WSJTX-FT-8 Clock Synchronization

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I will appreciate if someone can explain the Clock Synchronization for WSJTX-FT-8. It has been hit or miss on QSOs and I checked the CPU utilization which is about 25%. In Windows 10 I set the clock to NIST and found I got fewer QSOs, the Windows display clock and the FT-8 incomming QSOs were off by 13 seconds. When I switched to the Microsoft clock it was much better and was able to complete a QSO in South America. What I would like to know is how does some of the other suggested clocks help improve the synchronization? I would expect all of them have a reference to NIST or some other standard atomic clock standard.
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Arvind Mallya

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Posted 1 month ago

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Mark NS9N

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Go to the FT8 web site and there is a link to synchronize your clock. Click on it and all should be good.
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Dwayne - KN6AFP

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In comparison to Linux and MacOS, Windows is awful at maintaining time. Your sources are fine, the issue is the frequency of updates. I updated my own system to update every 1800 seconds / 30 minutes... Check out the following articles on how to tweak time update frequency...

https://timetoolsltd.com/time-sync/how-to-synchronize-microsoft-windows-to-a-ntp-server/

This second link validates all your processes...
https://www.thewindowsclub.com/windows-10-clock-time-wrong-fix


(Edited)
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Tom Worthington

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All of those sources depend on your internet connection.  If you have long and uneven delays the corrections can be in error.  I use a GPS receiver and NMEATime to keep my computer synced.
I started doing this for Field Day since we don't have an internet connection at our (KH6RS) site.
73 and Aloha, Tom, NH6Y
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Sterling, AK1K

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An important idea in FT8 is that everyone all over the world starts each 15 second FT8 frame at very nearly the same UTC time, every 15 seconds after the minute.  WSJTx takes its time from your PC clock.  So if your PC is synchronized to UTC (within about 1 second) and so is everyone else's, all our FT8 frames will start at about the same time.

There are utilities that periodically (every 10 minutes or so) synchronize your PC clock to UTC to within a fraction of a second using data from network time servers.  The utility I use is Dimension4 (so called since time is the fourth dimension).  It works well and doesn't need much setup.  It starts up automatically and you hardly every need to think about it.  

One nice thing about using a Flex for FT8 is that you can see the signals from other stations on the panadapter as they all startup and shut down each 15 second frame.  You can look at the green bar at the bottom WSJTx (which is based on your PC clock) and see if it starts and finishes at the same time as the signals on the panadapter.

Good luck with this.

73,
Sterling, AK1K

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Craig - KØCF

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The recommended method for keeping your computer clock accurate is to download and install the Meinberg NTP Software, available here: https://www.meinbergglobal.com/english/sw/ntp.htm
Install and run this software and it will keep your clock within milliseconds of the true time. There is virtually no overhead in running this software. You can also check your clock at this site: https://time.is/

For further information on this, please see the ZL2IFB FT8 Operating Guide at:
http://www.g4ifb.com/FT8_Hinson_tips_for_HF_DXers.pdf
Gary has produced an excellent guide to all things FT-8.

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Justin - KL2D

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Meinberg does work great, and if you want to be independent from the internet then check out this small easy to use NTP server:

https://timemachinescorp.com/productt...

I use this with an outside mounted GPS antenna and it keeps everything on my network squared away. I set a static IP on my intranet and pointed meinberg at it, no worries after that.

Justin
KL2D
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John - AF3K

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Craig - Completely agree!  I use Meinberg NTP too and love it.  Whenever I use https://time.is/ for a sanity check it always says "Your time is exact!"
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Arvind Mallya

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So Meinberg still synchs to some reference clock like NIST? Windows 10 already has that option. So is the duration of synching more frequent and makes sure there is no slip?
(Edited)
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Ted VE3TRQ

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Meinberg talks to NTP (Network Time Protocol) servers on the Internet. The daemon (background process) nudges the internal clock sufficiently to keep it accurate - and those "nudges are minuscule once the clock has been brought "close enough". You will never see large clock time changes. Also, the algorithms are designed to look after network delays and latencies to the NTP servers. Meinberg is a Windows NTP client implementation - all Unix systems have an NTP client built in.

