simple alerting for bash when a command completes
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Alerts for long running scripts in bash.

Amazing moving logo found here:

What is it Good For?

Waiting around for a command to finish sucks. You know you need to start the next run after this script has completed, so you just keep checking that terminal for output. This is no fun. It disrupts what you are working on. It distracts you. It wastes your time.

Why can’t the script just tell you when its done, when its done?

That’s where Blertr comes in. Want an email when that long cp is finally over? Done. Want a tweet when your custom perl script finally exits? You got it.

Of course, you could modify all your custom scripts to add a section to send an email to yourself at the end of execution. That’s possible for custom scripts. But tedious and heavy handed. What about just running a straight bash command? No luck. Somebody else’s scripts? Edit if you dare.

Blertr side-steps these issues by hooking into bash to do its alerting. Based on a wonderful Mac OSX hint (which I’m having trouble finding the link), Blertr catches terminal commands when they start and when they exit, and sends this information to the Blertr control center which dispatches the appropriate alerts to you based on the amount of time the command has taken to run. Easy.

Blertr Notifications

Blertr comes with a bunch of notifiers that will tell you when a command has finished in a variety of ways.

Each notifier can be told how long a task should be running before you are notified by the notifier.

For example, you might want to get Growl notifications for tasks that run for 10 seconds or more. And then get emails for processes that run over an hour. This way you won’t get bogged down in a bunch of emails from all your short processes, but you will be alerted through the correct channel based on how long it took the task to finish.

Here are the current Blertr Notifiers:


Growl is a nice clean notification service for Mac OSX. To have Blertr notify you through growl, you’ll need the growlnotify application installed, which is included in the “Extras” directory in the Growl dmg.

Notify Send

Notify Send is the Linux version of Growl. It looks to be installed on a number of platforms (Ubuntu, CentOS). Its a nice, simple pop-up notification service.


Blertr can send you an email when a process is done. Great for long running tasks. Step away from your computer, and know with confidence when to come back.

Here is what a typical email from Blertr looks like:

Title: is done! Message: has completed. Command: 3 hjaa1 3 ../../files/ Time: 1.44 hours

So, not only do you get an alert when the command has finished, you get the total time it took to run that command. Need to know how long a particular command runs? With Blertr, you are well on your way to finding that out.


Want to know when a process is complete, but don’t like extra emails? Blertr can tweet you when your command is done!

(Work in progress).


All this awesomeness comes at a slight cost. Blertr only works with the Bash shell, and requires Ruby. Blertr currently has only been tested on ruby 1.9.2.

RVM can be used to quickly get up to speed on the ruby environment:

bash < <(curl -s
rvm install 1.9.2
rvm use 1.9.2 —default

Each of the Notifiers need a bit of configuration to work properly as well:

  • Growl needs growlnotify installed and available.
  • Notify Send needs notify-send installd.
  • Email needs openssl support in ruby. On Linux, this might need to be compiled. Follow these rvm-based steps to get going quickly.
  • Twitter needs some authentication stuff in the twitter notifier’s config file. It also users the twitter gem.

But really, for the awesomeness that is Blertr, this setup isn’t so bad.


There are a few quirks to Blertr that may or may not be worth it for you to use:

  • Doesn’t deal well with switching to a ruby platform that does not have Blertr installed.
  • Does not work with jruby.
  • Imposes a slight delay when a program has finished running on the command line (working on reducing this).
  • Uses a fragile email system that may or may not break in the future.

If you can live with these issues (or help improve Blertr to remove them!) then read on to get going.


Once you have Ruby 1.9.2 in place (using rvm) and the other stuff setup, installation should be simple:

  gem install blertr
  blertr install

Then you just need to add this line to the end of your .bashrc file:

[[ -s "$HOME/.blertr/app/scripts/blertr" ]] && . "$HOME/.blertr/app/scripts/blertr"

This adds the hooks necessary to make Blertr run.


You probably want to set your defaults up a bit once installed.


Blertr needs to know who to send emails to. Use this command to tell it:

blertr set email to

Of course, use your own email for myemail. This command ‘sets’ the ‘to’ configuration for the ‘email’ notifier.


Currently, the twitter config file doesn’t come with Blertr by default… We’re working on something for that.


Blertr has default times for each notifier. These, you might want to tweak to your liking. You can see the time setting for a particular notifier using the info command:

blertr info growl

Should return something like:

Configuration for: growl
time: 10

Meaning Blertr will notify via Growl for tasks that take longer than 10 seconds.

To change this, you can use the time command:

blertr time growl 20 seconds

The time command takes time in a variety of formats. ‘5 minutes’, ‘6 hours’, ‘2 days’ are all valid time entries.


Alerts are great and all, but there are plenty of commands that you would rather not get emails about. You probably don’t need a tweet every time you exit from a ssh connection. That’s where Blertr exclusions come in. By default, there are a number of commands excluded from alerting you. You can add to the list using the exclude command:

blertr exclude git push

Blertr won’t alert you for any command that starts with ‘git push’.

It might take a bit of work to perfect your exclusions, but it should be pretty easy to do.


We already saw a bunch of commands already. Here is a full listing of what Blertr understands, from the help command:

    help       Output this help message

    install    Add symlinks to your system to allow
               Blertr to function properly

    uninstall  Remove symlinks and other setup process
               Effectively uninstalling Blertr

    upgrade    Updates current copy of blertr to latest version
    info       Pass in a notifier name to get the 
               information it is using to send notifications
               Example: blertr info email

    status     For each notifier, Blertr lists if it currently can
               send notifications and then lists any error messages
               if it cannot. Useful for debuggin problems with notifiers

    exclude    Pass in a shell command to prevent Blertr from
               sending notifications when that command is 
               Example: blertr exclude ssh
    time       Pass in a notifier name and a time string to
               set the time required to pass before the
               notifier sends a message for a command
               Example: blertr time email 5 minutes
               This would make blertr send an email only if
               the command executing took longer than 5 mins

    set        Pass in the notifier name, a configuration key, and
               a value. Blertr will add this key / value to the 
               notifiers config file.
               Example: blertr set mail to


Have some feature ideas to make Blertr even more incredible? Send them to me!

Happy Blerting!