'Time geek' hopeful of deal with D-Link

The operator of a server that keeps track of time for servers in Denmark hopes soon to settle a dispute with D-Link Systems Inc. over traffic allegedly caused by the company's routers.

Several models of D-Link routers, sold around the world, appear to be set up to regularly query the NTP (Network Time Protocol) server that Poul-Henning Kamp operates without pay in Slagelse, Denmark. The routers send packets seeking the correct time from Kamp's server, and their queries add up to about 3 million packets per day, he said. Kamp says that boosts his traffic load to the point where it costs him money, and he's asking for reimbursement.

An open letter he wrote to D-Link, posted at http://people.freebsd.org/~phk/dlink/, has helped move negotiations with D-Link's attorney along, Kamp said in an interview Friday. "With a little luck we should be able to settle it by next week," he said.

NTP servers allow computers to transfer time stamps across the Internet so they can set their clocks to the correct time. In many countries, the government runs an NTP server, but not in Denmark, Kamp said. The self-described 'time geek' does it on his own for free, and the Danish Internet Exchange (DIX) waives the connection fee for his server. However, there's a limit to how much bandwidth Kamp can use for free, he said.

The time server is getting bombarded with requests from D-Link devices because it's on a list of time servers included with the routers' firmware, Kamp said. The Danish server shouldn't have been included on that list -- it's only intended for use in Denmark -- and the list shouldn't have been put into the devices' firmware, he said. Because it's in the firmware, there's no way to stop the devices from contacting Kamp's server unless D-Link's customers update their firmware, he said. D-Link should have put the list on a server of its own and had the routers refer to that one, because then the company could have easily updated that list, he said.

The products involved, some of them discontinued, include the DI-604, DI-614+, D-624, DI-754, DI-764, DI-774, DI-784, VDI604 and VDI624, according to Kamp's letter.

The time server doesn't actually answer the routers' requests because it's only set to respond to servers, Kamp said.

Kamp estimates that over the five-year life of the products, he'll run up about 385,000 Danish kroner (US$62,000) in costs. He contacted the Denmark office of D-Link about the problem last year and ended up in discussions with an attorney in the U.S. for the Irvine, California, company. He posted the open letter last week in hopes of bringing the issue to the attention of someone at D-Link who could address it. The letter helped bring the talks toward resolution, probably helped by media coverage it has generated, Kamp said. At least the updated versions of firmware that D-Link offers for the products no longer points to the Danish server, he said.

D-Link could not immediately be reached for comment.

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