If you want independence on a Windows machine, buy NMEATime (or install one of the free alternatives) and hook up a GPS receiver to your PC.
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Neal Pollack, N6YFM

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Hi Craig:

Just be aware, that Meinberg NTP for Windows 10 occasionally has problems.
While NTP is an amazing time protocol, the implementation on windows seems to
have more problems that what we use on Linux in the I.T. industry.   Several times
a month when I boot up windows 10 to run FT8, I notice no decodes.  If I start the meinberg NTP status windows (Which is just "ntpq --peers" for you linux users),
I can see bizarre delay and offset numbers.   If I manually restart Meinberg NTP, then it comes back into time sync and FT8 works.

So if you choose Meinberg NTP, I suggest placing the icon on your desktop for RESTART.

Cheers,

Neal
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Kevin N4TT, Elroy

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Never had a problem with Meinberg in the years I've used it. Follow the install instructions and disable Windows time updates. That may be what's giving you glitches.

Kev
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roger na4rr

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This is the set up I use and seems to work great. I have had a TD of 2.5 and still been able to make contact.
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N8AUM

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I had similar situation with my little old i5 laptop & Wimblows 10 when I had WSJT set for "DEEP" in the decode menu, it took over 10 seconds to do all the decodes and obviously too late to respond or do anything. Looking at ur screenshot, I see no major time issues with ur "DT". Something else might be causing way too much latency ? my old i7 running Winblows 7 usually sits at 20% cpu usage and I usually have at least 20 tabs open and stream Netflix and have "deep" decode enabled running SSDR on the 6600 and PowersSDR on my 5000 

gud luck, N8AUM
(Edited)
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Dwayne - KN6AFP

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Here's a little project for everyone... http://www.dxatlas.com/ToyNtp/ The Garmin 18x which has time sync capabilities is $85.
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Neal Pollack, N6YFM

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The only problem with ToyNTP, is that it has not been updated since Windows 7 time frame.  So it has no idea how to turn OFF the Windows 10 time service, and both will fight each other.  Since windows time service does not update Windows 10 very often, it may appear to be working just fine anyway.   But the newer programs automatically turn off the windows 10 time service processes, so that they can control the clock without fighting the operating system.

Neal
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Dwayne - KN6AFP

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I did update Windows NTP refresh timer and that worked ok for me... Given all the feedback, I made the jump to Dimension 4... It shuts down the Windows NTP task and is prepopulated with all the best time sources. I cut the list down to my favorite local sources.
(Edited)
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John - K3MA

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Depending upon whom you wish to work on FT-8 you may want to reconsider using NTP software.  I got tired of not being able to work or having great difficulty to work some good remote DX or DXpedtion.  I got tired of not getting in the log or not decoding because the other station (DX station) did not have a clock that was syncronized. 

 I uninstalled the NTP software I was using and went back to doing a quick windows time sych at the start of the operating day and then using a software add on called TimeFudge to manually offset my time so that it matches the inaccurate time of the DX station I want to work.  I did not care that it then gives me a bad DT for everyone else.  I only cared that it gave me a very good DT for the station I was interested in working.

I look at it kind of like CW speed.  You need to match the capability of the station you want to work (even if they are the problem) if you want to get in the log.  Try sending at 35 wpm to a DX station that is sending at 15 wpm.

