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I'm have a process on my system which is notorious for crashing, and is kind of mission critical, my network manager. In any case, I need to write a loop which tests if it's running and starts it if it isn't. This is what I've come up with thus far:


while [ true ]; do 
    if [ -z $(ps aux | grep "[n]m-applet") ]; then
        echo "Bugger died, resurrecting..."
        nm-applet >/dev/null 2>/dev/null &
        disown $!

    sleep 3

Unfortunately, this isn't quite doing the trick, as it seems to be starting the process even when not necessary, and after the first run, I get the following error output:

line 4: [: too many arguments

What am I doing wrong here?

share|improve this question
while [ true ]; do ... is interpreted as while [ -n "true" ]; do ...; that is, it tests whether the string "true" is non-empty. This gives the same result as while true; do ... or while :; do ... which are probably what you meant to be using. (This isn't meant to answer your question; the answers below do that properly. It's just a side comment.) –  dubiousjim Nov 6 '12 at 23:20

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Try wrapping the $(...) in double quotes:

if [ -z "$(ps aux | grep '[n]m-applet')" ]; then

But you might want to try using pgrep or ps axo cmd | grep '[n]m-applet' instead.

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Looks like it's working! –  Naftuli Tzvi Kay Aug 26 '11 at 1:42

That error comes from giving multiple arguments to -z. It's a unary operator, and if the $() expands to something with the $IFS in it, it will see multiple arguments. To fix that, you can put quotes around it like so: [ -z "$(ps...)" ].

In this case, you actually don't need the test ([]) because grep will return non-zero if it doesn't find anything. You can do:

if ps aux | grep '[n]m-applet' > /dev/null; then

And you might want to see if the systems you plan on deploying this to have pgrep. It's is made for looking for processes that match a pattern.

Also, you might want the script to not background the nm-applet. This way, the script will block until nm-applet dies.

Finally, you might want to look at Monit, which is made for doing what your script does.

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Might want to add either -s to the grep or close stdout (>&-) to prevent the output getting to the user. –  Arcege Aug 26 '11 at 2:21
Thanks, @Arcege; I edited it included `> /dev/null'. –  Shawn J. Goff Oct 30 '11 at 15:52

I'm unsure about your reasons for while [ true ]; do and I second Arcege's suggestion to use pgrep.

while true; do 
    if ! pgrep nmapplet &>/dev/null; then
       echo "Bugger died, resurrecting..."
       nm-applet &>/dev/null
       disown $!
    sleep 3
share|improve this answer
you need to put the pgrep inside the infinite loop –  glenn jackman Aug 26 '11 at 1:54
@glenn Do you mind explaining why? The variable is not enough? –  jasonwryan Aug 26 '11 at 1:55
You set the variable when you start the script. Even if the process dies, the "-z" test will never fail because the variable never changes. –  glenn jackman Aug 26 '11 at 1:59
D'oh! Thanks: sort of painfully obvious... –  jasonwryan Aug 26 '11 at 2:01
Simpler to use the exit status. Updated. –  Mikel Nov 6 '12 at 22:38

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