Commands for Cron Jobs

I got totally lost the other day when I couldn’t get a cron job to work. Now, what path was that?

WordPress Database Backup is a plugin that I’d relied on in the past to keep a randomly backed up copy of a WordPress site. Unfortunately, that’s not a complete solution as the images or uploads folder, as well as any modified theme pages, won’t be saved during the database backup. Nor will the blog links! Keep an archive copy of everything you put on your website, so everything can be reconstructed in the case of a disaster or even a host switch. In case a website is made up of more than one database, you’d need a different backup solution than what a WordPress plugin can provide.

Use CRON jobs to automate the task of backing up all your hard work. It might take a while to figure things out, but once you do you’ll be secure in the knowledge that you did it and your data is safe.

At first I didn’t have the command part right for the cron job to work. After the time elements you need to indicate the path to sh, any flags (none used here), and the path to the shell script. In this case the command was –

/bin/sh /home/owner/backup/

where “owner” is the CPanel login name, and “backup” is an empty directory or folder that you create above the public_html directory. Some hosts will have a folder called “etc” already created for you. Check with your host!

In this case the /bin/sh directory was already created at the server level, in other words, I didn’t have to create it. The corresponding first line in the .sh file was –


Originally, the .sh file had an opening #!/bin/bash, but that didn’t work on this particular host.

The host tells me the script is running successfully, so I know the lack of output is my fault – somewhere. Checks the paths…found it! An error in the path for the configuration file lead to the script trying to run with default parameters, some of them blank. The script ran as far as it could so there was no error reported by the cron daemon to my email address. When the output is successful a log file is sent to that address.

When I finally got the paths straightened out, the backup files were zipped and in their proper places and an email log was sent to the proper address at the time the cron job was to run. It worked! Now I’ll go back and set up a couple of other cron jobs to back up other databases. I’ll use the same script, modified to back up different sets of databases on different schedules.

  • If you’re looking for a simple script to make one database backup and save that on your server, check out DaniWeb’s CRON job for backup.

Once you have your sites backed up automatically, you can do away with any backup plugins that you may have relied on in the past. When at all possible, automate the task of backing up a database. It’ll make your life easier!

Format of Numerical Values Matters to Your MySQL Database

In using databases we tend to move around a lot of data. So much data, in fact, that it’s impossible to verify every single datum in a manual way. What we can and should do is verify that the beginning, middle and ends of the data are intact.

I ran into a solution for a problem that I didn’t know I had until I checked to see that data I had imported into an existing MySQL table was imported properly. Data at the beginning of the new table mirrored the CSV nicely, but near the middle of the table I found that certain columns of data were whole numbers, not the decimal figure I was supposed to find.

It’s important to check the format of numerical values. By using the wrong data type when setting up your database you stand to lose precision of your numbers.

For example, when I set up a database I erroneously used the INT data type for a couple of values that needed to show the decimal places. Integers are whole numbers, and therefore, a value like 5.78 in the CSV showed up as 6 in the database table. The software did exactly what I asked it to do, which is a good reason to always verify the data after any manipulations.

The fix was to change the structure of the fields by changing the data ‘Type’ from INT to DECIMAL and specifying the ‘Length/Values’ in the format of ‘N,n’ where N is the total number of digits and n is the number of decimal places. So, for my example of 5.78, I entered “DECIMAL” and “3,2”.

Example of DECIMAL and INT numeric formats.

Then, I imported the data again and ta-da! All the data was there in the proper format.

How to Import a Data File into MySQL via phpMyAdmin

Sometimes we have a need to read data into an existing database. Knowing how to import a data file into an established table can save you a lot of time.

First, we’ll be working with MySQL and to make things easier we’ll use phpMyAdmin to speak to the database.

Second, obtain a delimited text file, which is basically a listing of table columns where each column of data is separated by, or marked off by, or delimited by a character. Common delimiting characters are the comma, semi-colon and quote marks, but any character may be used as long as you indicate what the delimiters are.

