How It Works

stdin: is not a tty

Making annoying errors shut up.

That was the error.

stdin: is not a tty

I use rsync to make a backup of my files via this shell script that runs every time I log in to my laptop:


cd $(dirname $0)

echo "
Date: $TODAY
-----------------------------------------------------\n" > log.txt

echo "Backup files..." >> log.txt
rsync -aCv --delete --exclude-from 'backup-exclude.txt' -e ssh public_html >> log.txt

echo "\nEnd Backup. Have a nice day." >> log.txt

It’s a nice little script. It downloads everything into a folder called which I then use with DesktopServer to have a copy of my site. The database? That’s handled by another file which pulls down the DB backups from Amazon S3 (something built in to cPanel) which I may cover at a later point.

Today though, let’s talk about what that error is, what it means, how we fix it, and why that fix works.

The error is caused by having mesg at the top of a .bashrc file on my server. In my case, the line is not in the user’s file, but the root file. The message, on login, tells you when your last login was, where it was from, and what the IP was. It also tells you how many failed logins happened since your last login, a report that amuses me when I sudo into root now and then.

Why I get the error is because when I log in via rsync, the message is trying to show on the rsync output, which can’t parse it, and thus errors. The fix means I need to tell it not to show the output. And to do that we put this at the top of the .bashrc file:

[ -z "$PS1" ] && return

Another option would be this:

if `tty -s`; then
   mesg n

It depends on your flavor of Linux of course.

The final question we have with this is why does it work?

The second fix is simple. It checks for tty, which is Teletype. If you’ve ever wondered how deaf people use the phone, it’s via a teletype machine. For the purposes of computers, it just means “This is text and we are going to talk in text interactively.” The tty setting is handled by your terminal of choice. If it doesn’t get tty, the server will just not show the message.

The first fix is a little more weird. PS1 stands for Prompt String 1 and is one of the prompts you get when logging in. Normally it just shows username and password. Using -z is checking if the prompt is interactive or not. If not, return (aka exit out and do nothing else).