My shell script knowledge is a little shaky, but I want to run a daemon (Ubuntu 14.04) defined in /etc/init.d/unicorn, like so

case "$1" in

        log_daemon_msg "Starting $DESC" $NAME || true
        if start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --oknodo --pidfile $PID --exec $DAEMON -- $UNICORN_OPTS; then

In a separate file, /etc/default/unicorn, I have the below variables defined:

DAEMON="cd $APP_ROOT; $GEM_HOME/bin/bundle exec $GEM_PATH/bin/unicorn"

I added "cd $APP_ROOT" because that's the directory from where "$GEM_HOME/bin/bundle" must run. However, when I go to start my service, I get the below error:

myuser@myproject:~$ sudo service unicorn restart
 * Restarting Unicorn web server unicorn
start-stop-daemon: unable to stat //cd (No such file or directory)

Is there some other way I can store my options so that I can run my command from the desired directory?

  • You could use sh -c '<commands>' after exec (or --exec): since exec doesn't understand shell commands -- only a path (1'st argument) and a set of arguments for that executable (rest of arguments).
    – Andrew
    Apr 6, 2017 at 0:23
  • Maybe I'm not reading you right, but I changed "--exec $DAEMON -- $UNICORN_OPTS" to '--exec sh -c "$DAEMON -- $UNICORN_OPTS"' and got the error "start-stop-daemon: unable to stat //cd (No such file or directory)" upon trying to start the service.
    – Dave
    Apr 6, 2017 at 0:39
  • To get the idea try <your-favorite-terminal> -e "sh -c 'echo hello; read'" and a version without sh -c...
    – Andrew
    Apr 6, 2017 at 0:45
  • Shoot you're trying to tell me somethign and I'm totally missing it. Are you sayhing put quotes around "sh"? If so, I tried --exec "sh -c '$DAEMON -- $UNICORN_OPTS'" and got teh error "start-stop-daemon: unable to stat //cd (No such file or directory)" upon trying to start my service.
    – Dave
    Apr 6, 2017 at 0:56
  • 1
    I don't fully get it ether. However cd is a shell built-in (it has to be), and if exec is not using a shell, it will be I assume execing it. To do that the file must first be stated, the file is cd, maybe the // is pretended to insure absolute paths (don't know why two /s). Apr 8, 2017 at 18:22

1 Answer 1


It looks like there are a few problem with what you are doing.

  • --exec only takes one argument, however arguments can be passed at the end of start-stop-daemon following a --.

  • The argument of --exec is also used as an identifier: start-stop-daemon checks to see if there is an instance running (this would make /bin/sh, a very bad candidate.

Therefore create a shell-script, that is expected to have one instance running per machine. Pass the absolute path to --exec. Pass any arguments needed by the script at the end after a --.

  • You are crediting me with more Unix knowledge than I actually posess. What would be the contents of such a shell script?
    – Dave
    Apr 8, 2017 at 19:57
  • @Dave The contents of your DAEMON variable, I guess. Together with the definitions of the path variables used there.
    – Andrew
    Apr 10, 2017 at 0:43

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