[time-nuts] Designing an embedded precision GPS time

Bob kb8tq kb8tq at n1k.org
Tue Oct 31 20:47:50 UTC 2017


TCXO is a very loosely defined term. A part that does +/- 5 ppm -40 to +85C 
is a TCXO. A part that does +/- 5x10^-9 over 0 to 50C may also be a TCXO. 

Dividing the total deviation of either one by the temperature range to come
up with a “delta frequency per degree” number would be a mistake. You 
would get a number that is much better than the real part exhibits.

Working all this back into a holdover spec in an unknown temperature 
environment is not at all easy.


> On Oct 31, 2017, at 4:03 PM, Attila Kinali <attila at kinali.ch> wrote:
> Hoi Leo,
> On Sat, 28 Oct 2017 11:14:08 +0100
> Leo Bodnar <leo at leobodnar.com> wrote:
>>> From: Attila Kinali <attila at kinali.ch>
>>> Can you tell a little bit how your device looks like on the inside?
>> GPS is a Ublox.  MCU is Cortex-M7 and does not run any OS - just main loop with prioritised interrupts.  Network stack is hand-made. 
>> I don't use saw-tooth correction in this device because +-11ns is not worth correcting for NTP application for such a budget device.
>> If you can build a test NTP client system that can detect sawtooth 10ns offset from the NTP server I'd like to know how you did it.
> True. An NTP server does not need to measure time better than 100ns or so.
> 10ns is probably more than good enough. But then, this raises the question
> what your performance metric is that you optimize for?
> If it is hold-over, then this will be limited by the TCXO and how well
> you can measure its frequency, which in turn depends on how well you
> can measure the PPS pulse. You say that your device is typically within
> 4-5ms in 24h of hold-over. That translates to frequency uncertainty
> of approximately 5e-8. That's not that good.
> To put this into perspective have a look at the two attached plots.
> These are the PPM values that ntp reports for a standard server (HP DL380G7).
> The first plot shows the long term variation of all the data I currently have.
> The three jumps coincide with days when we restarted ntpd. As you can see,
> the long term variation of the crystal frequency is well below 0.5ppm. The
> second plot zooms in into one of the day with large variations. The worst
> of these being about 10ppb. Lets assume for simplicity, the 10ppb step happens
> instantaneous, then this would result in a hold over performance of ~0.9ms
> in 24h. Yes, this is not a fair comparison. The sever is in a room where
> temperature is pretty much constant (sorry, I don't have any data on that,
> but assume less than 5°C  variation within a day). And it's not true hold
> over performance, but a guestimation from the ntp provided loop data. But
> even if we add a factor of 10, this simple, unstabilized, unsophisticated
> PC comes pretty close to the performance your device claims. And that's not
> even a PC with a good crystal (I have measurements of others, that showed
> variation of less  than 2ppb over months in rooms without air conditioning).
> Or to put it differently: If i'd get a Minnow Turbot, add a GPS receiver,
> put everything in a metal box and just use normal ntpd, i'd expect to
> have a hold over performance of better than 100ms/24h (assuming 1ppm
> stability of the crystal), probably in the order of 10ms/24h and it would
> have no problems handling a humongous number of clients, thanks to the
> fast CPU (1.4GHz) and the Gbit/s ethernet interface.
> So, why does a simple PC with ntp do such a good job? The secret
> lies in the measurement: Very much simplified, ntp measures the
> frequency in 1000s intervals. Measurement uncertainty is reported to be
> better than 100us per reference server. Ie the uncertainty is in
> better than 1e-7 (compare with the estimated 5e-8 from above).
> Add to that averaging over multiple reference severs (4 in this case)
> and a sophisticated clock parameter estimation and the uncertainty
> goes down quite a bit.
> To summarize: If you want to improve your ntp devices hold over performance
> you have to improve the frequency measurement and use a better clock modeling.
> Ie, use a timing GPS receiver and its sawtooth correction, and model the
> clocks frequency change over time.
> 			Attila Kinali
> -- 
> It is upon moral qualities that a society is ultimately founded. All 
> the prosperity and technological sophistication in the world is of no 
> use without that foundation.
>                 -- Miss Matheson, The Diamond Age, Neil Stephenson
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