I ran into notes for a server I used to work on back in the day but the redirection does not look right. Maybe someone can confim?

These were entries in my crontab entered by a third-party vendor who maintained the app/database that ran in this HP-UX server.

15 21 * * 0-6 /usr/sys/bin/stop  q  >/stopout   2<&1 #
30 21 * * 0-6 /usr/sys/force     q  >/out       2<&1 #
55 23 * * 0-6 /usr/sys/start     q  >/startout  2<&1 #

I found this in the Bash manual but this means that stderr and stdout is going out to >/{stopout,out,startout} while stderr is copying stdout (which means stdout is twice being written to stopout,out,startout?)? I'm confused :)

3.6.8 Duplicating File Descriptors
The redirection operator

is used to duplicate input file descriptors. If word expands to one or more 
digits, the file descriptor denoted by n is made to be a copy of that file 
descriptor. If the digits in word do not specify a file descriptor open for 
input, a redirection error occurs. If word evaluates to ‘-’, file descriptor n 
is closed. If n is not specified, the standard input (file descriptor 0) is 

1 Answer 1


It's highly likely to be a typo for 2>&1; >foo 2>&1 is very common in crontabs as a simple way of keeping the output and error of cronjobs (see SO, U&L, AU, ...).

Note that:

  • fd 1 here has been opened for writing (>/stopout, etc. equivalent to 1>/stopout)
  • whether you do 2>&1 or 2<&1, fd 2 gets dup2'd (at least on Linux, but presumably on other platforms as well) to fd 1, so it can be used in the same ways as fd 1 can be.
    • This does not mean that data written to fd 1 will be sent to fd 2 as input, but that fds 1 and 2 point to the same thing.
  • so writing to fd 2 will not fail, and is sent to /stopout just like any data written to fd 1.

However, if fd 1 was originally opened for reading, writing to either would fail:

$ strace -e write bash -c 'echo bar 1<foo 2<&1'
write(1, "bar\n", 4)                    = -1 EBADF (Bad file descriptor)
write(2, "bash: line 0: echo: write error:"..., 53) = -1 EBADF (Bad file descriptor)
+++ exited with 1 +++

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