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D-Link settles dispute with 'time geek'

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Networking manufacturer D-Link has settled a dispute with a Danish administrator Poul-Henning Kamp over the way its kit queries internet time servers.

Critics claim the way D-link equipment polls NTP (Network Time Protocol) servers is impairing their operations, leaving operators to carry unsustainable excess bandwidth charges. NTP servers handle a variety of functions including, for example, helping create a record of the timing of eBay bids.

The dispute between D-Link and self-confessed "time geek" Poul-Henning Kamp over the issue went public in April after Kamp wrote an open letter to D-Link prompted by his frustrations in attempting to get the firm to acknowledge that a misconfigured implementation of NTP on its kit left him staring at a bill of around $8,800 a year.

D-Link products worldwide query a small NTP server located at the Danish Internet Exchange, intended to service only 2,000 or so organisations in the country, which is being maintained by Kamp. Kamp reckons that between 75 and 90 per cent of the traffic hitting his servers comes from D-Link devices. Growing costs forced Kamp to consider abandoning his time-keeping service.

The address of Kamp's NTP server - which is run on a non-profit basis and allocated only minimal bandwidth resources - was hardwired into the firmware in various D-link products. A more flexible approach would have seen the products reconfigured remotely and redirected to a more appropriate NTP server.

D-Link is freeloading onto as many as 50 NTP time servers, critics claim. The US military, NASA and government groups worldwide are reportedly running NTP servers interrogated by D-Link kit.

Cambridge University security expert Richard Clayton, the man who tracked back the source of unwanted international traffic sent to Kamp's Danish NTP server to D-Link kit, reckons D-Link would rack up $1,000 a month in bandwidth charges if it ran those time servers itself.

Instead of acknowledging that it might have made an error, D-Link first hid behind its lawyers. D-Link's attorneys demanded that disgruntled punters submit to Californian law.

A month later, reason has begun to prevail and an "amicable" settlement has been forged between D-Link and Kamp. D-Link has agreed to take steps to reduce the impact of the problem. It's unclear if D-Link also agreed to cover Kamp's excess costs, as he originally requested.

Kamp was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press but a statement on his website does go some way towards explaining the terms of the settlement: "D-Link and Poul-Henning Kamp announced today that they have amicably resolved their dispute regarding access to Kamp's GPS.Dix.dk NTP Time Server site. D-Link's existing products will have authorised access to Kamp's server, but all new D-Link products will not use the GPS.Dix.dk NTP time server.

"D-Link is dedicated to remaining a good corporate and network citizen," the statement adds. ®

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