“Leap second” bugs take out some prominent websites


It was a rough weekend for the internet. While Friday’s problems with Amazon Web Services and other sites could be chalked up to some wicked thunderstorms, several sites went down Saturday for periods of time thanks to problems with the “leap second.”

About every 18 months, according to timeanddate.com, the wizards who run the world’s atomic clocks pause those clocks for a second in order to keep those clocks in sync with the speed of the rotation of the earth, which declines ever-so-slightly over the years. Most times the major computer systems that rely on precise timing handle this extra second with aplomb, but several major websites — Reddit, Gawker Media, and Foursquare, according to BuzzFeed — crashed Saturday afternoon after the leap second was added at 11:59:59 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time.

Various reports and tweets blamed problems with Java, Hadoop and the Apache Cassandra database for the outages. Most sites were restored fairly quickly, but that didn’t stop the snark from flowing.



For more background on this issue, as well as one way to tackle the problem, check out a blog post from Google last year on how it deals with leap seconds.

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