Would appreciate to know about the special char or wildcard in the following command:

/sbin/ifconfig eth0 | awk -F ' *|:' '/inet addr/{print $4}'

What does the code below mean?

awk -F ' *|:' '  
  • Did I fully explain that? If so, you can accept my answer by clicking the checkmark next to it, which will give you plus 2 to your reputation. Welcome to the site, by the way. Plus 1 for the interesting question. – Aaron Hall May 14 '15 at 4:43

The -F flag (for awk) means to use the following extended regular expression as a Field separator Which means it treats any of the characters between the single quotes here: ' *|:' as delimiters.

Awk will then print the 4th field that has a match with inet addr.

For example: if this were the output for ifconfig eth0:

eth0      Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 09:00:12:90:e3:e5  
          inet addr: Bcast:  Mask:
          inet6 addr: fe80::a00:27ff:fe70:e3f5/64 Scope:Link
          RX packets:54071 errors:1 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:48515 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000 
          RX bytes:22009423 (20.9 MiB)  TX bytes:25690847 (24.5 MiB)
          Interrupt:10 Base address:0xd020 

It should print out

To break down the regular expression:

' *|:'


' *'

Means any number of spaces, and the remaining characters have no special meaning, so either of them can be a delimiter. The * itself is not a delimiter, it just means any number of the preceding character, a space.

  • @ Aaron .. for yeilding the same output i used the below code.. " ifconfig | grep 'inet addr' | awk {'print $2'} | sed s/.*://" What does sed s/.*:// means ? i learned it somwhere to clear the matching pattern but did not get the holistic meaning .... -> basically ".*:" – krock1516 May 14 '15 at 6:12

As you know, ip command exists in /sbin and /bin , So if you want to run your script in non-root, You can use the following statement :

mohsen@debian:~$ ip addr show eth0 |grep inet |grep -v inet6 | awk '{print $2}' |awk -F/ '{print $1}'
  • That's correct.. – krock1516 May 15 '15 at 8:45

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