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Monday, 09 July 2012 13:24

Linux leap second issues being fixed: developer

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Fixes are being readied to fix the problem in Linux that caused problems when an extra second was added to clocks at the end of June, according to a senior kernel developer.

The leap second is added to co-ordinated universal time (UTC) to keep it close to mean solar time. A total of 25 leap seconds have been added over the last 40 years. The leap second added on June 30 caused problems around the world.

Jonathan Corbet told iTWire that there were fixes for the kernel in the works being tested now.

"But there is no huge hurry to get them into a released kernel; the next leap second won't happen for some time," he said. "It's not like an actively exploited security problem."

"Still, I would be surprised if the 3.5 kernel came out without a fix, and the stable kernels will have updates in a similar time scale." The current stable release is 3.4.4.

One known problem in the kernel is something known as the Unix Millennium Bug that will surface as an inability to keep time close to or in 2038.

But that is very far away and Corbet, when asked about it, responded: "I don't think there's much thought going into it now."

The kernel stores system time as a signed 32-bit integer and and interprets it as the number of seconds that have elapsed since zero UTC time on January 1, 1970.

"If you dig around on the net, you can probably find examples of (Linux creator) Linus (Torvalds) saying that it's just not an issue because nobody will still be using 32-bit systems then, and it's only 32-bit systems that have the problem," Corbet said.

"I'm not convinced it's so simple.  But I also think it's pointless to try to predict what kind of hardware we'll be running on 26 years in the future.  Even if hardware doesn't change at all and we're still using systems with POSIX interfaces, I don't think the problem is anywhere near as big as Y2K was."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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