Tip o’ the Week #244 – Ticking away, the time of day

clip_image002Ticking away, the moments that make up a dull day” –  even if you choose not to fritter them away, the seconds and the sands of time slip by whether you’re having fun or you’re not.

Apple has recently unveiled their long-awaited smart watch, which for fanbois will mean that a Whole New Thing has been invented, and for everyone else, will mean there’s no point in buying any of the plethora of existing smart watches until the Apple one arrives next year.

Suddenly everyone’s talking about watches and what you can do with them; increasingly they’re not about being watches as much as about being worn on the wrist. (Like smart phones, perhaps, being less about talking on the phone, and more about content on the screen).

However you choose to tell the time – be it by looking at your phone, your wrist or your computer screen –  you’d like to think that in this day of technological marvel, you’d always be looking at the right time… well, you’re wrong.

This thought occurred to me when I was sitting in my home office with 2 PCs, 2 watches and a phone all within a 90 degree view radius – and every one was showing a different time. How can this be?

PCs tend to get their time from “the network” – if  you’re using a corporate PC then that means when you connect to the company network, your machine will be told what the time is. This is less about making sure you know what the correct time is, and more about making sure (for synchronisation purposes) your PC knows what time everyone else thinks it is. Assuming the corporate environment is well run, it’ll be synchronising from an external source that is probably correct. Well, to a degree…

If you have a home PC, there’s an option to set it up to sync with an internet-hosted time service – a machine that’s probably connected to a super-accurate atomic clock which can tell time to a gazillionth of a second, so that it can clip_image004then be broadcast over the internet and with all the potential latency that might add. Still, it’s probably better than waiting for the pips.

To check if you’re synching properly, right-click on the clock in your task bar and choose Adjust date/time, then look to see if you have an “Internet Time” tab (if you’re running a company PC, you probably will not have this).

If you think your PC clock is off from others, it’s worth checking that you have it set up to synch with Internet Time, and that whatever it’s synching with is working OK. You can add your own SNTP time server if you’d prefer one other than the default list.

If you see an error in the Internet Time settings or if you think clip_image006your clock is adrift (the default time.windows.com server seems to be, clip_image008er, a little more variable in reliability than others), it may be worth setting to a different time server – just click on Change settings… and pick a different one from the list and click on Update now to check it’s working as expected.

If your PC is wildly off – like days or even years out of sync – then it could cause you problems even logging in, and it may be that your CMOS Battery has gone flat – meaning the PC’s clock has been reset to some date far in the past.

Finally, If you’d like to know a decent stab at what the correct time is, try www.time.is. And if you ever wonder whether it’s too early or late to call overseas, then enter the place name in the search box on that site and it will tell you the time in that timezone.


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