How I built the NOW_USEC() UDF for MySQL

Last week I wrote about my efforts to measure MySQL’s replication speed precisely. The most important ingredient in that recipe was the user-defined function to get the system time with microsecond precision. This post is about that function, which turned out to be surprisingly easy to write.

The manual section on user-defined functions provides very good instructions on how they work and how to build them. But just for the record, on Ubuntu 7.04 on an AMD64 machine, all I had to do was install the libmysqlclient15-dev package, and I was then able to compile the UDF with no further ado. Also for the record, MySQL header files have some dependencies they shouldn’t that break building against a downloaded tarball. So don’t be surprised if you have troubles building against anything but Ubuntu’s provided header files.

Here’s the source, which I basically cribbed from a NOW_MSEC() function I saw in a bug report somewhere. Really, there’s not much to it besides the basic skeleton of a UDF, with a few lines to actually get the system time. And I actually believe if I took another ten minutes to learn about strftime(), there’s probably no need to do it in two steps; I could probably do the whole thing with one strftime() call and save a little memory and time. But that’s what I get for copying and pasting code of unknown quality:

#include <my_global.h>
#include <my_sys.h>
#include <mysql.h>

#include <stdio.h>
#include <sys/time.h>
#include <time.h>
#include <unistd.h>

extern "C" {
   my_bool now_usec_init(UDF_INIT *initid, UDF_ARGS *args, char *message);
   char *now_usec(
               UDF_INIT *initid,
               UDF_ARGS *args,
               char *result,
               unsigned long *length, char *is_null, char *error);

my_bool now_usec_init(UDF_INIT *initid, UDF_ARGS *args, char *message) {
   return 0;

char *now_usec(UDF_INIT *initid, UDF_ARGS *args, char *result,
               unsigned long *length, char *is_null, char *error) {

  struct timeval tv;
  struct tm* ptm;
  char time_string[20]; /* e.g. "2006-04-27 17:10:52" */
  char *usec_time_string = result;
  time_t t;

  /* Obtain the time of day, and convert it to a tm struct. */
  gettimeofday (&tv, NULL);
  t = (time_t)tv.tv_sec;
  ptm = localtime (&t);   

  /* Format the date and time, down to a single second.  */
  strftime (time_string, sizeof (time_string), "%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S", ptm);

  /* Print the formatted time, in seconds, followed by a decimal point
 *      and the microseconds.  */
  sprintf(usec_time_string, "%s.%06ld\n", time_string, tv.tv_usec);

  *length = 26;


The installation looks like this:

baron@tigger now_usec $ make
gcc -fPIC -Wall -I/usr/include/mysql -shared -o
baron@tigger now_usec $ sudo cp /lib
baron@tigger now_usec $ mysql test
mysql> create function now_usec returns string soname '';
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> select now_usec();
| now_usec()                 |
| 2007-10-23 10:28:13.862116 | 

For those who have reached this page via Google searches and are looking for more information, you should check out the MySQL User Defined Function Library project. Lots of good UDFs there.

See Also

I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and lots of open-source software for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB. More about me.