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AboutTime Home Page

Current Version: 4.8 (11/19/1999)

NOTE for Windows users (2014):

All recent Windows versions are equipped with built-in ways to synchronize their clocks against Internet time standards, so AboutTime is no longer needed. Also, it's likely that AboutTime will not work on 64-bit Windows versions. This means it's "about time" to retire this program. I'll leave this page here for historical reasons, but it's not really an application you want to run in modern times.

NOTE: Daylight time problems? Click here.

Linux users may want to read this note

Client Session Display

Here is a typical client session. In this example, AboutTime reports a 3 millisecond difference between the local computer's clock and the network time server.
Server Traffic Display

Here is AboutTime's own four-server "traffic" display. It shows that one of the server protocols is unavailable (red), and another is responding to a request (yellow).

What is AboutTime?

AboutTime is a superior source of time for your computer. As a time client, it will acquire time from the Internet with great accuracy, and as a server it will provide four kinds of time signals to other computers on your local network.

AboutTime uses advanced signal-processing techniques to correct for network delays, making high accuracy possible even over a slow modem connection.

In a local network with a copy of AboutTime installed on each machine, one can achieve + - 50 millisecond typical synchronization accuracies.

AboutTime can be instructed to perform its tasks automatically, at startup or at chosen time intervals. It is a small program that can be run in the background without requiring many resources.

AboutTime is compatible with all current Windows versions.

Oh, I almost forgot the other good news. AboutTime is CareWare — that means no money, now or ever. You just have to care.

AboutTime is now available in two versions:

  • for systems with Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0+ installed, and
  • for systems without MSIE 4.0+.
The second version has auto-logon and auto-logoff disabled — these features require MSIE 4.0+.

Please select one of the following versions:

  • If you
  • do have Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or newer installed on your system,
    Click Here to download abouttime_msie.exe (compatible with all current Windows versions, 584 KB).

  • If you
  • do not have Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or newer installed on your system,
    Click Here to download abouttime_nomsie.exe (compatible with all current Windows versions, 378 KB).

Just download the self-extracting executable file you have selected, run it, then run AboutTime. Press F1 for setup instructions.

NOTE: If you see an error message when trying to start AboutTime, download the version that does not require MSIE 4.0.

AboutTime is © Copyright 1998, Paul Lutus Message Page
AboutTime is CareWare .

Version History

  • Still Version 4.8, but downloads are now self-extracting executable files instead of ZIP files. Much more convenient.
  • Version 4.8 breaks AboutTime into two versions. One is for systems that have Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0+ installed, the other is for systems without MSIE 4.0+. The second version has auto-logon and auto-logoff disabled — these features require MSIE 4.0+.
  • If, when trying to start AboutTime, you see an error message such as "The procedure entry point InternetAutoDialHangup could not be located in the dynamic link library WININET.DLL" or a similar message, download the version that does not require MSIE 4.0.

  • Version 4.7 represents a major upgrade. Every part of AboutTime has been revised or enhanced — proxy/firewall support, event logging, local address caching, unattended logon/logoff, and more.
  • Version 4.6 corrects a potential bug in intranets that may reflect ghost packets due to improperly terminated cables.
  • Version 4.5 corrects some minor bugs and creates an explicit INI file in the program directory, to simplify automated installation on large networks. This change also permits the use of AboutTime as a service under Windows NT (more on this subject in the HELP file).
  • Version 4.2 allows an IP address to be used as a host name (some installations of Windows 95 would not allow this).
  • Version 4.1 corrects a bug in the new server controls.
  • Version 4.0 adds new controls to individually enable or disable AboutTime's time servers.
  • Version 3.8 corrects two small bugs. One caused a premature timeout on the first time access attempt, the other caused an unnecessary warning dialog when editing time servers.

Common Problems:

  • First, read
  • "A note about Freeware"

  • If your system reports a "divide by zero" error, either (1) install Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0+, or (2) acquire the DLL file comctl32.dll version 4.70 (dated 5/19/97) from the Microsoft site or elsewhere. The first solution is easier.

  • If, when you run AboutTime, your system reports that it is missing one or more DLL files, or if the program does not run correctly, Click Here to download the required files. And click here for a full explanation.

  • If AboutTime sets your clock so that it no longer corresponds to your local time, do not write to report a bug. The problem is that your computer's time zone is not set correctly. The time zone settings are located in the Control Panel. Adjust your time zone, then run AboutTime again.

  • If the Daylight Time settings on your computer are not correct, you must change them in the Windows Control Panel. Some locations have different starting and ending dates for Daylight Time, some do not use it. All these conditions must be dealt with by Windows, not AboutTime. AboutTime handles time in GMT, not local time. When AboutTime sets your computer's clock, it inquires with Windows as to whether Daylight Time is in effect — Windows must provide this information. AboutTime relies entirely on Windows for this, and cannot second-guess on its own without disrupting time display, file update times and many other things.

    In summary, do not write and ask for a change in AboutTime to deal with Daylight Time — this is not possible. You must do this in Windows itself.

  • Read the help file that is provided with AboutTime. Many more problems and solutions are addressed there.
Known bugs and installation problems
  1. Strange behavior when Windows starts.
  2. This isn't a bug in AboutTime, but it puzzles some users.

    The correct procedure to make AboutTime run automatically when Windows starts is to:

    1. Install AboutTime in the usual way, then
    2. Create a
    3. shortcut to the program in the Windows startup folder.

    Some people are instead copying the program itself — this will cause problems:

    1. When Windows boots up, it will launch a copy of Notepad with AboutTime's initialization file on display.
    2. The help screens will not be accessible.

    Both these outcomes are solved if you create a shortcut to AboutTime in the Windows startup folder, not a copy of the program itself.

