System Administration & Network Administration
process grep ps
Updated Fri, 20 May 2022 11:11:22 GMT

How to prevent "ps" reporting its own process?

$ ps | grep django
28006 ttys004    0:01.12 /usr/bin/python bin/django celeryd --beat
51393 ttys005    0:01.45 /usr/bin/python bin/django celeryd -l INFO
51472 ttys005    0:01.29 /usr/bin/python bin/django celeryd -l INFO
51510 ttys005    0:01.89 /usr/bin/python bin/django celeryd -l INFO
51801 ttys005    0:01.83 /usr/bin/python bin/django celeryd -l INFO
53470 ttys005    0:03.97 /usr/bin/python bin/django celeryd -l INFO
53780 ttys005    0:00.00 grep django

Is there a way to prevent the last process (that is, the grep that was started at the same time as my ps command) being reported?

(I started trying to come up with a regex that would match the literal but not match itself, but that seemed, um, not the right approach...)


My answer is a variation on the typical answer for searching for "foobar" in a ps listing. The argument of "-A" "ps" is more portable than "aux", I believe, but this change is irrelevant to the answer. The typical answer looks like this:

$ ps -A -ww | grep [f]oobar

Instead I use this pattern:

$ ps -A -ww | grep [^]]foobar

The main advantage is that it's easier to write scripts based on this patterns because you simply concatenate a static string [^]] with whatever pattern you are looking for. You don't need to strip off the first letter of the string then insert it between the square braces and then concatenate the that back together again. When scripting in shell it's easier to simply stick [^]] in front of the pattern you were lookginfor looking for. String slicing in Bash is an ugly thing, so my variation avoids that. This variation says show the lines where the pattern matches WITHOUT a leading right-square-bracket ]. Since the search pattern to exclude a square bracket actually adds the square bracket to the pattern then it will never match itself.

So you could write a portable psgrep command as follows. Here, I make some allowance for differences between Linux, OS X BSD, and others. This adds the column headers from ps, provides a more custom ps format that suits my needs betters, and displays processes listing extra, extra wide so that none of the command-line arguments are missed. Well, most are not missed. Java being Java, it often does things in the worst possible way, so you some java services will run past the maximum allowed length of arguments that the process table will keep track of. I believe this is 1024 characters. The command-lone length allowed to start a process is much longer, but the kernel process table doesn't bother to keep track of anything over 1K in length. Once the command is started the command-name and argument list isn't needed against, so what gets stored in the process table is just informational.

psgrep ()
    case "$(uname -s)" in
            ps -A -ww -o pid,ppid,nice,pri,pcpu,pmem,etime,user,wchan,stat,command | grep -i -e "^[[:space:]]*PID" -e ${pattern}
            ps -A -ww -o pid,ppid,tid,nice,pri,pcpu,pmem,etime,user,wchan:20,stat,command | grep -i -e "^[[:space:]]*PID" -e ${pattern}
        *)  # other UNIX flavors get a minimalist version.
            ps -A -ww | grep -i -e ${pattern}

Comments (1)

  • +0 – Disadvantage is that this will actually match one char more (in front) than the original pattern. For exemple, this will never match the PID. And can be a bit misleading when used with grep --colour. — Sep 19, 2018 at 19:31