time or /usr/bin/time?

Isn’t it great when you find a command line gem in Linux!

I’ve been using the ‘time’ command for years, and it was only up recently that I was told that the time command I’ve been using was the time command built into bash. There is a GNU time command, which has always been installed but I’d never used!

Chris was the one who stumbled across this while attempting to use some time options specified in the time man page which wasn’t working. That’s when he realised the man page was for GNU time not bash’s implementation.

GNU time is awesome!! You can grab a whole heap of useful stats about the process your timing, not just the time. To quote the GNU time website:

The `time’ command runs another program, then displays information about the resources used by that program, collected by the system while the program was running.

I had a play with GNU Time and set up some format strings I find kinda cool, I’m not using all information from the file, check the man page if you wanna add extra goodies but here is what I’ve got:
A formatted time display:

/usr/bin/time -f "Exit Status: %x\nCPU %%: %P\nMemory:\n Unshared: %D\t\t\tAvg Total Mem: %K\n Major Page Faults: %F\t\tMinor Page Faults: %R\n No. Swaps Out of Mem: %W\tNo. Invol Context Swiches: %c\tNo. Vol Context Switches: %w\nTime:\n Realtime: %E\t\tSystem Time: %S\t\tUser Time: %U"

In which the time output looks like:

Exit Status: 0
CPU %: 98%
Unshared: 0 Avg Total Mem: 0
Major Page Faults: 0 Minor Page Faults: 3241
No. Swaps Out of Mem: 0 No. Invol Context Swiches: 35 No. Vol Context Switches: 2
Realtime: 0:00.29 System Time: 0.01 User Time: 0.27

And a simple tab seperated version easy for parsing:

/usr/bin/time -f "%x\t%P\t%D\t%K\t%F\t%R\t%W\t%c\t%w\t%E\t%S\t%U"

NOTE: The parse time command doesn’t have any labels, the columns are the same as the detailed format string.

Which looks like:

0 100% 0 0 0 3240 0 153 2 0:00.30 0.03 0.26

Unfortunately, the memory usage stats don’t seem to work… I’ll have to look in to why, is it a bug? am I doing something wrong? … not sure but if I figure it out I’ll let y’all know!.


Well as it turns out GNU Date is a little outdated…I had a quick look at the source code to see what was happening as to why the memory stats would only ever be 0. As it turns out to calculate memory usage they are using an algorithm that requires the number of kernel ticks. And for those of you who are unaware the Linux kernel has been tick-less since version ~2.6.21.

So no ticks equals no memory calculations.. hopefully GNU will rectify this problem cause as I stated earlier, GNU Date is a gem.