Lindsay Hill automation, networking, product management

/bin/sh - checking for bash vs dash incompatibilities

I have been investigating a problem where an application would install on RHEL/CentOS, but not on Ubuntu. I tracked it down to a problem with shell scripts that assumed that /bin/sh was bash. Ubuntu uses dash by default, so some ‘bashisms’ don’t work. This will be old news to Ubuntu types that migrated to dash a while back, but I normally use CentOS/RHEL systems, and/or well-behaved cross-platform scripts. Luckily ‘checkbashisms’ can help with figuring out what changes are needed.

I don’t want to go into the history of Unix shells, but there are probably more shell variants than there are *nix variants. Some are very different, and completely incompatible. But others are only different in subtle ways, and most things works without modification. If your script explicitly calls the required shell with #!/bin/zsh or #!/bin/csh, all will be fine. The problem comes when your script starts with #!/bin/sh. That will call the system shell, which can vary across different systems. If you’re using that, your script should be portable, and only implement a subset of possible functionality. People get in the habit of using /bin/sh,  but using shell-specific features. That’s when things get ugly when you run your script on a different system.

The application I was investigating packaged its own PostgreSQL installation & JRE. It also included a number of scripts in its bin directory. Those scripts used /bin/sh, and I knew at least some of them failed when using dash instead of bash. Those scripts had various names that did not end with *.sh. I needed to identify which files where scripts, and then check those to see if they contained bash-specific commands. Here’s what I did:

Identify the shell scripts:

[email protected]: bin# file *|grep shell              POSIX shell script, ASCII text executable, with very long lines
initialize:            POSIX shell script, ASCII text executable, with very long lines
migrate:               POSIX shell script, ASCII text executable
createlinks:           POSIX shell script, ASCII text executable
createuser:            POSIX shell script, ASCII text executable

Get the filename:

[email protected]: bin# file *|grep shell|awk '{print $1}'

Hmmm, need to get rid of that “:”

[email protected]: bin# file *|grep shell|awk '{print $1}'|tr -d ':'

Looking better. Now let’s run checkbashisms against each of those files:

[email protected]: bin# file *|grep shell|awk '{print $1}'|tr -d ':'|xargs -i checkbashisms {}
possible bashism in migrate line 113 (brace expansion, {a..b[..c]}should be $(seq a [c] b)):
for i in {1..12}
possible bashism in createlinks line 76 (should be >word 2>&1):
  find $APP_HOME -name '*.so*' -exec chcon -t textrel_shlib_t {} \; >& /dev/null
possible bashism in createuser line 41 (alternative test command ([[ foo ]] should be [ foo ])):
if [[ ("$VERSION" = "PE") && ("$ARCH" = "i686") ]]
[email protected]: bin#

And now I can see exactly which scripts have problems, and where.

For my specific problem here, I’ve decided to change the default shell on this Ubuntu box to bash. Use dpkg-reconfigure dash to do this. Be careful before doing this. It shouldn’t break anything, but it should only be used as a temporary workaround. Better to get the scripts fixed to be truly portable. Not always an option with third-party software though.

Share this: