2001 08 16

                    LINUX NEWS
             Thursday, August 16, 2001
       Read By 7,000 Linux Enthusiasts Weekly!


1) Sean’s Notes

2) Linux News

Happy Birthday, Linux
More on Largo
KDE 2.2 is Released
2.4.8 Released

3) Linux Resources

What is Cygwin?
Serial Console HOWTO
Mandrake Campus
Learning with NMAP

4) App o’ the week

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1) Sean's Notes

"A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two
watches is never sure."
                                         -- Segal's Law

If you've operated more than a couple of computers together,
you know how true this can be.  Keeping clocks synchronized
between multiple computers is a nightmare.  Windows folks
have their "net time" command, which doesn't offer too much
accuracy, but is better than nothing.

Enter the network time protocol (NTP).  NTP allows a client
to grab the current time from the server over a network.
The protocol is even designed to take into account network
latency, local clock drift, and several other factors such
as two servers giving two separate times.

Rather than having everyone get their time from one server,
NTP assigns a "stratum" to each server, and allows servers
to query each other.  A stratum 1 server gets its time
directly from an official time source, usually by GPS.  A
stratum 2 server gets its time from a stratum 1 server via
NTP.  A stratum 3 server gets its time from a stratum 2
server, and so on.  Most of us will want to get our times
from a stratum 2 or 3 server, since the time difference is
almost insignificant. (It's also said that if you need that
kind of accuracy, you're better off getting a GPS receiver
and becoming a stratum 1 yourself)

Installation of NTP is straightforward.  Grab the latest
sources from www.ntp.org.  Unpack the distribution:

# tar -xzf ntp-4.x.x.tar.gz
# cd ntp-4.x.x
# ./configure
# make
# make install

It'll install a few binaries, by default in /usr/local/bin.
"ntpd" and "ntpdate" are the most important ones.

ntpdate sets your local clock to the time on a specified
server.  ntpd is a daemon that periodically checks ntp sources
and adjusts your clock.  Note that ntpdate will do an abrupt
change, while ntpd will slowly migrate your time to the
correct time.  However, if you're too far off (1,000 seconds),
ntpd will refuse to run.   This is why I generally execute
"ntpdate" before "ntpd" in my startup scripts.

The next step is to find yourself a time server or two (or
three, but no more than three for now).


has a list of publicly available servers running at stratum 2.
Take note!  Some request that you either email a notification,
or ask permission, before using.  Please respect the server's
wishes.  For now, I'm going to select numbers 19 and 20, the
Canadian National Research Council and University of Regina
respectively.  They're both relatively close to me, so they'll
make great servers.

/etc/ntp.conf is the default configuration file.  We're going
to do the easiest config possible, allowing our computer to
be both an NTP client and server:

server time.nrc.ca
server timelord.uregina.ca
driftfile /etc/ntp.drift

Servers are specified with the "server" command, and the
"driftfile" tells ntpd where it can keep track of clock drift.

Once that's done, fire up ntpd. It'll fork off to the
background, so it's safe to put in startup scripts:

# ntpd

And, /var/log/messages should see:

ntpd\[17161]: ntpd 4.0.99k23 Tue Aug  7 21:30:12 CDT 2001 (1)
ntpd\[17161]: precision = 20 usec
ntpd\[17161]: kernel time discipline status 0040
ntpd\[17161]: frequency initialized -73.714 from /etc/ntp.drift

I also set my clock back a day to show what happens:

ntpd\[17161]: time error 132771 over 1000 seconds; set clock

And ntp dies.  The solution is to ntpdate your system first:

# ntpdate time.nrc.ca
15 Aug 14:06:47 ntpdate\[17232]: step time server
offset 132770.937557 sec

Once your primary computer is set up to get time, you can use
the same technique for other machines under your control.
This time, though, specify your own server as the server.

For those looking to add Windows machines into the mix, I
have had good luck with a program called "Tardis".

You can read more about the system that keeps the master
clock, and how it all works, at:


Long live the Penguin,


Visit the Linux News Board at

2) Linux News

Happy Birthday, Linux
August 25th marks the 10th birthday of Linux. There are
celebrations all over the world, so check this site out to
see if there is one in your area!


More on Largo
A while ago I gave you a link about the City of Largo, who
had converted to thin clients using KDE on a Red Hat server.
This story was written by someone who visited the place, and
talked to some of the users about their experiences.


KDE 2.2 is Released
All you KDE fans out there, it's time to upgrade. 2.2
promises more stability, increased speed, improvements to
Konqueror, and a lot of new features.


2.4.8 Released
So much for the pace of upgrades slowing down-- 2.4.8 is out.
Luckily, there don't appear to be any changes that necessitate
an immediate upgrade.


3) Linux Resources

What is Cygwin?
The answer to this, and many other questions, can be found
in the Cygwin FAQ. Cygwin is a project that ports development
tools from Unix to Windows. It's written such that many Unix
applications will compile directly on Windows. Even if you
don't need that, it provides the familiar shells and
utilities to the Windows environment.


The TrinityOS Documentation is a step-by-step set of
instructions for building a secure Linux box. Most services
you'd need on a gateway are here, and the instructions are
easy to follow.


Serial Console HOWTO
Running a Linux box "headless" (i.e. no keyboard or video) is
a great way to save space and money. There may be occasions
where you need console access to a box, and having to lug in
a monitor is not desired. Like other UNIXes, Linux can have
a serial port act as the console port, so you can get access
to the box right from the LILO prompt.


Mandrake Campus
The Mandrake campus offers free online training, on topics
from basic tools to server services. It's well done, easy
to navigate, and best of all, free!


Learning with NMAP
Not only does this tutorial show you how to scan your network
with NMAP, it shows you what's under the hood, to help you
understand how TCP works and to see when your network is
being scanned. An excellent article on a utility that should
be in every administrator's toolbox.


4) App o' the week
This week's application, coinciding with the release of KDE
2.2, is KDevelop, an integrated development environment (IDE)
for coders. Don't let the 'K' fool you, this baby has wizards
for both Qt and GNOME applications, not to mention regular
C/C++ programming.


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