The Bad, The Good, and The Cloud

The Bad

This weekend I was working on a little project that involved manipulating a fairly large (1.8 gB compressed, 17 gB uncompressed) 7zip archive. I don’t have 17 gB to uncompress to on my laptop and a significant amount of the archive was uninteresting to me. I thought it would be sortav fun and worthwhile to remove the files that are not needed, so I ran a man 7zr and started reading.

Reading the manpage, it seems like one could do:

7zr d foo.gz file/to/delete.txt

Alas, for no obvious reason, that does exactly nothing. Instead, after some googling, the recommended method is:

7zr -d foo.gz -r delete.txt

Of course the manpage (which the document idiotically parrots) says:

   Recurse subdirectories (CAUTION: this flag does not do what  you
   think, avoid using it)

So fine, we have a way to do that, but with an archive this big it takes minutes to delete a single file, and my archive has something like eleven thousand files. I think I did the math and my computer would take nearly two weeks to delete the files assuming a linear rate that decreased as files were deleted.

The manpage also mentions the -si flag:

-si    Read  data  from  StdIn  (eg:  tar  cf  -  directory | 7zr a -si

I’m not totally clear what that is telling me. I figured I’d try what was obvious to me:

echo file/to/delete.txt | 7zr d -si foo.7z

That replaces the entire archive with an empty archive. Worthless.

The Good

So while that is all terrible, Unix is pretty great. To delete (some of) the files I don’t care about I can do:

7zr l foo.7z  | \
  grep 'yawn' | \
  cut -b60-   | \
  xargs -d '\n' -n1 -I{} \
  7zr d foo.7z -r {}

This writes a temp file in the current directory (instead of $TMPDIR, wah wah), so copying it to /run/shm so that it’s 100% in memory helps a tiny bit, but not enough to be sensibly fast.

On top of the command above, I wrote a couple other commands to see my progress:

megs() perl -E'printf "%0.02f mB\n", (((stat "old.7z")[7] - (stat "new.7z")[7])/1024/1024)'
newcount() { 7zr l $HOME/tmp/new.7z | grep 'yawn' | wc -l }
new() { local old=5365; local new=$(newcount); echo $(( $old - $new )) }

Those were really handy when I was checking my deletion progress. Unfortunately I defined them in the shell so I had to make sure to only run them from the window I defined them in. I then decided to write this tool, which allows definition of new commands almost as simply as defining a function in the shell.


fn dumb-echo perl -E'say "dumb"'

fn dumb-count 'ls | wc -l'

The code is here; feel free to let me now if you have ideas on improvements.

I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while, so that was pretty fun and rewarding.

Sadly, even after all of that, it was still too slow on my laptop.

The Cloud

So instead of leaving my laptop running at circa 50% CPU for two weeks, I figured out a better solution: use AWS to extract the entire archive, delete the files I don’t want, and recreate the archive. On top of that I suspect that it would be worth it for me to use something like tgz instead of the poorly interfaced and implemented 7z.

So in the course of 2 hours I both got a new free tier AWS account (I lost the credentials for my other one), spun up a machine, and started the upload of the archive. I had to get a larger than default (but still free) EBS volume or the extracted archive wouldn’t fit. After that it was almost literally:

scp foo.7z $mymachine:foo.7z
ssh $mymachine
sudo apt-get install p7zip
7zr e foo.7z
rm *yawn*
tar c foo.tar foo
gz foo.tar
scp $mymachine:foo.tar.gz foo.tgz

Sadly and maybe unsurprisingly I discovered that gzip was terrible for these kinds of binaries. I ended up just using rsync with compression to get the remaining 5 gB of files after cleaning them up.

Posted Mon, Sep 7, 2015

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