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Thanks for the thought, but no .... no space.
keep in mind it works fine on other linux systems.
I thought it might be a literal translation in other words,
it was looking for a file name './<somefile>' but no such luck. I am wondering if the grep command used in a script like this opens it's own thread "exec" , and that thread env is dong starting in $HOME or some such , thus the failure.
looks like it may be time to try strace or truss.
Just an FYI,
the problem was in the environment files that the
script was sourcing when running.
someone had placed a cd "change directory"
so that when I sourced the environment for the shell
script, it set PWD to $HOME instead of where the script was located.
only took about 5 hours to figure it out. Oh well, sometimes you have to do the grunt work.