convert date and time to epoch in awk

dteske at dteske at
Wed Feb 20 00:11:20 UTC 2013

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-freebsd-questions at [mailto:owner-freebsd-
> questions at] On Behalf Of b w
> Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 2:34 PM
> To: freebsd-questions at
> Subject: convert date and time to epoch in awk
> I want to write a script that parses the last, say, 10 minutes of a log
> file looking for a certain string, like 'error', or failed', and returns
> how many times it shows up. The script would be run by Nagios and if it
> returns > 0 an alert is raised. Each line of the log file starts with a
> date like 'Feb 19 23:45:32'.
> One way to do it I guess would be to read each line in a while loop,
> extract the date, convert it into epoch using the date command, if it's
> within 10 minutes remember the line somewhere, then grep the result. I was
> thinking this might be too slow, or there may be too many lines at some
> point, but it might actually be acceptable if I tail the last few thousands
> lines. Anyway...
> Another way would be to use gawk, which has date/time functions like
> systime() and mktime(). This works fine, but someone like myself at some
> point will forget to install gawk on a new server and might not realize it
> untill something happens.
> So, is there a way to compare two dates in FreeBSD's awk or convert a date
> to epoch? Or some other fast way to select the last 10 minutes from a log
> file? An example would be appreciated, if possible.

Converting a date to an epoch is easy with date(1) (note: awk can make a system
call and read back the stdout into a variable).

For example, if I want to convert the date:

Fri 01 Feb 2013

into an epoch using:

date -j -f "%a %d %b %Y" "Fri 01 Feb 2013" +%s

The output of which is the following epoch:


Doing this all from awk:

echo "Fri 01 Feb 2013" | awk '
	mydate = $0
	"date -j -f \"%a %d %b %Y\" \"" mydate "\" +%s" | getline myepoch
	print mydate " = " myepoch

Hope this helps.

P.S. Be careful that log files often (a) rotate and (b) contain "last message
repeated N times" which can throw off your counts. Things I have solved before
and am willing to share if you're interested.

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