Difference between revisions of "Cron"

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(Installation: dcron package was moved to AUR)
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   5,35 * * * * /usr/bin/lockrun -n /tmp/lock.backup /root/make-backup.sh
   5,35 * * * * /usr/bin/lockrun -n /tmp/lock.backup /root/make-backup.sh
== See Also ==
* [http://gotux.net/arch-linux/crontab-usage/ CronTab Usage Tutorial]

Revision as of 06:18, 14 February 2013

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From Wikipedia:

cron is the time-based job scheduler in Unix-like computer operating systems. cron enables users to schedule jobs (commands or shell scripts) to run periodically at certain times or dates. It is commonly used to automate system maintenance or administration [...]


cronie is installed by default as part of the base group. Other cron implementations exist if preferred, Gentoo's Cron Guide offers comparisons. For example, fcron, dcronAUR (Arch Linux's default cron implementation until May 2011), bcronAUR or vixie-cronAUR are other alternatives.


Users & autostart

cron should be working upon login on a new system to run root scripts. This can be check by looking at the log in /var/log/. In order to use crontab application (editor for job entries), users must be members of a designated group users or root, of which all users should already be members. To ensure cron starts on boot, add the crond daemon to the daemons array of rc.conf, or if using systemd enable cronie.service or dcron.service depending on which cron implementation you use.

Handling errors of jobs

Errors can occur during execution of jobs. When this happens, cron registers the stderr output and attempts to send it as email to the user's spools via the sendmail command.

To log these messages use the -M option in /etc/conf.d/crond and write a script or install a rudimentary SMTP subsystem (e.g. esmtp):

# pacman -S esmtp procmail

After installation configure the routing:

identity myself@myisp.com
       hostname mail.myisp.com:25
       username "myself"
       password "secret"
       starttls enabled
mda "/usr/bin/procmail -d %T"

Procmail needs root privileges to work in delivery mode but it is not an issue if you are running the cronjobs as root anyway.

To test that everything works correctly, create a file message.txt with "test message" in it.

From the same directory run:

$ sendmail user_name < message.txt 


$ cat /var/spool/mail/user_name

You should now see the test message and the time and date it was sent.

The error output of all jobs will now be redirected to /var/spool/mail/user_name.

Due to the privileged issue, it is hard to create and send emails to root (e.g. su -c ""). You can ask esmtp to forward all root's email to an ordinary user with:

Note: If the above test didn't work, you may try creating a local configuration in ~/.esmtprc with the same content.

Run the following command to make sure it has the correct permission:

$ chmod 710 ~/.esmtprc
Then repeat the test with message.txt exactly as before.

Long cron job

Suppose this program is invoked by cron :

echo "I had a recoverable error!"
sleep 1h

What happens is this:

  1. cron runs the script
  2. as soon as cron sees some output, it runs your MTA, and provides it with the headers. It leaves the pipe open, because the job hasn't finished and there might be more output.
  3. the MTA opens the connection to postfix and leaves that connection open while it waits for the rest of the body.
  4. postfix closes the idle connection after less than an hour and you get an error like this :
smtpmsg='421 … Error: timeout exceeded' errormsg='the server did not accept the mail'

To solve this problem you can use the command chronic or sponge from moreutils. From they respective man page :

chronic runs a command, and arranges for its standard out and standard error to only be displayed if the command fails (exits nonzero or crashes). If the command succeeds, any extraneous output will be hidden.
sponge reads standard input and writes it out to the specified file. Unlike a shell redirect, sponge soaks up all its input before opening the output file… If no output file is specified, sponge outputs to stdout.

Even if it's not said chronic buffer the command output before opening its standard output (like sponge does).

Crontab format

The basic format for a crontab is:

<minute> <hour> <day_of_month> <month> <day_of_week> <command>
  • minute values can be from 0 to 59.
  • hour values can be from 0 to 23.
  • day_of_month values can be from 1 to 31.
  • month values can be from 1 to 12.
  • day_of_week values can be from 0 to 6, with 0 denoting Sunday.

Multiple times may be specified with a comma, a range can be given with a hyphen, and the asterisk symbol is a wildcard character. Spaces are used to separate fields. For example, the line:

*0,*5 9-16 * 1-5,9-12 1-5 ~/bin/i_love_cron.sh

Will execute the script i_love_cron.sh at five minute intervals from 9 AM to 4:55 PM on weekdays except during the summer months (June, July, and August). More examples and advanced configuration techniques can be found below.

