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Leap Second Causes Hours of Problems at Some Websites

Also, a weekend super-derecho takes down part of Amazon Cloud

2 min read
Leap Second Causes Hours of Problems at Some Websites

Every few years, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service calls for an adjustment, usually by one second, to be made between atomic and Earth time to compensate for deviations in the earth’s rotation. The most recent one took place over the weekend at 30 June 2012 at 23:59:60 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).

Apparently, the change in time was not adjusted for correctly by some web servers leading to temporary problems with Qantas Airlines, Mozilla, Reddit, Gawker, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Yelp and other websites, according to the Guardian newspaper. Qantas's check-in, reservations, and plane loading systems were all forced onto manual operation for about two hours yesterday. The problem was actually with the Amadeus airline reservation system; the airline Virgin Australia was also affected, though not as severely.

Also every few years, a derecho or "a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms," hits parts of the U.S. East coast. On Friday night, a “super” derecho swept through the mid-Atlantic area between 0800 and 1100 pm causing wide spread power outages in its wake (there is a fascinating time-lapsed YouTube video of the derecho here). The storm (which felt like being in a short-lived hurricane) took out power to the Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in Northern Virginia; back-up power also for some reason did not kick in. As a result, several popular websites including Instagram, Netflix, and Pinterest experienced problems.

The storm also disrupted 911 service in Prince William, Fairfax, Stafford, Manassas, and Manassas Park counties in Northern Virginia; many Verizon and Sprint customer phones were not working in the area as well. So if you have been having trouble reaching someone either by email or by phone in the Washington, D.C. region, don’t be surprised. Things should be back to normal by Saturday.

The Conversation (0)

Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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