Prevents a program from running more than one copy at a time
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test Clean up README. Create ssh tunnel with --no-bind option Aug 15, 2013


rolo -- Prevents a program from running more than one copy at a time


$0 [options] command [arguments]


Start an application and/or prevent it from running twice by simply checking if there is a network socket that is open by the application and/or by rolo.

rolo prevents a program from running more than one copy at a time; it is useful with cron to make sure that a job doesn't run before a previous one has finished. robo.rb is a ruby version of Timothy program with some more options.


Please run the command rolo without any arguments for more details.


This program can be installed by using RubyGems

gem install --remote rolo

You can build and install it locally

git clone git://
cd rolo
gem build rolo.gemspec
gem install --local rolo-VERSION.gem


If the --no-bind option is used, the program will simply assume that the port is open by another program and it will only check if that port is open or not. Otherwise, see below.

Before starting your <command> (using exec), rolo will open a socket on a local address (or address specified by option --address.) This socket will be closed after your command exits, and as long as your command is running, we have a chance to check its status by checking the status of this socket. If it is still open when rolo is invoked, rolo exits without invoking a new instance of command.

However, if your <command> closes all file descriptors at the time it is executed, rolo will be sucked. (See EXAMPLE for details and for a trick when using rolo with ssh.) If that the cases, you may use the option --address and --port to specify a socket that your command binds on.


Here are some simple examples and applications. Feel free to contribute.

Create SSH tunnels (OpenSSH older than 5.6p1)

To create tunnel to a remote server, you can use this ssh command

ssh -fN remote -L localhost:1234:localhost:10000

This allows you to connect to the local port 1234 on your mahince as same as conneting to address localhost:10000 on remote server. The process ssh will go to background immediately after it authenticates successfully with the remote.

To keep this tunnel persistent, you can add this to your crontab

rolo -p 4567 \
  ssh remote -fNL localhost:1234:localhost:10000

and allows this line to be executed once every 5 minutes. rolo will check if your ssh command is still running. If 'yes', it will simply exit; if 'no', rolo will start the ssh command.

With OpenSSH 5.6p1 or later

However, if you use OpenSSH 5.6p1 (or later), ssh will close all file descriptors from the parent (except for STDIN, STDOUT and STDERR). As the socket opened by rolo is closed, rolo will always start new instance of the ssh tunnel. (Actually I had process bomb on my system when I used the original program solo to launch my tunnels.)

Fortunately, ssh has option to bind on the local address. Using this option we can trick rolo as below

rolo -p 4567 \
  ssh remote -fN \
    -L localhost:1234:localhost:10000 \
    -L %address:%port:localhost:12345

The last use of option -L will ask ssh to open a socket on %address:%port (the real values will be provided by rolo), and it will be checked by rolo in its next run. Please note that we use a random port 12345 to prevent local connections to %address:%port from being forwarded to remote.

Another way is to use option --address

rolo -p 1234 -a \
  ssh remote -fNL localhost:1234:localhost:10000

And this is another way

rolo -p 1234 -a \
  ssh remote -fNL %address:%port:localhost:10000

Create ssh tunnels: the cleanest way

Within the --no-bind option, you can event do something cleaner

rolo --no-bind -p 1234 -a \
  ssh remote -fN -L localhost:1234:localhost:10000

Because ssh would listen on the local port 1234, we may just ask rolo to check if that port is open. If yes, it's sure that our tunnel is running and rolo will simply exit. Otherwise, ssh may exit and rolo will start new ssh tunnel.

Start VirtualBox guests

To make sure that your VirtualBox Windows guest is always running, you can use:

rolo -a -p 3389 --no-bind \
  VBoxManage startvm foobar --type headless

Here is the guest's address, and 3389 is the port that is used by rdesktop service on the guest.