Work the Shell - Analyzing Log Files

Ever wondered what your Web server is doing, but find that you don't have a stats or analytics package installed? In fact, analyzing log files is a perfect task for the Linux command line and, by extension, shell scripts too.

(Yes, yes, I know that the URLs on this site are ridiculously long!)

Now, finally, I can see that the articles about the Motorola RAR phone, AOL screen names and Sony PSP are the most popular articles on the site. Remember, this is a slice for only about six hours too, so the RAZR article is actually being requested an impressive once a minute or so. Popular indeed!

I'm going to stop here now that you've had a taste of how basic Linux commands can be combined to extract useful and interesting data from an Apache log file. Next month, we'll look at one more statistic: how much aggregate data we've transferred. Then, we'll start looking at how to build a shell script that does these sorts of calculations with ease.

Dave Taylor is a 26-year veteran of UNIX, creator of The Elm Mail System, and most recently author of both the best-selling Wicked Cool Shell Scripts and Teach Yourself Unix in 24 Hours, among his 16 technical books. His main Web site is at


Dave Taylor has been hacking shell scripts for over thirty years. Really. He's the author of the popular "Wicked Cool Shell Scripts" and can be found on Twitter as @DaveTaylor and more generally at