[ntp:hackers] Dynamic minsane at start up?

Brian Utterback brian.utterback at oracle.com
Sun Aug 11 16:01:06 UTC 2013

I have been thinking about some issues that have always bugged me one 
way or another about the reference implementation and how to go about 
fixing them. One of these is the fact that when NTP first starts up, the 
server that is chosen to provide the very first offset is essentially 
chosen without regard to how good its time might be, and may even be a 

The problem is that for the first few polls, all of the servers are 
marked as insane and don't even make it to the clock select phase. 
Eventually, one of the servers is the first one that becomes sane and so 
it is the only one that gets to the selection, and of course it gets 

You can get around this problem by using the minsane option. Just set 
minsane to something a bit bigger than 1, and then at least you will 
need a consensus before a clock is chosen which at least means you will 
avoid the falseticker in the bunch.

The thing is though, ideally NTP should handle this itself. The correct 
value for minsane in this situation depends on the number of reachable 
servers. If you only have one server then you should accept it no matter 
what. But if you have 10, what should minsane be? 5? 7? Depends on your 

It seems to me that we ought to be able to handle this better than we do 
know. Maybe we should suppress the clocks going to the selection phase 
after the first clock becomes sane until the last one in the series has 
sent a packet after that.

What do you think?

Brian Utterback

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