This question is about Ubuntu 14.10 on my developer laptop.

I've got a folder in /tmp that is used by an application to put temporary stuff in there. This application usually makes a temporary folder in my homedir and deletes it afterwards. For some reason that doesn't work when the homedir is encrypted. So instead, I made a symlink to /tmp/foo inside my homedir. My application can write there and make it's temporary subfolder.

Now /tmp/foo gets deleted every time I reboot my machine. Until now I've just recreated the folder manually after reboot. Now I learned in How is the /tmp directory cleaned up? that there is a job doing that.

I've looked at /etc/init/mounted-tmp.conf but my bashfu and especially my findfu are not sufficient to do what I want. Here's an excerpt from that file:

   EXCEPT='! -name .
            ! ( -path ./lost+found -uid 0 )
            ! ( -path ./quota.user -uid 0 )
            ! ( -path ./aquota.user -uid 0 )
            ! ( -path ./quota.group -uid 0 )
            ! ( -path ./aquota.group -uid 0 )
            ! ( -path ./.journal -uid 0 )
            ! ( -path ./.clean -uid 0 )
            ! ( -path "./...security*" -uid 0 )'

   # Remove all old files, then all empty directories
   find . -depth -xdev $TEXPR $EXCEPT ! -type d -delete
   find . -depth -xdev $DEXPR $EXCEPT -type d -empty -delete

What I want to do is add a condition that makes it delete everyting inside /tmp/foo, but not /tmp/foo itself. How do I do that?

  • Is /tmp/foo a directory or a file? – terdon Jun 12 '15 at 14:38
  • A directory. There are files inside. – simbabque Jun 12 '15 at 14:42
  • Why not add mkdir /tmp/foo right before end script? – Hagen von Eitzen Jun 12 '15 at 16:07
  • Just FYI (you may already know this): 14.10 reaches EOL in July 2015, so you should really upgrade to Vivid as soon as possible. – Léo Lam Jun 12 '15 at 18:41

/etc/init/mounted-tmp.conf is part of the mountall package, so any updates on that package and the suggested changes will be reverted.

$ sudo dpkg -S /etc/init/mounted-tmp.conf 
mountall: /etc/init/mounted-tmp.conf

Instead, according to the Filesystem Hierachy standard (FHS);

Regarding /tmp:

Programs must not assume that any files or directories in /tmp are preserved between invocations of the program.

Regarding /var/tmp:

The /var/tmp directory is made available for programs that require temporary files or directories that are preserved between system reboots. Therefore, data stored in /var/tmp is more persistent than data in /tmp.

So you should change your symbolic link to use /var/tmp instead of /tmp.

  • 4
    Classic example of when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. – WernerCD Jun 12 '15 at 18:26
  • @WernerCD could you elaborate what you mean by that? Are you saying that /var/tmp is not a good idea? – simbabque Jun 12 '15 at 18:55
  • 6
    When all you have is a hammer... - If a person is familiar with ... a certain, single instrument, they may have a confirmation bias to believe that it is the answer to/involved in everything. I'm saying that the OP is using /tmp for something it's not meant to be used for - Using /tmp as a hammer to his problem of keeping tmp-but-not-quite-tmp stuff. /var/tmp is MEANT to be kept between reboots, so its the right answer. – WernerCD Jun 12 '15 at 19:17

Not strictly an answer to your question, but you might find /var/tmp to be a more suitable location, as it doesn't get cleaned up over a reboot. It's designed for temporary files that should not be automatically discarded after a short time.

What I often do, however, is create myself a folder under /opt to store random things I don't want in home. That's a suitable place to put things that are outside the main OS's control.

  • This is the right idea. If /tmp doesn't do what you want, then store your info somewhere else - even on another drive if there's space available. Don't mess with things that Linux (and other programmers) expects to be a certain way unless it's the only way to get the result you need. – Joe Jun 18 '15 at 1:38

Like so:

EXCEPT='! -name .
            ! ( -path "./foo" )'

   # Remove all old files, then all empty directories
   find /tmp/foo/* -depth -xdev $TEXPR -delete


$ cd /tmp/foo/
$ mkdir 1 2 3
$ touch 3 4 5
$ find /tmp/foo/* -depth -xdev $TEXPR -delete
$ ls /tmp/foo/

I do agree with user aap: You either should take care of this in the software used by re-creating the directory there if they are tmp files or use another directory if they are not tmp files that is not purged.

  • This doesn't actually work. While the find command works as expected when run manually, the directory is still removed after editing /etc/init/mounted-tmp.conf. It seems like there's something else going on here. – terdon Jun 12 '15 at 16:37
  • wth. ehm. that should mean that the 1st line is faulty. maybe it needs to be relative(?) – Rinzwind Jun 12 '15 at 20:50
  • @terdon yes seems it needs to be relative to /tmp/ – Rinzwind Jun 12 '15 at 21:07
  • I don't think so, I tried various permutations, including -path ./foo and even -name '*foo*' and none of them worked (on Ubuntu Server 14.04). I think that's just not the right file and we're looking in the wrong place. What you're suggesting should work, it just doesn't seem to. – terdon Jun 12 '15 at 22:30

It is a bad idea to have files with future value, write to the /tmp directory (/var/tmp, as suggested by others, is a better place). That said, you might want to give a shot at chattr. This should be run after the application exits, but before a shutdown. Remember that this operation won't let anything write to that directory henceforth.

touch /tmp/foo/ddmmyy/.001_immute_me chattr +i /tmp/foo/ddmmyy/.001_immute_me

  • How would that be useful if I want to have a temporary directory? – simbabque Jun 19 '15 at 7:04

Run this:

echo "if [ ! -e /etc/foo/ ]; then mkdir /etc/foo/; fi; rm -rf /etc/foo/*" > /bin/foodel; sudo chmod 755 /bin/foodel 

then Add this to /etc/inittab see here: where is inittab file?:


That will create /etc/foo on boot if it doesn't exist, and then empty it.

This will do the same on bash login:

echo "/bin/foodel" >> ~/.bashrc
  • Ubuntu version 14 doesn't use /etc/inittab. This is clearly and unequivocally stated on its manual page. – JdeBP Jun 13 '15 at 15:30
  • *facepalm* Sorry @JdeBP, this is what happens to me after juggling 4 different versions of linux. He can put the code somewhere stated askubuntu.com/questions/34308/where-is-inittab-file – Daniel Jun 13 '15 at 20:25

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