Archive Page 2

NTP Server News – Calls to Abolish the Leap Second

Be careful when counting down to the New Year this week as an extra second is to be added to the last minute of 2008. Leap Seconds are added to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) the time used by most NTP Server systems and has been going on since its inception in 1972 with a total of 33 seconds having already been added to UTC since then.

However there are calls to make this leap second the last ever. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is proposing to abolish them in favour of adding a “leap hour” every 600 years.

They claim that the Leap Second creates confusion and can cause software crashes. They cite 1996 as an example, when computers at Associated Press Radio crashed causing them to broadcast the wrong programmes, and a 2003 bug caused some GPS units to show the time as 62:30.

However, there is stiff opposition to abolishing the Leap Second, among them astronomers, Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society told the London Times: “It would be a change with profound cultural implications.  We’d be decoupling our clocks from what the Sun is telling us.”

The implications for astronomers would require expensive changes to the software of astronomical telescopes and it would become almost impossible for sailors to navigate by sextant. It would also mean the Britain would lose its role as the World’s timekeepers as the Greenwich Meridian (the position of the sun at midday) would gradually move south to France until the proposed leap hour would return it to its original position after 600 years.

Useful NTP server related resources

NTP.org – The home for the NTP Project who provides support and additional development resources for the Official Reference Implementation of NTP.

NTP Project support pages

THE NTP pool – list of public servers

NPL – The National Physical Laboratory in the UK who control the MSF radio signal.

The University of Delaware and David Mills’ information page, Professor Mills is the original inventor and developer of NTP

David Mills’ list of Public NTP Time Servers a list of public NTP servers

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) who operate the USA’s WWVB radio signal

Europe’s largest supplier of NTP server related products.

Galleon UK – NTP server products for the UK

ntp-time-server.com – one of the largest time and frequency suppliers in the United States

NTP – Wikipedia article on NTP

NTP server checker – free tool to ensure time server accuracy

NTP server – Instruments of Precision

Time synchronisation in the modern age is highly precise. Modern atomic clocks can keep time so accurately that in 100 million years these timekeeping devices will not lose even a second.

Bit is this sort of accuracy necessary in the modern world? How important can a second possibly be, after all, a second has always been seen as one of the smallest units of time.

However, when you consider modern technology such as the satellite navigation then a second suddenly becomes a huge gulf in time. Modern satellite navigation devices work by calculating distance by using the time form the atomic clocks on GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites.

However, when you consider that the speed of light is close to 300, 000 km a second then you can understand that if a GPS clock is a second out then your navigation could be inaccurate by hundreds of thousands of kilometres.

The same is true for modern computer networks. Computers can process thousands of transactions a second so when it comes to global network communication a second can be a huge amount of time.

That is why modern NTP server’s, responsible for synchronising networks offer precision to the millisecond, ensuring that network across the globe are within a hare’s breath of each other.

MSF signal interruption – Notice from the National Physical Laboratory

For users of MSF time server or other NTP related devices:

Notice of Interruption MSF 60 kHz Time and Frequency Signal – NPL
The MSF 60 kHz time and frequency signal broadcast from Anthorn Radio Station will be shut down over the period:

11 December 2008 – from 10:00 UTC to 14:00 UTC

The interruption to the transmission is required to allow scheduled maintenance work to be carried out in safety.

If you require any additional information, please contact NPL

Or alternatively please see the NPL time website.

Free NTP server checker – available for download

Galleon’s free NTP Server Checker allows you to check the following items
* IP address – the time server you are checking.
* NTP Version
* Reference timestamp (the prime epoch ) used by NTP to work out the time from this set point
* Round trip delay (the time it takes request to arrive and come back in milliseconds)
* Local clock offset – time difference between host and client
* Leap indicator (if there is to be a leap second that day – normally only on 31 December)
* Mode 3 – indicates a client request
* Stratum level – which stratum level the NTP server is (a stratum 1 server receives the time from an atomic clock source a stratum 2 server receives the time from a stratum 1 server)
* Poll Interval (Will be 1 as only 1 requests is made by the SNTP client)
* Precision – how accurate in milliseconds
* Root Delay – This is a signed fixed-point number indicating the total roundtrip delay to the primary reference source at the root
* Root dispersion (in milliseconds)- The root dispersion is the maximum (worst case) difference between the local system clock and the root of the NTP tree (stratum 1 clock)
* Ref ID – the host name
* Originate time stamp (time before synchronisation request)
* Receive timestamp – the time the host got request
* Transmit timestamp – the time the host sends back to us
* Is response valid – synchronised or not

Please download from Galleon Systems

NTP Server – common acronyms explained:

NTP – Network Time Protocol

SNTP – Simple Network Time Protocol

GPS – Global Positioning System

UTC – Coordinated Universal Time

MSF – Radio Time Signal for United Kingdom

WWVB – Radio Time Signal for American

DCF – Radio Time Signal for Germany

LAN – Local Area Network

UDP – User Datagram Protocol

TCP – Transmission Control Protocol

IP – Internet Protocol

TDF – Radio Time Signal for France

CHU – Radio Time Signal for Canada

JJY – Radio Time Signal for Japan

HBG – Radio Time Signal for Switzerland

USB – Universal Serial Bus

RTC – Real Time Clock

AM – Amplitude Modulation

APM – Automatic Power Management

DES – Data Encryption Standard

ESD – Electrostatic Discharge

FM – Frequency Modulation

IETF – Internet Engineering Task Force

IRIG – Inter-Range Instrumentation Group

MD5 – Message Digest

PPM – Part Per Million

PPS – Pulse Per Second

RFC – Request For Comments

SA – Selective Availability

TAI – International Atomic Time

SI – International System of Units

Finding a Public NTP Server

A public NTP Server is a time server on the Internet that, as the name suggests, members of the public can use as a timing source. The best location on the Internet to find a list of public NTP servers is the home of NTP – www.ntp.org

There are two lists of public NTP servers on ntp.org, one for primary servers and one for secondary servers. Primary servers have up to several hundred clients each. However, many primary servers are ‘closed access’ meaning that only agreed clients can access them. This is because if there is too much traffic attempting to receive a timing source from a primary source then it will clog the network making the server useless.

Primary servers are known as a stratum 1 server in that they get their timing source direct from an atomic clock often using the GPS or national time and frequency transmissions. Secondary NTP servers tend to be stratum 2 time servers, that is a time server that receives its timing source from a stratum 1 server.

Most users that require a public NTP server will find that most primary servers are closed access and that they will have to use a secondary NTP server. When using a public NTP server it is important that access policies are adhered to as many institutions require on these servers for timing information.