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Debugging a script

These few lines are not intended as a full-fledged debugging tutorial, but as assorted hints and comments about debugging a Bash script.

Use a unique name for your script

Do not name your script test, for example! Why? test is already a UNIX®-command, and most likely built into your shell (it's a built-in in Bash) - so you won't be able to run a script with the name test in a normal way.

Don't laugh! This is a classic mistake :-)

Read the error messages

Many people come into IRC and ask something like "Why does my script fail? I get an error!". And when you ask them what the error message is, they don't even know. Beautiful.

Reading and interpreting error messages is 50% of your job as debugger! Error messages actually mean something, and at the very least they can give you hints as to where to start your further debugging. READ YOUR ERROR MESSAGES!

You may ask yourself why this is mentioned as debugging tip? Well, you would be surprised how many shell users ignore the text of error messages! When I find some time, I'll paste 2 or 3 IRC log-snips here, just to show you that annoying fact.

Use a good editor

Your choice of editor is a matter of personal preference, but you should use one with Bash syntax highlighting! Syntax highlighting helps you see (you guessed it …) syntax errors, such as unclosed quotes and braces, or typos.

From my personal experience, I can suggest vim or GNU emacs.

Write logfiles

For more complex scripts, it's useful to write a logfile or even log to syslog. Nobody can debug something without knowing what actually happens and what breaks.

A possible syslog interface is logger ( online manpage).

Inject debugging code

Insert echos everywhere you can, and print to stderr:

echo "DEBUG: current i=$i" >&2

If you read input from anywhere, such as a file or command substitution, print the debug output with literal quotes, to see leading and trailing spaces!

pid=$(< fooservice.pid)
echo "DEBUG: read from file: pid=\"$pid\"" >&2

Bash's printf command has the %q format, which is handy for verifying whether strings are what they appear to be.

foo=$(< inputfile)
printf "DEBUG: foo is |%q|\n" "$foo" >&2
# exposes whitespace (such as CRs, see below) and non-printing characters

Use shell debug output

There are two useful debug outputs for that task (both are written to stderr):

  • set -v mode (set -o verbose)
    • prints commands to be executed to stderr just like they are read from input (script file or keyboard)
    • prints everything before anything ( substitutions and expansions, …) big is applied
  • set -x mode (set -o xtrace)
    • prints everything like it really is executed, after substitutions and expansions applied
    • indicates the depth-level of the subshell (by default by preceeding a + (plus) sign to the shown command)
    • indicates the recognized words after word splitting by marking them like 'x y'
    • in a 4.1 version of the shell, this debug output can be printed to a configurable file descriptor (by setting the BASH_XTRACEFD variable) rather than stdout

Hint: These modes can be entered when calling Bash:

  • from commandline: bash -vx ./myscript
  • eventually (OS dependant) from shebang: #!/bin/bash -vx

Simple example of how to interpret xtrace output

Here's a simple command (a string comparison using the classic test command) executed while in set -x mode:

set -x
foo="bar baz"
[ $foo = test ]

That fails. Why? Let's see the xtrace output:

+ '[' bar baz = test ']'

And now you see that it's ("bar" and "baz") recognized as two separate words (which you also might have realized if you READ THE ERROR MESSAGES ;) ). Let's check it…

# next try
[ "$foo" = test ]

xtrace now gives

+ '[' 'bar baz' = test ']'
      ^       ^
    word markers!

Making xtrace more useful

(by AnMaster)

xtrace output would be more useful if it contained source file and line number. Add this assignment to PS4 somewhere in the beginning of your script to include that information:

export PS4='+(${BASH_SOURCE}:${LINENO}): ${FUNCNAME[0]:+${FUNCNAME[0]}(): }'
Be sure to use single quotes here!

The output would look like this when you trace code outside a function:

+(somefile.bash:412): echo 'Hello world'
…and like this when you trace code inside a function:
+(somefile.bash:412): myfunc(): echo 'Hello world'

That helps a lot when the script is long, or when the main script source a lot of other files.

Debugging commands depending on a set variable

For general debugging purposes you can also define a function and a variable to use:

debugme() {
 [[ $script_debug = 1 ]] && "$@" || :
 # be sure to append || : or || true here or use return 0, since the return code
 # of this function should always be 0 to not influence anything else with an unwanted
 # "false" return code (for example the script's exit code if this function is used
 # as the very last command in the script)
}

This function does nothing when script_debug is unset or empty, but it executes the given parameters as commands when script_debug is set. Use it like:

script_debug=1
# to turn off, best do script_debug=0

debugme logger "Sorting the database"
database_sort
debugme logger "Finished sorting the database, exit code $?"

