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I have tried this shell script on a SUSE 10 server, kernel, ext3 filesystem.

The script has a line like this:

cat file | awk '{print $1" "$2" "$3}' | sort -n > result

The file's size is about 3.2G, and I get the following error message: File size limit exceeded.

In this shell, ulimit -f is unlimited.

After I change script into this:

cat file | awk '{print $1" "$2" "$3}' >tmp
sort -n tmp > result

the problem is gone.

I don't know why, can anyone help me with an explanation?

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closed as too localized by Michael Mrozek Sep 20 '12 at 15:15

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what happens if you get rid of the cat? awk is quite capable of reading a file without cat's help. awk '{print $1" "$2" "$3}' file | sort -n > result. How much RAM & swap do you have? 64-bit or 32-bit system? –  cas Sep 20 '12 at 11:08
Don't crosspost, stuff like this tends to happen. Closing here –  Michael Mrozek Sep 20 '12 at 15:15
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1 Answer 1

See duplicate question in serverfault:

The pipe version needs many more temporary files. You can inspect this quickly with the strace utility.

The pipe version use a quick exploding number of temporary files:

for i in {1..200000} ; do echo $i ; done |strace sort -n |& grep -e 'open.*/tmp/'
open("/tmp/sortb9Mhqd", O_RDWR|O_CREAT|O_EXCL, 0600) = 3
open("/tmp/sortqKOVvG", O_RDWR|O_CREAT|O_EXCL, 0600) = 3
open("/tmp/sortb9Mhqd", O_RDONLY)       = 3
open("/tmp/sortqKOVvG", O_RDONLY)       = 4

The file version doesn't use temporary files for the same data set. For bigger data sets it use extremely less temporary files.

for i in {1..200000} ; do echo $i ; done >/tmp/TESTDATA ; strace sort -n /TMP/TESTDATA |& grep -e 'open.*/tmp/'
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But how does more files relate to "File (singular) size exceeded"? –  jw013 Sep 20 '12 at 13:11
More temporary files mean also more stress to the partition containing /tmp. –  H.-Dirk Schmitt Sep 20 '12 at 13:20
even if i use the sort -T option to specify a big-enough-directory ,the error still happen –  yboren Sep 21 '12 at 3:58
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