In this post, I present some strategies for occasional task scheduling. Every now and then, one has to execute some actions at a specific point in time. I don’t want to talk about setting up an infrastructure to for recurrent tasks. In my day to day life as a programmer, I often have the need to run something later. And I don’t want to forget that. In the following, I’ll show some possible means to achieve this.
First, let’s assume I want to run the following long-running action
Now, an extremely simple but effective way to delay command execution is
The problem with this this is that one doesn’t know how long the sleep process will still run.
for loop may help but this feels pretty wrong for scheduling anyways.
The next step further is using
This command lets you schedule a one time action by first defining the expected date and then the command to run.
Inspecting the schduled job is easy:
at will send a mail if the command produced any output.
The current workind directory and environment variables are also recorded so that the command should work exactly as if it was executed manually.
Another handy tool is
timeout precedes the actual command and kills it if didn’t finish within the allowed amount of time.
There are plenty of use cases for this, especially for scripting.
However, for task scheduling it can also be handy since no one is there to overview the task.
One possible scenario is a long running rsync that should not exceed a certain amount of time.
The other day, I had to copy a large amount of data to a remote server.
I only wanted to use the bandwith overnight and I didn’t care when all of the data was eventually copied.
Last but now least, there’s cron. Granted, cron is all about recurring tasks. Still, it can be handy so set up a cron job only for a couple of days (by limiting the “day of month” or “day of week”). Obviously, you’ll better make sure to not forget deactivating it! A good practice is to make the cron job send a mail after the actual command:
MAILTOfirstname.lastname@example.org in the crontab file will cause cron to send en E-mail with stderr/stdout of the executed jobs.
This is similar but not the same as sending an E-mail within the job.