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HP-UX 11i Version 3: February 2007

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rdist — remote file distribution program


rdist [ -bhinqvwyMRD ] [ -f distfile ] [ -d var=value ] [ -m host ] [ label... ]

rdist [ -bhinqvwyMRD ] -c name... [login@]host[:dest]


rdist facilitates the maintaining of identical copies of files over multiple hosts. It preserves the owner, group, mode, and modification time of files if possible and can update programs that are executing.

-f distfile

Specify a distfile for rdist to execute. distfile contains a sequence of entries that specify the files to be copied, the destination hosts, and what operations to perform to do the updating. The format of distfile is described in detail later. If distfile is -, the standard input is used. If no -f option is present, the program looks first for a file called distfile, then Distfile in the local host's working directory to use as the input.

-d var=value

Define var to have value. The -d option is used to define variable definitions in the distfile. value can be an empty string, one name, or a list of name separated by tabs and/or spaces and enclosed by a pair of parentheses. However, if the variable specified is already defined in the distfile, the -d option has no effect (because the distfile overrides the -d option).


Display debugging information onto standard output.

-m host

Limit which machines are to be updated. Multiple -m arguments can be given to limit updates to a subset of hosts that are listed in the distfile. For more information on the host format, refer to the section destination_list.


Label of a command to execute. The label must be defined in distfile.

-c name...

The -c option forces rdist to interpret the remaining arguments as a small distfile. The equivalent distfile is as follows.

( name ... ) -> [login@]host install [dest] ;

Note: In IPv6 enabled systems to use the -c option with an IPv6 address, the IPv6 address has to be enclosed in a square bracket pair ([ and ]). An example invocation of rdist with the -c option and an IPv6 address is as shown below:

rdist -c name user@[IPv6 address]:dest

If the IPv6 address is not enclosed within square brackets, the first occurrence of a colon (:) is treated as the separator between the hostname and the path.


Print the commands without executing them. This option is useful for debugging distfile.


Quiet mode. Files that are being modified are normally printed on standard output. The -q option suppresses this.


Remove extraneous files. If a directory is being updated, any files that exist on the remote host that do not exist in the master directory are removed. This is useful for maintaining truly identical copies of directories.


Follow symbolic links. Copy the file that the link points to rather than the link itself.


Ignore unresolved links. rdist will normally try to maintain the link structure of files being transferred and warn the user if it cannot find all the links.


Verify that the files are up to date on all the hosts. Any files that are out of date will be displayed but no files will be changed nor any mail sent.


Whole mode. The whole file name is appended to the destination directory name. Normally, only the last component of a name is used when renaming files. This will preserve the directory structure of the files being copied instead of flattening the directory structure. For example, renaming a list of files such as (dir1/f1 and dir2/f2) to dir3 would create files dir3/dir1/f1 and dir3/dir2/f2 instead of dir3/f1 and dir3/f2.


Younger mode. Files are normally updated if their mtime and size (see stat(2)) disagree. The -y option causes rdist not to update files that are younger than the master copy. This can be used to prevent newer copies on other hosts from being replaced. A warning message is printed for files which are newer than the master copy.


Binary comparison. Perform a binary comparison and update files if they differ rather than comparing dates and sizes.


Check that mode, ownership, and group are the same in addition to any other form of comparison that is in effect. This option will cause files to be replaced but will only correct the problem with a directory and print a warning message.

The distfile used by rdist contains a sequence of entries that specify the files to be copied, the destination hosts, and what operations to perform to do the updating. Each entry has one of the following formats.

variable_name = name_list [label:] source_list -> destination_list command_list [label:] source_list :: time_stamp_file command_list

The first format is used for defining variables. The second format is used for distributing files to other hosts. The third format is used for making lists of files on the local host that have been changed since some given date. (See EXAMPLES.)


Specify the name of a variable.


List of names (such as list of hosts or lists of files) separated by tabs and/or spaces and enclosed by parentheses.


Specify a list of files and/or directories on the local host to be used as the master copy for distribution. Each file in the source_list is added to a list for changes, if the file is out of date on the host that is being updated (second format), or if the file is newer than the time stamp file (third format). source_list may contain a single name, or multiple names separated by tabs and/or spaces and enclosed by parentheses.


List of hosts to which these files are to be copied. destination_list may contain a single name, or multiple names separated by tabs and/or spaces and the whole list must be enclosed by parentheses. The host names in the destination_list can also be in the form login@host. For example, root@arpa. In this case, the user root owns the files distributed at arpa.


Specify a given date to generate a list of files on the local host that were modified since that date.