Of course this can also be used to just execute something else than echo in case of debugging:

debugme set -x
# ... some code ...
debugme set +x

Dry-run STDIN driven commands

Imagine you have a script that runs FTP commands for some job using the installed standard FTP client:

ftp user@host <<FTP
cd /data
get current.log
dele current.log
FTP

A method to dry-run this with debug output is the following:

if [[ $DRY_RUN = yes ]]; then
  sed 's/^/DRY_RUN FTP: /'
else
  ftp user@host
fi <<FTP
cd /data
get current.log
dele current.log
FTP

This can of course be wrapped in a shell function, for more readable code.

Common error messages

Unexpected end of file

script.sh: line 100: syntax error: unexpected end of file

Usually indicates exactly what it says: An unexpected end of file. It's unexpected because Bash waits for the closing of a compound command:

  • did you close your do with a done?
  • did you close your if with a fi?
  • did you close your case with a esac?
  • did you close your { with a }?
  • did you close your ( with a )?

Note: It seems that here-documents (tested on versions 1.14.7, 2.05b, 3.1.17 and 4.0) are correctly terminated when there is an EOF before the end-of-here-document tag (see redirection). The reason is unknown, but it seems to be done on purpose. Bash 4.0 added an extra message for this: warning: here-document at line <N> delimited by end-of-file (wanted `<MARKER>')

Unexpected end of file while looking for matching ...

script.sh: line 50: unexpected EOF while looking for matching `"'
script.sh: line 100: syntax error: unexpected end of file

This one simply indicates that the double-quote opened in line 50 does not have a closing partner until the end of file at line 100.

These unmatched errors occour with, for example

Too many arguments

bash: test: too many arguments

You most likely forgot to quote a variable expansion somewhere. See the example for xtrace output from above. Also external commands may spit out such an error message (though in our example it was the internal test-command).

!": event not found

$ echo "Hello world!"
bash: !": event not found

This is not an error per se. It happens in interactive shells, when the C-Shell-styled history expansion ("!searchword") is enabled. This is the default. Disable by:

set +H
# or
set +o histexpand

syntax error near unexpected token `('

When this happens during a function definition in a script or on the commandline, like

$ foo () { echo "Hello world"; }
bash: syntax error near unexpected token `('

…then you most likely have an alias defined for the name of the function (here: foo). Alias expansion happens before the real language interpretion, thus the alias is expanded and makes your function definition containing invalid syntax.

The CRLF issue

What is the CRLF issue?

There's a big difference in the way that UNIX® and Microsoft® (and possibly others) handle the line endings of plain text files. The difference lies in the use of the CR (Carriage Return) and LF (Line Feed) characters.

  • MSDOS uses: \r\n (ASCII CR #13 ^M, ASCII LF #10)
  • UNIX® uses: \n (ASCII LF #10)

Keep in mind that your script file is a plain text file, and that the CR character means nothing special to UNIX® - it is treated like any other character. If it's printed to your terminal, a carriage return will effectively place the cursor at the beginning of the current line. This can cause much confusion and many headaches, since lines containing CRs are not what they appear to be when printed. In summary, CRs are a pain.

How did a CR end up in my file?

Some possible sources of CRs:

  • a DOS/Windows text editor
  • a UNIX® text editor that is "too smart" when determining the file content type (and says "ha - it's a DOS text file…")
  • a direct copy&paste from certain webpages (some pastebins are known to suck)

Why do CRs hurt?

CRs can be a nuisance in various ways. They are especially bad when present in the shebang/interpreter specified with #! in the very first line of a script. Consider the following script, written with a Windows® text editor (^M is a symbolic representation of the CR carriage return character!):

#!/bin/bash^M
^M
echo "Hello world"^M
...

Here's what happens because of the #!/bin/bash^M in our shebang:

  • the file /bin/bash^M doesn't exist (hopefully), so …
  • Bash prints an error message which (depending on the terminal, the Bash version, or custom patches!) may or may not expose the problem to you.
  • the script can't be executed

The error message can vary. If you're lucky, you'll get:

bash: ./testing.sh: /bin/bash^M: bad interpreter: No such file or directory
which alerts you of the CR. But you may also get the following:
: bad interpreter: No such file or directory
Why? Because when printed literally, the ^M makes the cursor go back to the beginning of the line. The whole error message is printed, but you see only a part of it!

You can imagine that this ^M is bad in other places, too. So if you get weird and illogical messages from your script, the chance is high that ^M is envolved. Find and eliminate it!

How can I find and eliminate them?

