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This function I wrote should exemplify the idiosyncrasy between OSX and Linux ping commands, in particular their -W timeout option:

# Checks if a host is up-and-running and responding to pings

function my_function_is_network_host_up() {

  local -ri N_ARGUMENTS=1
  if ! check_n_arguments "${FUNCNAME}" "${N_ARGUMENTS}" "${@}"; then return; fi

  local -r NETWORK_HOST=$1

  local -ri n_requests=1

  local -i wait_for_reply=1 # Seconds
  if [[ $my_global_os_type == 'OSX' ]]; then
    ((wait_for_reply *= 1000)) # Milliseconds

  ping -c "$n_requests" \
       -W "$wait_for_reply" \
       -q \
       "$NETWORK_HOST" \
       &> /dev/null

  return $?


Are real sysadmins (I am but a beginner) using a better Bash function to be able to check hosts independently from the machine they have just hopped onto?

My typical usage:

for h in "${hs[@]}"; do
    if my_function_is_network_host_up $h; then

or just:

my_function_is_network_host_up $h && do_stuff



Time in milliseconds to wait for a reply for each packet sent.  If a reply arrives later, the packet is not printed as replied, but considered as replied when calculating statistics.


Time to wait for a response, in seconds. The option affects only timeout in absense of any responses, otherwise ping waits for two RTTs.
share|improve this question
JFTR typically you wouldn't use a function for that as the check if a host is up is done by the monitoring system. If you have to do a manual check you just ping and press ctrl+c to cancel. – Ulrich Dangel Apr 1 '13 at 13:52
Why would you not use that function? – Robottinosino Apr 1 '13 at 18:11
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I don't understand what your function is supposed to do. How is it better than simply running

for host in host1 host2 host3; do ping -c 1 host >/dev/null && do_stuff; done

If all you want to know is if the host is up or not, and run a command if it is, the above should be sufficient.

share|improve this answer
why have that function? 1. no stdout output; 2. precise timeout, indep. from the platform (predictable wait on batch execution) 3. can use auto-completion and is more readable 4. in a script, I can add logging of unavailable hosts by editing a single func def – Robottinosino Apr 1 '13 at 20:05
OK, then please explain your requirements so we can understand what you are trying to do. Why is the precise timeout relevant? What autocompletion? How is it more readable? In a script you can add logging of unavailable hosts by adding a host to the hosts array (see updated answer). – terdon Apr 1 '13 at 20:09
Precise timeout: so that I know 100 hosts will take at most 100 seconds. Bash command autocompletion: I have my functions all starting with my_function_ so that I can tab-complete them and have the standard options (in this case -c 1) auto-selected. Readable is a matter of personal taste: for functions I define with many options "pre-selected" I find reading the function name more "natural language like" than ping -o1 -o2 -o3 -o4.. – Robottinosino Apr 1 '13 at 20:17
Well, sounds to me like you have everything in hand, not the way I would personally have done it but that is a matter of personal preference as you say, I have no reason to thing that my way would be any better. – terdon Apr 1 '13 at 23:34

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