Bring an Atomic Clock to Your Home with Chrony
Here is a device that finally provides what generations of scientists have dreamed about: an ultra-precise time reference, a timekeeping piece of incredible accuracy. These are not simple gadgets; some physics experiments, such as the verification of gravitation theories, require measurement of very small time intervals.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a lab in Boulder, Colorado, devoted to running atomic clocks and providing official US time. In this lab, the NIST-F1 cesium fountain atomic clock provides a time reference with a precision of 2 × 10-15 (two parts per millionth of a billionth) by counting the vibrations of cesium atoms at about 9GHz. An even better clock is in the works. It will measure the resonance of a single mercury ion at about 100,000 times that frequency, and it will provide a thousand-fold increase in precision.
The sacred duty of true precision-obsessed geeks is now clear. They simply have to synchronize the real-time clock of their Linux machine(s) with such an insanely precise clock.
Of course, you cannot simply go to a computer store and buy an atomic clock. (Not that I didn't try—sheesh, the brazen gall of that sales guy, trying to saddle me with a radium dial alarm clock.) The next best thing is a radio-synchronized clock, and a variety of models are available. They can be connected to the serial port of a PC and provide time signals synchronized on the NIST clock.
But why buy hardware when well-designed, free software would do the trick? The Network Time Protocol (NTP) has been created to synchronize computers and distribute time references across networks. An NTP server keeps time as close to the official reference as possible. Remote NTP clients query these servers and sync the local real-time clock (RTC) of the machine. This timekeeping is a complex problem due to the nature of distributed computing. Propagating packets between machines takes a nonzero, variable time. Various correction schemes are integrated in NTP to take variable latency into account.
There are several NTP clients and servers available for Linux. The simplest way of using NTP would be to fire up a program, such as xntpd, and point it to an NTP server. However, this program and most other NTP clients work best when they are connected to the Internet continuously. Unfortunately, an intermittent connection through a modem is still the way most homes access the Internet.
That's where chrony comes in. Chrony is a program that explicitly supports intermittent connections. It is comprehensive but a tad intimidating, so we'll walk through an installation and configuration for the most common case: a home user with a modem connection.
Chrony is composed of chronyc, a text-based client program; chronyd, an NTP server running as a dæmon in the background; and various configuration files. To interact with the chronyd dæmon (chronyd), you run the chronyc client and issue commands.
Some Linux distributions include a version of chrony. Chances are that this version is an older one, e.g., 1.15 or less. In that case, you can uninstall the chrony package before installing the new version.
First, download the chrony tarball from its home page (see Resources). At the time of this writing, the current version is 1.16.1. It is composed of the 1.16 version completed by a patch to 1.16.1. We extract the source from the tarball and apply the patch:
tar -zxvf chrony-1.16.tar.gz # extracts source cd chrony-1.16 # dir created from tarball gunzip < ../chrony-1.16-1.16.1-patch.gz | patch -p1 patching file NEWS patching file configure patching file rtc_linux.c patching file version.txt
The program uses a configure script, which makes customization a snap. The only option that you need to specify manually is the installation directory, with the --prefix option. By default, chrony will install the client chronyc into /usr/local/bin and the dæmon chronyd into /usr/local/sbin. It is the equivalent of:
# In the same chrony-1.16 dir as before ./configure --prefix /usr/localOnce you have run configure, you might want to clean up the source a tad before running make. Why? Because the source comes with a few syntactic gotchas that make the GCC preprocessor complain. If you run make right away, you'll end up with plenty of warnings such as:
warning: extra tokens at end of #endif directiveNothing is broken, but it's easy to get it to compile cleanly. Edit the files regress.h, reports.h and rtc_linux.h. The last line is an #endif statement followed by a constant name. You need to comment out that name. For instance, in report.h, change:
#endif /* GOT_REPORTS_H */and chrony will compile like a charm.
# In the same chrony-1.16 dir as before make su root # You need to be root to install install
The next step is to make sure that chronyd starts up at boot time. If your distribution came with an older version of chrony, then you are all set; just make sure that the newer version was installed in the same location as the old one. Otherwise, there are several methods. The simplest is to add a paragraph supplied by the chrony doc in your /etc/rc.d/rc.local.
Fast/Flexible Linux OS Recovery
On Demand Now
In this live one-hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for complete disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible full-system recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.
Join Linux Journal's Shawn Powers and David Huffman, President/CEO, Storix, Inc.
Free to Linux Journal readers.Register Now!
- Download "Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI"
- Profiles and RC Files
- Understanding Ceph and Its Place in the Market
- Astronomy for KDE
- Git 2.9 Released
- OpenSwitch Finds a New Home
- Maru OS Brings Debian to Your Phone
- SoftMaker FreeOffice
- The Giant Zero, Part 0.x
- What's Our Next Fight?
With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide