Writing Better Shell Scripts – Part 2

Posted by jwright on Jul 26, 2010 8:44 PM EDT
Innovationsts.com; By Jeremy Mack Wright
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This post is the second in a series on shell script debugging, error handling, and security. The content of this post will be geared mainly toward BASH users, but there will be information that’s suitable for users of other shells as well. Information such as techniques and methodologies may transfer very well, but BASH specific constructs and commands will not. The users of other shells (CSH, KSH, etc) will have to do some homework to see what transfers and what does not. There are a lot of opinions about how error handling should be done, which range from doing nothing to implementing comprehensive solutions. In this post, as well as my professional work, I try to err on the side of in-depth solutions.

Some people will argue that you don’t need to go through the trouble of providing error handling on small single-user scripts, but useful scripts have a way of growing past their original intent and user group. If you’re a system administrator, you need to be especially careful with error handling in your scripts. If you or an admin under you gets careless, someday you may end up getting a call from one of your users complaining that they just deleted the contents of their home directory – with one of your scripts. It’s easier to do than you might think when precautions are not taken.

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