Tag Archives: linux

Bash it! Bop it! Script it!

I would rather spend 3 hours writing a program to do a task than have to spend 3 minutes doing it myself more than once. Seriously. I’m that lazy. The only task I like to do over and over again is opening a Corona, taking a sip, filling it back up with tequila, and passing out in a pool of my own vomit. Or, as my kids like to call it, “Thursday.”

That kind of laziness means I use a lot of bash scripts to do regular tasks on my server. I have scripts to do automated backups, scripts to setup new virtual domains, scripts to prop up my fragile ego with repeated compliments, scripts to do just about every repeating task that goes into maintaining a barely functional webserver.

There are several tutorials out there for how to start writing scripts, but none of them have my flair for drunken bravado and outrageous sexual innuendo. So, I proudly present a very basic starter guide to writing a bash script:

How to Write A Bash Script

You know all those fancy commands you keep typing into the command line? Things like

cp -rv secretpr0nstash/*.avi /var/www/churchhats.com/

Well, those same commands can be stored in a file, and can be executed whenever you need to, by invoking the name of the file. Let’s start with a very basic file. It just has 3 lines:

#! /bin/bash
# sexy robot script
echo "You are the sexiest robot"

The first line tells the system which shell to use when interpreting the commands that follow. The second line is a comment, to remind me in 6 months what the point of the script is. You can place these throughout the script to remind yourself why you did what you did when you wrote the thing. Finally, the third line is the actual command. It tells the system to output the given text back to the shell.

If you’re looking to learn more about how to write complex scripts, I highly recommend these two guides:
Advanced Bash-Scripting Guide
Writing Shell Scripts

So, now what?

Where to Put It

Now, you need a place to put the script. I keep all of mine in a folder called “bin” inside of my user folder. To create the folder, type:
mkdir ~/bin
cd ~/bin

now, invoke your favorite text editor to open a new file, and start entering in the code:

nano sexrobot

Enter your code, save, exit, and TADA! you have your very own script to prop up your fragile ego with repeated compliments.

How to Make Go Go

Except, it still won’t run. Try it – type “sexrobot” into your command line. What happened? It mocked you, didn’t it. It told you that your crazy dreams of a sexy robot compliment did not exist.

Before we can invoke the command, we have to make it executable.

chmod 755 sexrobot

Now, I can execute the code. Try it again, with the whole location:


Now that it works, we can do the final step – add a line to our .bash_profile file, so that every time we log in, the shell goes into our bin folder to look for commands.
nano ~/.bash_profile

Go to the end of the file, and add the following line:
export PATH="$PATH:~/bin"

Reload the bash_profile settings:
. ~/.bash_profile

If we did everything right, we should be able to execute our new script from any folder, just by typing the name of the file. Let’s try it:
cd /tmp

In Conclusions

Now that I don’t have to do all these repetitive server maintenance tasks, I can focus on more important things, like repetitive binge-drinking to drown my own sorrow.

Ha Ha! Alcoholism is funny!

Housekeeping, or, How To Obsessively Blow Up The Files Left Behind

I install, and then uninstall, lots of different software packages on Debian. I’m trying to learn how this thing works, so I’ll often install something, poke around, and then remove it. But, I get paranoid about the package manager leaving things behind on my system. Cron jobs, config files, libraries, all that jazz.

So, I do some housekeeping to make sure that everything, absolutely everything, gets blown up when I remove a piece of software. Is it necessary? Probably not. Does it satisfy my deeply rooted obsessive control issues? It does.

I’ll assume you’ve already removed the software using the package manager of your choice. For me, that’s aptitude. Throughout this little rundown, replace the word PACKAGE with the name of whatever you’re uninstalling.

sudo aptitude purge PACKAGE

Then, we need to hunt down and kill every remaining bread crumb that this thing left behind. We’ll be using the “locate” tool. It’s a fast search tool that refers to an existing database of files. Start by kicking into super user mode:

sudo su

Then, update the database that locate uses. This rebuilds an updated list of the files on your system.


Next, we want locate to find all of the files that were left behind.

locate PACKAGE

This will print them all to the screen. See them there, smiling back at you? You thought you were clean, you dirty bird, but there they all are. Filthy. Filthy files. Dirty. Dirty.

Well, looking at them on the screen isn’t all that useful for us. What we really need is some way to generate a list of these files that we can then process for deletion, one at a time. Go go command line, go!

locate PACKAGE > /tmp/PACKAGE_files.txt

head to your /tmp folder and take a look – there should be a .txt file there that lists each of the files left behind. Check it out:

cat /tmp/PACKAGE_files.txt

It should look identical to the output of the locate command we used earlier.

Now, we use a little Command Line MagicĀ©, and no, I’m not talking about cocaine. Sweet, sweet cocaine, gives us the go-go to make everything clean. Mmmm, clean. So clean.

We want a command that will pass each line of our new text file into the “rm” command, and give us the option to delete each one. Why, hello there xargs, so nice to see you.

cat /tmp/PACKAGE_files.txt | xargs -l1 -p rm -rf

What’s going on here? The “cat” command will output the content of our txt file. The pipe passes it along to the next command. “xargs” lets us input that data into a new command, in this case “rm”. The “-l1” switch on xargs (that’s the letter “L” and the number “one”) executes the command on one line at a time, instead of the whole batch. The “-p” switch will ask us for permission on each file, so that we have some control over what we want to delete. The “-rf” switch on the “rm” command will remove files recursively, and will force the issue if there are warnings or errors.

If we did everything right, it should start ripping through the files, asking you if you want to delete each one. Y for yes, N for no, and Tada! you have a system clean enough to avoid those awkward OCD freakouts at 2am.

If you want to double check the process, run the locate command again:

updatedb && locate PACKAGE

It should come back clean. Not dirty. Clean. Like pure white linen sheets on a bed of unicorn feathers. So clean. So nice and clean. And now, the sleeping.