Scripting a Simple Download Scheduler


Scheduling jobs

So far, nothing has been discussed about how you can run a job (script) at a specified time. This is possible by means of a utility called at. When invoked with the option -f, it will run a given script at a given time. The following is a typical way you can use the at command:

at -f <script name> <time>

Here <time> can be specified in different ways, like:

  • 11:45 PM
  • now
  • now+5 minutes

To get more details on at, check out the man page.

It is worth mentioning that the output of jobs scheduled using at will not be tagged with STDOUT (i.e., the monitor) which means that the process will run only in the background. We will be able to know whether the run was successful or not by checking the mailbox of the person who used at, or by using the system monitor utilities like ps.

Note: The mailbox here is different. In the current context, it’s the e-mail sent by the system to the person (user) who has scheduled the job. If users have installed a utility called mail, the output will be written to a text file in the /var/mail/ directory. It is not compulsory that you need to have mail installed, but for those who are interested in scheduling more jobs using at, mail is a useful utility.

Let’s suppose our schedule looks like the following:

  • login and start download at 2.10 a.m.
  • logout at 5.45 a.m.
  • shutdown at 5.50 a.m.

What we need to do is schedule our scripts (, and at the respective time. Open three terminal windows and run the following:

# at -f 2:10 AM   ##in the first window
# at -f 5:45 AM   ##in the second window and
# at -f 5:50 AM   ## in the third window

Continuing from stopped downloads

If the download was not over within the time span, a truncated file will be created at the destination folder at the time of logout. This is true for large sized files. On those occasions, you can continue from where you’ve stopped at a convenient time, by running wget with the -c option:

wget -c <target folder> <URL>

If there is a file with the same name as the one specified within the URL in the target directory, wget will request the server to continue retrieval from an offset equal to the length of the downloaded one.

Improvisations that we can incorporate

Now, our scheduler can be made to run successfully under normal conditions, which of course includes an undisrupted connection with the server. For those sites that compulsorily require you to sign in to access the Net, you can simply invoke lynx-cur by making it read keystrokes from a file (as we’ve done earlier) for signing in. In case of disturbances that result in disconnection while downloading, you can ensure a smooth download by making provisions in the script to reconnect. This can be done by writing a function as follows:
function do_it {
    wget -t 1 --timeout=60 -c --directory-prefix=/media/new_volume/yesterday $1
    count=$[ $count + 1 ]
    if [ $status -ne 0 ] && [ $count -lt 5 ]
        do_it $1

do_it <URL 1>
do_it <URL n>

Here, do_it is a function which accepts URLs as arguments which wget is then made to point at. The -t option specifies number of tries wget must attempt to download. Its value is assigned as 1. After the first try, wget will quit with a status value. This is examined along with the value of an integer variable count to decide whether a re-login has to be made.

Integer variable count is specified by us, depending upon the number of times re-login must be allowed. Here, I gave the terminating count to be 5, which means download will continue smoothly by logging in for first five disconnections experienced in course of the download of a file. You can also see the --timeout option which can be used to specify the maximum time, in seconds, wget must wait for a reply from an idle server. Its default value is 900 seconds. It is set to 60 seconds just to save time.

I guess that’s about it, for now. Will catch you later when I chance upon some other useful tip.


  1. Remember how i am strugle to download something using 'aget'. But got a problem the the pages required to be authenticated first. Thank for the tips on using lynx

  2. Hey ,
    Awesome article, Really helps us folks using adlkerala which requires user authentication.
    So finally I don't have to stay up late night to make sure my downloads happen :P


  3. It's very useful to learn about linux.I really surprised about the article “Linux in Rocket Science”.
    It will be a really a good one to know about Linux.


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