pavelmachek (pavelmachek) wrote,
pavelmachek
pavelmachek

Help time travelers!

Ok, so I have various machines here. It seems only about half of them has working RTC. That are the boring ones.

And even the boring ones have pretty imprecise RTCs... For example Nokia N9. I only power it up from time to time, I believe it drifts something like minute per month... For normal use with SIM card, it can probably correct from GSM network if you happen to have a cell phone signal, but...

More interesting machines... Old thinkpad is running without CMOS battery. ARM OLPC has _three_ RTCs, but not a single working one. N900 has working RTC but no or dead backup battery. On these, RTC driver probably knows time is not valid, but feeds the garbage into the system time, anyway. Ouch. Neither Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 nor C-3000 had battery backup on RTC...

Even in new end-user machines, time quality varies a lot. "First boot, please enter time" is only accurate to seconds, if the user is careful. RTC is usually not very accurate, either... and noone uses adjtime these days. GSM time and ntpdate are probably accurate to miliseconds, GPS can provide time down to picoseconds... And broken systems are so common "swclock" is available in init system to store time in file, so it at least does not go backwards.

https (and other crypto) depends on time... so it is important to know approximate month we are in.

Is it time we handle it better?

Could we return both time and log2(expected error) from system calls?

That way we could hide the clock in GUI if time is not available or not precise to minutes, ignore certificate dates when time is not precise to months, and you would not have to send me a "Pavel, are you time traveling, again?" message next time my mailer sends email dated to 1970.
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