To display CRs (these are only a few examples)

  • in VI/VIM: :set list
  • with cat(1): cat -v FILE

To eliminate them (only a few examples)

  • blindly with tr(1): tr -d '\r' <FILE >FILE.new
  • controlled with recode(1): recode MSDOS..latin1 FILE
  • controlled with dos2unix(1): dos2unix FILE

See also

FIXME

Discussion

avkosinsky, 2011/10/18 15:20

Debugger for Bash version 3(Bourne again shell). Plugin for Eclipse. http://sourceforge.net/projects/basheclipse/

Paolo Supino, 2012/01/02 10:20

not knowing of bash debugger existance I wrote a small script (I called debug.sh) that sets -x, -xv or -xvn (depending on the parameter passed debug.sh). The debug.sh script is (feel free to copy, use and evolve it as you see fit):

#!/bin/bash
 
PS4='+(${BASH_SOURCE}:${LINENO}): ${FUNCNAME[0]:+${FUNCNAME[0]}(): }'
 
export PS4
 
usage()
{
cat <<'EOF'
usage: debug [option] script arguments
possible options are:
 
- help|usage: print this screen
- verbose: sets -xv flags
- noexec: sets -xvn flags
- no parameter sets -x flags
EOF
 
fmt << 'EOF'
 
 if the script takes arguments remember to enclose the script and arugments
 in ""
EOF
}
 
debug_cmd()
{
   /bin/bash $FLAGS $SCRIPT
}
 
if [ $# -gt 0 ]; then
   case "$1" in
         "verbose")
            FLAGS=-xv
            SCRIPT=$2
         ;;
         "noexec")
            FLAGS=-xvn
            SCRIPT=$2
         ;;
         "help"|"usage")
            usage
            exit 3
         ;;
         *)
            FLAGS=-x
            SCRIPT=$1
         ;;
   esac
   debug_cmd
else
   usage
fi

Paolo Supino, 2012/06/22 11:12

I've updated the debug.sh posted above to display colors in the ouput when using only +x (makes everything more readable). the new script is:

#!/bin/bash
 
color_def="~/.colorrc"
 
if [[ -f $color_def ]]; then
   . $color_def
else
   # color definitions
   black="$(tput setaf 0)"
   darkgrey="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 0)"
   lightgrey="$(tput setaf 7)"
   white="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 7)"
   red="$(tput setaf 1)"
   lightred="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 1)"
   green="$(tput setaf 2)"
   lightgreen="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 2)"
   yellow="$(tput setaf 3)"
   blue="$(tput setaf 4)"
   lightblue="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 4)"
   purple="$(tput setaf 5)"
   pink="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 5)"
   cyan="$(tput setaf 6)"
   lightcyan="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 6)"
   nc="$(tput sgr0)" # no color
fi
export darkgrey lightgreywhite red lightred green lightgreen yellow blue
export lightblue purple pink cyan lightcyan nc
if [[ ! $level_color ]]; then
   level_color=$cyan
fi
if [[ ! $script_color ]]; then
   script_color=$yellow
fi
if [[ ! $linenum_color ]]; then
   linenum_color=$red
fi
if [[ ! $funcname_color ]]; then
   funcname_color=$green
fi
if [[ ! $command_color ]]; then
   command_color=$white
fi
export script_color linenum_color funcname_color
 
reset_screen() {
 
   echo $nc
}
reset_screen
 
usage()
{
cat <<'EOF'
 
usage: debug [option] script arguments
 
possilbe options are:
- help|usage: print this screen
- verbose: sets -xv flags
- noexec: sets -xvn flags
- no parameter sets -x flags
 
EOF
fmt <<EOF
if the script takes arguments remember to enclose the script and arugments
in ""
EOF
 
fmt <<EOF
 
The script prints the script name, script line number and function name as it
executes the script. The various parts of the script prompt are printed in
color. If the default colors are not suitable than you can set the environment
varialbes script_color linenum_color funcname_color to any of the following
colors: ${darkgrey}darkgrey$nc, ${lightgrey}light grey$nc, ${white}white,
${red}red, ${lightred}light red, ${green}green, ${lightgreen}light green,
${yellow}yellow, ${blue}blue, ${lightblue}light blue, ${purple}purple,
${pink}pink, ${cyan}cyan, ${lightcyan}light cyan$nc.
EOF
 
cat <<EOF
 
default colors are:
${level_color}- shell level color:cyan$nc
${script_color}- script name: yellow$nc
${linenum_color}- line number: red$nc
${funcname_color}- function name: green$nc
${command_color}- command executed: white'$nc
EOF
}
 
