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I'm having a problem setting the date on my server...

$ ls -la /etc | grep localtime
lrwxrwxrwx  1 root root  23 Mar 6  12:07 /etc/localtime -> /usr/share/zoneinfo/GMT

For some reason, although the time 17:31:06 is GMT, the timezone suffix is EST...

$ date
Tue Mar  6 17:31:06 EST 2012

And the hardware clock is also messed up - 10:32:12 isn't EST:

$ hwclock --show
Tue 06 Mar 2012 10:32:12 PM EST  -0.000276 seconds

If I set the hwclock to the system time or localtime, it sets it incorrectly:

$ hwclock --localtime
Tue 06 Mar 2012 10:34:22 PM EST  -0.000190 seconds
$ date
Tue Mar  6 17:34:24 EST 2012

Any idea what is going on?


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Are you using ntp, or did you set all of this manually? – Kyle Smith Mar 6 '12 at 17:38

Three Simple Rules for Not Going Insane When Dealing With Time:

First: You're running Unix (and presumably NTP): Make sure you have set your system's BIOS/Hardware clock to UTC.
The absolute last thing you need is your hardware (BIOS) clock fighting with Unix over whose timezone is right and when daylight saving time begins/ends. Setting your hardware clock to UTC makes life much easier.

Second: When you change the system-wide time zone you sometimes need to log out and log back in again for the system to understand what happened. Generally I suggest rebooting - this ensures every part of the OS has been kicked in the head and understands what has happened.
You don't want cron still running in US/Eastern time when you've changed the machine's timezone to Hawaii.

Third: If you user account still has a messed-up idea of the time zone something is probably setting the TZ environment variable -- double-check your .profile and shell rc files.
Unix doesn't assume that every user on the system is in the local time zone, so it lets you override on a per-user (or per-shell) level. This is very useful if your system is running on (e.g.) US/Eastern time and you have users logging in from Japan - People like the time their system reports to match the clock on their wall :)

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Don't forget /etc/sysconfig/clock, too. (Or, will that be updated on reboot from /etc/localtime?) – Aaron Copley Mar 6 '12 at 17:52
...Because there are so many other worthy things you can go insane over besides dealing with time... – Bart Silverstrim Mar 6 '12 at 17:54
@AaronCopley My systems have no such file (if you use the CentOS tools to change the timezone that should be updated appropriately -- I'm not sure if it's tied to /etc/localtime, but if it's not let's add one more non-standard implementation to the litany reasons I despise Linux :) – voretaq7 Mar 6 '12 at 17:59
@voretaq7 Not sure why your hosts don't have it. Very weird! Notice particularly, "ZONE=".… It's used by system-config-date so not necessary for actually changing the time, but should probably be of the same value if it exists. – Aaron Copley Mar 6 '12 at 18:16
@AaronCopley Probably because my hosts aren't CentOS (Everything's FreeBSD, with a few Debian/Ubuntu machines laying around that I'm trying to kill, and Debian Don't Do That /etc/sysconfig Stuff :) On a redhat box though I would definitely use the system-config-date tool to be sure to catch all the places the system might be tucking timezone data – voretaq7 Mar 6 '12 at 18:18
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The problem was setting the hwclock to the system time and vice versa (which I was fiddling around with) actually modified the timezone files in /usr/share/zoneinfo. I had to copy fresh zoneinfo files from another server.

So all I can say is DON'T play with setting the system clock to the hardware clock and vice versa (hwclock --hctosys, hwclock --systohc) unless you know what you're doing!

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