I have a problem with the sh script syntax. I wrote a script for my Asus router. The script works perfectly. But I have this line:

if [[ "$OldIP" && "$StartIP" != "$OldIP" ]]; then echo OK; fi

It should be true ( and execute echo OK) only if $StartIP and $OldIP are not the same. The line works, but I would like to see it done more efficiently. The variables conatain valid IP addresses.

In some instances, $OldIP will not be assigned anything (is not initialized). But, if $OldIP does not exist, this means they are not the same in my shell!

I do not want the line to do: if $OldIP does not exist -> test if they are different -> run echo OK.

I do want the line to mean: a) if $OldIP does not exist -> end. plus b) if $OldIP exists -> test if they are different -> run echo OK.

So, I would like to remove "$OLDIP" && somehow, if possible. Not a real problem; curious to learn :)

Sort of (but it does not work):

if [ [ "$OldIP" ] != "$StartIP" ]; then echo OK; fi


if [ $OldIP != "$StartIP" ]; then echo OK; fi

which does what I want, but complains when OldIP is empty (but works OK)


if [ "$OldIP" != "$StartIP" ]; then echo OK; fi

works but ignores that OldIP is empty

  • You have two conditions that need to be checked, you need them both logically. However, many languages (including all shell scripts that i know of) will "short-circuit" the logical operators. If "$OLDIP" evaluated to false, the remainder of the expression won't be evaluated since it won't change the logic being tested. – user1794469 May 18 '16 at 15:05
  • This sound like premature optimization. Have you profiled the script to make sure that this is really the bottleneck? – Raphael Ahrens May 18 '16 at 15:16
  • Purely curiosity issue. I would like statement to be: if [[ "$OldIP" != "$StartIP" ]]; then echo OK; fi but it ignores non existance state of OldtIP – Pila May 18 '16 at 16:01

Strictly speaking, a variable does not exist if it has never been assigned a value, or if it has been unset. A variable with an empty string as value exists.

The standard parameter expansion ${variable+value} will substitute the string value when variable exists (is not unset or empty). This could be used to test for existence like this:

if [ "${OldIP+x}" = "x" ] && [ "$OldIP" != "$StartIP" ]; then
    # code

To test whether OldIP exists in bash, use the -v test:

 if [[ -v OldIP ]] && [[ "$OldIP" != "$StartIP" ]]; then
     # code

This would perform the string comparison between $OldIP and $StartIP only if OldIP had been previously set (even if it was set to an empty string). Note that the -v test takes the name of the variable.

  • busybox sh doesn't support -v. You can use [ "${OldIP+set}" = set ] there. – Stéphane Chazelas Jul 1 '18 at 7:01
  • @StéphaneChazelas Sorry, that's me not reading the tags and assuming this was for bash. My bad. Thanks for the suggestion. – Kusalananda Jul 1 '18 at 7:03

I think your script is pretty efficient as is. You certainly aren't spending many cycles on this.

Another way to write the logic:

{ test -n "$OldIP" || test "$StartIP" != "$OldIP"; } && echo OK

This says "if OldIP is set or if OldIP and StartIP are different, then echo OK.

Remember that [ is another name for test(1) which you can read about with man 1 test.

Edit: As Gilles pointed out, take care to avoid creating subshells ( ... ) where they're not needed.

{ ... ; } can be used to group commands without executing a new shell.

Brief reference: http://www.gnu.org/software/bash/manual/html_node/Command-Grouping.html

  • 1
    Creating a subshell reduces the performance. { test … || test …; } && echo OK would do the same thing without creating a subshell. It wouldn't be a definite performance improvement over the original (maybe a slight difference one way or the other depending on the shell0. – Gilles May 18 '16 at 21:47
  • Thank you Gilles, how ironic I would actually make it slower! I've updated my answer to reflect your hint. – ssh2ksh May 19 '16 at 8:28

This does what you ask for:

[ "${OldIP:-"$StartIP"}" != "$StartIP" ] && echo "OK"

As also this (more complex):

${OldIP:+false} || { [[ $OldIP != $StartIP ]] && echo "OK"; }

If you are using bash, you can use a default substitution:

[[ "${OldIP:=oldunset}" != "${StartIP?StartUnset" ]] && echo "OK"

The syntax ${var:-def} will evaluate to either the current value of $var, or to the specified default (in this case, def) if the variable is unset or null. The value of the variable (if any) is unchanged.

The syntax ${var?message} will exit with an error code of 1 with a message of message if $var is unset or null.

If you explicitly need test-compatible tests, you can do this:

[ ! -z "$OldIP" -a "$OldIP" != "$StartIP" ] && echo "OK"
  • 2
    ! -z "STRING" is the same as -n "STRING" (or just "STRING") – cas May 18 '16 at 21:21
  • Your proposal with ${OldIP:=unset} fails the value of StartIP is unset. If these are IP addresses as the name suggests, this won't arise, but it makes the code fragile: what if the script supports host names one day? – Gilles May 18 '16 at 21:49
  • Easily fixed. I shall do so forthwith. – DopeGhoti May 20 '16 at 17:41

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