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How to log cron jobs in OS X El Capitan 10.11

Wednesday 09 December 2015 at 10:05 am

Last night I wrote a quick PHP script to scan the OVH, SoYouStart and Kimsufi dedicated server inventory to alert me via email when certain types of servers in specific datacenters became available.

After decoding the server type ID and building SASL and TLS authentication into Postfix, I added the script to cron. But I wasn’t sure it was running, and while on most servers there’s a cron log, there wasn’t one on my Mac Pro. How to get it there…

My first thought was syslog. So I looked at /etc/syslog.conf:

  # Note that flat file logs are now configured in /etc/asl.conf
  install.*						@

Well that’s not helpful. What’s this asl.conf? I sure didn’t know, but a little digging found me this gem:

It looks like aslmanager first appeared in OS X 10.5.6. It also looks like the asl facility is Apple’s replacement for syslogd, created to make it easier to quickly search system logs. From the asl(3) man page: “This API permits clients to create queries and search the message data store for matching messages.”

So asl is the OSX way to manage log files. Great! Let’s learn it.

  # configuration file for syslogd and aslmanager

# aslmanager logs > /var/log/asl/Logs/aslmanager external style=lcl-b ttl=2 # authpriv messages are root/admin readable ? [= Facility authpriv] access 0 80 # remoteauth critical, alert, and emergency messages are root/admin readable ? [= Facility remoteauth] [<= Level critical] access 0 80

What is this sorcery?!? I kid, it’s actually a well organized configuration language. The meat of it is the leading character of each line. From the asl.conf man page:

The files contain several types of lines, described below. Each type is identified by the first non-whitespace character in the line.

     =  Parameter settings
     ?  Query-action rules
     >  Output file or directory configuration options
     #  Comments

So lines that start with a “>” deal with files that will be used for logging, and lines that start with an “=” indicate what syslog entries go into what files. That’s all I needed. So here’s what I added to my asl.conf:

 # Cron!
 > cron mode=0640 format=bsd rotate=seq compress file_max=5M all_max=50M
 ? [= Facility cron] [<= Level info] file cron

  1. Line 1: A comment!
  2. Line 2:
    1. Name of log File
    2. File Permissions
    3. Log using syslogd format (bsd is one of many logfile formats asl supports)
    4. Rotate log files using sequential names e.g. system.log becomes system.log.0 on rotation
    5. Compress the file using gzip upon rotation
    6. Rotate when the file grows more that 5MB in size
    7. Start deleting rotated files when the sum of filename.*.gz exceeds 50MB
  3. Line 3:
    1. If the syslog facility equals cron
    2. AND the syslog level is info or above (greater)
    3. Log the syslog message into the file named cron

That’s it! Then I restarted both syslog and aslmanager, not knowing which one (or both) needed to re-read the asl.conf:

  sudo launchctl stop com.apple.syslog
  sudo launchctl stop com.apple.aslmanager
  sudo launchctl start com.apple.syslog
  sudo launchctl start com.apple.aslmanager

And now things are working just the way I like.

  Dec  9 09:45:00 max /usr/sbin/cron[8363]: (beckman) CMD (/usr/bin/php /Users/beckman/bin/ovh-watch.php)
  Dec  9 09:50:00 max /usr/sbin/cron[8380]: (beckman) CMD (/usr/bin/php /Users/beckman/bin/ovh-watch.php) 
  Dec  9 09:55:00 max /usr/sbin/cron[8398]: (beckman) CMD (/usr/bin/php /Users/beckman/bin/ovh-watch.php)

I hope this helps you! If so, or if you have questions, leave them in the comments below.


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Anne F (Email) - 27 12 16 - 02:26

Thanks, very helpful but where do your cron logs end up?
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I tried this and got syntax errors in my syslog file. After some twiddling, I think the actual asl.conf entry ought to look more like this:

#log cron jobs
? [= Facility cron] [
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