[LEAPSECS] How USB bugs are reported versus UTC

Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Fri Aug 23 10:25:01 EDT 2013

On Aug 23, 2013, at 6:39 AM, Warner Losh <imp at bsdimp.com> wrote:

> The fact that this random, seemingly tiny perturbation has caused kernel crashes and hangs is rightly called havoc...

This is hyperbole; the word has meanings like pillage, plunder and devastation. The roughly contemporaneous storm in the mid-Atlantic states caused much more trouble. On the other hand, the Linux bug caused some sysadmins to work overtime. Unfortunate, not "devastating". An operations issue more significant than some, less significant than others.

The point was that two similar situations are reported very differently. USB was standardized beginning about 20 years ago. Some projects failed to implement it correctly. This resulted in the headline:

"Misinterpretation of standard probably causing USB disconnects on resume in Linux"

UTC was standardized 40 years ago. Some projects failed to implement it correctly. The hyperbolic headline:

"‘Leap Second’ Bug Wreaks Havoc Across Web"

Even ignoring the hyperbole - much larger disruptions have occurred both before and since for other reasons without similar melodrama - the headline is simply wrong. It was a bug in Linux (or Linux-related software), not a bug in leap seconds. That bug was the result of the same sort of misinterpretation of a standard - a standard that has been in effect for at least twice as long as USB.

Rob Seaman
National Optical Astronomy Observatory

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