Linux Commands for Oracle DBA

To determine which Linux version / build / release / distribution you are running, look in the /proc/version entry as follows:

[root@racnode1 ~]# cat /proc/version

Linux version 2.6.18-194.el5 ( (gcc version 4.1.2 20080704 (Red Hat 4.1.2-48)) #1 SMP Fri Apr 2 14:58:14 EDT 2010

On Red Hat based Linux distributions, look at the /etc/redhat-release file as follows:

[root@racnode1 ~]# cat /etc/redhat-release

CentOS release 5.5 (Final)

RPM Commands

This document contains an overview of the principal RPM commands for installing, un-installing, upgrading, querying, listing, and checking RPM packages on your Red Hat Linux system.

Purpose Description / Example
Install an RPM Package

RPM packages have file naming conventions like foo-2.0-4.i386.rpm, which include the package name (foo), version (2.0), release (4), and architecture (i386). Also notice that RPM understands FTP and HTTP protocols for installing and querying remote RPM files.

rpm -ivh foo-2.0-4.i386.rpm
rpm -i
rpm -i
Un-install an RPM Package

To un-install an RPM package, we use the package name foo, not the name of the original package file foo-2.0-4.i386.rpm above.

rpm -e foo
Upgrade an RPM Package

To upgrade an RPM package, RPM automatically un-installs the old version of the foo package and installs the new package. It is safe to always use rpm -Uvh to install and upgrade packages, since it works fine even when there are no previous versions of the package installed! Also notice that RPM understands FTP and HTTP protocols for upgrading from remote RPM files.

rpm -Uvh foo-1.0-2.i386.rpm
rpm -Uvh
rpm -Uvh
Query all Installed Packages

Use RPM to print the names of all installed packages installed on your Linux system.

rpm -qa
Query an RPM Package

Querying an RPM package will print the package name, version, and release number of the package foo only if it is installed. Use this command to verify that a package is or is not installed on your Linux system.

rpm -q foo
Display Package Information

RPM can display package information including the package name, version, and description of the installed program. Use this command to get detailed information about the installed package.

rpm -qi foo
List Files in Installed Package

The following command will list all of files in an installed RPM package. It works only when the package is already installed on your Linux system.

rpm -ql foo
Which package owns a file?

Use the following command to determine which installed package a particular file belongs to.

rpm -qf /usr/bin/mysql
For example:
# rpm -qf /usr/bin/mysql
List Files in RPM File

Use RPM to query a (possibly) un-installed RPM file with the use of the the "-p" option. You can use the "-p" option to operate on an RPM file without actually installing anything. This command lists all files in an RPM file you have in the current directory. Also note that RPM can query remote files through the FTP and HTTP protocols.

rpm -qpl kernel-2.4.20-18.10.1.i686.rpm
rpm -qpl
rpm -qpl
Verify an Installed Package

Use RPM to list all files that do NOT pass the verify tests (done on size, MD5 signature, etc).

rpm --verify mysql

Where a file does NOT pass, the output is listed using the following codes that signify what failed:

S File size
M Mode (includes permissions and file type)
5 MD5 sum
L Symlink 
D Device 
U User 
G Group 
T Mtime

Take for example the following:

# rpm --verify mysql
S.5....T c /etc/my.cnf

This example indicates that file /etc/my.cnf failed on:

File size
MD5 Sum
Modified Time

However, the "c" tells us this is a configuration file so that explains the changes. It should still be looked at to determine what the changes were.

Check an RPM Signature Package

RPM can be used to check the PGP signature of specified packages to ensure its integrity and origin. Always use this command first before installing a new RPM package on your system. Also, GnuPG or Pgp software must be already installed on your system before you can use this command.

rpm --checksig foo

Command Use


To change permissions of a file, using the - -reference parameter


To change owner of a file, using the - -reference parameter


To change group of a file, using the - -reference parameter


To find out about the extended attributes of a file, such as date last accessed


To find out about the type of file, such ASCII, data, and so on


To see the difference between two files


To compare two files


To see what’s common between two files, with the output in three columns


To calculate the MD5 hash value of files, used to determine if a file has changed

Linux Commands for Oracle DBA's

posted Jul 27, 2011, 6:36 AM by Sachchida Ojha   [ updated Jul 27, 2011, 6:40 AM ]

# ls -l
total 8
-rw-r--r--    1 ananda   users          70 Aug  4 04:02 file1
-rwxr-xr-x    1 oracle   dba           132 Aug  4 04:02 file2
-rwxr-xr-x    1 oracle   dba           132 Aug  4 04:02 file3
-rwxr-xr-x    1 oracle   dba           132 Aug  4 04:02 file4
-rwxr-xr-x    1 oracle   dba           132 Aug  4 04:02 file5
-rwxr-xr-x    1 oracle   dba           132 Aug  4 04:02 file6

and you need to change the permissions of all the files to match those of file1. Sure, you could issue chmod 644 * to make that change—but what if you are writing a script to do that, and you don’t know the permissions beforehand? Or, perhaps you are making several permission changes and based on many different files and you find it infeasible to go though the permissions of each of those and modify accordingly.

A better approach is to make the permissions similar to those of another file. This command makes the permissions of file2 the same as file1:

chmod --reference file1 file2

Now if you check:

# ls -l file[12]
total 8
-rw-r--r--    1 ananda   users          70 Aug  4 04:02 file1
-rw-r--r--    1 oracle   dba           132 Aug  4 04:02 file2

The file2 permissions were changed exactly as in file1. You didn’t need to get the permissions of file1 first.

You can also use the same trick in group membership in files. To make the group of file2 the same as file1, you would issue:

# chgrp --reference file1 file2
# ls -l file[12]
-rw-r--r--    1 ananda   users          70 Aug  4 04:02 file1
-rw-r--r--    1 oracle   users         132 Aug  4 04:02 file2

Of course, what works for changing groups will work for owner as well. Here is how you can use the same trick for an ownership change. If permissions are like this:

# ls -l file[12] 
-rw-r--r--    1 ananda   users          70 Aug  4 04:02 file1
-rw-r--r--    1 oracle   dba           132 Aug  4 04:02 file2

You can change the ownership like this:

# chown --reference file1 file2
# ls -l file[12] 
-rw-r--r--    1 ananda   users          70 Aug  4 04:02 file1
-rw-r--r--    1 ananda   users         132 Aug  4 04:02 file2

Note that the group as well as the owner have changed.

