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GNU mcron
Vixie cron replacement

The mcron program represents a complete re-think of the cron concept originally found in the Berkeley and AT&T unices, and subsequently rationalized by Paul Vixie. The original idea was to have a daemon that wakes up every minute, scans a set of files under a special directory, and determines from those files if any shell commands should be executed in this minute.

It'is a 100% Vixie cron replacement written in pure Guile. As well as accepting traditional crontabs, it also accepts configuration files written in Scheme for infinite flexibility in specifying when jobs should run (it could take the system load into account, for example).

The new idea is to read the required command instructions, work out which command needs to be executed next, and then sleep until the inferred time has arrived. On waking the commands are run, and the time of the next command is computed. Furthermore, the specifications are written in scheme, allowing at the same time simple command execution instructions and very much more flexible ones to be composed than the original Vixie format. This has several useful advantages over the original idea. (Changes to user crontabs are signalled directly to mcron by the crontab program; cron must still scan the /etc/crontab file once every minute, although use of this file is highly discouraged and this behaviour can be turned off).

  • Does not consume CPU resources when not needed. Many cron daemons only run jobs once an hour, or even just once a day.
  • Can easily allow for finer time-points to be specified, i.e. seconds. In principle this could be extended to microseconds, but this is not implemented.
  • Times can be more or less regular. For example, a job that runs every 17 hours can be specified, or a job that runs on the first Sunday of every month.
  • Times can be dynamic. Arbitrary Guile (scheme) code can be provided to compute the next time that a command needs to be run. This could, for example, take the system load into consideration.
  • Each user looks after his own files in his own directory. He can use more than one to break up complicated cron specifications.
  • Each user can run his own daemon. This removes the need for suid programs to manipulate the crontabs, and eliminates many security concerns that surround all existing cron programs.
  • The user can obtain an advance schedule of all the jobs that are due to run.


A full discussion of the design and philosophy of mcron can be found online. The manual needs to be updated…

Heckert gnu.small.png This is a GNU package:mcron


Download version 1.0.8 (stable)
released on 25 May 2014

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Copyright (C) 2003, 2005, 2006, 2012, 2014 Dale Mellor

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This entry (in part or in whole) was last reviewed on 11 May 2014.


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