alex tingle alex tingle - 5 months ago 21
Linux Question

How do I find the current system timezone?

On Linux, I need to find the currently configured timezone as an Olson location. I want my (C or C++) code to be portable to as many Linux systems as possible.

For example. I live in London, so my current Olson location is "Europe/London". I'm not interested in timezone IDs like "BST", "EST" or whatever.

Debian and Ubuntu have a file

/etc/timezone
that contains this information, but I don't think I can rely on that file always being there, can I? Gnome has a function
oobs_time_config_get_timezone()
which also returns the right string, but I want my code to work on systems without Gnome.

So, what's the best general way to get the currently configured timezone as an Olson location, on Linux?

Answer

It's hard to get a reliable answer. Relying on things like /etc/timezone may be the best bet.

(The variable tzname and the tm_zone member of struct tm, as suggested in other answers, typically contains an abbreviation such as GMT/BST etc, rather than the Olson time string as requested in the question).

  • On Debian-based systems (including Ubuntu), /etc/timezone is a file containing the right answer.
  • On some Redhat-based systems (including at least some versions of CentOS, RHEL, Fedora), you can get the required information using readlink() on /etc/localtime, which is a symlink to (for example) /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/London.
  • OpenBSD seems to use the same scheme as RedHat.

However, there are some issues with the above approaches. The /usr/share/zoneinfo directory also contains files such as GMT and GB, so it's possible the user may configure the symlink to point there.

Also there's nothing to stop the user copying the right timezone file there instead of creating a symlink.

One possibility to get round this (which seems to work on Debian, RedHat and OpenBSD) is to compare the contents of the /etc/localtime file to the files under /usr/share/zoneinfo, and see which ones match:

eta:~% md5sum /etc/localtime
410c65079e6d14f4eedf50c19bd073f8  /etc/localtime
eta:~% find /usr/share/zoneinfo -type f | xargs md5sum | grep 410c65079e6d14f4eedf50c19bd073f8
410c65079e6d14f4eedf50c19bd073f8  /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/London
410c65079e6d14f4eedf50c19bd073f8  /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Belfast
410c65079e6d14f4eedf50c19bd073f8  /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Guernsey
410c65079e6d14f4eedf50c19bd073f8  /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Jersey
410c65079e6d14f4eedf50c19bd073f8  /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Isle_of_Man
...
...

Of course the disadvantage is that this will tell you all timezones that are identical to the current one. (That means identical in the full sense - not just "currently at the same time", but also "always change their clocks on the same day as far as the system knows".)

Your best bet may be to combine the above methods: use /etc/timezone if it exists; otherwise try parsing /etc/localtime as a symlink; if that fails, search for matching timezone definition files; if that fails - give up and go home ;-)

(And I have no idea whether any of the above applies on AIX...)