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Old 08-02-2012, 02:20 PM   #1
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how many files can awk handle at a time?

Please I would like to know how many files awk can handle at a time. I read somewhere that awk handles like 10 files at the same time. I don't think this may be correct because it would take a very long time to process very many files if this were to be so.
Say I want to run this program in for as many as 100 files
awk '{ $1 = 1 - $1; print }' b.1 b.2 b.3 ........... b.100
The problems I see with this program is having to manually list each file and secondly, like I stated earlier, awk may not run this

Secondly, how can I use awk in a loop in bash say with this given code?
third: can I pass different outputs into awk in a loop? how should that look?
Help needed, thanks in advance
Old 08-02-2012, 03:19 PM   #2
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It would help us to help you, if you would please be a little more specific about what you are trying to do.

If you say "awk", you could be talking about awk in general, which could include "awk", "nawk", "gawk", "pgawk", and possibly others.

Under Linux, awk would probably most commonly be "gawk". If that's what you're actually using, I don't know that there is stated limit on the number files, as far the language is concerned. There can be a limit on the number of open files in a given implementation of Linux itself, both for the OS as a whole, and a per-process limit. There might be a limit for a particular implementation of gawk.

In general, it's probably not a bad idea, to keep as few simultaneously open files, as possible. So if you are planning on using more than a few files in a single program, and you'll iterate through a list of files, using one at a time, then closing each file after you're done with it, can be nice.

For you're situation, I'm expecting you're not going to have more than 100 files open at the same time, so I tried the following program, to make sure gawk could easily handle more than 100 simultaneously open files. I put the program in a file named fl.gawk:


    for ( file_num = 1 ;  file_num <= 200 ;  file_num++  )
        file_name = "b."  file_num ;
        print file_num  >  file_name ;

    for ( file_num = 1 ;  file_num <= 200 ;  file_num++  )
        file_name = "b."  file_num ;
        close( file_name ) ;
In principle, the program only closes the files, after, they are all open. So at the end of the first loop, there should be at least 200 open files. I then executed the program this way:

gawk -f fl.gawk < /dev/null
with no errors. This works for me, with the binaries I have installed. That doesn't guarantee that it will work for you. But AFAIK, the limit on the number of open files a given programming language can handle under Linux, is typically at least hundreds, if not thousands.

I executed, from a bash shell, your program, against the first 100 of the 200 files, like this:

gawk '{ $1 = 1 - $1; print }' b.{1..100..1}
which gave me this output:

From your question, I'm not entirely sure how you want to use a loop in bash, nor exactly how you are thinking about passing different output into awk. But your program can be executed this way, using a loop from bash:

for file_name in b.{1..100..1}; do cat $file_name | gawk '{ $1 = 1 - $1; print }'; done
Executing that way, the output is the same, but you don't have to manually list all the file names.

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Old 08-02-2012, 09:08 PM   #3
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For consideration as a possible restriction, dealing with 100's of files has never caused me issue, however, placing large portions of data from said files
into something like an array to be used later has kicked me in the butt
Secondly, how can I use awk in a loop in bash say with this given code?
The same as calling any other command from within a bash loop, awk is not special in this case.
third: can I pass different outputs into awk in a loop? how should that look?
Perhaps checkout the '-v' option which allows you to create a variable and assign a value externally to running your awk code.
Old 08-03-2012, 12:11 AM   #4
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Since the OP talks of putting it in a loop, I expect that the files have to be processed sequentially.

Usually typing awk is sufficient since it links to the correct awk (nawk, gawk, stare etc)

As far as I know, the limitation of 10 arguments is only in the DOS batch file construct and doesn't apply to awk when run on a linux box.

One way to get what you need is:
First move all the files to a freshly created directory for this purpose
Second, navigate to the newly created directory.
Third, run code like this
for i on $*
awk '{your code goes here ..}' $i
for fewer file, you can do something like

awk '{your code goes here ..}' file1 file2 ...
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Old 08-03-2012, 11:59 AM   #5
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The limit on the number of args that can be passed to awk or any other command is just the ARG_MAX byte limit in the kernel. Linux kernels typically have a 128 Kilobyte limit, so it's seldom an issue in practice, but if you're concerned about wider compatibility, the Posix limit is 4KB.


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