Unix Time glitch causes iOS users to receive 'ghost' emails from 1970

By midian182
Mar 8, 2016
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  1. Last month, it was reported that a bug had been discovered that caused some recent iOS devices to be bricked if the user changed the date to January 1, 1970. It now appears that the function related to this problem, Unix Time, is also responsible for a slew of ghostly emails received by users that are dated from 1969 and 1970.

    The anomaly has apparently been around since 2010 but seems to have gained more exposure recently, possibly in light of the bricking bug. Unlike that self-inflicted problem, which Apple will be fixing in its iOS 9.3 update, the emails aren’t malicious and won’t damage a device.

    The glitch has resulted in the emails, which have no content, subject line, or sender, being sent to iPhones and iPads. Some of the messages are dated from December 31, 1969, and others from January 1, 1970. Users have found that they can’t interact with the emails, so there's no way to delete them.

    Like the bricking problem, these ghost emails are related to the Unix, or Epoch, time - a reference point that devices count away from so they can work out the date. January 1, 1970, represents 0 in Unix time, and the current Unix Timestamp is around 1.45 billion - the number of seconds that have passed since point zero.

    The issue often appears when there is a problem between the mail servers and a few email clients, including the iOS mail app and Microsoft’s Outlook iOS app, and is usually due to users travelling between different time zones. When an email can't read the time data, the iPhone will default to zero – 1970. Some users in the Western Hemisphere see dates of December 31, 1969 due to timezone differences.

    The issue can be fixed by simply closing down the app and performing a hard reset of the device. Once this is done, the emails should be gone.

    Image credit: pathdoc / Shutterstock

    Permalink to story.

  2. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,526   +682

    Awwwwww shoot .... and I thought my old girlfriend was trying to get in touch with me from the grave!

    Another disappointment with Unix ....
  3. noc81

    noc81 TS Enthusiast Posts: 79   +29

    Why blame UNIX..? This entire issue is caused by bad coding practices. Sure, it's easy enough to call the time() function in any language, but any newbie knows to code it so that if the result isn't valid (ie >0) to throw an exception, in the event that the end-user's system isn't properly set up to provide a valid time. Any programmer knows that even if you are adding 1+1, unfortunately the answer isn't always 2, so you have to code such redundancies into anything you program.
  4. fredderf81

    fredderf81 TS Enthusiast Posts: 51   +40

    Thats because apple doesn't really DO anything new or innovative - they simply steal...I'm sorry..."acquire" others' ideas and "make" them their own. apple is the king of "copy and paste". as long as they plaster the apple logo all over it, fanboys will cash in their life savings to own it.
  5. tonylukac

    tonylukac TS Evangelist Posts: 1,292   +55

    Must be stirring up the spirits with that stanford iphone prereq class I'm taking teaching c++. Completely wrong. It has a sample machine problem that does a getline(infile,...) then it manipulates infile, the file name. Instructor kane defines a function as void funkname() and returns a value. Void functions don't return values. Then he defines a variable as void *. Never heard of such a thing. It's like the worst case scenerio of c++, what I fear most, pointers, and it's all messed up. Maybe they just don't want to teach tech in american schools anymore.
  6. noc81

    noc81 TS Enthusiast Posts: 79   +29

    How is this a valid point here..? If they had really stolen time-handling functions straight out of a textbook/manual (or anywhere else, for that matter), there would have been such redundancy handling already included.

    It's quite simply a very stupid and humiliating mistake, especially for a company like Apple who stakes its entire reputation on having unparalleled quality of both hardware and software. Somewhere at Apple there is at least one programmer who isn't capable enough to work in the business..
  7. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 1,526   +682

    Geezzzeeeeee ..... the boy needs a serious sense of humor!

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