Tip for Oracle Users

This is a trick you can use to change ownership and permissions of Oracle executables in a directory based on some reference executable. This proves especially useful in migrations where you can (and probably should) install as a different user and later move them to your regular Oracle software owner.

More on Files

The ls command, with its many arguments, provides some very useful information on files. A different and less well known command – stat – offers even more useful information.

Here is how you can use it on the executable “oracle”, found under $ORACLE_HOME/bin.

# cd $ORACLE_HOME/bin
# stat oracle
  File: `oracle'
  Size: 93300148        Blocks: 182424     IO Block: 4096   Regular File
Device: 343h/835d       Inode: 12009652    Links: 1    
Access: (6751/-rwsr-s--x)  Uid: (  500/  oracle)   Gid: (  500/     dba)
Access: 2006-08-04 04:30:52.000000000 -0400
Modify: 2005-11-02 11:49:47.000000000 -0500
Change: 2005-11-02 11:55:24.000000000 -0500

Note the information you got from this command: In addition to the usual filesize (which you can get from ls -l anyway), you got the number of blocks this file occupies. The typical Linux block size is 512 bytes, so a file of 93,300,148 bytes would occupy (93300148/512=) 182226.85 blocks. Since blocks are used in full, this file uses some whole number of blocks. Instead of making a guess, you can just get the exact blocks.

You also get from the output above the GID and UID of the ownership of the file and the octal representation of the permissions (6751). If you want to reinstate it back to the same permissions it has now, you could use chmod 6751 oracle instead of explicitly spelling out the permissions.

The most useful part of the above output is the file access timestamp information. It shows you that the file was accessed on 2006-08-04 04:30:52 (as shown next to “Access:”), or August 4, 2006 at 4:30:52 AM. This is when someone started to use the database. The file was modified on 2005-11-02 11:49:47 (as shown next to Modify:). Finally, the timestamp next to “Change:” shows when the status of the file was changed.

-f, a modifier to the stat command, shows the information on the filesystem instead of the file:

# stat -f oracle
  File: "oracle"
    ID: 0        Namelen: 255     Type: ext2/ext3
Blocks: Total: 24033242   Free: 15419301   Available: 14198462   Size: 4096
Inodes: Total: 12222464   Free: 12093976  

Another option, -t, gives exactly the same information but on one line:

# stat -t oracle 
oracle 93300148 182424 8de9 500 500 343 12009652 1 0 0 1154682061 
1130950187 1130950524 4096

This is very useful in shell scripts where a simple cut command can be used to extract the values for further processing.

Tip for Oracle Users

When you relink Oracle (often done during patch installations), it moves the existing executables to a different name before creating the new one. For instance, you could relink all the utilities by

relink utilities

It recompiles, among other things, the sqlplus executable. It moves the exiting executable sqlplus to sqlplusO. If the recompilation fails for some reason, the relink process renames sqlplusO to sqlplus and the changes are undone. Similarly, if you discover a functionality problem after applying a patch, you can quickly undo the patch by renaming the file yourself.

Here is how you can use stat on these files:

# stat sqlplus*
  File: 'sqlplus'
  Size: 9865            Blocks: 26         IO Block: 4096   Regular File
Device: 343h/835d       Inode: 9126079     Links: 1    
Access: (0751/-rwxr-x--x)  Uid: (  500/  oracle)   Gid: (  500/     dba)
Access: 2006-08-04 05:15:18.000000000 -0400
Modify: 2006-08-04 05:15:18.000000000 -0400
Change: 2006-08-04 05:15:18.000000000 -0400
  File: 'sqlplusO'
  Size: 8851            Blocks: 24         IO Block: 4096   Regular File
Device: 343h/835d       Inode: 9125991     Links: 1    
Access: (0751/-rwxr-x--x)  Uid: (  500/  oracle)   Gid: (  500/     dba)
Access: 2006-08-04 05:13:57.000000000 -0400
Modify: 2005-11-02 11:50:46.000000000 -0500
Change: 2005-11-02 11:55:24.000000000 -0500

It shows sqlplusO was modified on November 11, 2005, while sqlplus was modified on August 4, 2006, which also corresponds to the status change time of sqlplusO . It indicates that the original version of sqlplus was in effect from Nov 11, 2005 to Aug 4, 2006. If you want to diagnose some functionality issues, this is a great place to start. In addition to the file changes, as you know the permission's change time, you can correlate it with any perceived functionality issues.

Another important output is size of the file, which is different—9865 bytes for sqlplus as opposed to 8851 for sqlplusO—indicating that the versions are not mere recompiles; they actually changed with additional libraries (perhaps). This also indicates a potential cause of some problems.

File Types

When you see a file, how do you know what type of file it is? The command file tells you that. For instance:

# file alert_DBA102.log
alert_DBA102.log: ASCII text

The file alert_DBA102.log is an ASCII text file. Let’s see some more examples:

# file initTESTAUX.ora.Z
initTESTAUX.ora.Z: compress'd data 16 bits

This tells you that the file is a compressed file, but how do you know the type of the file was compressed? One option is to uncompress it and run file against it; but that would make it virtually impossible. A cleaner option is to use the parameter -z:

# file -z initTESTAUX.ora.Z
initTESTAUX.ora.Z: ASCII text (compress'd data 16 bits)

Another quirk is the presence of symbolic links:

# file spfile+ASM.ora.ORIGINAL   
spfile+ASM.ora.ORIGINAL: symbolic link to 

This is useful; but what type of file is that is being pointed to? Instead of running file again, you can use the option -l:

# file -L spfile+ASM.ora.ORIGINAL
spfile+ASM.ora.ORIGINAL: data

This clearly shows that the file is a data file. Note that the spfile is a binary one, as opposed to init.ora; so the file shows up as data file.

Tip for Oracle Users

Suppose you are looking for a trace file in the user dump destination directory but are unsure if the file is located on another directory and merely exists here as a symbolic link, or if someone has compressed the file (or even renamed it). There is one thing you know: it’s definitely an ascii file. Here is what you can do:

file -Lz * | grep ASCII | cut -d":" -f1 | xargs ls -ltr

This command checks the ASCII files, even if they are compressed, and lists them in chronological order.

