One-liner: Decompress file and diff against another file
December 8th, 2016 by miki

Below is a handy shell one-liner for comparing the decompressed contents of a compressed file against a plain file. The purpose here is to test whether the compressed file is actually derived from compressing the plain file. This particular example is from a real life situation where log rotation by cron.daily on a Ubuntu server had begun failing. The situation is thought to be the result of an interrupted logrotate execution leaving a compressed (but non-rotated) intermediate file in the file system that prevented further log rotation on subsequent executions.

The command constructs a pipe between two process, specified using the | symbol (vertical line), to send the decompressed contents from gunzip stdout to stdin of the compare tool. The example uses diff as compare tool which is suitable for textual contents. You could use f.x. cmp instead if the contents is binary. Both diff and cmp interprets the file name “-” as meaning that input should be read from stdin.

$ gunzip --stdout /var/log/syslog.1.gz | diff --report-identical-files - /var/log/syslog.1
Files - and /var/log/syslog.1 are identical

The above uses long options for clarity, in a real life situation you would probably be using short options instead. That means -c instead of –stdout and s instead of –report-identical-files.

$ gunzip -c /var/log/syslog.1.gz | diff -s - /var/log/syslog.1
Files - and /var/log/syslog.1 are identical


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