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Amit Gupta

Your post was interesting precicely because of that reason: it highlighted that the Information emperor wears many accessories (technologies & processes de jure) but few undergarments...

The 'somebody' who makes up timezones is probably comprised of 195 bodies (i.e. the number of countries on earth; UN recognizes 192). Just as likely, there is no globally recognized body that registers/consolidates this data (other than likes of TZ / CIA / Microsoft etc.)

China had five timezones until 1949, but then changed to just one; the process that gave rise to this was the Chinese Civil War. In the summer of 2007, we applied time zone updates to our computers: The process that gave rize to that was the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 (lobbyists for this provision included Sporting Goods Manufacturers,Convenience Stores, and the National Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation Fighting Blindness; lobbyists against included the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the National Parent-Teacher Association, the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Air Transport Association).... So much for the process. :-)

Who is the first to know when a country changes it timezones? -- Probably Microsoft (via people in that country calling the helpline for updates). Geolocations for country boundaries are more fundamental and less fluid, but just as hard to find: e.g. where exactly does China end?

PS. Great blog; very thought provoking! Am still pondering over Categories & Classes post...

Dave McComb

Amit, yes, this is the type of information I was looking for. I'm out of my depth here (haven't spent much time working with or thinking about time zones) but was surprised that the consensus wasn't more obvious). What you suggest (extracting the coordinates of the time zone geography from the CIA map) is interesting, but begs the broader question: where did the CIA get their data from. They don't get to make up time zones (I hope). But somebody does. Those red lines on the CIA map describe agreed upon non overlapping and fully covering georegions on the surface of the earth (ie no matter where you are you are in exactly one time zone). Would like to know what process gives rise to that, and who has the geo coordinates.

PS I love maps, and I especially love looking at maps like this and thinking: why did the inhabitants of Chatham Island decide they needed their own time zone 12 3/4 hours off of GM, and were they trying to be on the other side of the date line, and did they experience Y2K before anyone else, and did they notice.

Anyway, thanks Amit.

On behalf of Amit Gupta

[for some reason this comment got blocked when Amit tried it initially, let me see if it works if I put it in. DMc]

Not sure if this is at the level of abstraction that your post is interested in, but here are some thoughts: The CIA time-zone map has a visual representation that maps time zones to longitudes/latitudes (a more readable image here)... if the CIA doesnt share the underlying data, it can be extracted by processing the image programmatically (might also be an interesting project for manual transcoding via Amazon Mechanical Turk). Wikipedia has a list that maps latitude and longitude to timezones, but unlike the CIA's image it points to the zone's central location only, not bounds. As for zone names/codes (the EST in NA vs EST in Australia issue): name ambiguity is a known issue... for example, Java 2 docs say "three-letter time zone IDs (such as PST, CTT, AST) are also supported... However, their use is deprecated because the same abbreviation is often used for multiple time zones (for example, CST could be U.S. Central Standard Time and China Standard Time), and the Java platform can then only recognize one of them." Finally, I think that the non-Windows standard for zone names/IDs is indeed the TZ database (e.g. see Google's timeZoneId enumeration, which seems to be using the same names as the Tz database; Linux does the same); Windows stores all time zone data in the registry under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones; Windows' vs TZ DB timezone names are mapped here.

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