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March 09, 2012

Some 3000 time services labor to serve

ClockforwardEditor's Note: Daylight Saving Time takes hold this weekend in most of the world. The 2AM changeover can give a 3000 manager a reason to look at how the server manages timekeeping, including the potential for the open source tool ported to the 3000, XNTP. Our Homesteading Editor Gilles Schipper is working on an article to address some of the laborious steps needed to utilize it. His research took him to a few experts in networking and open source over the Web, Chris Bartram (our first webmaster, and creator of the DeskLink and NetMail apps) and Brian Edminster (operator of the MPE-OpenSource.org website.)

Chris: As I recall, ntp services never worked well on the 3000. It won’t work at all as a server for other clients, I believe. And as a client it seemed a waste; my vague memory says it had issues because you couldn’t set the time with the resolution it wanted. It ended up oscillating.
 
There’s a very simple standalone NTP client, ntpdate, though that you can run from the command line -- that’s what I use on my systems. I simply run it a couple times a day – it pulls the time from whatever NTP server you point it at and sets your local clock. We even shipped a copy with every NetMail tape. Look for ntpdate.sys.threek if you have a NetMail/3000 or DeskLink equipped system available.

Brian: The latest version of XNTP was the 4.1.0 version hosted on Jazz, and ported by Mark Bixby. It includes both ntp client and server functionality. Through the magic of the 'Wayback Machine' there's a link to HP's install instructions and other resources. The bad news is that HP put the actual download link behind a 'freeware agreement' page - and that download link wasn't wasn't saved by the Wayback.  Some community members who 'archived' Jazz that might have that download package.

However, there is an earlier v3.5.90 version from October 2008 hosted on Mark Bixby's site -- and although Mark's took site down after his departure from HP, the 'Wayback Machine' comes to the rescue with a downloadable install file.

This Bixby website archive has Mark's excellent install instructions, and it well documents the 'time update granularity' issue that the XNTP client has on MPE/iX. In short, it can cause the time to drift if left running continuously -- where it's trying desperately to update the time, but cannot do it to its satisfaction due to the precision it expects to be able to use.

The workaround for xntp is to run it periodically, perhaps daily, for a single update. Mark wrote about this on his xntp page, and even put in a SR with HP to get the underlying MPE/iX internal issue fixed.  And no, it didn't get done in time.

Edminster noted two other server time-sync tools (both ntp clients):

nettime -- a program created Brian Abernathy of HP.  Source and binaries are included, and can be found on Speedware's Jazz page. Note: this program has the name of the time server 'hard-coded' as 'time-server'. But since source is included, it can be changed and recompiled with HP's C compiler for MPE/iX.

timesync -- a 'client only' solution from the folks from Telamon, Inc. It's a binary-only distribution, but it works quite well, and apparently was designed to work with their network engines too. I have a copy of this and can email it to users and managers as a Store to Disk file.  It's the simplest way I've found to get time synchronization for your 3000s. It's literally just a 'restore and run', and has a 'preview but not do' mode to ensure you've got it configured correctly.

02:19 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink

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