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C'est la Z

REPOST - Shell games - who confirmed attendance


This is a repost from March 2015. It didn't transfer when I rebooted the blog.


Quick post on why I love the Unix command line.

We're busy organizing CSTUY's first hackathon. It's going to be at SumAll, where we hold our weekly hacking sessions but while taking registration, we had a little program.

The kids signed up on a Google doc but we all know the story – when people sign up for a free event, even one with free food and t-shirts, many don't show. I asked all of the applicants to confirm by filling out a second Google doc.

Then it got to reminder time - I wanted to send an email out to all those kids who signed up on the first form, but hadn't confirmed on the second.

Two Google spreadsheets with an email field. I needed all the people on sheet 1 that weren't on sheet 2. I'm sure there's some spreadsheet-fu that accomplishes this, but nothing I know. I also could have written a little python script which isn't so bad, but this was a perfect time to turn to the shell.

So, here's how a command line guy would do this.

To start, I put the emails in two files: e1 and e2. The first has all the original applicants, the second those that confirmed.

e1 e2

If we put these lists together, any email that appears twice would indicate that it's the email of someone that confirmed entry. Here we use cat to catenate e1 and e2 and pipe them through sort.

cat e1 e2 | sort

First problem –the upper case F – let's use tr to make everything lower case:

cat e1 e2 |  tr A-Z a-z | sort

Now we can see the duplicates next to each other. Next, uniq -c tells us how many times each line appears:

cat e1 e2 | tr A-Z a-z | sort | uniq -c | sort

I added the sort at the end, but we didn't need it.

Here's what we get:

1 1 1 c@c.dom 1 1 1 2 2 2

To pull out the ones that haven't replied I used egrep with a regex that means "any line that starts with 1 or more spaces followed by the number 1":

cat e1 e2 | tr A-z a-z | sort | uniq -c | egrep "^ +1"

and finally to isolate the emails using sed which removes the spaces and number 1 from the beginning of the line:

cat e1 e2 | tr A-z a-z | sort | uniq -c | egrep "^ +1" | sed "s/\ \+1 //g"

Each of the little utilities aren't all too useful by themselves but if you learn them over time you start thinking about how you can combine them to solve problems.

If you think this way and know some basic tools, all of a sudden all manner of text manipulation problems become pretty easy.

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