Handling pipe of commands like a single command
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Build a network of processes and connecting pipes - and have them act like a single process.

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Introduction and Purpose

pipexec has two major use cases.

Use Case 1: Handling Arbitrary Pipes between Processes


When it comes to pipes in shells many tutorials introduce stdin, stdout and stderr which map to file descriptors 0, 1 and 2 respectively.

If you want to know how many lines contains the word bird in chapter 1 and 2 of your text, you can use a command like:

$ cat Chap1.txt Chap2.txt | grep bird | wc -l

And pictures like this are shown to explain what happens internally:

Simple Pipe


The more advanced sections provide information how to use constructs like 2>&1 to redirect stderr to stdout. And then you might come to the sections for the pros and nerds. There is explained that you can build up a whole tree of processes like

$ find / 1> >(grep .txt) 2> >(wc >/tmp/w.log)

Simple Tree

The Hidden Universe of File-Descriptors, Processes and Pipes

Nobody will tell you:

  1. stdin, stdout and stderr are artificial definitions.
  2. Also the relation to file descriptors 0, 1 and 2 is artificial.
  3. There are more than three file descriptors. On a typical Linux system each process has by default 1024 - which can be increased if needed.
  4. From starting up processes and generating pipes between them there is mostly no limitation on system level; shells only support this in a very limited way.

This is the moment when pipexec drops in: with pipexec you can start up any kind of processes and build up pipes between them as you want.


$ pipexec -- [ A /usr/bin/cmd1 ] [ B /usr/bin/cmd2 ] "{A:1>B:0}" "{B:1>A:0}"


Pipexec Cycle


pipexec supports any directed graph of processes and pipes like

Pipexec Complex

Use Case 2: Handle Bunch of Processes like one single Process

Most systems to start and run processes during system start-up time do not support pipe. If you need to run a pipe of programs from an /etc/init.d script you are mostly lost.

Depending on your distribution you can be happy if it starts up - but when it comes to stopping, at least the current Debian start-stop-daemon and RHEL 6 daemon function fail.

Also here pipexec comes in: it starts up processes piped together, acts like a single process and supports pid file handling.


$ ./pipexec -h
pipexec version 2.4
(c) 2014-2015 by Andreas Florath <andreas@florath.net>
License GPLv2+: GNU GPL version 2 or later <http://gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html>.

Usage: pipexec [options] -- process-pipe-graph
 -h              display this help
 -k              kill all child processes when one 
                 terminates abnormally
 -l logfd        set fd which is used for logging
 -p pidfile      specify a pidfile
 -s sleep_time   time to wait before a restart

process-pipe-graph is a list of process descriptions
                   and pipe descriptions.
process description: '[ NAME /path/to/proc ]'
pipe description: '{NAME1:fd1>NAME2:fd2}'


$ pipexec -- [LS /bin/ls -l ] [GREP /bin/grep LIC ] '{LS:1>GREP:0}'
-rw-r--r-- 1 florath florath 18025 Mar 16 19:36 LICENSE

Be sure to escape pipe descriptions.

It is possible to specify a fd for logging.

$ pipexec -l 2 -- [LS /bin/ls -l ] [GREP /bin/grep LIC ] '{LS:1>GREP:0}'
2014-05-15 16:30:35;pipexec;23978;pipexec version 2.4
2014-05-15 16:30:35;pipexec;23978;Number of commands in command line [2]
2014-05-15 16:30:35;pipexec;23978;Number of pipes in command line [1]
2014-05-15 16:30:35;pipexec;23978;[LS] command_info path [/bin/ls]
2014-05-15 16:30:35;pipexec;23978;[GREP] command_info path [/bin/grep]
2014-05-15 16:30:35;pipexec;23978;{0} Pipe [LS] [1] > [GREP] [0]
2014-05-15 16:30:35;pipexec;23978;Cannot set restart flag - process will terminate
2014-05-15 16:30:35;pipexec;23978;Start all [2] children


$ pipexec -l 7 -- [LS /bin/ls -l ] [GREP /bin/grep LIC ] '{LS:1>GREP:0}' 7>/tmp/pipexec.log
-rw-r--r-- 1 florath florath 18025 Mar 16 19:53 LICENSE
$ head -2 /tmp/pipexec.log
2014-05-15 16:30:35;pipexec;23978;pipexec version 2.4
2014-05-15 16:30:35;pipexec;23978;Number of commands in command line [2]


From Packages

The following Linux distributions include the package. You can install pipexec with the distribution's package manager:

From Source

Download the latest tar ball

$ tar -xf pipexec-X.Y.Z.tar.xz
$ ${PWD}/../pipexec-X.Y.Z/configure
$ make

There will be three binaries in the bin directory: pipexec, ptee and peet. You can copy / install them as you need.