Comparing Files

How do you find out if two files—file1 and file2—are identical? There are several ways and each approach has its own appeal.

diff. The simplest command is diff, which shows the difference between two files. Here are the contents of two files:

# cat file1
In file1 only
In file1 and file2
# cat file2
In file1 and file2
In file2 only

If you use the diff command, you will be able to see the difference between the files as shown below:

# diff file1 file2
< In file1 only
> In file2 only

In the output, a "<" in the first column indicates that the line exists on the file mentioned first,—that is, file1. A ">" in that place indicates that the line exists on the second file (file2). The characters 1d0 in the first line of the output shows what must be done in sed to operate on the file file1 to make it same as file2.

Another option, -y, shows the same output, but side by side:

# diff -y file1 file2 -W 120
In file1 only                             <
In file1 and file2                             In file1 and file2
                                          >    In file2 only

The -W option is optional; it merely instructs the command to use a 120-character wide screen, useful for files with long lines.

If you just want to just know if the files differ, not necessarily how, you can use the -q option.

# diff -q file3 file4
# diff -q file3 file2
Files file3 and file2 differ

Files file3 and file4 are the same so there is no output; in the other case, the fact that the files differ is reported.

If you are writing a shell script, it might be useful to produce the output in such a manner that it can be parsed. The -u option does that:

# diff -u file1 file2        
--- file1       2006-08-04 08:29:37.000000000 -0400
+++ file2       2006-08-04 08:29:42.000000000 -0400
@@ -1,2 +1,2 @@
-In file1 only
 In file1 and file2
+In file2 only

The output shows contents of both files but suppresses duplicates, the + and - signs in the first column indicates the lines in the files. No character in the first column indicates presence in both files.

The command considers whitespace into consideration. If you want to ignore whitespace, use the -b option. Use the -B option to ignore blank lines. Finally, use -i to ignore case.

The diff command can also be applied to directories. The command

diff dir1 dir2

shows the files present in either directories; whether files are present on one of the directories or both. If it finds a subdirectory in the same name, it does not go down to see if any individual files differ. Here is an example:

# diff DBA102 PROPRD     
Common subdirectories: DBA102/adump and PROPRD/adump
Only in DBA102: afiedt.buf
Only in PROPRD: archive
Common subdirectories: DBA102/bdump and PROPRD/bdump
Common subdirectories: DBA102/cdump and PROPRD/cdump
Only in PROPRD: CreateDBCatalog.log
Only in PROPRD: CreateDBCatalog.sql
Only in PROPRD: CreateDBFiles.log
Only in PROPRD: CreateDBFiles.sql
Only in PROPRD: CreateDB.log
Only in PROPRD: CreateDB.sql
Only in DBA102: dpdump
Only in PROPRD: emRepository.sql
Only in PROPRD: init.ora
Only in PROPRD: JServer.sql
Only in PROPRD: log
Only in DBA102: oradata
Only in DBA102: pfile
Only in PROPRD: postDBCreation.sql
Only in PROPRD:
Common subdirectories: DBA102/scripts and PROPRD/scripts
Only in PROPRD: sqlPlusHelp.log
Common subdirectories: DBA102/udump and PROPRD/udump

Note that the common subdirectories are simply reported as such but no comparison is made. If you want to drill down even further and compare files under those subdirectories, you should use the following command:

diff -r dir1 dir2

This command recursively goes into each subdirectory to compare the files and reports the difference between the files of the same names.

Tip for Oracle Users

One common use of diff is to differentiate between different init.ora files. As a best practice, I always copy the file to a new name—e.g. initDBA102.ora to initDBA102.080306.ora (to indicate August 3,2006)—before making a change. A simple diff between all versions of the file tells quickly what changed and when.

This is a pretty powerful command to manage your Oracle home. As a best practice, I never update an Oracle Home when applying patches. For instance, suppose the current Oracle version is The ORACLE_HOME could be /u01/app/oracle/product/10.2/db1. When the time comes to patch it to, I don’t patch this Oracle Home. Instead, I start a fresh installation on /u01/app/oracle/product/10.2/db2 and then patch that home. Once it’s ready, I use the following:

# sqlplus / as sysdba
SQL> shutdown immediate
SQL> exit
# export ORACLE_HOME=/u01/app/oracle/product/10.2/db2
# export PATH=$ORACLE_HOME/bin:$PATH
# sqlplus / as sysdba
SQL> @$ORACLE_HOME/rdbms/admin/catalog

and so on.

The purpose of this approach is that the original Oracle Home is not disturbed and I can easily fall back in case of problems. This also means the database is down and up again, pretty much immediately. If I installed the patch directly on the Oracle Home, I would have had to shut the database for a long time—for the entire duration of the patch application. In addition, if the patch application had failed due to any reason, I would not have a clean Oracle Home.

Now that I have several Oracle Homes, how can I see what changed? It’s really simple; I can use:

diff -r /u01/app/oracle/product/10.2/db1 /u01/app/oracle/product/10.2/db2 | 
grep -v Common

This tells me the differences between the two Oracle Homes and the differences between the files of the same name. Some important files like tnsnames.ora, listener.ora, and sqlnet.ora should not show wide differences, but if they do, then I need to understand why.

cmp. The command cmp is similar to diff:

# cmp file1 file2   
file1 file2 differ: byte 10, line 1

The output comes back as the first sign of difference. You can use this to identify where the files might be different. Like diff, cmp has a lot of options, the most important being the -s option, that merely returns a code:

  • 0, if the files are identical
  • 1, if they differ
  • Some other non-zero number, if the comparison couldn’t be made

Here is an example:

# cmp -s file3 file4
# echo $?

The special variable $? indicates the return code from the last executed command. In this case it’s 0, meaning the files file1 and file2 are identical.

# cmp -s file1 file2
# echo $?

means file1 and file2 are not the same.

This property of cmp can prove very useful in shell scripting where you merely want to check if two files differ in any way, but not necessarily check what the difference is. Another important use of this command is to compare binary files, where diff may not be reliable.

