On El Capitan, bash, and history

1 minute read

As explained in this reddit, Apple made some changed for bash users especially on saving bash sessions/history. Whenever a user exits, it saves the history in ~/.bash_sessions/ directory. Until here, nothing strage until you don’t play with HISTFILESIZE and HISTSIZE environment variables.

In /etc/bash_bashrc_Apple_Terminal (which is called by /etc/bashrc), the following piece of code can cause some issues when you have set HISTFILESIZE and HISTSIZE to a very high values:

# Save new history commands.  
if [ $BASH_SESSION_HISTORY -eq 1 ]; then  
    history -a  

    # Empty this session's history file to keep track of  
    # which commands have already been copied.  

    # Read/write the files via the history command so they  
    # are truncated as appropriate.  
    history -r "$BASH_SHARED_HISTFILE"  
    history -w "$BASH_SHARED_HISTFILE"  
    history -r "$BASH_SESSION_HISTFILE"  
    history -w "$BASH_SESSION_HISTFILE"  

I had the HIST* variables set as:


and this is what happened when I logout from the shell.

leonard:~ diegor$ logout  
+ bash_update_session_state  
+ bash_save_session_state  
+ '[' 1 -eq 1 ']'  
+ '[' -n /Users/diegor/.bash_sessions/97360883-85FB-4463-A9DF-1246FCD05977.session ']'  
+ echo -n Saving session...  
Saving session...++ date  
+ echo echo Restored session: Mon Jul 13 08:23:07 BST 2015  
+ declare -F bash_session_save_state  
+ '[' 1 -eq 1 ']'  
+ history -a  
+ cat /Users/diegor/.bash_sessions/97360883-85FB-4463-A9DF-1246FCD05977.historynew  
+ cat /Users/diegor/.bash_sessions/97360883-85FB-4463-A9DF-1246FCD05977.historynew  
+ :  
+ history -r /Users/diegor/.bash_history  

Looking at the help of history, it is stated:

The `-w' option writes out the current history to the history file;  
`-r' means to read the file and append the contents to the history list instead.

which means: if you HIST* size are very high, the size is going to grow a lot, with some implications (see three bullet points below)

At this point you observe the following things:

  • the terminal is stuck on Saving session...
  • CPU usage goes high (you have to kill the bash process from another shell or System Monitor)
  • the size of ~/.bash_session is increasing overtime: every time you logout it increases by the size of the history file (in my case was 20MB)

My suggestion is NOT to set those variables and let OSX deal with them.