Sub-second synchronization of cron jobs

cron_syncWe use cron-jobs to control lab instruments once a minute in the lab. I noticed that specifying 'once a minute' to cron produces a start-time for the job with quite a bit of variability. Usually the job starts at 1s past the minute, but sometimes 2s. There's also a random delay of 20 ms to 50 ms (but sometimes up to 300 ms). This probably depends a lot on the hardware. So if we assume the cron-job starts 1s past the minute the worst error I saw in the test above is 1.3 seconds.

Here's a very simple synchronization idea: first ask for a time-stamp, then wait until we are at an inter-second boundary, then continue. This makes the cron-job continue at the inter-second boundary with a maximum error of 6 ms, a fair improvement over 1.3 seconds without any sync code.

The way to enable this to run from crontab is to add something like this to crontab (use crontab -e):

Where cron_sync.py is the name of the script above.

I'd be interested in hearing how this works on other hardware, or if there are some alternative solutions.