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286
votes
5answers
225k views

Why does my shell script choke on whitespace or other special characters?

Or, an introductory guide to robust filename handling and other string passing in shell scripts. I wrote a shell script which works well most of the time. But it chokes on some inputs (e.g. on some ...
196
votes
4answers
38k views

Why is using a shell loop to process text considered bad practice?

Is using a while loop to process text generally considered bad practice in POSIX shells? As Stéphane Chazelas pointed out, some of the reasons for not using shell loop are conceptual, reliability, ...
205
votes
8answers
35k views

Why *not* parse `ls` (and what to do instead)?

I consistently see answers quoting this link stating definitively "Don't parse ls!" This bothers me for a couple of reasons: It seems the information in that link has been accepted wholesale with ...
206
votes
3answers
19k views

Security implications of forgetting to quote a variable in bash/POSIX shells

If you've been following unix.stackexchange.com for a while, you should hopefully know by now that leaving a variable unquoted in list context (as in echo $var) in Bourne/POSIX shells (zsh being the ...
547
votes
4answers
227k views

Why is printf better than echo?

I have heard that printf is better than echo. I can recall only one instance from my experience where I had to use printf because echo didn't work for feeding some text into some program on RHEL 5.8 ...
249
votes
3answers
104k views

What are the shell's control and redirection operators?

I often see tutorials online that connect various commands with different symbols. For example: command1 | command2 command1 & command2 command1 || command2 command1 && command2 ...
170
votes
6answers
19k views

Why is looping over find's output bad practice?

This question is inspired by Why is using a shell loop to process text considered bad practice ? I see these constructs for file in `find . -type f -name ...`; do smth with ${file}; done and for ...
120
votes
1answer
42k views

When is double-quoting necessary?

The old advice used to be to double-quote any expression involving a $VARIABLE, at least if one wanted it to be interpreted by the shell as one single item, otherwise, any spaces in the content of $...
1237
votes
10answers
329k views

What is the exact difference between a 'terminal', a 'shell', a 'tty' and a 'console'?

I think these terms almost refer to the same thing, when used loosely: terminal shell tty console What exactly does each of these terms refer to?
332
votes
5answers
43k views

Why not use “which”? What to use then?

When looking for the path to an executable or checking what would happen if you enter a command name in a Unix shell, there's a plethora of different utilities (which, type, command, whence, where, ...
51
votes
1answer
27k views

Understanding the -exec option of `find`

I find myself constantly looking up the syntax of find . -name "FILENAME" -exec rm {} \; mainly because I don't see how exactly the -exec part works. What is the meaning of the braces, the ...
76
votes
1answer
9k views

Why does my regular expression work in X but not in Y?

I wrote a regular expression which works well in a certain program (grep, sed, awk, perl, python, ruby, ksh, bash, zsh, find, emacs, vi, vim, gedit, …). But when I use it in a different program (or on ...
113
votes
4answers
9k views

Why are there so many different ways to measure disk usage?

When I sum up the sizes of my files, I get one figure. If I run du, I get another figure. If I run du on all the files on my partition, it doesn't match what df claims is used. Why are there so many ...
105
votes
4answers
34k views

Is there a “.bashrc” equivalent file read by all shells?

Is ~/.bashrc the only place to specify user specific environment variables, aliases, modifications to PATH variable, etc? I ask because it seems that ~/.bashrc seems to be bash-only, but other ...
81
votes
4answers
137k views

Open a window on a remote X display (why “Cannot open display”)?

Once upon a time, DISPLAY=:0.0 totem /path/to/movie.avi after ssh 'ing into my desktop from my laptop would cause totem to play movie.avi on my desktop. Now it gives the error: No protocol ...
396
votes
13answers
205k views

Turn off buffering in pipe

I have a script which calls two commands: long_running_command | print_progress The long_running_command prints a progress but I'm unhappy with it. I'm using print_progress to make it more nice (...
381
votes
8answers
263k views

Execute vs Read bit. How do directory permissions in Linux work?

In my CMS, I noticed that directories need the executable bit (+x) set for the user to open them. Why is the execute permission required to read a directory, and how do directory permissions in Linux ...
170
votes
13answers
339k views

How to run a specific program as root without a password prompt?

