The Blog of Tom Webster

  2016-04-18 04:05:21 PDT

I’ve been learning Go recently (the programming language, not the game) and ran into a small, annoying problem that I could fix nicely with some code. Perfect opportunity to build a golang binary and try out the language for a simple use case.

My problem was that on a particular network I often use NTP traffic is completely blocked, and the particular machine I’m using has a horrible internal clock. Each week this machine drifts by 90 seconds. It’s a stationary machine, always attached to the ntp-blocking network. While this isn’t a huge deal, I sometimes work with time-sensitive code relating to time-based security tokens, and 90 seconds (let alone 30) completely throws this off. I needed a way to set my system clock regularly, without watching the time on my phone and hitting Enter at the perfect time to send the date -s command.

I’ve built a small utility (Linux and Windows support for now) that uses the HTTP Date Header and either the date command on Linux or the w32 API on Windows to set the time. The program runs in about 0.3 seconds, which is good enough for my use case, I need time accurately set within a couple seconds. Basically how it works is that it grabs Google’s homepage by default (you can use a flag to set your own URL) and uses the date header to set the system clock. Obviously you’ll need administrator permissions for this all to work correctly. I’ve designed the program to not pollute system mail with useless messages if you run it in cron.

You can grab the binaries here:

And you can see the source code and readme on the project’s GitLab page. As usual, it’s MIT Licensed.

As with any of my projects, if you’d like to make this better or find a bug, head over to the GitLab page and send a merge request or put in an issue.

A huge thanks to VividCortex for their golang w32 API library.


Apparently this has been done before with htpdate and the HTTP Time Protocol. I won’t remove the project, but if you’re looking for something a bit more polished and professional, htpdate is the better constructed tool for this purpose.