I have written the following script, which runs from my user's crontab, parses ~/.ssh/config for SSH port forwards, and automatically connects them if the Host line ends with "remote," "local," or "dynamic."

Example ~/.ssh/config blocks:

Host localsocksdynamic
     DynamicForward 8080

Host localwebserverremote
     RemoteForward *:8080 localhost:80

Host indirectaccesslocal
     LocalForward 2222



port_forwards=$(awk '/Host .*(remote|local|dynamic)/{printf $2} " "}' ~/.ssh/config  
for forward in ${port_forwards}
     port=$(awk "/${forward}/{f=1;next}/Host /{f=0}f" ~/.ssh/config | awk '/(Remote|Local|Dynamic)Forward/{print $2}' | cut -d':' -f2)
     [ -z ${port} ] || nc -z ${port} || ssh -fqN ${forward} > /dev/null 2>&1

It works fine, but I was wondering whether it was possible to combine the awk commands in the port= line so that it's not necessary to pipe one awk to another. After a few hours of playing around and trying to understand the syntax I'm just not grokking it.

I know autossh exists and is a better way to do what I'm doing, but this is a learning experience and attempt to accomplish the same task without installing a package.


You can perform all the text processing with a single AWK invocation, simplified since you only care about the forwarding:


awk '/^Host / { host = $2 } host && /(Remote|Local|Dynamic)Forward/ { port=$2; gsub(".*:", "", port); print host, port }' ~/.ssh/config | while read host port; do
    nc -z "${port}" || ssh -fqN "${host}" > /dev/null 2>&1

Written out more legibly, the AWK script is

/^Host / { host = $2 }

host && /(Remote|Local|Dynamic)Forward/ {
    port=$2; gsub(".*:", "", port); print host, port

This stores the host whenever it sees a “Host” statement, then on lines encountered while a valid host is defined, and matching one of the accepted “Forward” statements, retrieves the target port, drops the part before a colon if any, and outputs the host and port:

localsocksdynamic 8080
localwebserverremote 8080
indirectaccesslocal 2222

This is then fed into a while read loop to check the port and run SSH.

| improve this answer | |
  • This is exactly what I needed. I figured this was possible but it's going to be a while before my awk-fu can approach this level. – Q23 Jun 7 '17 at 21:33
  • What would be even better is if the script simply parsed for (Remote|Local|Dynamic)Forward directives, then went backwards through the file until it hit the Host directive that makes up that block of ~/.ssh/config. Then, the Host directive containing local, remote, or dynamic wouldn't be necessary. – Q23 Jun 7 '17 at 21:39
  • This is extremely helpful for trying to understand the awk syntax. I knew it could do what I wanted in one shot! – Q23 Jun 8 '17 at 14:12

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