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Timezone display by MUAs

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24th Aug 2010 | 15:42

One of my colleagues is currently having problems with his new Exchange server. Messages delivered internally to the server have the correct timezone (+0100) in the Date: header, but messages that are delivered externally via SMTP have a Date: header timezone of +0000. All the Received: header timestamps have the correct +0100 timezone. We haven't worked out how to fix this yet.

In the course of debugging this problem, my colleague was discombobulated to find that different MUAs display the dates on messages differently. Mulberry, Alpine, and our webmail server display the date as set by the sender (+0000 in the case of the problem messages), whereas most other MUAs (Thunderbird, Mail.app, Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail) translate the date to the recipient's local timezone.

Given the choice between these two options, I prefer to see the sender's date, since it provides useful clues about long-distance correspondents (such as when it might not be reasonable to expect a prompt reply). However I can see why others would prefer to see times in a consistent timezone (e.g. it makes it easier to see how old messages are).

But really, as I argued last year, in this kind of situation (where the sender's and recipient's timezones differ) the MUA should display the date twice using both timezones. This makes it obvious what is going on (messages from local and long-distance correspondents are shown differently) and doesn't require users to do timezone conversions in their heads.

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Comments {4}


from: fubar
date: 24th Aug 2010 17:40 (UTC)

Funny you should mention that; I've been seeing the same behaviour recently as we're migrating staff and faculty over to a new Exch2010 system. I hadn't gotten so far as to try and track down what was causing it, though, so thanks for saving me a little headache.

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from: hobnobs
date: 24th Aug 2010 19:50 (UTC)

Protocol logs are recorded in UTC within Exchange 2010 (and 2007 too I think.) Transaction logs aren't though, which is why you have two different times for SMTP vs Database events.

Protocol Logging TZ is not able to be changed either, as far as I'm aware.

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Tony Finch

from: fanf
date: 24th Aug 2010 20:10 (UTC)

I'm not looking at the logs - the problem is visible just in the message headers.

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from: hobnobs
date: 24th Aug 2010 20:18 (UTC)

I don't have access to a machine to poke at the moment, but if memory serves the message header is updated by the SMTP Virtual Server and so would take the time from the Protocol side of things instead of the Transaction DB side.

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