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bug#7999: [coreutils-8.x] documentation of touch command needs clarifica

From: Paul Eggert
Subject: bug#7999: [coreutils-8.x] documentation of touch command needs clarification
Date: Mon, 12 Dec 2011 16:59:39 -0800
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:8.0) Gecko/20111115 Thunderbird/8.0

I installed the following patch to try to document this issue better
and am taking the liberty of marking this as done.  Further comments
are welcome (and we can reopen the bug as needed).

doc: document 'touch' and timestamps better
* doc/coreutils.texi (touch invocation): Explain file timestamps
better.  Problem reported by Nelson H.F. Beebe (Bug#7999).
diff --git a/doc/coreutils.texi b/doc/coreutils.texi
index 369fad2..c26a53d 100644
--- a/doc/coreutils.texi
+++ b/doc/coreutils.texi
@@ -7199,6 +7199,7 @@ a date like @samp{Mar 30@ @ 2002} for non-recent 
timestamps, and a
 date-without-year and time like @samp{Mar 30 23:45} for recent timestamps.
 This format can change depending on the current locale as detailed below.

address@hidden clock skew
 A timestamp is considered to be @dfn{recent} if it is less than six
 months old, and is not dated in the future.  If a timestamp dated
 today is not listed in recent form, the timestamp is in the future,
@@ -10261,11 +10262,39 @@ A @var{file} argument string of @samp{-} is handled 
specially and
 causes @command{touch} to change the times of the file associated with
 standard output.

address@hidden clock skew
+By default, @command{touch} sets file timestamps to the current time.
+Because @command{touch} acts on its operands left to right, the
+resulting timestamps of earlier and later operands may disagree.
+Also, the determination of what time is ``current'' depends on the
+platform.  Platforms with network file systems often use different
+clocks for the operating system and for file systems; because
address@hidden typically uses file systems' clocks by default, clock
+skew can cause the resulting file timestamps to appear to be in a
+program's ``future'' or ``past''.
address@hidden file timestamp resolution
+The @command{touch} command sets the file's timestamp to the greatest
+representable value that is not greater than the requested time.  This
+can differ from the requested time for several reasons.  First, the
+requested time may have a higher resolution than supported.  Second, a
+file system may use different resolutions for different types of
+times.  Third, file timestamps may use a different resolution than
+operating system timestamps.  Fourth, the operating system primitives
+used to update timestamps may employ yet a different resolution.  For
+example, in theory a file system might use 10-microsecond resolution
+for access time and 100-nanosecond resolution for modification time,
+and the operating system might use nanosecond resolution for the
+current time and microsecond resolution for the primitive that
address@hidden uses to set a file's timestamp to an arbitrary value.
 @cindex permissions, for changing file timestamps
-If changing both the access and modification times to the current
-time, @command{touch} can change the timestamps for files that the user
-running it does not own but has write permission for.  Otherwise, the
-user must own the files.
+When setting file timestamps to the current time, @command{touch} can
+change the timestamps for files that the user does not own but has
+write permission for.  Otherwise, the user must own the files.  Some
+older systems have a further restriction: the user must own the files
+unless both the access and modification times are being set to the
+current time.

 Although @command{touch} provides options for changing two of the times---the
 times of last access and modification---of a file, there is actually

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