Labels are optional. They are used to identify a command for partial updates.


Specifies a list of commands to be performed.

The command list consists of zero or more commands of the following format.

install [ options ] opt_dest_name; notify name_list; except name_list; except_pat pattern_list; special name_list string;

The install command is used to copy out-of-date files and/or directories. Each source file is copied to each host in the destination list. Directories are recursively copied in the same way. opt_dest_name is an optional parameter to rename files. If no install command appears in the command list or the destination name is not specified, source_list is used. Directories in the path name will be created if they do not exist on the remote host. To help prevent disasters, a non-empty directory on a target will never be replaced with a regular file or a symbolic link. However, under the -R option a non-empty directory will be removed if the corresponding filename is completely absent on the master host. The options are -b,-h,-i, -v,-w,-y, -M, and -R, and have the same semantics as options on the command line, except that they only apply to the files in the specified source_list. The login name used on the destination host is the same as on the local host, unless the destination name is of the form "login@host".

The notify command is used to mail the list of files updated (and any errors that may have occurred) to the listed names, in name_list. If no @ appears in the name, the destination host is appended to the name (e.g., name1@host, name2@host, ...).

The except command is used to update all of the files in the source list, except for the files listed in name_list. This is usually used to copy everything in a directory except certain files.

The except_pat command is like the except command except that pattern_list is a list of regular expressions (see ed(1) for details). If one of the patterns matches some string within a file name, that file will be ignored. Note that since the backslash (\) is a quote character, it must be doubled to become part of the regular expression. Variables are expanded in pattern_list but not shell file pattern matching characters. To include a $, it must be escaped with the backslash.

The special command is used to specify sh(1) commands that are to be executed on the remote host after the file in name_list is updated or installed. If the name_list is omitted then the shell commands will be executed for every file updated or installed. The shell variable `FILE' is set to the current filename before executing the commands in string. string starts and ends with double quotes (") and can cross multiple lines in distfile. Multiple commands to the shell should be separated by semi-colons (;). Commands are executed in the user's home directory on the host being updated. The special command can be used, for example, to rebuild private databases after a program has been updated. Shell variables cannot be used in the command because there is no escape mechanism for the $ character.

Newlines, tabs, and blanks are only used as separators and are otherwise ignored. Comments begin with # and end with a newline.

A generalized way of dynamically building variable lists is provided by using a backquote syntax much like the shell. In this way, arbitrary commands that generate stdout with space-separated words may be used to build the list (see the use of cat command in the examples).

Variables to be expanded begin with $ followed by the variable name enclosed in curly braces.

The shell meta-characters [, ], {, }, *, and ? are recognized and expanded (on the local host only) in the same way as csh(1). They can be escaped with a backslash. The ~ character is also expanded in the same way as csh but is expanded separately on the local and destination hosts. When the -w option is used with a file name that begins with ~, everything except the home directory is appended to the destination name. File names which do not begin with / or ~ use the destination user's home directory as the root directory for the rest of the file name.


A message about a mismatch of rdist version numbers may mean that an executable rdist is not in the shell's path on the remote system.


The following is an example.

HOSTS = ( matisse root@arpa ) FILES = ( /usr/lib /usr/bin /usr/local/games /usr/include/{*.h,{sys,rpc*,arpa}/*.h} /usr/man/man? `cat ./std-files` ) EXLIB = ( Mail.rc aliases aliases.dir aliases.pag crontab dshrc sendmail.cf sendmail.fc sendmail.hf sendmail.st uucp vfont ) ${FILES} -> ${HOSTS} install -R ; except /usr/lib/${EXLIB} ; except /usr/local/games/lib ; special /usr/sbin/sendmail " /usr/sbin/sendmail -bz" ; srcs: /usr/local/src -> arpa except_pat ( \\.o$ /SCCS\$ ) ; IMAGEN = (ips dviimp catdvi) imagen: /usr/local/${IMAGEN} -> arpa install /usr/local/lib ; notify ralph ; ${FILES} :: stamp.cory notify root@cory ;


Source files must reside on the local host where rdist is executed.

There is no easy way to have a special command executed after all files in a directory have been updated.

Variable expansion only works for name lists and in the special command string; there should be a general macro facility.

rdist aborts on files that have a negative mtime (before Jan 1, 1970).

rdist does carry the atime when installing a file but will preserve it on an updated file.

There should be a `force' option to allow replacement of non-empty directories by regular files or symlinks.


rdist was developed by the University of California, Berkeley.

rdist appeared in the 4.3 Berkeley Software Distribution.



Input command file.


Temporary file for update lists.


sh(1), csh(1), stat(2).

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