I'm using wget with -qO to a specific updater URL for OpenELEC which provides the following JSON response, similar to the one below.


I only need the full filename of the tar and nothing else.

What is the best way of filtering out all the other non-needed information?


jq would do:

$ jq ".data.update" <<< '{"data":{"update":"OpenELEC-RPi2.arm-5.0.8.tar","folder":"releases","host":"","MD5":""}}'

or with -r:

jq -r ".data.update" <<< '{"data":{"update":"OpenELEC-RPi2.arm-5.0.8.tar","folder":"releases","host":"","MD5":""}}'

to get the (raw) string without quotes.

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  • Because OpenELEC is JeOS, it doesn't have jq and I the root file system is read only, so its difficult to add additional packages. – James White Apr 28 '15 at 12:40
  • Well, then jq isn't really a option here... – FloHimself Apr 28 '15 at 12:45
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    I'm marking this as the answer as its the correct way to work with JSON data as sed and such has limitations. I was able to compile jq 1.4 with the OpenELEC build system as a static binary. – James White Apr 30 '15 at 9:03
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    Absolutely. Just pointing out from the perspective of OpenELEC that the <<< substitution would fail. If the JSON was in a file you could also use jq ".data.update" < jsonfile.json which is pretty clean. – James White May 6 '15 at 13:25
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    For OpenELEC users: I submitted a PR to the unofficial addons repo and jq is now available as a console only addon github.com/OpenELEC/unofficial-addons/tree/master/addons/tools/… – James White May 27 '15 at 17:45

Using sed, pipe the output of wget to

sed -n 's/^.*{"update":"\([^"]*\)".*$/\1/p'

This matches the {"update": part of the returned string and then extracts the contents in double quotes following the matched part.

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As FloHimself said, you should really use a real JSON parser. There are many edge cases that are not easily covered by a simple text processor.

With that caveat:

sed 's/.*"update":"\([^"]\+\)".*/\1/'
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  • I agree, jq would be the normal usage case, but the setup of OpenELEC isn't extensible in a usual fashion as other Linux/Unix distros. – James White Apr 28 '15 at 12:48

Assuming that you store the JSON in a file called jsonfile, then:

awk -F "update" '{print $2}' jsonfile | awk -F ":" '{print $2}' | awk -F "," '{ gsub(/"/,"" ); print $1}'

Will give as result OpenELEC-RPi2.arm-5.0.8.tar.

Keep in mind that it's not an JSON parser, so this will work if you have always the same structure as the example.

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  • Indeed. Its not ideal using tools not geared towards JSON parsing, but I am limited with the whole JeOS setup, but the JSON response format shouldn't change. – James White Apr 28 '15 at 13:17

I would have to say - use perl. I'm not 100% sure if that's installed on your OS, but there's quite a good chance it is - it's a pretty common base install component.

#!/usr/bin/env perl

use strict;
use warnings;

use JSON;
print decode_json ( <DATA> ) -> {data} -> {update}; 


This would be a 'one liner' by:

perl -MJSON -0ne 'print decode_json($_)->{data}->{update}' jsonfile

The advantage of doing it this way is that you're using a JSON parser, so it'll work if your json file contains:



   "data" : {
      "host" : "",
      "MD5" : "",
      "update" : "OpenELEC-RPi2.arm-5.0.8.tar",
      "folder" : "releases"

Or some other perfectly valid reformatting of JSON. This is why using a parser is really the ideal way of doing this, because JSON officially doesn't care where your linefeeds go, and allows nesting - and that tends to make regular expressions and line based parsing brittle.

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    Just for reference perl is not installed with OpenELEC in the official builds – James White Apr 30 '15 at 9:40

Using grep with PCRE:

grep -Po '(?<=:").*\.tar(?=")'


$ foo='{"data":{"update":"OpenELEC-RPi2.arm-5.0.8.tar","folder":"releases","host":"","MD5":""}}'

$ grep -Po '(?<=:").*\.tar(?=")' <<<"$foo"
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