 
debug_cmd()
{
   trap reset_screen INT
   /bin/bash $FLAGS $SCRIPT
}
 
if [ $# -gt 0 ]; then
   case "$1" in
         "verbose")
            FLAGS=-xv
            SCRIPT=$2
         ;;
         "noexec")
            FLAGS=-xvn
            SCRIPT=$2
         ;;
         "help"|"usage")
            usage
            exit 3
         ;;
         *)
            FLAGS=-x
            PS4="${level_color}+${script_color}"'(${BASH_SOURCE##*/}:${linenum_color}${LINENO}${script_color}):'" ${funcname_color}"
            export PS4
            SCRIPT=$1
         ;;
   esac
   debug_cmd
else
   usage
fi
 
reset_screen

Paolo Supino, 2012/07/04 09:29

My last debug.sh version had a couple of bugs: 1: it didn't print the function name when run with only -x flag. 2: The first line of prompt had a different coloring scheme than the rest of the lines… In the version below I fixed those problems. Please delete my previous version and post this one instead. Thanx.

#!/bin/bash

color_def="~/.colorrc"

if -f $color_def; then

 . $color_def

else

 # color definitions
 black="$(tput setaf 0)"
 darkgrey="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 0)"
 lightgrey="$(tput setaf 7)"
 white="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 7)"
 red="$(tput setaf 1)"
 lightred="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 1)"
 green="$(tput setaf 2)"
 lightgreen="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 2)"
 yellow="$(tput setaf 3)"
 blue="$(tput setaf 4)"
 lightblue="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 4)"
 purple="$(tput setaf 5)"
 pink="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 5)"
 cyan="$(tput setaf 6)"
 lightcyan="$(tput bold ; tput setaf 6)"
 nc="$(tput sgr0)" # no color

fi export darkgrey lightgreywhite red lightred green lightgreen yellow blue export lightblue purple pink cyan lightcyan nc if ! $lc; then

 lc=$cyan

fi if ! $sc; then

 sc=$yellow

fi if ! $lnc; then

 lnc=$red

fi if ! $fc; then

 fc=$green

fi if ! $cc; then

 cc=$white

fi export sc lnc fc

reset_screen() {

 echo $nc

} reset_screen

usage() { cat «'EOF'

usage: debug [option] script arguments

possilbe options are: - help|usage: print this screen - test|compile: sets -n flag - verbose: sets -xv flags - noexec: sets -xvn flags - no parameter sets -x flag

EOF fmt «EOF if the script takes arguments remember to enclose the script and arugments in "" EOF

fmt «EOF

The script prints the script name, script line number and function name as it executes the script. The various parts of the script prompt are printed in color. If the default colors are not suitable than you can set the environment varialbes sc lnc fc to any of the following colors: ${darkgrey}darkgrey$nc, ${lightgrey}light grey$nc, ${white}white, ${red}red, ${lightred}light red, ${green}green, ${lightgreen}light green, ${yellow}yellow, ${blue}blue, ${lightblue}light blue, ${purple}purple, ${pink}pink, ${cyan}cyan, ${lightcyan}light cyan$nc. EOF

cat «EOF

default colors are: ${lc}- shell level color: cyan ${sc}- script name: yellow ${lnc}- line number: red ${fc}- function name: green ${cc}- command executed: white EOF }

debug_cmd() {

 trap reset_screen INT
 /bin/bash $FLAGS $SCRIPT

}

if [ $# -gt 0 ]; then

 case "$1" in
       "test"|"compile")
          FLAGS=-n
          SCRIPT=$2
       ;;
       "verbose")
          FLAGS=-xv
          SCRIPT=$2
       ;;
       "noexec")
          FLAGS=-xvn
          SCRIPT=$2
       ;;
       "help"|"usage")
          usage
          exit 3
       ;;
       *)
          FLAGS=-x
          PS4="${white}${lc}+${sc}"'(${BASH_SOURCE##*/}'":${lnc}"'${LINENO}'"${sc}): ${fc}"'${FUNCNAME[0]}'"(): ${cc}"
          export PS4
          SCRIPT=$1
       ;;
 esac
 debug_cmd

else

 usage

fi

reset_screen

Robert Wlaschin, 2012/09/27 08:08

This is a great article. I have a suggestion for putting in DEBUG switches.

Putting a line like the following:

# debug switch [ -z "$DEBUG" ] && DEBUG=0 || :

[ $DEBUG = 0 ] || echo "Debug output"

Will allow passing in a value through environment variables, meaning that code does not need to be changed or put in unnecessary command-line arguments to enable debugging

This is how it could be used

# turn on debugging DEBUG=1 ./runtest

# regular no debug ./runtest

Thoughts?

Enter your comment
 
scripting/debuggingtips.txt · Last modified: 2013/04/14 14:38 by thebonsai
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