just (1)

codeButcher (223668) | about 10 months ago | (#43922633)

Or they could just link to http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/ [greenwichmeantime.com], which does not ONLY display GMT, but times for other time zones/daylight savings schemes as well, along with some other country-specific information. It syncs every 15 seconds or so with their time server, and counts down the seconds using JavaScript (it looks like), which is accurate enough for me to set my watch to every now and then, it required.

Easier and cheaper... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43922639)

"Fuckit... You figure it out user. www.whattimeisit.com "

If their clock is set wrong on their pc... How much can they REALLY care about an accurate time on some webpage?

Sounds like someone was just looking for something to bitch about... Sandy vag musbe.

Requirements, requirements, requirements. (4, Insightful)

locofungus (179280) | about 10 months ago | (#43922705)

Gaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh. I thought this was a website that was supposed to be populated with technical, computer literate people, even programmers.

The end user requirement: "Show the time"

They mean "Show the correct time for my current location"

This is easy: Every (ok, perhaps there's someone still using an old IBM PC computer where you have to set the clock at boot) browser is running on a machine that has a local clock. So we'll use it to display the time.

Some end users then start complaining that the time on the BBC website is wrong.

There's two obvious reasons for this: 1. The user has taken the iphone/ipad whatever on holiday and haven't updated the timezone or 2. Their local clock is just plain wrong.

OK. So we've now established that the end user is incapable of correctly determining and setting the correct time and timezone on their machine. So we, as a programmer, have to do this for them. Cookies, asking the user, etc obviously aren't going to work. If they cannot get their own clock right then they're not going to get the website configuration right either.

This is hard, hard, hard to solve. IMO it's impossible - what do you do about people coming through proxies in different timezones?

The BBC have made exactly the right decision - the old solution was the correct one. PEBKAC. TPTB have decided that the correct solution wasn't good enough. So don't waste any more time or money trying to hack together something just to satisfy end user requirements that are fundamentally broken. End users can use the clock on their machine anyway and they won't complain to the BBC if it's wrong (presumably they complain to Microsoft instead)

Tim.

Re:Requirements, requirements, requirements. (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 10 months ago | (#43922819)

I have two simple solutions:

1. Ask for clarification on use case for a clock taking up space on a tv homepage
2. Put task on hold while waiting for feedback
3. Let task rot there.

or if #1 didn't work out or you're intrested in an actual solution

1. Show client RTC on website
2. link to ntp client below the clock. Text: make this clock more accurate

Re:Requirements, requirements, requirements. (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | about 10 months ago | (#43922871)

There is a fourth solution: show a fixed clock: at least it will be 100% exact twice a day!

Is that HONESTLY a problem? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 10 months ago | (#43922707)

Now, I know that some people have more time than brains on them, but whoever reported this sure must have taken the cake. High level exec or marketing/PR? Where does the waste of precious oxygen sit that considers this something the BBC programmers' time should be clogged with?

Some people just have no reason to exist and waste precious office space, so they have to notice something as important as this and cause a huge stink about it as if anyone but them cared. "I am a nuisance, hence I exist" seems to be the creed.

Stupid online clocks (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 10 months ago | (#43922743)

Man, I wish there were no such thing as a "show the local computer's time" function. There are so many websites that should damn well know better that do this. Even sites for organizations that are responsible for keeping accurate time pull this crap. Timeanddate.com does a fantastic job, I've no idea why it can't be done elsewhere. Oh, right - 100 hours to fix it and that's not in the budget.

They should open the challenge up (1)

DrXym (126579) | about 10 months ago | (#43922751)

I assume that quite a few websites that would like to show the *exact* time regardless of what the browser thinks it is. There is already NTP for this purpose, and the need is for something analogous for HTTP.

It seems quite feasible to create a JS lib that makes a request over HTTP to a server running some time module and receives the exact value in response. The JS could provide APIs to show that time and calculate various timezones. About the trickiest thing would be dealing with the roundtrip delay of the request but a few headers recording the client and server's response time would take care of that just like they do for NTP.

100 days (3, Funny)

ssam (2723487) | about 10 months ago | (#43922847)

100 person days have been spent reading and commenting on the ./ article. (101 now)

Re:100 days (5, Funny)

ssam (2723487) | about 10 months ago | (#43922853)

I assume it took me about a day to write that comment. its hard to tell without a clock on this web page.

Why is this even a story? (1)

sudon't (580652) | about 10 months ago | (#43922899)

The BBC home page has just lost its clock because the BBC Trust upheld a complaint that it was inaccurate.

How in the world was it inaccurate? If it showed the user's time, and the user's connected to the internet, it is the correct time. Unless there's some OS I don't know about that doesn't use an online time server to set it's own clock.

Given the SNTP network exists and [is] in use by lots of machines there really doesn't seem to be any need for the BBC to reinvent the atomic clock.

Yeah, no kidding. Why is this even a story?

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