I usually write about things that I know something about, but I fear that I’ve already covered everything in my meager repertoire. 

Anyway, today is a bit different. I’m writing on a topic about which I know next to nothing…ftp.

In researching an open question at Google Answers, about world timezone data, I came across what looks to be a very informative site on the topic of timezone databases:  Sources for Time Zone and Daylight Saving Time Data


Everything I need to answer the aforementioned question is here, no doubt.  Problem is, I can barely make heads or tails of it. 

There’s a mysterious world out there of the ftp-heads; folks who prefer storing and trnasfering information using an ancient method known as file transfer protocol, rather than the more recent hyper-text transfer protocol, or good old http, that powers the internet. 

Why use ftp?  I haven’t a clue, except that most of those involved seem to programmers, so perhaps there’s an advantage in that world that I can’t quite make out. 

But I suspect it has more to do with ftp’s appeal as the sort of street slang of the internet.  FTP-ers have a secret language, known only to insiders, and it rarely seems to get translated into http-happy language. 

Take the timezone link that I mentioned above.  The site starts off with:

The tz database…The public-domain time zone database contains code and data that represent the history of local time for many representative locations around the globe.

BINGO!  That’s exactly what I want.  But where the @#$%^&*! is it?

The site is full of links…to pages on time zone boundaries, daylight-saving rules, something called the GNU C Library, and a site on FTP distribution.

But the actual timezone database is, how shall I put this, elusive.  At least to me, it is.  Not even a specialized ftp search engine was any help. 

And if you want to paly around with a file or two, just try unzipping things with file extensions like rmp, gz-tar, sqx.   Poor old WinZip just throws up its arms and chokes.


There are plenty of other folks who have figured out how to access timezone files and put them to use, such as:

TWiki.org Service: Date and Time Gateway – Timezone Selector

Current Time in 1000 Places

etc., etc.

But nowhere does anyone seem to provide the sort of Timezone 101 instructions that a non-programmer like myself needs in order to get going.

By this point, you’ve probably recognized my little write-up here for what it really is – 50% whining, and 50% pleading.  But just in case, let me be explicit….

For the thousands of Web-Owl readers out there…a little help?


pafalafaga David Sarokin

2 Responses to “ftPLEEEEZE”

  1. Alan Pritchard says:

    It is quite clear. The page says “In the tz database’s FTP distribution the code is in the file… ” and the words ‘FTP distribution’ are a hotlink to the FTP directory ‘Index of ftp://elsie.nci.nih.gov/pub/‘. The page also explains that “similarly, the data are in tzdataD.tar.gz, where D is the data’s version”. Go to the FTP site and download tzdata2006g.tar.gz. You will find more than you really want to know about time zones!

    Alan Pritchard (late of ALLM GeoData).

  2. Steve YATES says:

    http is fine if you are just going after a few files. If you are transferring a serious amount, for instance all of the files that make up a website you would use ftp unless your Authoring Tool did the same job (ftp by another name in fact). I back up files from my PC to a remote server and use ftp for that, either using IE (which I hate) or filezilla which is an opensource ftp client