    Instructions for creating a shortcut can be found in your Windows documentation.

    • A
    • shortcut to the AboutTime program looks like this: — This is what you want to see in the Windows startup folder.
    • A
    • copy of the AboutTime program looks like this: — This is not what you want to see in the Windows startup folder.

  3. Divide by Zero
  4. I have received some reports of a divide by zero error. I estimate this affects about 1% of AboutTime installs. Unfortunately, and to my great frustration, I cannot duplicate the bug here in my roomful of computers.

    This bug is known to be caused by a DLL error in one of Microsoft's DLL files. A user has written to tell me that this bug disappeared after he installed MSIE 4.0. I would love to be more specific, but I have never seen the bug in person and am entirely dependent on user reports.

    Please do not report this bug. Instead, install MSIE 4.0+, even if you do not intend to use it. According to all evidence, this will solve the problem.

    *** Update ***

    If you acquire and install the DLL file comctl32.dll version 4.70 (dated 5/19/97), this is reported to solve this bug. Installing MSIE 4.0+ is easier, but you may have a reason not to do this.

Networking Notes

By far the most common AboutTime inquiry concerns setting up multiple copies on a network. And many people are having trouble coping with a firewall, which ordinarily will prevent AboutTime from acquiring Internet time.

Here is a simple procedure to set up AboutTime on a network:

  1. If only one computer on your network has Internet access, install AboutTime there first. Let's call this computer "alpha"
  2. 1 (replace this example name with the actual name of the main computer).
  3. Use AboutTime's default list of client hosts or other hosts that you prefer.
  4. Confirm that this copy of AboutTime can access an off-site time server.
  5. For each computer on the network, install a copy of AboutTime, delete the default list of client hosts, and enter a single client host of "alpha"
  6. 1 (the name of the main computer on the local network).
  7. Confirm that these satellite AboutTime copies can access the main computer's copy of AboutTime.
If your site has a firewall:
  • Install a copy of AboutTime on the "alpha"
  • 1 machine and enter the correct firewall/proxy port numbers provided by your network administrator. In this scenario, the "alpha" 1 machine's time is set from offsite sources by way of proxy ports and the other machines use the "alpha" 1 copy of AboutTime as a local server.
If AboutTime on the "alpha" 1 computer cannot communicate with the outside world, or the satellite copies cannot reach the "alpha" 1 computer:
  • Please contact your network administrator. Don't write and ask for help with this kind of problem. This is an example of a problem potentially so complex that no number of e-mails, however long and baroque, could possibly remedy the situation.
(1) You must replace my arbitrarily chosen name "alpha" with the actual name of the computer. In case you think this footnote is trivial and unnecessary, I just got an e-mail saying, "I can't get your program to find 'alpha'!"

A Linux Note

As the Windows monopoly has begun to fall apart, I have received an increasing number of requests to create a Linux version of AboutTime. These requests are usually made by people who are transitioning from Windows to Linux, and they want the same programs to run the same way on both platforms.

But Linux, unlike Windows, is a civilized operating system, offering the kinds of resources one should expect from an operating system meant to meet your needs, not the needs of a very wealthy corporation. This means Linux already knows how to synchronize itself with various kinds of time servers, and it also knows how to synchronize local intranets. This capability is innate and does not require any add-ons.

AboutTime has become a very popular program over the years, but I noticed something interesting along the way. None of the AboutTime users — not one — ever wondered why such a useful program, one needed by nearly everyone, was not included with Windows. Even the current version of Windows (XP at the time of writing) doesn't have a time server/client as flexible as AboutTime. I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft reacts to the Linux threat by gradually including more and more of what Linux offers, until Windows becomes Linux and Microsoft becomes history.

As to Linux itself, there are probably a dozen ways to synchronize your machine to a remote time server, so an explicit add-on like AboutTime just doesn't serve any purpose. Here is how easy it is to synchronize your Linux machine to a time server:

# ntpdate time.nist.gov

This command, issued as shown from a root shell, is sufficient to replace AboutTime's client role (I put this command in the "crontab" control file, to be executed at intervals). And there are any number of time servers available under Linux to synchronize an intranet to a chosen master machine, which replaces AboutTime's server role.

Don't you think it makes sense to build this feature into an operating system? Why doesn't Windows do this? The answer is simple — Windows wasn't designed to make sense, it was designed to make money. It does that very efficiently.

Daylight Time change beginning in 2007

In 2007, the U.S. Congress changed the Daylight Time changeover dates. Older version of Windows cannot easily be updated to reflect this change, and when using AboutTime these systems will show the wrong time for a spell each Spring and Fall (this is not a defect in AboutTime, but in Windows). Here is how I explained the problem and solution to a recent correspondent:

The About Time has worked great for my computer, until the recent time change for daylight savings. Now every time I try to do a time set, it reverts back to an hour earlier. What can I do?

  1. Best solution: go to Microsoft and acquire an update to your daylight time computation algorithm. For newer versions of Windows, this can be done using the automatic update feature.
  2. If you have an older version of Windows and therefore cannot do (1), then manually change the time zone on your computer. Instead of relying on Windows' broken daylight time computation, turn off the daylight time option and choose a time zone one east from where you actually are (e.g. choose Mountain for Pacific, choose Central for Mountain, etc.). Then run AboutTime again.

Instructions for option (2):

  1. Go to the "Date & Time" applet of Control Panel.
  2. Click the "Time Zone" tab.
  3. Turn off the daylight time option.
  4. Let's say you are in the Pacific time zone. Select the Mountain time zone instead. For any time zone, select the next time zone to the east.
  5. Click "accept", run AboutTime, and your computer clock will show correct "wall time" again.

And remember to reverse this change at the end of the daylight time period.

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