Tip for Oracle Users

Recall from a previous tip that when you relink Oracle executables, the older version is kept prior to being overwritten. So, when you relink, the executable sqlplus is renamed to “sqlplusO” and the newly compiled sqlplus is placed in the $ORACLE_HOME/bin. So how do you ensure that the sqlplus that was just created is any different? Just use:

# cmp sqlplus sqlplusO
sqlplus sqlplusO differ: byte 657, line 7

If you check the size:

# ls -l sqlplus*
-rwxr-x--x    1 oracle   dba          8851 Aug  4 05:15 sqlplus
-rwxr-x--x    1 oracle   dba          8851 Nov  2  2005 sqlplusO

Even though the size is the same in both cases, cmp proved that the two programs differ.

comm. The command comm is similar to the others but the output comes in three columns, separated by tabs. Here is an example:

# comm file1 file2
        In file1 and file2
In file1 only
In file1 and file2
        In file2 only

maryof Commands in This Installment

Command Use


To change permissions of a file, using the - -reference parameter


To change owner of a file, using the - -reference parameter


To change group of a file, using the - -reference parameter


To find out about the extended attributes of a file, such as date last accessed


To find out about the type of file, such ASCII, data, and so on


To see the difference between two files


To compare two files


To see what’s common between two files, with the output in three columns


To calculate the MD5 hash value of files, used to determine if a file has changed

This command is useful when you may want to see the contents of a file not in the other, not just a difference—sort of a MINUS utility in SQL language. The option -1 suppresses the contents found in first file:

# comm -1 file1 file2
In file1 and file2
In file2 only

md5sum. This command generates a 32-bit MD5 hash value of the files:

# md5sum file1
ef929460b3731851259137194fe5ac47  file1

Two files with the same checksum can be considered identical. However, the usefulness of this command goes beyond just comparing files. It can also provide a mechanism to guarantee the integrity of the files.

Suppose you have two important files—file1 and file2—that you need to protect. You can use the --check option check to confirm the files haven't changed. First, create a checksum file for both these important files and keep it safe:

# md5sum file1 file2 > f1f2

Later, when you want to verify that the files are still untouched:

# md5sum --check f1f2      
file1: OK
file2: OK

This shows clearly that the files have not been modified. Now change one file and check the MD5:

# cp file2 file1
# md5sum --check f1f2
file1: FAILED
file2: OK
md5sum: WARNING: 1 of 2 computed checksums did NOT match

The output clearly shows that file1 has been modified.

Tip for Oracle Users

md5sum is an extremely powerful command for security implementations. Some of the configuration files you manage, such as listener.ora, tnsnames.ora, and init.ora, are extremely critical in a successful Oracle infrastructure and any modification may result in downtime. These are typically a part of your change control process. Instead of just relying on someone’s word that these files have not changed, enforce it using MD5 checksum. Create a checksum file and whenever you make a planned change, recreate this file. As a part of your compliance, check this file using the md5sum command. If someone inadvertently updated one of these key files, you would immediately catch the change.

In the same line, you can also create MD5 checksums for all executables in $ORACLE_HOME/bin and compare them from time to time for unauthorized modifications.

alias and unalias

Suppose you want to check the ORACLE_SID environment variable set in your shell. You will have to type:


As a DBA or a developer, you frequently use this command and will quickly become tired of typing the entire 16 characters. Is there is a simpler way?

There is: the alias command. With this approach you can create a short alias, such as "os", to represent the entire command:

alias os='echo $ORACLE_HOME'

Now whenever you want to check the ORACLE_SID, you just type "os" (without the quotes) and Linux executes the aliased command.

However, if you log out and log back in, the alias is gone and you have to enter the alias command again. To eliminate this step, all you have to do is to put the command in your shell's profile file. For bash, the file is .bash_profile (note the period before the file name, that's part of the file's name) in your home directory. For bourne and korn shells, it's .profile, and for c-shell, .chsrc.

You can create an alias in any name. For instance, I always create an alias for the command rm as rm -i, which makes the rm command interactive.

alias rm=’rm -i’

Whenever I issue an rm command, Linux prompts me for confirmation, and unless I provide "y", it doesn't remove the file—thus I am protected form accidentally removing an important file. I use the same for mv (for moving the file to a new name), which prevents accidental overwriting of existing files, and cp (for copying the file).

Here is a list of some very useful aliases I like to define:

alias bdump='cd $ORACLE_BASE/admin/$ORACLE_SID/bdump'
alias l='ls -d .* --color=tty'
alias ll='ls -l --color=tty'
alias mv='mv -i'
alias oh='cd $ORACLE_HOME'
alias os='echo $ORACLE_SID'
alias rm='rm -i'
alias tns='cd $ORACLE_HOME/network/admin'

To see what aliases have been defined in your shell, use alias without any parameters.

However, there is a small problem. I have defined an alias, rm, that executes rm -i. This command will prompt for my confirmation every time I try to delete a file. But what if I want to remove a lot of files and am confident they can be deleted without my confirmation?

The solution is simple: To suppress the alias and use the command only, I will need to enter two single quotes:

$ ''rm *

Note, these are two single quotes (') before the rm command, not two double quotes. This will suppress the alias rm. Another approach is to use a backslash (\):

$ \rm *

To remove an alias previously defined, just use the unalias command:

$ unalias rm


The humble ls command is frequently used but rarely to its full potential. Without any options, ls merely displays all files and directories in tabular format.

$ ls
admin            has                  mesg         precomp
apex             hs                   mgw          racg
assistants       install              network      rdbms
... output snipped ...

To show them in a list, use the -1 (this is the number 1, not the letter "l") option.

$ ls -1
... output snipped ...

This option is useful in shell scripts where the files names need to be fed into another program or command for manipulation.

You have most definitely used the -l (the letter "l", not the number "1") that displays all the attributes of the files and directories. Let's see it once again:

$ ls -l 
total 272
drwxr-xr-x    3 oracle   oinstall     4096 Sep  3 03:27 admin
drwxr-x---    7 oracle   oinstall     4096 Sep  3 02:32 apex
drwxr-x---    7 oracle   oinstall     4096 Sep  3 02:29 assistants

The first column shows the type of file and the permissions on it: "d" means directory, "-" means a regular file, "c" means a character device, "b" means a block device, "p" means named pipe, and "l" (that's a lowercase letter L, not I) means symbolic link.

One very useful option is --color, which shows the files in many different colors based on the type of file. Here is an example screenshot:

Note that files file1 and file2 are regular files. link1 is a symbolic link, shown in red; dir1 is a directory, shown in yellow; and pipe1 is a named pipe, shown in different colors for easier identification.

