27.1. /dev

The /dev directory contains entries for the physical devices that may or may not be present in the hardware. [1] For example, the hard drive partitions containing the mounted filesystem(s) have entries in /dev, as df shows.

bash$ df Filesystem 1k-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on /dev/hda6 495876 222748 247527 48% / /dev/hda1 50755 3887 44248 9% /boot /dev/hda8 367013 13262 334803 4% /home /dev/hda5 1714416 1123624 503704 70% /usr 

Among other things, the /dev directory contains loopback devices, such as /dev/loop0. A loopback device is a gimmick that allows an ordinary file to be accessed as if it were a block device. [2] This permits mounting an entire filesystem within a single large file. See Example 16-8 and Example 16-7.

A few of the pseudo-devices in /dev have other specialized uses, such as /dev/null, /dev/zero, /dev/urandom, /dev/sda1 (hard drive partition), /dev/udp (User Datagram Packet port), and /dev/tcp.

For instance:

To mount a USB flash drive, append the following line to /etc/fstab. [3]
/dev/sda1 /mnt/flashdrive auto noauto,user,noatime 0 0
(See also Example A-25.)

Checking whether a disk is in the CD-burner (soft-linked to /dev/hdc):
head -1 /dev/hdc # head: cannot open '/dev/hdc' for reading: No medium found # (No disc in the drive.) # head: error reading '/dev/hdc': Input/output error # (There is a disk in the drive, but it can't be read; #+ possibly it's an unrecorded CDR blank.) # Stream of characters and assorted gibberish # (There is a pre-recorded disk in the drive, #+ and this is raw output -- a stream of ASCII and binary data.) # Here we see the wisdom of using 'head' to limit the output #+ to manageable proportions, rather than 'cat' or something similar. # Now, it's just a matter of checking/parsing the output and taking #+ appropriate action.

When executing a command on a /dev/tcp/$host/$port pseudo-device file, Bash opens a TCP connection to the associated socket.

The following examples assume an active Internet connection.

Getting the time from nist.gov:

bash$ cat </dev/tcp/time.nist.gov/13 53082 04-03-18 04:26:54 68 0 0 502.3 UTC(NIST) * 

[Mark contributed the above example.]

Downloading a URL:

bash$ exec 5<>/dev/tcp/www.net.cn/80 bash$ echo -e "GET / HTTP/1.0\n" >&5 bash$ cat <&5 

[Thanks, Mark and Mihai Maties.]

Example 27-1. Using /dev/tcp for troubleshooting

#!/bin/bash # dev-tcp.sh: /dev/tcp redirection to check Internet connection. # Script by Troy Engel. # Used with permission. TCP_HOST=www.dns-diy.com # A known spam-friendly ISP. TCP_PORT=80 # Port 80 is http. # Try to connect. (Somewhat similar to a 'ping' . . .) echo "HEAD / HTTP/1.0" >/dev/tcp/${TCP_HOST}/${TCP_PORT} MYEXIT=$? : <<EXPLANATION If bash was compiled with --enable-net-redirections, it has the capability of using a special character device for both TCP and UDP redirections. These redirections are used identically as STDIN/STDOUT/STDERR. The device entries are 30,36 for /dev/tcp: mknod /dev/tcp c 30 36 >From the bash reference: /dev/tcp/host/port If host is a valid hostname or Internet address, and port is an integer port number or service name, Bash attempts to open a TCP connection to the corresponding socket. EXPLANATION if [ "X$MYEXIT" = "X0" ]; then echo "Connection successful. Exit code: $MYEXIT" else echo "Connection unsuccessful. Exit code: $MYEXIT" fi exit $MYEXIT

Example 27-2. Playing music

#!/bin/bash # music.sh # MUSIC WITHOUT EXTERNAL FILES # Author: Antonio Macchi # Used in ABS Guide with permission # /dev/dsp default = 8000 frames per second, 8 bits per frame (1 byte), #+ 1 channel (mono) duration=2000 # If 8000 bytes = 1 second, then 2000 = 1/4 second. volume=$'\xc0' # Max volume = \xff (or \x00). mute=$'\x80' # No volume = \x80 (the middle). function mknote () # $1=Note Hz in bytes (e.g. A = 440Hz :: #+ 8000 fps / 440 = 16 :: A = 16 bytes per second) { for t in `seq 0 $duration` do test $(( $t % $1 )) = 0 && echo -n $volume || echo -n $mute done } e=`mknote 49` g=`mknote 41` a=`mknote 36` b=`mknote 32` c=`mknote 30` cis=`mknote 29` d=`mknote 27` e2=`mknote 24` n=`mknote 32767` # European notation. echo -n "$g$e2$d$c$d$c$a$g$n$g$e$n$g$e2$d$c$c$b$c$cis$n$cis$d \ $n$g$e2$d$c$d$c$a$g$n$g$e$n$g$a$d$c$b$a$b$c" > /dev/dsp # dsp = Digital Signal Processor exit $? # A "bonny" example of a shell script!



The entries in /dev provide mount points for physical and virtual devices. These entries use very little drive space.

Some devices, such as /dev/null, /dev/zero, and /dev/urandom are virtual. They are not actual physical devices and exist only in software.


A block device reads and/or writes data in chunks, or blocks, in contrast to a character device, which acesses data in character units. Examples of block devices are hard drives, CDROM drives, and flash drives. Examples of character devices are keyboards, modems, sound cards.


Of course, the mount point /mnt/flashdrive must exist. If not, then, as root, mkdir /mnt/flashdrive.

To actually mount the drive, use the following command: mount /mnt/flashdrive

Newer Linux distros automount flash drives in the /media directory without user intervention.