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  • Writer's pictureJeffrey Scholz

The Solana clock and other "block" variables

Updated: Feb 20


solana clock

Today we will cover the analogs of all the block variables from Solidity. Not all of them have 1-1 analogs. In Solidity, we have the following commonly used block variables:


  • block.timestamp

  • block.number

  • blockhash()

And the lesser known ones:

  • block.coinbase

  • block.basefee

  • block.chainid

  • block.difficulty / block.prevrandao

We assume you already know what they do, but they are explained in the Solidity global variables doc if you need a refresher.


block.timestamp in Solana

By utilizing the unix_timestamp field within the Clock sysvar, we can access the block timestamp Solana.


First we initialize a new Anchor project:

anchor init sysvar

Replace the initialize function with this:

pub fn initialize(ctx: Context<Initialize>) -> Result<()> {
    let clock: Clock = Clock::get()?;
    msg!(
        "Block timestamp: {}",
        // Get block.timestamp
        clock.unix_timestamp,
    );
    Ok(())
}

Anchor’s prelude module contains the Clock struct, which is automatically imported by default:

use anchor_lang::prelude::*;

Somewhat confusingly, the type returned by unix_timestamp is an i64, not a u64 meaning it supports negative numbers even though time cannot be negative. Time deltas however can be negative.


Getting the day of the week

Now let’s create a program that tells us the current day of the week using the unix_timestamp from the Clock sysvar.


The chrono crate provides functionality for operations on dates and times in Rust.


Add the chrono crate as a dependency in our Cargo.toml file in the program directory ./sysvar/Cargo.toml:

[dependencies]
chrono = "0.4.31"

Import the chrono crate inside the sysvar module:

// ...other code

#[program]
pub mod sysvar {
    use super::*;
    use chrono::*;  // new line here

    // ...
}

Now, we add this function below to our program:

pub fn get_day_of_the_week(
    _ctx: Context<Initialize>) -> Result<()> {

    let clock = Clock::get()?;
    let time_stamp = clock.unix_timestamp; // current timestamp

    let date_time = chrono::NaiveDateTime::from_timestamp_opt(time_stamp, 0).unwrap();
    let day_of_the_week = date_time.weekday();

    msg!("Week day is: {}", day_of_the_week);

    Ok(())
}

We pass the current unix timestamp we get from the Clock sysvar as an argument to the from_timestamp_opt function which returns a NaiveDateTime struct containing a date and time. Then we call the weekday method to get the current weekday based on the timestamp we passed.


And update our test:

it("Get day of the week", async () => {
    const tx = await program.methods.getDayOfTheWeek().rpc();
    console.log("Your transaction signature", tx);
});

Run the test again and get the following logs:


Notice the “Week day is: Wed” log.


block.number in Solana

Solana has a notion of a “slot number” which is very related to the “block number” but is not the same thing. The distinction between these will be covered in the following tutorial, so we defer a full discussion of how to get the "block number" until then.


block.coinbase

In Ethereum, the "Block Coinbase" represents the address of the miner who has successfully mined a block in Proof of Work (PoW). On the other hand, Solana uses a leader-based consensus mechanism which is a combination of both Proof of History (PoH) and Proof of Stake (PoS), removing the concept of mining. Instead, a block or slot leader is appointed to validate transactions and propose blocks during certain intervals, under a system known as the leader schedule. This schedule determines who will be the block producer at a certain time.


However, presently, there's no specific way to access the address of the block leader in Solana programs.


blockhash

We include this section for completeness, but this will soon be deprecated.


This section can be skipped with no consequence for the uninterested reader.


Solana has a RecentBlockhashes sysvar that holds active recent block hashes as well as their associated fee calculators. However, this sysvar has been deprecated and will not be supported in future Solana releases. The RecentBlockhashes sysvar does not provide a get method like the Clock sysvar does. However, sysvars lacking this method can be accessed using sysvar_name::from_account_info.


We will also introduce some new syntax which will be explained at a later date. For now, please treat it as boilerplate:

#[derive(Accounts)]
pub struct Initialize<'info> {
    /// CHECK: readonly
    pub recent_blockhashes: AccountInfo<'info>,
}

Here’s how we get the latest block hash in Solana:

use anchor_lang::{prelude::*, solana_program::sysvar::recent_blockhashes::RecentBlockhashes};

// replace program id
declare_id!("H52ppiSyiZyYVn1Yr9DgeUKeChktUiPwDfuuo932Uqxy");

#[program]
pub mod sysvar {
    use super::*;

    pub fn initialize(ctx: Context<Initialize>) -> Result<()> {
        // RECENT BLOCK HASHES
        let arr = [ctx.accounts.recent_blockhashes.clone()];
        let accounts_iter = &mut arr.iter();
        let sh_sysvar_info = next_account_info(accounts_iter)?;
        let recent_blockhashes = RecentBlockhashes::from_account_info(sh_sysvar_info)?;
        let data = recent_blockhashes.last().unwrap();

        msg!("The recent block hash is: {:?}", data.blockhash);
        Ok(())
    }
}

#[derive(Accounts)]
pub struct Initialize<'info> {
    /// CHECK: readonly
    pub recent_blockhashes: AccountInfo<'info>,
}

The test file:

import * as anchor from "@coral-xyz/anchor";
import { Program } from "@coral-xyz/anchor";
import { Sysvar } from "../target/types/sysvar";

describe("sysvar", () => {
  // Configure the client to use the local cluster.
  anchor.setProvider(anchor.AnchorProvider.env());

  const program = anchor.workspace.Sysvar as Program<Sysvar>;

  it("Is initialized!", async () => {
    // Add your test here.
    const tx = await program.methods
      .initialize()
      .accounts({
        recentBlockhashes: anchor.web3.SYSVAR_RECENT_BLOCKHASHES_PUBKEY,
      })
      .rpc();

    console.log("Transaction hash:", tx);
  });
});

We run the test and get the following log:



We can see the latest block hash. Note that because we are deploying to our local node, the block hash we get is that of our local node and not the Solana mainnet.


In terms of time structuring, Solana operates on a fixed timeline divided into slots, with each slot being the portion of time allocated to a leader for proposing a block. These slots are further organized into epochs, which are pre-defined periods during which the leader schedule remains unchanged.


block.gaslimit

Solana has a per-block compute unit limit of 48 million. Each transaction is by default limited to 200,000 compute units, though it can be raised to 1.4 million compute units (we will discuss this in a later tutorial, though you can see an example here).


It is not possible to access this limit from a Rust program.


block.basefee

In Ethereum, the basefee is dynamic per EIP-1559; it is a function of previous block utilization. In Solana, the base price of a transaction is static, so there is no need for a variable like this.


block.difficulty

Block difficulty is a concept associated with Proof of Work (PoW) blockchains. Solana, on the other hand, operates on a Proof of History (PoH) combined with Proof of Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, which doesn't involve the concept of block difficulty.


block.chainid

Solana does not have a chain id because it is not an EVM compatible blockchain. The block.chainid is how Solidity smart contracts know if they are on a testnet, L2, mainnet or some other EVM compatible chain.


Solana runs separate clusters for Devnet, Testnet, and Mainnet, but programs do not have a mechanism to know which one they are on. However, you can programatically adjust your code at deploy time using the Rust cfg feature to have different features depending on which cluster it is deployed to. Here is an example of changing the program id depending on the cluster.


Learn more

This tutorial is part of our free Solana course.

646 views1 comment

1 comentário


Arihant Bansal
Arihant Bansal
26 de fev.

Link to Solana course is broken. It links to a private hackmd file.

Curtir
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