I need to run, on Ubuntu 18.04, via cron a script, myscript.sh that I want, among other things, to display to the user a message when it is being run so that he is aware that cron is being run (perhaps there are also ways to do this that somehow don't involve any GUI-related things; if yes, do let me know).

But since cron runs in its own, minimal environment, I wasn't able to figure out how to do that.

I tried various approaches and the most promising seemed to explicitly assign DISPLAY and start a terminal with this display assigned to it and inside that terminal to run a command that displayes a message, meaning in myscript.sH I have two lines

export DISPLAY=:0 XAUTHORITY=~/.Xauthority 
gnome-terminal --display=:0.0 -- bash -c "xmessage -center -timeout 10 'ATTENTION. CRON IS RUN';exec bash"

When I run in my own terminal, without cron being involved, gnome-terminal --display=:0.0 -- bash -c "xmessage -center -timeout 10 'ATTENTION. CRON IS RUN';exec bash" this works (of course, in my terminal I wouldn't need to start another terminal and could simpy run xmessage -center -timeout 10 'ATTENTION. CRON IS RUN' ...).

But cron complains with the following message (I'm redirecting the outputs of what cron execute to a file, so that I can see what went wrong):

No protocol specified
Unable to init server: Could not connect: Connection refused

If I instead place xmessage -center -timeout 10 'ATTENTION. CRON IS RUN' in myscript.sh, cron complains

No protocol specified
Error: Can't open display: :0

How can I get either this command, or any other GUI message to be displayed? I don't really care through what system the message is displayed, as long as the user is alerted in some way that right now cron is being executed.

Edit In the end I found the right software for my purpose, called Zenity, that can display text with zenity --info --text="test".

  • If you solved it yourself, you should post your own answer below (and accept it, not my answer). Your answer will not be construed as an answer if it is part of the question. – Michael Hampton Aug 30 '20 at 16:35

You can use the notify-send application to send a notification to the logged in user's desktop. This program is in the libnotify-bin package.

For example:

notify-send --icon install "Cron job" "It's done, boss"

You may wish to background this. In my testing, I found that it would hang if no user was logged in at the time. It could just be a bug in my version, but you should be prepared for things to go wrong.

  • It doesn't seem to be working, unfortunately - even when I simply execute it in the terminal, without cron involved. I made sure to have the library installed. My setup is really simple, since I don't use any remote stuff, where no users might be logged in. It's always me who's logged in and I simply want to remind myself (or whoever is sitting, logged in as myself, in fron of the computer) of some stuff – MyCatsHat Jun 22 '20 at 9:15
  • Is there perhaps some alternative (except the xmessage that I quoted that suffers from the display not found) I can use? – MyCatsHat Jun 22 '20 at 9:15
  • Are you actually using a desktop environment? GNOME, KDE, LXQt, whatever? Is DBus running? What error did you get? – Michael Hampton Jun 22 '20 at 11:38
  • Are you actually running the cron script as the logged-in user? I.e. what is the exact line that configures the cron script, and in which file is it? It's not explicit in the docs, but I would expect notify-send to send to the user that it is executed as. – Law29 Jun 22 '20 at 17:42
  • @MichaelHampton I'm very sorry for getting back so late, I had a lot of stress and was unable to access from stackexchange forums for a while. Yes, I'm running GNOME, latest version. Yesm dbus is running. I don't get any error: Nothing happens, when I run the command. – MyCatsHat Aug 26 '20 at 15:17

if you want to run any program with custom XDISPLAY :

  • It also doesn't seem to work. I tried executing /bin/bash -c 'DISPLAY=0:0 inkscape' (in order to replace mycommand with an actual command) first and then I added the line xhost + before that - and in both cases I get an error: xhost: unable to open display "" (inkscape:23836): Gtk-WARNING **: 12:11:01.918: cannot open display: 0:0 – MyCatsHat Jun 22 '20 at 9:13
  • What exactly do I need to do in order to get working? I have now idea what XAuthority does and it does not seem to be a good idea to mess with it, since it looks like I can really mess up my system. – MyCatsHat Jun 22 '20 at 9:13
  • @MyCatsHat answer updated, the : in front of 0.0 is necessary ,also notice the dot between the zero ( DISPLAY=:0.0 inkscape ) , also for other displays e.g. it might be e.g. DISPLAY=:1.0 inkscape – Bash Stack Jun 22 '20 at 23:34
  • @MyCatsHat .XAuthorithy is a cookie file that is generated each time a X server starts , sometimes you might need to copy it to the user trying to execute the command . if you fear it , you could use ssh -Y anotheruser@localhost inkscape , but that is slower – Bash Stack Jun 22 '20 at 23:44

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