Jun 242018

For years up until last month, I ran a public NTP server which was on pool.ntp.org.  This mostly sat at Stratum II and was synchronised from random stratum I servers.

Last month, I had to knock that on the head because of a sudden spike in Internet traffic.  Through tcpdump on the border router, I identified the first culprit: NTP client traffic.  For whatever reason, I was getting a lot of traffic.  Dumping packets to a file over a 15 minute period and analysing showed about 90% of the traffic was NTP.

For about 3 weeks straight, I had an effectively constant 4~5Mbps incoming stream … a pelican flew into my inbox, carrying a AU$300 bill for the nearly 800GB consumed in May.  (My plan was originally 250GB.  Many thanks for Internode there: they capped the overusage charge at AU$300 and provided an instant upgrade of the plan to 500GB/month.)

The other culprit I tracked down to HackChat’s websockets, which was a big contributor to June’s data usage.  (Thank-you OpenBSD pflow and nfdump!)

So right now, I’m looking at whether I re-join the NTP server pool.  I have the monitoring in place to keep track of data usage now.  For sure the experience has cost me over $400, but that’s still cheaper than university studies … and they didn’t teach me this stuff anyway!

One thought is that I could do away with any external NTP server altogether by using local sources to synchronise time.  With a long-wire antenna, I could sync to WWV.  Usually I can pick it up on 10MHz or 15MHz, but it’s weak, and I’d have to rig up the receiver, the antenna and a suitable decoder.

Then there’s the problem of lightning strikes, I already have a Yaesu FT-897D in the junk box thanks to Thor’s past efforts.

The more practical approach would appear to be using GPS time sync.  You can do it with any NMEA-compatible module, but you get far better results using one that supports PPS.  Some even have a 10PPS option, but I’m not sure if kpps supports that.

As it happens, I could have got a GPS module in the TS-7670.  Here’s where it is on the schematic:

and here are the connections to its UART (bottom two):

and the PPS pin (LCD_D16):

The footprints are there on the board, and I can buy the module.  No problems.  Buying the TS-7670 with the GPS option would have meant buying the top-of-the-line “development” model which would have included WiFi (not needed), an extra 128MB RAM (nice to have, but not essential) and an extra CAN port (not needed).

The other option is to go something else, such as this module.  Either way, I need to watch logic levels, Freescale like their 1.8V, although it looks like the I/O pins can be switched between 1.8V and 3.3V from the GPIO registers (chapter 9 of the datasheet).

Doing this, would allow me to run Stratum 1 within the network, and perhaps to IPv6 NTP clients.  IPv4 clients might get Stratum 2, we’ll see how I feel about it later.