It has been very successful.  Many times I have worked a station that has a DT over 2.0 that others are calling but not getting answered or others are saying they do not see a decode.  I find the quick windows time sych at the start of the operating day is good enough to work all the other stations that have NTP software and a connection to the internet to keep it that way.   Sometime that is not an option for the DX station especially in a remote area.
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Arvind Mallya

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Thanks, I downloaded the Meinberg software but it hung halfway through. I'll have to do it again not sure why it did not complete the installation. I also found reloading DAX seems to fix the problem. If I start the SDR program and it loads automatically loads CAT and DAX, but sometimes there are no decodes. When I reload DAX it seems to start a whole lot of activity.
(Edited)
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Neil D Friedman N3DF

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Interesting.  In my experience (using Meinberg), being two seconds or more off from another station is rare -- perhaps one half of one percent.  I don't recall ever losing a "rare one" to a time difference. 
(Edited)
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John - K3MA

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I am glad your satisfied and it meets your needs.  All I can say is you can't know what you have missed when your not decoding it.  This is also the case when you compare FT8 decoding in WSJT-X with other programs.  I recently did a comparison running WSJT-X alongside another decode program using the same feed from DAX.  I decoded and worked 5X2S using the other program.  There was no decode in WSJT-X to even let me know he was there.  The other friends with similar stations were on the band at the same time and claimed I worked a false decode.  Nope, the next day the contact appeared in the 5X2S clublog.
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John - K3MA

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@Arvind - DAX taking a fit and not decoding has been a problem for a long time.  I and several other suffer from the same issue.  It is annoying when you move to work a spot you saw using one of the digital modes and QSY and load up the software only to find DAX is not working correctly.  Then you have to waste time and shut down and restart programs.  I have missed a couple DX contacts as a result of these DAX failures.  However, there is a work around if you use Windows that I posted a long time ago and you can search to find it.  You can write a short batch program to automatically shutdown DAX and restart it.  I have found doing that a couple times a day seem to keep it working when I need it.
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Kevin N4TT, Elroy

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Time Fudge!!! So cool. I always thought there should be something out there to nudge the clock. It's almost like a community time source. 

I use Meinberg. Most of the DT readings I see are +0.2 to +0.4. Not a big deal but I'm a bit odd about zeroing things out. I upset people adjusting SWR manually.

With Time Fudge, i've got most everyone zeroed, a few +/- 0.2 and one outlier at 1.2.

Cool! Another thing to tweak.

73,
K4VD Kev
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Neil D Friedman N3DF

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I guess I don't understand.  If I show within, say, 0.4 seconds of the 15 or so stations appearing on my screen, how would I even know that there is another station 3.0 seconds off that I can't see and that I have to "nudge" my time in order to work?
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Neal Pollack, N6YFM

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Hey John K3MA:

Help me understand;  It appears as though you are claiming that one or another time sync programs might not let you decode FT-8 as well as another?  I might have read your reply wrong?    But, regardless of the choice of program for time sync, both WSJT-X and JTDX have a column in the decode window called DT (Delta Time).
You can rapidly judge if ANY time sync program is working or not, by looking for
the majority of the other stations in your decode window to have a DT value of .1 to .4
or so.  Of course, there are always a few other people with clocks that are way off, so you will also see a few that have DT of .9, 1.3, or even 2.4 seconds.

{For what it is worth, the few times that I have had Meinberg NTP fail to start properly,
was noticed by seeing few decodes and seeing that the ones that did decode all had high DT numbers in the DT column in WSJT-X decode window.  Simply restarting Meinberg NTP made it randomly choose different time servers from the pool, and then it worked fine after that.}

So if I understand correctly, if your DT values are low (under half a second) you ARE going to decode that station as long as they have enough signal strength [NOT -39dB :-) ]    So if your time is close enough in sync, less than a half second, decoding a weak one near -20 would be up to the difference in the decode and FFT math used between WSJT-X or the JTDX software applications (as well as your audio input level
being properly adjusted for the WSJT-X or JTDX application).

Do I have that right?

Neal
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Kevin N4TT, Elroy

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I've been experimenting. I'm able to get the average (median?) DT down to 0 for most of the CQ calls I see. I'm actually set to -0.6 (I guess delaying my clock by 600 ms). So, if I wanted to see if there was anyone of interest +/- 2 seconds I might nudge up and down and see who's there. 

