I used alien to convert an RPM to a .deb. I did NOT use alien's script conversion; I'm converting by hand. Indeed, the script did barf on some non-compatible syntax. My question is NOT about how to fix this incompatibilty, but rather about how the script continues to execute successfully, despite encountering an error.

Here's the problematic section:

if [ "`/bin/echo '\c'`" == "" ]; then
   ECHO_ESC="/bin/echo -e"

This causes the following "error":

./avsetup_mcc: 11: [: \c: unexpected operator

Despite this, the script continues to execute perfectly. So, what's happening here?


[ is not a "special builtin", and according to POSIX a Utility syntax error (option or operand error) of a non-special builtin Shall not exit a non-interactive shell ("script").

So much as for why the shell does not exit. The script functions perfectly because ECHO_ESC is set to something sane no matter how the if branches.

Unlike the error message suggests, the error does not come from the \c but the == which is invalid to use with [ (string equality is tested with a single =), but shells that support [[ (which supports ==) seem to allow == even for the single bracket notation (e.g. bash, ksh). Note that the above code does not error under bash, so you might want to consider retagging your question.

  • Ah. Debian uses dash now. Thanks for the great answer. – chad May 1 '13 at 23:09
  • So . . . are you saying that the else branch still successfully executes, thus setting the value of ECHO_ESC? – chad May 1 '13 at 23:12
  • Exactly that :-) – Adrian Frühwirth May 1 '13 at 23:59
  • I'm taking a wild guess regarding where your question is coming from: It is not the if statement itself which fails as [ is not a part of if but a command/builtin on its own, thus the expression evaluates to false and the if executes the else branch "as expected". – Adrian Frühwirth May 2 '13 at 9:20

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