Work has an API that we use internally quite a bit. We needed to make a large number of changes to the data and could not use the API to do it. The developers of the API provided information on doing the work at the database level, so all we had to do was ensure the large batch of records we were changing were the right ones.

The Data Engineering team built a process to compare some input files to the database and provided a set of records along with a date from the database. To ensure we were going to alter the correct records, I wrote a small validation program in Kotlin. The program compares the results of the API to an entry in the DE output files and makes sure that everything looks accurate.

From a sample set of around 150k records, over half were almost correct. The date the API provided and the date Data Engineering provided were a day off. In every case, the API returned a date one day after what DE gave me.

The developers who wrote the API explained what was happening: while the API returned timestamps in UTC, the data was stored in the database in a different time zone.

Learning Opportunity

Whether because they were the current versions at the time of development or the available JVM being older, I haven’t done a whole lot with anything newer than Java 7.

While Joda-Time has existed for quite some time and is designed to make date and time processing in older versions of Java less painful, I’ve only used it on a couple of small projects. It’s not available in all of the projects I do at work, so I’m stuck with the built-in Java functionality.

This validation program, however, is meant as a short lived utility that can run on my computer instead of having to run within our existing products. Since I was already building the code on Java 8, I took this as a chance to play with the “new” date and time classes.

Time Zone Conversion

To convert a date/time from one time zone to another, there are three things I ended up doing.

First, I needed to get a ZoneOffset object for my target time zone:

val instant =
val zoneId = ZoneId.of("America/Chicago")
val offset = zoneId.rules.getOffset(instant)

Once I had an offset, I needed to parse the timestamp the API was returning. For this particular problem, I needed to iterate through multiple timestamps and find the latest one, so my setup involved both creating a DateTimeFormatter object that specifies my input string and an arbitrary date that predates anything in the database.

val pattern = DateTimeFormatter.ofPattern("u-MM-dd HH:mm:ss z")
var latestDate = ZonedDateTime.of(1989, 12, 31, 0, 0, 0, 0, ZoneOffset.of("-05:00"))

Finally, the actual conversion:

val dateTime = LocalDateTime.parse(inputString, pattern)
val utcDateTime = ZonedDateTime.of(dateTime, ZoneOffset.UTC)
val date = utcDateTime.withZoneSameInstant(offset)

The LocalDateTime.parse() call will attempt to parse inputString with the DateTimeFormatter and create a LocalDateTime object. While my pattern specifies that time zone information is included (z), the LocalDateTime does not contain any time zone details – it is just a date and time.

ZonedDateTime.of() will convert a LocalDateTime into a ZonedDateTime, which does contain time zone information, using whatever offset is specified. Since the API is returning timestamps in UTC, my second argument was ZoneOffset.UTC.

Finally, the withZoneSameInstant method will create a new ZonedDateTime that’s set to a different time zone offset. In the example above, the new object is set to America/Chicago.

There was one additional tweak I had to make to my date object once I had it set to the correct time zone. Since Data Engineering was only providing the date, all time elements were set to their default value, 0.

Fortunately, ZonedDateTime has a method to help me do the same to my converted value: truncatedTo. Any value after the specified argument, in terms of accuracy, is initialized 0. Since I am comparing just the day, ChronoUnit.DAYS is specified and hour, minute, second, milliseconds, and nanoseconds are all set to 0.

val zeroDate = date.truncatedTo(ChronoUnit.DAYS)

My date now matches what Data Engineering provided!