MLS NTP suggestion (wiki doesn't accept)

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
aclawson
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MLS NTP suggestion (wiki doesn't accept)

Postby aclawson » Tue Oct 05, 2010 10:43 am

The forum sticky is contradicting where suggestions should go - it points to the wiki but the wiki states "regular users can no longer make changes to this page directly."

Anyhow, now that more and more meetinghouses are getting online can an NTP client be integrated within MLS? All of the meetinghouses should be set to update automatically at this point, but if MLS would do an NTP query upon loading the time/date are guaranteed to be correct. If time and date are sufficiently out of plumb either have the MLS NTP reset the system clock or dump the user out of MLS and make them fix it before they can proceed.

(You can even do NTP queries via dialup but that would require a connection every time you opened MLS.)

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:34 pm

aclawson wrote:The forum sticky is contradicting where suggestions should go - it points to the wiki but the wiki states "regular users can no longer make changes to this page directly."


Good point. That will be changed shortly. Thank you for bringing that to our attention.

For those who are not up on techo-jargon, NTP is a method by which a computer can find out the current time by asking a time server.

As for the idea, that sounds like a good one. The only concern I have is that MLS accurately knows the status of Daylight Savings and the local situation. There has been a number of recent changes in the start and ending of DLS in the US. And not all US states/areas participate in DLS. World-wide, the situation is even more confusing with different start/stop dates and even different offsets. So there is potential for the feature to create problems.

However, I think the most important thing is the date. If it can confirm the date (keeping in mind the International date line), any remaining error is a minor detail.
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aclawson
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Daylight savings can be ignored

Postby aclawson » Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:41 pm

A global database should be using UTC for exactly that reason - you get an accurate date and time no matter what your local government is or isn't doing every spring/fall.

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Tue Oct 05, 2010 1:18 pm

aclawson wrote:A global database should be using UTC for exactly that reason - you get an accurate date and time no matter what your local government is or isn't doing every spring/fall.


Internally and on the backend, yes. But it creates significant confusion for the users. If the computer ran strictly UTC, quite a few of our checks would be printed with tomorrows date.

But getting back to my main point, the biggest issue with MLS is when someone sets the time ahead by several days if not weeks. If that can be prevented, then that will be a big help. All other smaller time discrepancies can usually be dealt with simply be resetting the clock just before you go home.

Windows does support NTP, so perhaps we should just let the OS take care of the smaller issues. I can't think of any reason the date should be off by more then 2 days. That's where I'd like to see MLS take action.
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russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Tue Oct 05, 2010 1:22 pm

Something I'd like to see is if MLS could force a Windows NTP update during the dial-up connection. That would be a help to dial-up users.

One little caution: the wiki shows a way of preventing users from altering the time/date. I'm not sure if that restriction only applies to the interface or blocks all attempts at resetting time/date.

MLS developers will need to be aware of this and make sure that whatever they do, they won't be tripped up by the restrictions - or at least fail gracefully.
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aclawson
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Time

Postby aclawson » Tue Oct 05, 2010 2:52 pm

The wiki method of disabling the time doesn't prevent somebody who REALLY wants to change the time from setting it in the BIOS. Or turning off the policy and then changing it. Or any of a number of other methods. That doesn't prevent somebody who WANTS to change the time from changing the time, it prevents somebody who double clicks on the system tray to see a calendar and then accidentally changes the date.

You can certainly run NTP across a dial up connection - it will be easiest if you are actually on a TCP/IP connection (I don't know how MLS handles the connection across the modem) but if you are using that stack then it is as simple as scripting "w32tm /resync" to run in a command window.

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Tue Oct 05, 2010 3:03 pm

aclawson wrote:The wiki method of disabling the time doesn't prevent somebody who REALLY wants to change the time from setting it in the BIOS. Or turning off the policy and then changing it. Or any of a number of other methods. That doesn't prevent somebody who WANTS to change the time from changing the time, it prevents somebody who double clicks on the system tray to see a calendar and then accidentally changes the date.


The question is, at what level of security does this policy run. Does it prevent use of normal Windows API calls to rest the time, or does it only affect the UI?

This will certainly be a issue anyone wanting to develop a automatic time sync needs to test.
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