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A detailed characterization of the clock recovery properties of a self-pulsating, three-section distributed feedback laser is presented by directly comparing simulation and experimental results for the dependence of the RMS timing jitter of the recovered clock signal on important properties of the input signal. These properties include the duty cycle, peak power, extinction ratio, state-of-polarization, optical signal-to-noise ratio (OSNR), and waveform distortion due to residual group velocity dispersion and polarization mode dispersion. The permissible range for each of these is identified in terms of the RMS timing jitter of the recovered clock signal being less than 2 ps. In particular, the self-pulsating laser is effective for input signals degraded by amplified spontaneous emission noise as it provides this level of jitter performance for input OSNRs larger than 8.8 dB (0.1 nm noise bandwidth).