why wouldn't asking the user be the right answer as they know what time it is better than the installer?
Because in too many cases, the user's idea of the time is not as good as the installer's, and the installer's isn't right either. As you point out, a lot of installations have problems due to this, and prior to 7.1, the installer has been asking the user, period.
There will be problems here until UTC is universally accepted and understood. Becuase I boot Windows once a month or so (and won't do the registry hack), my hardware clock has to be set to localtime, which is a bad idea. Oh well. It's the "least bad" idea if you're booting Windows sometimes. UTC is the only reference for hardware clock that would never need to be changed, should one be able to use it.
The best we can do for now:
A slightly more intelligent "timebase guesser" in the installer. At its boot, installer has no choice but to go with hardware clock, and at this point the odds are with assuming localtime. Now, it is
the user who must be asked about the local time zone. If the question and display are correct, incorrect info from the user here is rare. Once that's set, ASK the user if ntp may be queried, then do so. If denied, ask the user the current date and time. Now there's a basis for creating a guess as to what the timebase of the hardware clock was at install session boot. Now we can tell the user, "Your hardware clock seems to be using UTC, and that seems fine", "Your hardware claock seems to be using localtime, but you might want to change that", or it's UTC and should be changed, or it's localtime and should work, or "damifino, good luck". Offer the localtime/UTC choice.
It is indeed the installer that must do this, and do it as soon after boot as practical. Otherwise, wrong times are on the installation, and wrong ideas are in the user's head. The second is of course the tougher problem to solve, and would have to be fixed before the machine can be properly configured.
There also needs to be an easily-findable way to set any of this after install. ntpd is best,
is fine for many with near-correct hwclocks. But doing it manually should one often operate offline should work easily and smoothly, also.1
ntpdate is deprecated in favor of 'ntpd -q'. See ntpd(1).