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RE: File date and timestamp

From: Jim.Hyslop
Subject: RE: File date and timestamp
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 2004 11:44:48 -0400

Flagg, David wrote:
> This is a re-post.  This seems like it could possibly be a 
> common problem someone might have.  Is there a more 
> appropriate forum somewhere else?  Thanks.
Hmmm.. I thought I saw a response to your original message from someone else
already, but I don't see it in my 'trash' or in the archive.

> >  -----Original Message-----
> I have a binary file that is in my repository, libtemp.a, 
> which has the following timestamp in cvsroot (i.e., timestamp 
> in the Unix filesystem): Jun 18 09:42.  Apparently, this is 
> the time when I last tagged the file.
That would make sense; applying a tag modifies the RCS file.

> When I check out the file (with WinCVS, by the way), the 
> date on the file is (as viewed by Win 2K): 5/3/2004 6:47 PM.  
> This is the date/time when I last committed the file.  This 
> also agrees with the timestamp in the Entries file.
> > 
> When I committed the file, the timestamp on the file was 
> 12/24/2003 2:23 PM.  It is important that this be the 
> timestamp that is associated with the binary file, as it is 
> pulled in from another source.  When I check this file out, I 
> want the timestamp to continue to be 12/24/2003 2:23 PM.
Timestamps are an interesting issue. The problem is, how do you decide which
timestamp to use on the checked-out file?

Even if you succeed, there is the issue of updating to a specific tag. If
you issue the command 'cvs update -r1.1' the timestamp of the file will
become the current date and time. While this may seem strange and
unintuitive at first, you must consider that CVS also interacts with other
systems - such as build systems. If CVS used the original modification
timestamp or the check-in timestamp, the dependency system would not flag
the dependencies as out-of-date.

> (1) Is there a way that I should have committed this file 
> such that I can get the behavior I want?
I believe that the rcs command allows options to specify the timestamp to
apply to the file. Or, you can hack the CVS source to get the behaviour you

This introduces another issue, though - 'cvs log' and anything else that
uses the date option works on the date in the RCS file. You could introduce
subtle, unexpected behaviour changes with this modification.

> (2) How can I correct the situation for this particular file?
You could manually edit the RCS file.

It sounds to me, though, like you need a configuration management system
that is aware of things beyond the current scope. Why is it so important to
maintain the exact timestamp of the binary file?

Jim Hyslop
Senior Software Designer
Leitch Technology International Inc. (
Columnist, C/C++ Users Journal (

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