Re: [LEAPSECS] a system that fails spectacularly

From: Rob Seaman <>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2005 06:59:39 -0700

On Dec 6, 2005, at 3:27 PM, Steve Allen wrote:

> Finally we begin to see folks stand up and identify their systems
> as having abysmally failed to implement the UTC standard.

Even more remarkably, they proudly proclaim:

        "The quality systems of this facility have been registered by UL to
the ISO 9000 Series Standards."

So we have a company that manufactures "a complete line of safety and
survival products" (!) that are precisely intended to convey UTC as a
primary function of the devices. This company claims to have
followed an international standard focused on achieving quality
control through best practices in management.

I applaud the company's decision to go public in advance. However,
it seems that one of two things must be true. Either the fact that
the letter is dated December 5, 2005 indicates that they just now got
around to acting on the July, 2005 announcement of the upcoming leap
second - or, they acted upon this in a more timely fashion and
decided to embargo the announcement until the latest plausible moment
at which it would be possible for their lawyers to later argue timely
notification of their customers. I am copying this message to John
Bell, the company's indicated contact for this issue, for his comment.

> They indicate that one must physically disconnect the unit in order
> to get it to work after the leap second.

And the proponents of a change to the UTC standard are undoubtedly
going to assemble a number of such phantasmogorical reports in
"support" of their position. Why bother to change an international
standard for the naive and cynical perceived benefit of commercial
interests when those interests can't even be bothered to implement
the standard in the first place?

I don't know whether to be more embarrassed for the company or for
the international standards process. How many companies claim ISO
9000 conformance? If they don't comprehend the requirements of
international standards pertaining to their products, how likely is
it that they comprehend their customers' requirements? Where in this
is the responsibility of the ITU to promulgate the UTC standard?
What is the absolutely vast responsibility of ISO in claiming to
offer a worldwide standard in quality control?

And what exactly is the liability of the Underwriting Laboratory in
such a case? "UL is the trusted source across the globe for product
compliance." Are we to infer any better compliance of the corporate
world with SI standards, for instance, than with the UTC standard?

Clearly astronomers are the fall guys. Right....

Rob Seaman
National Optical Astronomy Observatory
Received on Wed Dec 07 2005 - 06:00:43 PST

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