Linux System Administration: A User's Guide

An excerpt from our French chef's upcoming book.
Automating Interactive Automation

Now that you have had your introduction to scripting with expect, I am going to make the process almost impossibly easy. Rather than manually creating an expect script, how about letting a program do that for you, too? When you install expect, you will also install a cool little program called autoexpect. Simply put, autoexpect will watch whatever you are doing in an interactive session and create the expect script for you. Here is the format of the command:

autoexpect -f script_outputfile command_string

For instance, let's imagine that we wanted to log in to a remote system that is behind a firewall, essentially a two-step login process. After we log in to the firewall, we then execute a login (telnet, ssh, etc.) to yet another system on the internal network, then execute a standard menu program. We would like to have this whole process of logging in twice and starting this menu automated for us. From the command prompt, we would then type this command:

autoexpect -f superlogin.script telnet
When you have finished your login, you can exit the menu and log out. autoexpect will have captured the entire session for you. Before running your new script, you will probably want to do some editing to clean things up a bit. autoexpect's output is probably a little wordier than you want. Furthermore, you will want to remove the lines that exit from your menu and log out, but the basics of the script and all the prompts are captured there for you. Make the script executable and you are almost done.

There is still one other thing you will want to add. At the end of your new expect script, add this command: interact

This tells expect to return control to you after it has done its work. Without it, expect closes the spawned process, and all you've managed to do is log in and log out very quickly.

In no way do I intend this to be the definitive reference on expect. I do, however, hope that this little introduction (indeed, this whole chapter) will serve to whet your appetite and inspire your imagination to explore other ways of developing constructive laziness. After all, we all have other work to do.

What's all this on your screen about a magic cloak?

Marcel Gagné ( lives in Mississauga, Ontario. In real life, he is president of Salmar Consulting Inc., a systems integration and network consulting firm. He is also a pilot, writes science fiction and fantasy and edits TransVersions, a science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine (now an anthology). He loves Linux and all flavors of UNIX and will even admit it in public. You can discover lots of other things from his web site,



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using expect to automate ssl passphrase entrie is bad!!

Anonymous's picture

1st off, you don't need to use expect for this.

2nd off, using expect for this, pushes the actual passphrase to stdout.