In some distros, the ls command comes pre-installed with an alias (described in the previous section) as ls --color; so you can see the files in color when you type "ls". This approach may be undesirable, however, especially if you have an output like that above. You can change the colors, but a quicker way may be just to turn off the alias:

$ alias ls="''ls"  

Another useful option is the -F option, which appends a symbol after each file to show the type of the file - a "/" after directories, "@" after symbolic links, and "|" after named pipes.

$ ls -F
dir1/  file1  file2  link1@  pipe1|

If you have a subdirectory under a directory and you want to list only that directory, ls -l will show you the contents of the subdirectory as well. For instance, suppose the directory structure is like the following:

+--> subfile1
+--> subfile2

The directory dir1 has a subdirectory subdir1 and two files: subfile1 and subfile2. If you just want to see the attributes of the directory dir1, you issue:

$ ls -l dir1
total 4
drwxr-xr-x    2 oracle   oinstall     4096 Oct 14 16:52 subdir1
-rw-r--r--    1 oracle   oinstall        0 Oct 14 16:48 subfile1
-rw-r--r--    1 oracle   oinstall        0 Oct 14 16:48 subfile2

Note that the directory dir1 is not listed in the output. Rather, the contents of the directory are displayed. This is expected behavior when processing directories. To show the directory dir1 only, you will have to use the -d command.

$ ls -dl dir1
drwxr-xr-x    3 oracle   oinstall     4096 Oct 14 16:52 dir1

If you notice the output of the following ls -l output:

-rwxr-x--x    1 oracle   oinstall 10457761 Apr  6  2006 rmanO
-rwxr-x--x    1 oracle   oinstall 10457761 Sep 23 23:48 rman
-rwsr-s--x    1 oracle   oinstall 93300507 Apr  6  2006 oracleO
-rwx------    1 oracle   oinstall 93300507 Sep 23 23:49 oracle

You will notice that the sizes of the files are shown in bytes. This may be easy in small files but when file sizes are pretty large, a long number may not be very easy to read. The option "-h" comes handy then, to display the size in a human readable form.

$ ls -lh

-rwxr-x--x    1 oracle   oinstall      10M Apr  6  2006 rmanO
-rwxr-x--x    1 oracle   oinstall      10M Sep 23 23:48 rman
-rwsr-s--x    1 oracle   oinstall      89M Apr  6  2006 oracleO
-rwx------    1 oracle   oinstall      89M Sep 23 23:49 oracle

Note how the size has been shown in M (for megabytes), K (for kilobytes), and so on.

$ ls -lr

The parameter -r shows the output in the reverse order. In this command, the files will be shown in the reverse alphabetical order.

$ ls -lR

The -R operator makes the ls command execute recursively—that is, go under to the subdirectories and show those files too.

What if you want to show the largest to the smallest files? This can be done with the -S parameter.

$ ls -lS

total 308
-rw-r-----    1 oracle   oinstall    52903 Oct 11 18:31 sqlnet.log
-rwxr-xr-x    1 oracle   oinstall     9530 Apr  6  2006
drwxr-xr-x    2 oracle   oinstall     8192 Oct 11 18:14 bin
drwxr-x---    3 oracle   oinstall     8192 Sep 23 23:49 lib


Most Linux commands are about getting an output: a list of files, a list of strings, and so on. But what if you want to use some other command with the output of the previous one as a parameter? For example, the file command shows the type of the file (executable, ascii text, and so on); you can manipulate the output to show only the filenames and now you want to pass these names to the ls -l command to see the timestamp. The command xargs does exactly that. It allows you to execute some other commands on the output. Remember this syntax from Part 1:

file -Lz * | grep ASCII | cut -d":" -f1 | xargs ls -ltr
Let's dissect this command string. The first, file -Lz *, finds files that are symbolic links or compressed. It passes the output to the next command, grep ASCII, which searches for the string "ASCII" in them and produces the output similar to this:
alert_DBA102.log:        ASCII English text
alert_DBA102.log.Z:      ASCII text (compress'd data 16 bits)
dba102_asmb_12307.trc.Z: ASCII English text (compress'd data 16 bits)
dba102_asmb_20653.trc.Z: ASCII English text (compress'd data 16 bits)
Since we are interested in the file names only, we applied the next command, cut -d":" -f1, to show the first field only:

Now, we want to use the ls -l command and pass the above list as parameters, one at a time. The xargs command allowed you to to that. The last part, xargs ls -ltr, takes the output and executes the command ls -ltr against them, as if executing:

ls -ltr alert_DBA102.log
ls -ltr alert_DBA102.log.Z
ls -ltr dba102_asmb_12307.trc.Z
ls -ltr dba102_asmb_20653.trc.Z

Thus xargs is not useful by itself, but is quite powerful when combined with other commands.

Here is another example, where we want to count the number of lines in those files:

$ file * | grep ASCII | cut -d":" -f1  | xargs wc -l
  47853 alert_DBA102.log
     19 dba102_cjq0_14493.trc
  29053 dba102_mmnl_14497.trc
    154 dba102_reco_14491.trc
     43 dba102_rvwr_14518.trc
  77122 total

(Note: the above task can also be accomplished with the following command:)

$ wc -l ‘file * | grep ASCII | cut -d":" -f1 | grep ASCII | cut -d":" -f1‘

The xargs version is given to illustrate the concept. Linux has several ways to achieve the same task; use the one that suits your situation best.

Using this approach you can quickly rename files in a directory.

$ ls | xargs -t -i mv {} {}.bak

The -i option tells xargs to replace {} with the name of each item. The -t option instructs xargs to print the command before executing it.

Another very useful operation is when you want to open the files for editing using vi:

$ file * | grep ASCII | cut -d":" -f1 | xargs vi

This command opens the files one by one using vi. When you want to search for many files and open them for editing, this comes in very handy.

It also has several options. Perhaps the most useful is the -p option, which makes the operation interactive:

$ file * | grep ASCII | cut -d":" -f1 | xargs -p vi
vi alert_DBA102.log dba102_cjq0_14493.trc dba102_mmnl_14497.trc
dba102_reco_14491.trc dba102_rvwr_14518.trc ?...

