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Copyright 1998-2022, Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG, Warp Expo West, and Warpfest are trademarks of the Southern California OS/2 User Group. OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.

The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

SCOUG OS/2 For You - July 1999


Time Keeper/2

Making sure your system runs on time

by Gary Granat

Computers should be good at keeping time. Each computer system contains a very precise internal "clock" that is at the heart of basic system operations, so it should be no trick to extend this basic capability to include timekeeping.

As usual, there is a difference between theory and reality.

For some reason, most computer systems seem to drift in their timekeeping activities. And, the amount of this drift varies from system to system.

Some of us are blessed. We own systems that maintain reasonably accurate time. When this is the case, we can check (and, usually, reset) the clock a couple of times a year -- at each daylight savings time switch -- and pretty much forget it the rest of the time. And, there are a few of us for whom this is a non-issue because we don't particularly care whether the system clock bears any resemblance to accurate time.

The rest of us, though, are burdened with trying to keep a fairly accurate system clock. Sometimes this only means checking the clock once every two or three weeks -- if we are lucky! But, I'm not so lucky. The clock in my system drifts fairly badly; it can vary from "real" time by as many as four or five seconds a day. Worse, my system runs fast (most systems that drift run a little slow), so if I want to avoid "arriving before I start" maintenance of the system clock is a regular chore.

Over the years, I have relied on a variety of sources for correct time. For many years, I relied on WWV, a shortwave service of what used to be called the National Bureau of Standards -- now it is called the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This service has used a number of time bases over the years, but it currently relies on the atomic clock in Boulder, CO, and the resultant time "hack" is called Coordinated Universal Time (UTC -- don't ask!).

My procedure was to "hack" my watch. I would then use that information, risking a sprained wrist in the process, to set the system clock. Somewhere during this process, I would usually find myself thinking, "There ought to be a better way to do this!" by which was meant a more automatic methodology, something that would automatically query the NIST time base and set my system clock.

But, WWV is a shortwave radio station; when was the last time you saw a shortwave add-in card for the average PC?

About six months ago I stumbled across a program on a European web site that would do this little chore. The program, called "NTP" (Network Time Protocol) would query a time base and set a system clock accordingly. But the program was designed to run on a network as a time server. That is OK, but I run a peer network, and I'm more frequently than not, not connected to the Internet. So, the update, at best, would be sporadic. Moreover, to take advantage of the service, my system would also have to run an NTP client process. Nevertheless, I gave serious though to installing this program; but I decided the timing wasn't just right (translation: I procrastinated; and, yes, the pun was intended).

Then, about two months ago, I heard about a program called TimeKeeper/2 through the WarpCast broadcast. This is a neat, highly configurable little utility from BMT Micro. Basically, it queries a time base (there are predefined ones, but you can add your favorite if it isn't there already) and displays the difference between UTC and your system time. If you wish, you can adjust (translation: correct) your system time. The utility even accounts for the daylight savings time switch, which is a nice touch. There is no programmer attribution, but it is copyrighted by BMT Micro, themselves.

Installing TimeKeeper/2 turns out to be a snap. Simply unzip the distribution file (it contains a total of seven files in the current version) into a subdirectory. To generate an icon for your desktop, run TKINST.CMD from the directory containing these files. TimeKeeper/2 is ready to run.

TimeKeeper/2 can be configured to run in a variety of ways:

  • If resources are available, it can be set to query the time base when the program is started
  • It can be configured to automatically adjust your system clock when your system clock does not match the received UTC
  • It can be configured to periodically query the UTC time base
  • If you define a time zone to TimeKeeper/2, it will automatically adjust for Daylight time when that is in effect

Usually, this last feature will be used to handle your local time zone, but you can define any time zone in the world and TimeKeeper/2 will adjust your system accordingly.

How well does it work?

Very well, indeed! There is a caveat in the very useful on-line help information that because the NIST information is only valid to the nearest second, your system time may vary from the real time of the atomic clock by up to one second. Aside from this caveat, it does the work and does it well.

TimeKeeper/2 is available for download from BMT Micro. It comes with a free evaluation period. When this expires, the application nags to be registered, but continues to work. The registration fee is $10.00 which is extremely reasonable, given the capabilities provided.

And, the nicest thing is that I don't have to sprain a wrist to set my system clock anymore!


The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

Copyright 1999 the Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG, Warp Expo West, and Warpfest are trademarks of the Southern California OS/2 User Group.
OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation.
All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.