Manual browser: rdist(1)

RDIST(1) General Commands Manual RDIST(1)


rdistremote file distribution program


rdist [-bDhinqRvwy] [-d var=value] [-f distfile] [-m host] [name ...]

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


rdist is a program to maintain identical copies of files over multiple hosts. It preserves the owner, group, mode, and mtime of files if possible and can update programs that are executing. rdist reads commands from distfile to direct the updating of files and/or directories.

Options specific to the first SYNOPSIS form:

If distfile is ‘-’, the standard input is used.
-f distfile
Use the specified distfile.

If either the -f or ‘-’ option is not specified, the program looks first for “distfile”, then “Distfile” to use as the input. If no names are specified on the command line, rdist will update all of the files and directories listed in distfile. Otherwise, the argument is taken to be the name of a file to be updated or the label of a command to execute. If label and file names conflict, it is assumed to be a label. These may be used together to update specific files using specific commands.

Options specific to the second SYNOPSIS form:

Forces rdist to interpret the remaining arguments as a small distfile.

The equivalent distfile is as follows.

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

Options common to both forms:

Binary comparison. Perform a binary comparison and update files if they differ rather than comparing dates and sizes.
-d var=value
Define var to have value. The -d option is used to define or override variable definitions in the distfile. Value can be the empty string, one name, or a list of names surrounded by parentheses and separated by tabs and/or spaces.
Turn on debugging.
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 all the links cannot be found.
-m host
Limit which machines are to be updated. Multiple -m arguments can be given to limit updates to a subset of the hosts listed in the distfile.
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.
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 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.

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. 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 that have been changed since some given date. The source list specifies a list of files and/or directories on the local host which are to be used as the master copy for distribution. The destination list is the list of hosts to which these files are to be copied. Each file in the source list is added to a list of changes if the file is out of date on the host which is being updated (second format) or the file is newer than the time stamp file (third format).

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

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

Variables to be expanded begin with `$' followed by one character or a name enclosed in curly braces (see the examples at the end).

The source and destination lists have the following format:

`(' <zero or more names separated by white-space> `)'

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(1) 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.

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, the source file name 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 host 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 `-R', `-h', `-i', `-v', `-w', `-y', and `-b' and have the same semantics as options on the command line except they only apply to the files in the source list. The login name used on the destination host is the same as the local host unless the destination name is of the format ``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. 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 `\' 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 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 `"' and can cross multiple lines in distfile. Multiple commands to the shell should be separated by `;'. Commands are executed in the user's home directory on the host being updated. The special command can be used to rebuild private databases, etc. after a program has been updated.

The following is a small example:

HOSTS = ( matisse root@arpa ) 
FILES = ( /bin /lib /usr/bin /usr/games 
/usr/lib /usr/man/man? /usr/ucb /usr/local/rdist ) 
EXLIB = ( Mail.rc aliases aliases.dir aliases.pag crontab dshrc sendmail.fc sendmail.hf uucp vfont ) 
${FILES} -> ${HOSTS} 
install -R ; 
except /usr/lib/${EXLIB} ; 
except /usr/games/lib ; 
special /usr/lib/sendmail "/usr/lib/sendmail -bz" ; 
/usr/src/bin -> arpa 
except_pat ( \\.o\$ /SCCS\$ ) ; 
IMAGEN = (ips dviimp catdvi) 
/usr/local/${IMAGEN} -> arpa 
install /usr/local/lib ; 
notify ralph ; 
${FILES} :: stamp.cory 
notify root@cory ;


input command file
temporary file for update lists


A complaint about mismatch of rdist version numbers may really stem from some problem with starting your shell, e.g., you are in too many groups.


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


The rdist command appeared in 4.3BSD.


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; there should be a general macro facility.

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

There should be a `force' option to allow replacement of non-empty directories by regular files or symlinks. A means of updating file modes and owners of otherwise identical files is also needed.

March 17, 1994 NetBSD 7.0