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I have a i2c RTC (rtc-pcf8563) that runs great, but I don't always have it plugged in; is there a way to test to see if the RTC is plugged in and, if not, start fake-hwclock or will I have to dpkg purge it in order to use the RTC?
sure, if the RTC device is not on the i2C bus, for example. You could create a script that checks for the RTC i2c address, if not found fake clock should be enabled/started.
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