Timezones, clock applet and marketing dangers

It is great to receive feedback from users that try out the development versions of distributions (such as Ubuntu and Fedora). Usually, these are small bugs that can easily get fixed. However, there is this bug that looks potent to lead to political dissatisfaction and bad publicity to GNOME.

The clock applet (gnome-panel) now shows the timezones of cities that one selects. You click on the Edit button, you select the city (it comes from Locations.xml – libgweather, which has the coordinates of each city entry), and the applet makes a guess of what is your timezone (each timezone comes with longitude information).

So, if a city is far away from the capital city of your country (and closer to the capital city of a neighboring country), then the applet often proposes the wrong timezone. Considering that in some (=many) cases there is some animosity between neighboring countries, this makes users unhappy.

Launchpad bug report: Bug #185190, Clock applet chooses wrong timezone for many cities (eg Pittsburgh, Beijing)

GNOME Bugzilla bug report: Bug 519823 – Cities associated with wrong timezone

Updated (8Apr2008): The bug has been fixed upstream (thanks Dan!) and most likely makes it in GNOME 2.22.1, which means Ubuntu 8.04 and other distributions will get the update as well. Some countries with regions that have more than one timezone may want to check that the correct timezone is selected for each region.


  • Jerome Haltom

    It’s also a Serious Big Problem that to indicate my timezone I have to choose a city at all. In the US we do not know our timezones by city. We have names for them: Pacific, Mountain, Central, Eastern (and a few others). Nobody here is taught that “you live in the same timezone as Chicago”. If you ask most users here to select their timezone, and offer them a choice of cities, they will not be able to make a good choice.

    I suspect this is a problem lost in translation from our European friends that do refer to timezones by city.

  • simos

    Jerome: My understanding is that a timezone conveys also Daylight Saving Time information. For example, not all regions in Canada follow the same DST changes. If the timezone was single (or related to the longitude only), it would not be possible to capture the details of each region.

    Quite recently, Venezuela and New Zealand changed DST data.

    See the FAQ at

    In Europe it should be easier because the EU has harmonised in most (all?) cases the DST changes.

    The definite source of Time zone information is the Olson Timezone DST Data database (tzdata),

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