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I have a script that looks for a certain header entry that breaks the statistics script I am running. Unfortunately grep scans each of many files all the way through when either the the offending entry is in the first 10 or so lines or doesn't matter.
I looked at the man page and didn't see any setting that only says search only so many bytes in file or lines.
:time grep oo ~/.slrn/var/killfiled* >/dev/null
:time head -20 ~/.slrn/var/killfiled* | grep oo >/dev/null
:time sed -n '/oo/p;20q' ~/.slrn/var/killfiled* >/dev/null
Hardly solid benchmarking, but that might give an idea. (I redirect to /dev/null because otherwise I'd be timing the terminal drawing time of the avalanche of stuff grep spits out.)
-- Crap. Pixellany beat me to it while I was 'benchmarking'. Ah well - at least the timings might be interesting.
Remember that the first run is probably taking the biggest hit just to load the file data into cache. Subsequent runs of the same command are likely to take much less time because the data is already in cache. So ignore the first run.
If the "depth" of the match is indeterminate at the beginning of the run, maybe use perl.
I did some tests on scanning big files a while back, and perl ran faster than sed with quit (reboot between very run to obviate cache effects).
If the record count isn't really high (in the hundreds of thousands to millions potentially), probably not worth the effort.