Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tips for Cron

In addition to Crontab tutorial here is the post for tips on cron.

Use of operators

An operator allows you to specifying multiple values in a field. There are three operators:

1. The asterisk (*) : This operator specifies all possible values for a field. For example, an asterisk in the hour time field would be equivalent to every hour or an asterisk in the month field would be equivalent to every month.

2. The comma (,) : This operator specifies a list of values, for example: "1,5,10,15,20, 25".

3. The dash (-) : This operator specifies a range of values, for example: "5-15" days , which is equivalent to typing "5,6,7,8,9,....,13,14,15" using the comma operator.

Disabling Email output:

By default the output of a command or a script (if any produced), will be email to your local email account. To stop receiving email output from crontab you need to append >/dev/null 2>&1.

For example:

0 3 * * * /root/ >/dev/null 2>&1

To mail output to particluer email account let us say you need to define MAILTO variable to your cron job:


0 3 * * * /root/ >/dev/null 2>&1


To list your crontab jobs use the command
type the following command:
# crontab -l

To remove or erase all crontab jobs use the command:
# crontab -r

Use special string to save time

Instead of the first five fields, you can use any one of eight special strings. It will not just save your time but it will improve readability.

Special string Meaning
@reboot Run once, at startup.
@yearly Run once a year, "0 0 1 1 *".
@annually (same as @yearly)
@monthly Run once a month, "0 0 1 * *".
@weekly Run once a week, "0 0 * * 0".
@daily Run once a day, "0 0 * * *".
@midnight (same as @daily)
@hourly Run once an hour, "0 * * * *".

Run ntpdate every hour:

@hourly /path/to/ntpdate

Make a backup everyday:

@daily /path/to/backup/

Understanding /etc/crontab file and /etc/cron.d/* directories

/etc/crontab is system crontabs file. Usually only used by root user or daemons to configure system wide jobs. All individual user must must use crontab command to install and edit their jobs as described above. /var/spool/cron/ or /var/cron/tabs/ is directory for personal user crontab files. It must be backup with users home directory.

Typical /etc/crontab file entries:


# run-parts
01 * * * * root run-parts /etc/cron.hourly
02 4 * * * root run-parts /etc/cron.daily
22 4 * * 0 root run-parts /etc/cron.weekly
42 4 1 * * root run-parts /etc/cron.monthly

Additionally, cron reads the files in /etc/cron.d/ directory. Usually system daemon such as sa-update or sysstat places their cronjob here. As a root user or superuser you can use following directories to configure cronjobs. You can directly drop your scripts here. run-parts command run scripts or programs in a directory via /etc/crontab

Directory Description
/etc/cron.d/ Put all scripts here and call them from /etc/crontab file.
/etc/cron.daily/ Run all scripts once a day
/etc/cron.hourly/ Run all scripts once an hour
/etc/cron.monthly/ Run all scripts once a month
/etc/cron.weekly/ Run all scripts once a week

Here is a sample shell script (clean.cache) to clean up cached files every 10 days. This script is directly created at /etc/cron.daliy/ directory i.e. create a file called /etc/cron.daily/clean.cache:


# start cleaning
/usr/bin/find ${CROOT} -type f -mtime +${DAYS} | xargs -r /bin/rm

# if directory deleted by some other script just get it back
if [ ! -d $CROOT ]
/bin/mkdir -p $CROOT
/bin/chown ${LUSER}:${LGROUP} ${CROOT}

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