Example character separated values or CSV file.

In this example the tilde (~) encloses each field of text and the carat (^) denotes the end of the fields.

In phpMyAdmin select your database and table into which you want to import data and click on the Import tab.

The Import tab of phpMyAdmin.

Browse to the location of your delimited text file and select the character set of the file if the default is not correct.

The Import page in phpMyAdmin.

Under “Format of imported file”, click CSV, which stands for comma separated values file or character separated values file. An options form will open when CSV is chosen, but if SQL is checked the options form remains hidden.

Select the CSV button to open this part of the import page.

Under “Options” you can tick off the boxes for ‘Replace table data with file’ and ‘Ignore duplicate rows’ if either function is desired.

Enter the characters that are appropriate for your CSV under ‘Fields terminated by’ and ‘Fields enclosed by’. In the example file above ‘^’ was used for the field termination character and ‘~’ for the field enclosure character.

Characters for escaping fields or terminating lines can be input here, too. Also, if you want to add column names enter the names separated by commas in the blank provided. When ready, hit “Go”.

If successful, you’ll get a message that X number of queries were executed, which means that X number of records were imported into your table. If not successful, check the number of columns and the characters that you’ve input for the CSV and try again.

Your system may limit the size of file that can be imported. If so, check out this LOAD FILE post for a little help.

As always, verify that the data was read into the database correctly. Check that the data for each column of the table matches up with the source delimited text file.

MySQL LOAD FILE Statement Rescues Huge Database File

A client needed to use an existing database, which turned out to be a big gargantuan thing, but to be able work with it on the Web I needed to convert it from MS Access to MySQL.

Instead of trying to convert the Access files to MySQL I chose to work with delimited text files that were available. Ten text files were used to represent ten tables for the database. It was easy enough to read in the delimited text files into OpenOffice Calc by identifying the delimiting characters and importing the new .csv file into MySQL, but one file in particular was really big and presented a problem.

I tried to work with the big text file in Notepad and HTML-Kit, but it was too cumbersome due to the file size – over 500,000 records! Not enough copy and paste operations could be done in a day to make me want to go through it again when the original database gets updated and I have to convert the scary big text file into MySQL format again. Knowing that the original database can be updated at any time, I needed a way to get that huge file into MySQL with a minimum of effort.

After looking around a bit, I downloaded a piece of conversion software called Full Convert from SpectralCore.

Installation went smoothly and I noted there was an uninstall feature in case the software wasn’t a good fit for my needs. It seemed promising in that there are several databases that can be converted back and forth, but the function to convert a text file to MySQL tables did not work for me. The text file used the characters ‘^’ to terminate fields and ‘~’ to enclose fields. However, the software did not give a choice for the field-enclosing character.

Since it didn’t work for me I uninstalled it, but the Full Convert software may be promising if you’re moving files from one database system to another. Here’s the list of DBs they work with:

Supported source databases
– Microsoft Access, dBase, FoxPro, Microsoft Excel documents, Interbase / Firebird, Lotus 1-2-3, MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, ODBC sources, Paradox, SQL Server, Delimited text files, XML

Supported target databases
– MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle, PostgreSQL, Access, Interbase/Firebird

Further digging lead me to a solution for this problem of not being able to import a really big, delimited text file into a table in MySQL.


The solution is to read the file directly into MySQL using the MySQL statement “LOAD DATA INFILE”.

For my situation the code that worked was this –

LOAD DATA INFILE ‘data.txt’ INTO TABLE databasename.tablename FIELDS TERMINATED BY ‘^’ ENCLOSED BY ‘~’;

Don’t forget the trailing semi-colon and don’t use single quotes around the database and table names (and leave the semi-colon in the space provided for the Delimiter).

How did I find my solution? Searching at WebmasterWorld for “convert text to mysql” did the trick.

A simple post by a fellow developer that was written to help someone else out a couple years ago helped lead me to the LOAD_DATA function. Thanks, dreamcatcher!