I need to run something as sudo without a password, so I used visudo and added this to my sudoers file: MYUSERNAME ALL = NOPASSWD: /path/to/my/program Then I tried it out: $ sudo /path/to/my/...
15
votes
3answers
5k views

Brackets in if condition: why am I getting syntax errors without whitespace?

I am using the below script to move two days back when script runs at starting two days of the year and also check first and second days of every month and move two days back. if [$month="01"] &&...
113
votes
7answers
17k views

Redirecting stdout to a file you don't have write permission on

When you attempt to modify a file without having write permissions on it, you get an error: > touch /tmp/foo && sudo chown root /tmp/foo > echo test > /tmp/foo zsh: permission denied:...
319
votes
5answers
170k views

Difference between Login Shell and Non-Login Shell?

I understand the basic difference between an interactive shell and a non-interactive shell. But what exactly differentiates a login shell from a non-login shell? Can you give examples for uses of a ...
159
votes
9answers
111k views

How can I disown a running process and associate it to a new screen shell?

I have a running program on a SSH shell. I want to pause it and be able to unpause its execution when I come back. One way I thought of doing that was to transfer its ownership to a screen shell, ...
185
votes
8answers
141k views

Allow setuid on shell scripts

The setuid permission bit tells Linux to run a program with the effective user id of the owner instead of the executor: > cat setuid-test.c #include <stdio.h> #include <unistd.h> int ...
70
votes
2answers
49k views

Getting “Not found” message when running a 32-bit binary on a 64-bit system

I have currently a strange problem on debian (wheezy/amd64). I have created a chroot to install a server (i can't give any more detail about it, sorry). Let's call its path /chr_path/. To make things ...
296
votes
16answers
363k views

How to do integer & float calculations, in bash or other languages/frameworks?

Using echo "20+5" literally produces the text "20+5". What command can I use to get the numeric sum, 25 in this case? Also, what's the easiest way to do it just using bash for floating point? For ...
350
votes
10answers
142k views

How do I delete a file whose name begins with “-” (hyphen a.k.a. dash or minus)?

How do you remove a file whose filename begins with a dash (hyphen or minus) -? I'm ssh'd into a remote OSX server and I have this file in my directory: tohru:~ $ ls -l total 8 -rw-r--r-- 1 me ...
85
votes
2answers
20k views

How do keyboard input and text output work?

Suppose I press the A key in a text editor and this inserts the character a in the document and displays it on the screen. I know the editor application isn't directly communicating with the hardware (...
74
votes
3answers
96k views

How do I run 32-bit programs on a 64-bit Debian/Ubuntu?

I have a 64-bit (amd64 a.k.a. x86_64) Debian or Ubuntu installation. I need to run 32-bit (i386/i686) programs occasionally, or to compile programs for a 32-bit system. How can I do this with a ...
5
votes
1answer
10k views

Wi-Fi problems using ASUS USB-N13 adapter (realtek)

I have recently bought an ASUS Wi-Fi adapter (USB-N13), and I seem to be having some trouble with it. Every so often, the Wi-Fi connection just stops working, but the indicator says that I'm still ...
753
votes
8answers
1.5m views

How can I replace a string in a file(s)?

Replacing strings in files based on certain search criteria is a very common task. How can I replace string foo with bar in all files in the current directory? do the same recursively for sub ...
31
votes
4answers
24k views

How can we run a command stored in a variable?

$ ls -l /tmp/test/my\ dir/ total 0 I was wondering why the following ways to run the above command fail or succeed? $ abc='ls -l "/tmp/test/my dir"' $ $abc ls: cannot access '"/tmp/test/my': No ...
360
votes
14answers
59k views

In Bash, when to alias, when to script, and when to write a function?

It's taken me almost 10 years of Linux usage to ask this question. It was all trial and error and random late-night internet surfing. But people shouldn't need 10 years for this. If I were just ...
76
votes
2answers
264k views

How can I assign the output of a command to a shell variable?

I want to assign the result of an expression to a variable and concatenate it with a string, then echo it. Here's what I've got: #!/bin/bash cd ~/Desktop; thefile= ls -t -U | grep -m 1 "Screen Shot"; ...
922
votes
11answers
2.2m views

How to correctly add a path to PATH?

