Monday, January 14, 2008

Unix Question And Answers

How do I remove a file with funny characters in the filename ?
If the 'funny character' is a '/', skip to the last part of this answer. If the funny character is something else, such as a ' ' or control character or character with the 8th bit set, keep reading. The classic answers are rm -i some*pattern*that*matches*only*the*file*you*want which asks you whether you want to remove each file matching the indicated pattern; depending on your shell, this may not work if the filename has a character with the 8th bit set (the shell may strip that off); and rm -ri . which asks you whether to remove each file in the directory. Answer "y" to the problem file and "n" to everything else. Unfortunately this doesn't work with many versions of rm. Also unfortunately, this will walk through every subdirectory of ".", so you might want to "chmod a-x" those directories temporarily to make them unsearchable. Always take a deep breath and think about what you're doing and double check what you typed when you use rm's "-r" flag or a wildcard on the command line; and find . -type f ... -ok rm '{}' \; where "..." is a group of predicates that uniquely identify the file. One possibility is to figure out the inode number of the problem file (use "ls -i .") and then use find . -inum 12345 -ok rm '{}' \; or find . -inum 12345 -ok mv '{}' new-file-name \; "-ok" is a safety check - it will prompt you for confirmation of the command it's about to execute. You can use "-exec" instead to avoid the prompting, if you want to live dangerously, or if you suspect that the filename may contain a funny character sequence that will mess up your screen when printed. What if the filename has a '/' in it? These files really are special cases, and can only be created by buggy kernel code (typically by implementations of NFS that don't filter out illegal characters in file names from remote machines.) The first thing to do is to try to understand exactly why this problem is so strange. Recall that Unix directories are simply pairs of filenames and inode numbers. A directory essentially contains information like this: filename inode file1 12345 file2.c 12349 file3 12347 Theoretically, '/' and '\0' are the only two characters that cannot appear in a filename - '/' because it's used to separate directories and files, and '\0' because it terminates a filename. Unfortunately some implementations of NFS will blithely create filenames with embedded slashes in response to requests from remote machines. For instance, this could happen when someone on a Mac or other non-Unix machine decides to create a remote NFS file on your Unix machine with the date in the filename. Your Unix directory then has this in it: filename inode 91/02/07 12357 No amount of messing around with 'find' or 'rm' as described above will delete this file, since those utilities and all other Unix programs, are forced to interpret the '/' in the normal way. Any ordinary program will eventually try to do unlink("91/02/07"), which as far as the kernel is concerned means "unlink the file 07 in the subdirectory 02 of directory 91", but that's not what we have - we have a *FILE* named "91/02/07" in the current directory. This is a subtle but crucial distinction. What can you do in this case? The first thing to try is to return to the Mac that created this crummy entry, and see if you can convince it and your local NFS daemon to rename the file to something without slashes. If that doesn't work or isn't possible, you'll need help from your system manager, who will have to try the one of the following. Use "ls -i" to find the inode number of this bogus file, then unmount the file system and use "clri" to clear the inode, and "fsck" the file system with your fingers crossed. This destroys the information in the file. If you want to keep it, you can try: create a new directory in the same parent directory as the one containing the bad file name; move everything you can (i.e. everything but the file with the bad name) from the old directory to the new one; do "ls -id" on the directory containing the file with the bad name to get its inumber; umount the file system; "clri" the directory containing the file with the bad name; "fsck" the file system. Then, to find the file, remount the file system; rename the directory you created to have the name of the old directory (since the old directory should have been blown away by "fsck") move the file out of "lost+found" into the directory with a better name. Alternatively, you can patch the directory the hard way by crawling around in the raw file system. Use "fsdb", if you have it.

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