Using inotify to monitor the filesystem

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Under Control

Keeping an eye on possible changes to the filesystem can prove very beneficial. It can also help you to automate many processes.

It always happens that as soon as you have created or changed a particular file, you want to start compiling, generate an archive, or upload the file to a server. Previously you turned to some sort of so-called "busy waiting" tool. Now the inotify tools accomplish the task much more conveniently and elegantly [1].

A busy waiting tool is a program that runs in an endless loop, repeatedly calling up the same information. An example would be a script that monitors the contents of a directory. The program compares the information with previously collected data and triggers when they are different. However, this process is ineffective. In the worst case scenario, it can also damage the data storage device.

It would be much better if monitoring was automated. The kernel could then use a special interface to notify all of the programs that are waiting for a change to a file. The Amiga filesystem contained this technique. Under Linux, there is a corresponding function by the name of inotify (a name that was created by combining "inode" with "notify"). Linux uses inotify for certain entries in the filesystem.


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