Here xarg asks you to confirm before running each command. If you press "y", it executes the command. You will find it immensely useful when you take some potentially damaging and irreversible operations on the file—such as removing or overwriting it.

The -t option uses a verbose mode; it displays the command it is about to run, which is a very helpful option during debugging.

What if the output passed to the xargs is blank? Consider:

$ file * | grep SSSSSS | cut -d":" -f1 | xargs -t wc -l
wc -l 
Here searching for "SSSSSS" produces no match; so the input to xargs is all blanks, as shown in the second line (produced since we used the -t, or the verbose option). Although this may be useful, In some cases you may want to stop xargs if there is nothing to process; if so, you can use the -r option:
$ file * | grep SSSSSS | cut -d":" -f1 | xargs -t -r wc -l

The command exits if there is nothing to run.

Suppose you want to remove the files using the rm command, which should be the argument to the xargs command. However, rm can accept a limited number of arguments. What if your argument list exceeds that limit? The -n option to xargs limits the number of arguments in a single command line.

Here is how you can limit only two arguments per command line: Even if five files are passed to xargs ls -ltr, only two files are passed to ls -ltr at a time.

$ file * | grep ASCII | cut -d":" -f1 | xargs -t -n2 ls -ltr  
ls -ltr alert_DBA102.log dba102_cjq0_14493.trc 
-rw-r-----    1 oracle   dba           738 Aug 10 19:18 dba102_cjq0_14493.trc
-rw-r--r--    1 oracle   dba       2410225 Aug 13 05:31 alert_DBA102.log
ls -ltr dba102_mmnl_14497.trc dba102_reco_14491.trc 
-rw-r-----    1 oracle   dba       5386163 Aug 10 17:55 dba102_mmnl_14497.trc
-rw-r-----    1 oracle   dba          6808 Aug 13 05:21 dba102_reco_14491.trc
ls -ltr dba102_rvwr_14518.trc 
-rw-r-----    1 oracle   dba          2087 Aug 10 04:30 dba102_rvwr_14518.trc

Using this approach you can quickly rename files in a directory.

$ ls | xargs -t -i mv {} {}.bak

The -i option tells xargs to replace {} with the name of each item.


As you know, the mv command renames files. For example,

$ mv oldname newname
renames the file oldname to newname. However, what if you don't know the filenames yet? The rename command comes in really handy here.
rename .log .log.‘date +%F-%H:%M:%S‘ *

replaces all files with the extension .log with .log.<dateformat>. So sqlnet.log becomes sqlnet.log.2006-09-12-23:26:28.


Among the most popular for Oracle users is the find command. By now you know about using find to find files on a given directory. Here is an example to find files starting with the word "file" in the current directory:

$ find . -name "file*"

However, what if you want to search for names like FILE1, FILE2, and so on? The -name "file*" will not match them. For a case-insensitive search, use the -iname option:

$ find . -iname "file*"

You can limit your search to a specific type of files only. For instance, the above command will get the files of all types: regular files, directories, symbolic links, and so on. To search for only regular files, you can use the -type f parameter.

$ find . -name "orapw*" -type f 

The -type can take the modifiers f (for regular files), l (for symbolic links), d (directories), b (block devices), p (named pipes), c (character devices), s (sockets).

A slight twist to the above command is to combine it with the file command you learned about in Part 1. The command file tells you what type of file it is. You can pass it as a post processor for the output from find command. The -exec parameter executes the command following the parameter. In this case, the command to execute after the find is file:

$ find . -name "*oraenv*" -type f -exec file {} \;
./coraenv: Bourne shell script text executable
./oraenv: Bourne shell script text executable

This is useful when you want to find out if the ASCII text file could be some type of shell script.

If you substitute -exec with -ok, the command is executed but it asks for your confirmation first. Here's an example:

$ find . -name "sqlplus*" -ok {} \;      
< {} ... ./sqlplus > ? y
SQL*Plus: Release - Production on Sun Aug 6 11:28:15 2006
Copyright (c) 1982, 2002, Oracle Corporation.  All rights reserved.
Enter user-name: / as sysdba
Connected to:
Oracle9i Enterprise Edition Release - 64bit Production
With the Partitioning, Real Application Clusters, OLAP and Oracle Data Mining options
JServer Release - Production
SQL> exit
Disconnected from Oracle9i Enterprise Edition Release - 64bit Production
With the Partitioning, Real Application Clusters, OLAP and Oracle Data Mining options
JServer Release - Production
< È* ... ./sqlplusO > ? n
Here we have asked the shell to find all programs starting with "sqlplus", and execute them. Note there is nothing between -ok and {}, so it will just execute the files it finds. It finds two files—sqlplus and sqlplusO—and asks in each case if you want to execute it. We answered "y" to the prompt against "sqlplus" and it executed. After exiting, it prompted the second file it found (sqlplusO) and for confirmation again again, to which we answered "n"—thus, it was not executed.

Tip for Oracle Users

Oracle produces many extraneous files: trace files, log files, dump files, and so on. Unless they are cleaned periodically, they can fill up the filesystem and bring the database to a halt.

To ensure that doesn't happen, simply search for the files with extension "trc" and remove them if they are more than three days old. A simple command does the trick:

find . -name "*.trc" -ctime +3 -exec rm {} \;

To forcibly remove them prior to the three-day limit, use the -f option.

find . -name "*.trc" -ctime +3 -exec rm -f {} \;

If you just want to list the files:

find . -name "*.trc" -ctime +3 -exec ls -l {} \;


This command takes an input file and substitutes strings inside it with the parameters passed, similar to substituting for variables. For example, here is an input file:

$ cat temp
The COLOR fox jumped over the TYPE fence.

