creating ssh connections that will cleanly terminate in shell scripts

i’ve noticed that if you write a script that does something not too different than

for i in `cat servers.txt`; do
  ssh $i run some command

this will take a while since all of the ssh connections will run one-by-one. alternatively, you could do background all the ssh connections with &. but this is problematic because if you decided that you want to prematurely terminate those commands, sending a SIGINT to your script will not terminate those processes.

sometimes, too, even if you terminate your ssh connection, the remote processes will keep running. one way to get around this is to run ssh with the -t flag which creates a psuedo-tty. this works well, if you open a terminal and run ssh -t remote sleep 3600. closing the terminal or sending a SIGINT to the ssh process will also terminate sleep on the remote machine. if you try to background this process, it will hang until you bring it back to the foreground. so, there must be something else.

and there is. in the man page for ssh, it has a slightly cryptic message under -t, saying, “Multiple -t options force tty allocation, even if ssh has no local tty.”

anyway, the trick is to do something like this:

ssh -tt remote sleep 3600 </dev/null &

now it will run in the background without any problems. sending it a SIGINT will terminate sleep on the remote machine as well. so this is great.

the </dev/null along with the cryptic hint in the man page make sense, though. what happens is we are forcing ssh to create a tty, but because we are not attached to a local tty, there is no stdin and things choke. so opening up that pipe with /dev/null will not stall the ssh process and it can continue running.


but awesome.

now you can run many commands, simulataneously, on many machines. and if you goofed up, you can just terminate the script with a ^c.

this is a small example of how i used it:

trap "kill -1 -$$" SIGINT
for i in `cat objmanblasters{,}{,}{,}`; do
  ssh $i -tt objmanblast </dev/null &
sleep infinity