[ntp:questions] Slow convergence of NTP with GPS/PPS

Richard B. Gilbert rgilbert88 at comcast.net
Tue Oct 21 23:42:45 UTC 2008

Nicola Berndt wrote:
> Unruh schrieb:
>>> I see, that's too bad then.. :( I am already using minpoll 4 maxpoll 4
>> OK, But that should have a convergence of minutes not hours. Mind you NTPs
>> habit of throwing away 7 out of 8 queries of the clock does not help.
>> (clock filter). Especially for a pps that is pretty extreme.
> Today I moved the computer to a different location to work there and I 
> found it to set its clock right after start and keep it within ms-range! 
> I didn't change anything, just shut down, drove there and turned it on, 
> so I am really confused about that. Both locations are normal rooms with 
> normal room-temerature. Well, I duplicated the system (that was why I 
> was there..) and came back home with mine and tomorrow I will see if it 
> behaves different again. Very very weird! It looks as if all of a sudden 
> the driftfile was used and before not! This is also very strange, since 
> the driftfile was (re)written yesterday, so ntp knew about it yesterday. 
> My ntp.conf also includes the driftfile location.
>>> No, the Soekris will run linux an d ntpd and the oscillator will just be 
>>> on an external little board. The computer is residing in an airport 
>>> hangar for MONTH sometimes with no powersource at all! There is 
>> Hard for it to be on all the time then. Or for it to have anthing like an
>> accurate time. And that ovenized oscillator will also be pretty useless (
>> much worse than the GPS) since it will have no power either and the crystal
>> will not be oscillating nor the oven keeping the temp constant. 
> Oh, so I got the word ovenized wrong: I understood it to be very immune 
> against varying temperature. Ok, so if it needs an heater and all, it's 
> useless in my case.
>> So, what you have is a free standing computer which must come out of a cold
>> shutdown (ie the oscillator frequency on startup will be way off its
>> frequency in steady state because it is cold) so will be far from
>> equilibrium. What is your time error requirement? Seconds, milliseconds,
>> microseconds? In such a situation ntp would probably give you a few
>> milliseconds. But it certainly is NOT designed to give you good accuracy in
>> such a situation during startup.  What are you finding?
> Well, one thing I can of course always do is to boot hte machine, let it 
> run for a flittle while and reboot it, so it boots with a warmed up 
> oscillator. This would give trouble with the driftfile, though..
> We target for millisecond accuracy. As I understand, the oscillators on 
> standard PCs are mostly cheapest crap and there are way better 
> oscillators I could use to replace the original. Is that correct?

The clock in a PC is basically the guts of a cheap "Quartz" watch.  It 
wouldn't surprise me if the manufacturers bought the crystals rejected 
by the watch makers.  I suspect that the clock exists MOSTLY so the 
machine will have the correct date for things like letters and checks.

Replacing ANYTHING on the PC mother board will void your warranty.  It 
may also cause your PC to cease functioning!!

If you need a real clock in your PC, you can buy a board that plugs into 
the PCI bus and is equipped with an OCXO (Oven Controlled Xtal (Crystal) 
Oscillator).  Some will take a signal from GPS satellites and fine tune 
the crystal.  Such boards are available from Meinberg Funkurhen and
Symmetricom (BC635PCI/637PCI) for a great deal of money ($1200 to $2400 
US) the last time I looked.  If you have lots of money and need a REALLY 
accurate clock, even without full time access to GPS, you might want to 
look at these products.

I don't recall the model of the Meinberg board but I'm sure that their 
representative, who hangs out here, can supply it.

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