Were you to substitute the strings "COLOR" by "brown" and "TYPE" by "broken", you could use:

$ m4 -DCOLOR=brown -DTYPE=broken temp
The brown fox jumped over the broken fence.
Else, if you want to substitute "white" and "high" for the same:

$ m4 -DCOLOR=white -DTYPE=high temp  
The white fox jumped over the high fence.

whence and which

These commands are used to find out the where the executables mentioned are stored in the PATH of the user. When the executable is found in the path, they behave pretty much the same way and display the path:

$ which sqlplus  
$ whence sqlplus 


The output is identical. However, if the executable is not found in the path, the behavior is different. The which command produces an explicit message:

$ which sqlplus1
/usr/bin/which: no sqlplus1 in (/u02/app/oracle/products/

whereas the whence command produces no message:

$ whence sqlplus1]

and returns to shell prompt. This is useful in cases where the executable is not found in the path (instead of displaying the message):

$ whence invalid_command
$ which invalid_command
which: no invalid_command in (/usr/kerberos/sbin:/usr/kerberos/bin:/bin:/sbin:
/usr/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/local/sbin: /usr/bin/X11:/usr/X11R6/bin:/root/bin)

When whence does not find an executable in the path, it returns without any message but the return code is not zero. This fact can be exploited in shell scripts; for example:

RC=‘whence myexec‘
If [ $RC -ne "0" ]; then
   echo "myexec is not in the $PATH"

A very useful option to which is the -i option, which displays the alias as well as the executable, if present. For example, you saw the use of the alias at the beginning of this article. The rm command is actually an alias in my shell, and there is an rm command elsewhere in the system as well.

$ which ls

$ which -i ls
alias ls='ls --color=tty'

The default behavior of which is to show the first occurrence of the executable in the path. If the executable exists in different directories in the path, the subsequent occurrences are ignored. You can see all the occurrences of the executable via the -a option.

$ which java   

$ which -a java


The top command is probably the most useful one for an Oracle DBA managing a database on Linux. Say the system is slow and you want to find out who is gobbling up all the CPU and/or memory. To display the top processes, you use the command top.

Note that unlike other commands, top does not produce an output and sits still. It refreshes the screen to display new information. So, if you just issue top and leave the screen up, the most current information is always up. To stop and exit to shell, you can press Control-C.

$ top

18:46:13  up 11 days, 21:50,  5 users,  load average: 0.11, 0.19, 0.18 
151 processes: 147 sleeping, 4 running, 0 zombie, 0 stopped 
CPU states:  cpu    user    nice  system    irq  softirq  iowait    idle 
           total   12.5%    0.0%    6.7%   0.0%     0.0%    5.3%   75.2% 
Mem:  1026912k av,  999548k used,   27364k free,       0k shrd,  116104k buff 
                    758312k actv,  145904k in_d,   16192k in_c 
Swap: 2041192k av,  122224k used, 1918968k free                  590140k cached 
  451 oracle    15   0  6044 4928  4216 S     0.1  0.4   0:20   0 tnslsnr 
 8991 oracle    15   0  1248 1248   896 R     0.1  0.1   0:00   0 top 
    1 root      19   0   440  400   372 S     0.0  0.0   0:04   0 init 
    2 root      15   0     0    0     0 SW    0.0  0.0   0:00   0 keventd 
    3 root      15   0     0    0     0 SW    0.0  0.0   0:00   0 kapmd 
    4 root      34  19     0    0     0 SWN   0.0  0.0   0:00   0 ksoftirqd/0 
    7 root      15   0     0    0     0 SW    0.0  0.0   0:01   0 bdflush 
    5 root      15   0     0    0     0 SW    0.0  0.0   0:33   0 kswapd 
    6 root      15   0     0    0     0 SW    0.0  0.0   0:14   0 kscand 
    8 root      15   0     0    0     0 SW    0.0  0.0   0:00   0 kupdated 
    9 root      25   0     0    0     0 SW    0.0  0.0   0:00   0 mdrecoveryd
... output snipped ...

Let's examine the different types of information produced. The first line:

18:46:13  up 11 days, 21:50,  5 users,  load average: 0.11, 0.19, 0.18

shows the current time (18:46:13), that system has been up for 11 days; that the system has been working for 21 hours 50 seconds. The load average of the system is shown (0.11, 0.19, 0.18) for the last 1, 5 and 15 minutes respectively. (By the way, you can also get this information by issuing the uptime command.)

If the load average is not required, press the letter "l" (lowercase L); it will turn it off. To turn it back on press l again. The second line:

151 processes: 147 sleeping, 4 running, 0 zombie, 0 stopped

shows the number of processes, running, sleeping, etc. The third and fourth lines:

CPU states:  cpu    user    nice  system    irq  softirq  iowait    idle 
           total   12.5%    0.0%    6.7%   0.0%     0.0%    5.3%   75.2%

show the CPU utilization details. The above line shows that user processes consume 12.5% and system consumes 6.7%. The user processes include the Oracle processes. Press "t" to turn these three lines off and on. If there are more than one CPU, you will see one line per CPU.

The next two lines:

Mem:  1026912k av, 1000688k used,  26224k free,    0k shrd,  113624k buff 
                    758668k actv,  146872k in_d,  14460k in_c
Swap: 2041192k av, 122476k used,   1918716k free             591776k cached

show the memory available and utilized. Total memory is "1026912k av", approximately 1GB, of which only 26224k or 26MB is free. The swap space is 2GB; but it's almost not used. To turn it off and on, press "m".

The rest of the display shows the processes in a tabular format. Here is the explanation of the columns:



PID The process ID of the process

The user running the process

The priority of the process
NI The nice value: The higher the value, the lower the priority of the task

Memory used by this process (code+data+stack)

The physical memory used by this process

The shared memory used by this process

The status of this process, shown in code. Some major status codes are:
R – Running
S –Sleeping
Z – Zombie
T – Stopped

You can also see second and third characters, which indicate:
W – Swapped out process
N – positive nice value

The percentage of CPU used by this process

The percentage of memory used by this process

The total CPU time used by this process

If this is a multi-processor system, this column indicates the ID of the CPU this process is running on.
COMMAND The command issued by this process

While the top is being displayed, you can press a few keys to format the display as you like. Pressing the uppercase M key sorts the output by memory usage. (Note that using lowercase m will turn the memory summary lines on or off at the top of the display.) This is very useful when you want to find out who is consuming the memory. Here is sample output:

31903 oracle    15   0 75760  72M 72508 S     0.0  7.2   0:01   0 ora_smon_PRODB2 
31909 oracle    15   0 68944  66M 64572 S     0.0  6.6   0:03   0 ora_mmon_PRODB2 
31897 oracle    15   0 53788  49M 48652 S     0.0  4.9   0:00   0 ora_dbw0_PRODB2

Now that you learned how to interpret the output, let's see how to use command line parameters.