Basic commands

Crontabs should never be edited directly; instead, users should use the crontab program to work with their crontabs. To be granted access to this command, user must be a member of the users group (see the gpasswd command).

To view their crontabs, users should issue the command:

$ crontab -l

To edit their crontabs, they may use:

$ crontab -e

To remove their crontabs, they should use:

$ crontab -r

If a user has a saved crontab and would like to completely overwrite their old crontab, he or she should use:

$ crontab saved_crontab_filename

To overwrite a crontab from the command line (Wikipedia:stdin), use

$ crontab - 

To edit somebody else's crontab, issue the following command as root:

# crontab -u username -e

This same format (appending -u username to a command) works for listing and deleting crontabs as well.

To use nano rather than vi as crontab editor, add the following lines to your shell's initialization file (eg. /etc/profile or /etc/bash.bashrc):

export EDITOR="/usr/bin/nano"

And restart open shells.


The entry:

01 * * * * /bin/echo Hello, world!

runs the command /bin/echo Hello, world! on the first minute of every hour of every day of every month (i.e. at 12:01, 1:01, 2:01, etc.)


*/5 * * jan mon-fri /bin/echo Hello, world!

runs the same job every five minutes on weekdays during the month of January (i.e. at 12:00, 12:05, 12:10, etc.)

As noted in the Crontab Format section, the line:

*0,*5 9-16 * 1-5,9-12 1-5 /home/user/bin/i_love_cron.sh

Will execute the script i_love_cron.sh at five minute intervals from 9 AM to 5 PM (excluding 5 PM itself) every weekday (Mon-Fri) of every month except during the summer (June, July, and August).

More information

The cron daemon parses a configuration file known as crontab. Each user on the system can maintain a separate crontab file to schedule commands individually. The root user's crontab is used to schedule system-wide tasks (though users may opt to use /etc/crontab or the /etc/cron.d directory, depending on which cron implementation they choose).

There are slight differences between the crontab formats of the different cron daemons. The default root crontab for dcron looks like this:

# root crontab

# man 1 crontab for acceptable formats:
#    <minute> <hour> <day> <month> <dow> <tags and command>
#    <@freq> <tags and command>

@hourly         ID=sys-hourly   /usr/sbin/run-cron /etc/cron.hourly
@daily          ID=sys-daily    /usr/sbin/run-cron /etc/cron.daily
@weekly         ID=sys-weekly   /usr/sbin/run-cron /etc/cron.weekly
@monthly        ID=sys-monthly  /usr/sbin/run-cron /etc/cron.monthly

These lines exemplify one of the formats that crontab entries can have, namely whitespace-separated fields specifying:

  1. @period
  2. ID=jobname (this tag is specific to dcron)
  3. command

The other standard format for crontab entries is:

  1. minute
  2. hour
  3. day
  4. month
  5. day of week
  6. command

The crontab files themselves are usually stored as /var/spool/cron/username. For example, root's crontab is found at /var/spool/cron/root

See the crontab man page for further information and configuration examples.

run-parts issue

cronie uses run-parts to carry out script in cron.daily/cron.weekly/cron.monthly. Be careful that the script name in these won't include a dot (.), e.g. backup.sh, since run-parts without options will ignore them (see: man run-parts).

Running Xorg server based applications

If you find that you can't run X apps from cron jobs then use this prefix:

export DISPLAY=:0.0 ;

This sets the DISPLAY variable to the first display, which is usually right unless you run multiple X servers on your machine.

If it still doesn't work, then you need to use xhost to give your user control over X:

# xhost +si:localuser:$(whoami)

Asynchronous job processing

If you regularly turn off your computer but do not want to miss jobs, there are some solutions available (easiest to hardest):


Vanilla dcron supports asynchronous job processing. Just put it with @hourly, @daily, @weekly or @monthly with a jobname, like this:

@hourly         ID=greatest_ever_job      echo This job is very useful.


(AUR, forum thread): Script to automatically run missed cron jobs; works with the default cron implementation, dcron.


(AUR): Full replacement for dcron, processes jobs asynchronously.


(Community, forum thread): Like anacron, fcron assumes the computer is not always running and, unlike anacron, it can schedule events at intervals shorter than a single day. Like cronwhip, it can run jobs that should have been run during the computer's downtime.

Ensuring exclusivity

If you run potentially long-running jobs (e.g., a backup might all of a sudden run for a long time, because of many changes or a particular slow network connection), then lockrunAUR can ensure that the cron job won't start a second time.

  5,35 * * * * /usr/bin/lockrun -n /tmp/lock.backup /root/make-backup.sh

See Also