::  Posts  ::  RSS  ::  ◂◂RSS  ::  Contact

You Should Be Logging Shell History

February 13th, 2012
tech, shell, logging  [html]
Do you work on the command line? If so, you should be logging your shell history. Don't shells already do this? Not enough. They log only the most recent commands [1] and they don't include when or where you ran them. Not only that, but they don't save until the shell exits, which means you lose the data in a crash. It's a mess, but you can fix it: tell the shell to log this information immediately before it shows the next command prompt. [2] For bash, put this in the init file [3]:
  promptFunc() {
    # right before prompting for the next command, save the previous
    # command in a file.
    echo "$(date +%Y-%m-%d--%H-%M-%S) $(hostname) $PWD $(history 1)" \
      >> ~/.full_history
  }
  PROMPT_COMMAND=promptFunc
You'd think running these extra commands would slow your system down, and I'm sure they do relative to doing nothing or having this built into the shell, but the prompt still feels like it appears instantly.

Your shell history is an invaluable resource in understanding what you were doing earlier, and keeping a permanent log is well worth it.

For quick history searching, add:

function histgrep {
  local n_lines=10
  if [[ "$1" =~ ^[0-9]*$ ]]; then
    n_lines="$1"
    shift
  fi
  grep "$@" ~/.full_history | tail -n "$n_lines"
}
Usage:
$ histgrep foo
... ten lines of history ...
$ histgrep 100 foo
... a hundred lines of history ...

(Yes, I've written about this before, but I'm continually surprised how many people don't have something like this. It saves me gobs of time.)


[1] Bash defaults to 500 lines. At my previous job I had ~100K lines logged while at my current one I have 73K.

[2] This does mean that if you have a crash while a command is running that command will not be written back to the history file. This is bad, but I don't think there's a 'post command entry' hook in bash.

[3] On my Mac this goes in ~/.bash_profile; on Linux I'd put it in ~/.bashrc. For other shells you'll need something similar.

Comment via: google plus, facebook, r/commandline

Recent posts on blogs I like:

The Different Travel Markets for Regional Rail

At a meeting with other TransitMatters people, I had to explain various distinctions in what is called in American parlance regional rail or commuter rail. A few months ago I wrote about the distinction between S-Bahn and RegionalBahn, but made it clear t…

via Pedestrian Observations January 14, 2020

A foolish consistency

“The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them. But why should you ke…

via Holly Elmore January 5, 2020

Algorithms interviews: theory vs. practice

When I ask people at trendy big tech companies why algorithms quizzes are mandatory, the most common answer I get is something like "we have so much scale, we can't afford to have someone accidentally write an O(n^2) algorithm and bring the site d…

via Posts on Dan Luu January 5, 2020

more     (via openring)

More Posts:


  ::  Posts  ::  RSS  ::  ◂◂RSS  ::  Contact