Simple Rotating Log Capture

This post concerns simple text-dump logs, not “data logs” that are sent to, say, Kafka for structured treatment.

I agree with the 12-factor app that programs should simply print logs to the standard output, and should not worry about what file to save the logs to, let alone file size capping and rotation, etc. Capture, storage, and consumption of the log are concerns of the execution environment.

After some research, I’ve decided to use a program called multilog, which is part of the deamontools suit of utilities for UNIX services.

Suppose our program myapp logs to stdout or stderr periodically, simply do

myapp 2>&1 | multilog s1000000 n10 /path-to-log/myapp

This will save logs in the directory /path-to-log/myapp. The currently active log file is named current. Each log file is size-capped at 1000000 bytes (via the argument s1000000), i.e. 1 MB. Older log files are named after the timestamp of the start (or maybe end?) of the content of the file. At most 10 (most recent) log files, including current, are kept in the directory, and older ones are discarded; this is controlled by the argument n10.

If we want to observe the terminal printout in the meantime, we can do

myapp 2>&1 | tee >(multilog s1000000 n10 /path-to-log/myapp)

There are a number of ways to customize the behavior of multilog. For example, it can selectively capture lines by pattern matching. It can also insert a timestamp at the beginning of each line if you so wish.

Some useful resources:

Several alternatives appear to be similar and equally adequate, including

I chose the multilog in daemontools because this is a package (called daemontools) that is apt-get installable on debian.

If your program is in Python, I had some tips on Python logging here that will work well with such stdout capturing.

If you want to observe the terminal printout as well as capture it in files, you may be tempted to use

python 2>&1 | tee >(multilog s1000000 n10 /path-to-log/myapp)

To your surprise, you won’t see printouts. Instead, you need to use

python -u 2>&1 | tee >(multilog s1000000 n10 /path-to-log/myapp)

This has to do with buffering.

Written on November 19, 2017