Linux-Fu: One At A Time, Please! Critical Sections In Bash Scripts

You normally think of a critical section — that is, a piece of a program that excludes other programs from using a resource — as a pretty advanced technique. You certainly don’t often think of them as part of shell scripting but it turns out they are surprisingly useful for certain scripts. Most often, a critical section is protecting some system resource like a shared memory location, but there are cases where a shell script needs similar protection. Luckily, it is really easy to add critical sections to shell scripts, and I’ll show you how.

Sometimes Scripts Need to Be Selfish

One very common case is where you want a script to run exactly one time. If the same script runs again while the original is active, you want to exit after possibly printing a message. Another common case is when you are updating some file and you need undisturbed access while making the change.

That was actually the case that got me thinking about this. I have a script — may be the subject of a future Linux-Fu — that provides dynamic DNS by altering a configuration file for the DNS server. If two copies of the script run at the same time, it is important that only one of them does modifications. The second copy can run after the first is totally complete.

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