The most useful is -d, which indicates the delay between the screen refreshes. To refresh every second, use top -d 1.

The other useful option is -p. If you want to monitor only a few processes, not all, you can specify only those after the -p option. To monitor processes 13609, 13608 and 13554, issue:

top -p 13609 -p 13608 -p 13554

This will show results in the same format as the top command, but only those specific processes.

Tip for Oracle Users

It's probably needless to say that the top utility comes in very handy for analyzing the performance of database servers. Here is a partial top output.

20:51:14  up 11 days, 23:55,  4 users,  load average: 0.88, 0.39, 0.27 
113 processes: 110 sleeping, 2 running, 1 zombie, 0 stopped 
CPU states:  cpu    user    nice  system    irq  softirq  iowait    idle 
           total    1.0%    0.0%    5.6%   2.2%     0.0%   91.2%    0.0% 
Mem:  1026912k av, 1008832k used,   18080k free,       0k shrd,   30064k buff 
                    771512k actv,  141348k in_d,   13308k in_c 
Swap: 2041192k av,   66776k used, 1974416k free                  812652k cached 
16143 oracle    15   0 39280  32M 26608 D     4.0  3.2   0:02   0 oraclePRODB2...
    5 root      15   0     0    0     0 SW    1.6  0.0   0:33   0 kswapd
... output snipped ...

Let's analyze the output carefully. The first thing you should notice is the "idle" column under CPU states; it's 0.0%—meaning, the CPU is completely occupied doing something. The question is, doing what? Move your attention to the column "system", just slightly left; it shows 5.6%. So the system itself is not doing much. Go even more left to the column marked "user", which shows 1.0%. Since user processes include Oracle as well, Oracle is not consuming the CPU cycles. So, what's eating up all the CPU?

The answer lies in the same line, just to the right under the column "iowait", which indicates 91.2%. This explains it all: the CPU is waiting for IO 91.2% of the time.

So why so much IO wait? The answer lies in the display. Note the PID of the highest consuming process: 16143. You can use the following query to determine what the process is doing:

select s.sid, s.username, s.program
from v$session s, v$process p
where spid = 16143
and p.addr = s.paddr

------------------- -----------------------------
       159 SYS      rman@prolin2 (TNS V1-V3)    

The rman process is taking up the IO waits related CPU cycles. This information helps you determine the next course of action.

skill and snice

From the previous discussion you learned how to identify a CPU consuming resource. What if you find that a process is consuming a lot of CPU and memory, but you don't want to kill it? Consider the top output below:

$ top -c -p 16514

23:00:44  up 12 days,  2:04,  4 users,  load average: 0.47, 0.35, 0.31 
1 processes: 1 sleeping, 0 running, 0 zombie, 0 stopped 
CPU states:  cpu    user    nice  system    irq  softirq  iowait    idle 
           total    0.0%    0.6%    8.7%   2.2%     0.0%   88.3%    0.0% 
Mem:  1026912k av, 1010476k used,   16436k free,       0k shrd,   52128k buff 
                    766724k actv,  143128k in_d,   14264k in_c 
Swap: 2041192k av,   83160k used, 1958032k free                  799432k cached 
16514 oracle    19   4 28796  26M 20252 D N   7.0  2.5   0:03   0 oraclePRODB2...

Now that you confirmed the process 16514 is consuming a lot of memory, you can "freeze" it—but not kill it—using the skill command.

$ skill -STOP 1

After this, check the top output:

23:01:11  up 12 days,  2:05,  4 users,  load average: 1.20, 0.54, 0.38 
1 processes: 0 sleeping, 0 running, 0 zombie, 1 stopped 
CPU states:  cpu    user    nice  system    irq  softirq  iowait    idle 
           total    2.3%    0.0%    0.3%   0.0%     0.0%    2.3%   94.8% 
Mem:  1026912k av, 1008756k used,   18156k free,       0k shrd,    3976k buff 
                    770024k actv,  143496k in_d,   12876k in_c 
Swap: 2041192k av,   83152k used, 1958040k free                  851200k cached 
16514 oracle    19   4 28796  26M 20252 T N   0.0  2.5   0:04   0 oraclePRODB2...

The CPU is now 94% idle from 0%. The process is effectively frozen. After some time, you may want to revive the process from coma:

$ skill -CONT 16514

This approach is immensely useful for temporarily freezing processes to make room for more important processes to complete.

The command is very versatile. If you want to stop all processes of the user "oracle", only one command does it all:

$ skill -STOP oracle

You can use a user, a PID, a command or terminal id as argument. The following stops all rman commands.

$ skill -STOP rman

As you can see, skill decides that argument you entered—a process ID, userid, or command—and acts appropriately. This may cause an issue in some cases, where you may have a user and a command in the same name. The best example is the "oracle" process, which is typically run by the user "oracle". So, when you want to stop the process called "oracle" and you issue:

$ skill -STOP oracle

all the processes of user "oracle" stop, including the session you may be on. To be completely unambiguous you can optionally give a new parameter to specify the type of the parameter. To stop a command called oracle, you can give:

$ skill -STOP -c oracle

The command snice is similar. Instead of stopping a process it makes its priority a lower one. First, check the top output:

    3 root      15   0     0    0     0 RW    0.0  0.0   0:00   0 kapmd 
13680 oracle    15   0 11336  10M  8820 T     0.0  1.0   0:00   0 oracle 
13683 oracle    15   0  9972 9608  7788 T     0.0  0.9   0:00   0 oracle 
13686 oracle    15   0  9860 9496  7676 T     0.0  0.9   0:00   0 oracle 
13689 oracle    15   0 10004 9640  7820 T     0.0  0.9   0:00   0 oracle 
13695 oracle    15   0  9984 9620  7800 T     0.0  0.9   0:00   0 oracle 
13698 oracle    15   0 10064 9700  7884 T     0.0  0.9   0:00   0 oracle 
13701 oracle    15   0 22204  21M 16940 T     0.0  2.1   0:00   0 oracle

Now, drop the priority of the processes of "oracle" by four points. Note that the higher the number, the lower the priority.

$ snice +4 -u oracle

16894 oracle    20   4 38904  32M 26248 D N   5.5  3.2   0:01   0 oracle

Note how the NI column (for nice values) is now 4 and the priority is now set to 20, instead of 15. This is quite useful in reducing priorities.

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