In my sudo crontab, edited with sudo crontab -e, I have:

# m h  dom mon dow   command
40 4 * * * /bin/bash /usr/bin/verify-miab-backup.sh

That script is:

echo `date` > /home/mythbuntu/last_verify_miab_run.log
echo `id -u -n` >> /home/mythbuntu/last_verify_miab_run.log
export PASSPHRASE=$(cat /dozer/eandb/miab_22-04/secret_key.txt)
duplicity verify --log-file=/var/log/duplicity_backblaze_verify.log file:///dozer/eandb/miab_backblaze_backups/ /dev/null && echo "miab_last_verify_time_seconds `date +"%s"`" > /etc/grafana-text-file-collectors/miab_verify.prom

The first two lines were to help try to debug this issue. That /home/mythbuntu/last_verify_miab_run.log file contains:

Mon 10 Apr 04:40:01 BST 2023

so it looks like the file is being run and by root. The third line takes the secret key from a file and stores it into PASSPHRASE (is that okay in a cron job?) and then the fourth line uses that passphrase to verify a backup.

If I look at the .prom file, though:

$ cat /etc/grafana-text-file-collectors/miab_verify.prom
miab_last_verify_time_seconds 1681077406

that time corresponds to Sunday, 9 April 2023 22:56:46, which is when I last ran it manually.

Running it manually with sudo verify-miab-backup.sh, everything works as expected. /home/mythbuntu/last_verify_miab_run.log contains:

$ cat /home/mythbuntu/last_verify_miab_run.log 
Mon 10 Apr 14:10:15 BST 2023


cat /etc/grafana-text-file-collectors/miab_verify.prom
miab_last_verify_time_seconds 1681132381

is Monday, 10 April 2023 14:13:01, as you would expect.

I am guessing I am doing something obviously wrong with permissions or using variables in a way that is not permitted in a cron job, but I am just not sure where. Any help would be appreciated.

Looking at previous questions on here:

Many thanks!

  • 1
    /bin/bash in crontab is unnecessary since you are using the "shebang" in your shell script. However, please try to use the full path of duplicity on the fifth line. Also you should redirect stdout and stderr of your script to a file in the crontab, so that you can easily see any (error) output produced by the script.
    – FedKad
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 14:42
  • In the 4th link above, did you check the difference between your user environment and the cron environment in which you are trying to run the job. See answer headed Different Environment
    – PonJar
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 20:54
  • @FedKad you were right facepalm. While I was worried about the path in cron, I missed the path to duplicity in the fifth line. Adding the full path to that fixed my issue. Many thanks -- if you add that point from your comment into the beginning of your answer below then I'll accept that. Commented May 9, 2023 at 20:35

1 Answer 1


I would just put the following in root's crontab:

# m h  dom mon dow   command
40 4 * * * /usr/bin/verify-miab-backup.sh

And would change the contents of your script like this:

  echo -e "\n=== $(date) - $0 started - $(id -u -n) ==="
  export PASSPHRASE=$(cat /dozer/eandb/miab_22-04/secret_key.txt)
  duplicity verify ...
  echo -e "\n=== $(date) - $0 finished ==="
} &>> /home/mythbuntu/last_verify_miab_run.log

This way, all expected and not expected output (stdout) and error messages (stderr) will be appended to the end of your log file (/home/mythbuntu/last_verify_miab_run.log) and you will be able to debug your script much more easily. You should put any other commands inside the curly brackets ({}), so that you will not lose anything.

I would also determine the full path of the duplicity command (possibly /usr/bin/duplicity) and use the full path in the 5th line above, in case the process running my cron script has not included the directory containing duplicity in its PATH and I see a related error message in the log above.

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