I just set it to -2 seconds. I see IZ1MLQ at 0.8, M0JBF at 0.4, n2ujz at -0.2.

Set to 2 seconds I see nobody within 2 seconds.

To make this work, I had to turn off Meinberg as it kept adjusting the clock. With Meinberg running, Time.is reports exact and I see an average of 0.5 for DT. When I shut off Meinberg and nudge to -0.6 then most DT falls right around 0 but time.is reports 400 ms off (not 600 as I'd expect). 

It seems to me, and just guessing here, ignoring ntp sync'd time and going by FT8 community time (made that up), I can fall right into a good average of zero offset.

Now I'm wondering... if, for instance, I see DT=0 for a call, will he see DT=0 for me? Now I think I'm overthinking it.

73,
Kev K4VD
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Neal Pollack, N6YFM

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Kev K4VD:

If you really want to experiment quickly with different offsets in time, the free Italian Time Sync App called BKTtimesync has an OFFSET field on the user interface screen.   You can leave that window open on the screen and enter positive and negative offsets while running.   The app will take time from Internet NTP servers, or from a USB attached GPS, your choice with check boxes.
That is a lot quicker than the 10 or 15 mouse clicks it takes to get to the windows 10
time set/adjust sub-window :-)

Cheers,

Neal
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Kevin N4TT, Elroy

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Thanks Neal. I'll try that out next. You're right... lots of clicking. 
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John - K3MA

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@Neal.   "It appears as though you are claiming that one or another time sync programs might not let you decode FT-8 as well as another?  I might have read your reply wrong?"

I mean nothing of the sort.  Up to the time of my first post everyone was recommending their favorite NTP software package to answer the original posters question.  I simply gave an alternative way to manage the time for him to consider.  He can decide what option is best for his operating style.
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Stu 2E0XXO

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I have been using Dimension 4 since i started with jt9+jt65.
it still works great, you just pick a local sntp server near you and set the update interval and leave it alone to get on with the job.

https://download.cnet.com/Dimension-4/3000-2094_4-10039998.html

stu

p.s. but as mentioned by Bill its not totally reliable ! but it is free !!
(Edited)
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Arvind Mallya

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Stu,  I downloaded Dimension4, does it synch the lower right time on the windows display.  i did not see that or perhaps missed it.
(Edited)
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Ted VE3TRQ

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Since Dimension 4 sets the computer’s clock, of course the displayed time will be whatever Dimension4 thinks it should be. Just be sure to point it at a functioning ntp server site.

I am not a Dimension 4 user, so cannot direct you to its log files to verify its operation, but I’m sure it must have a way of telling you that it is working correctly.
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Stu 2E0XXO

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as per Teds response, it sets the PC time and time for any program that takes its time from the PC.
You can set the synchronisation frequency to whatever you require. I have mine set at 10 mins. i always hit the OK button as a double check before i TX and it will confirm on screen any adjustments it has made.just like below.
hope this helps.  stu
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Arvind Mallya

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Thank you both
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N8AUM

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In my case I have to sync it manually 3 or 4 times before getting close to having it close enough because of the unpredictable lag time to the time server because of the crappy AT&T DSL using Dimension-4. Not a big deal but I might try out ToyNTP with one of my 10MHz GPS disciplined oscillators. 
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Arvind Mallya

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I work for AT&T the DSL latency to the nearest Internet PoP is about 10 msec, however VDSL is about 28 msec due to the interleaving of frames to gain better error performance and correction.  The rest of the delay comes from the Internet hops, servers and the end devices.
(Edited)
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Zack Schindler - N8FNR

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I use BktTimeSync for syncing the time. Works great. https://www.maniaradio.it/en/bkttimesync.html
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N8AUM

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TNX  fr the link Zack, seems to be working fine with my old GPS receiver, time will tell lol
73 vidas
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