I'm wondering where a new path has to be added to the PATH environment variable. I know this can be accomplished by editing .bashrc (for example), but it's not clear how to do this. This way: export ...
475
votes
8answers
124k views

What do the numbers in a man page mean?

So, for example, when I type man ls I see LS(1). But if I type man apachectl I see APACHECTL(8) and if I type man cd I end up with cd(n). I'm wondering what the significance of the numbers in the ...
25
votes
4answers
21k views

Why is my variable local in one 'while read' loop, but not in another seemingly similar loop?

Why do I get different values for $x from the snippets below? #!/bin/bash x=1 echo fred > junk ; while read var ; do x=55 ; done < junk echo x=$x # x=55 .. I'd expect this result x=1 cat ...
21
votes
1answer
4k views

How to ensure that string interpolated into `sed` substitution escapes all metachars

I have a script that reads a text stream and generates a file of sed commands that is later run with sed -f. The generated sed commands are like: s/cid:image002\.gif@01CC3D46\.926E77E0/https:\/\/...
151
votes
14answers
154k views

Batch renaming files

I have a directory full of images: image0001.png image0002.png image0003.png ... And I would like a one-liner to rename them to (say). 0001.png 0002.png 0003.png ... How do I do this?
60
votes
11answers
236k views

How can I use variables in the LHS and RHS of a sed substitution?

I want to do: cat update_via_sed.sh | sed 's/old_name/new_name/' > new_update_via_sed.sh in my program. But I want to use variables, e.g. old_run='old_name_952' new_run='old_name_953' I have ...
70
votes
5answers
45k views

Is there a way to determine the optimal value for the bs parameter to dd?

On occasion I've seen comments online along the lines of "make sure you set 'bs=' because the default value will take too long," and my own extremely-unscientific experiences of, "well that seemed to ...
265
votes
6answers
27k views

What's the difference between $(stuff) and `stuff`?

There are two syntaxes for command substitution: with dollar-parentheses and with backticks. Running top -p $(pidof init) and top -p `pidof init` gives the same output. Are these two ways of doing the ...
79
votes
9answers
61k views

Recovering accidentally deleted files

I accidentally deleted a file from my laptop. I'm using Fedora. Is it possible to recover the file?
208
votes
9answers
161k views

Keep SSH Sessions running after disconnection

I sometimes have long running processes that I want to kick off before going home, so I create a SSH session to the server to start the process, but then I want to close my laptop and go home and ...
58
votes
3answers
63k views

Understanding “IFS= read -r line”

I obviously understand that one can add value to internal field separator variable. For example: $ IFS=blah $ echo "$IFS" blah $ I also understand that read -r line will save data from stdin to ...
117
votes
6answers
94k views

How can I execute `date` inside of a cron tab job?

I want to create a log file for a cron script that has the current hour in the log file name. This is the command I tried to use: 0 * * * * echo hello >> ~/cron-logs/hourly/test`date "+%d"`.log ...
17
votes
4answers
16k views

I added a user to a group, but group permissions on files still have no effect

I changed permissions of a file (chmod g+w testfile) and running ls -l testfile gives: -rwxrwxr-x 1 user1 user1 0 2011-01-24 20:36 testfile I then added a user to that group ("/etc/group" has user1:...
86
votes
4answers
35k views

Why does parameter expansion with spaces without quotes work inside double brackets “[[” but not inside single brackets “[”?

I'm confused with using single or double brackets. Look at this code: dir="/home/mazimi/VirtualBox VMs" if [[ -d ${dir} ]]; then echo "yep" fi It works perfectly although the string contains a ...
139
votes
4answers
49k views

$VAR vs ${VAR} and to quote or not to quote

I can write VAR=$VAR1 VAR=${VAR1} VAR="$VAR1" VAR="${VAR1}" the end result to me all seems about the same. Why should I write one or the other? are any of these not portable/POSIX?
59
votes
2answers
13k views

When is dd suitable for copying data? (or, when are read() and write() partial)

Short version: In what circumstances is dd safe to use for copying data, safe meaning that there is no risk of corruption due to a partial read or write? Long version — preamble: dd is often used to ...
72
votes
8answers
26k views

What is the difference between $* and $@?

Consider the following code: foo () { echo $* } bar () { echo $@ } foo 1 2 3 4 bar 1 2 3 4 It outputs: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 I am using Ksh88, but I am interested in other common ...

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