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I'm using, (uname -a says) Linux ip-x-x-x-x #1 SMP Tue Sep 1 10:25:30 EDT 2009 x86_64 GNU/Linux.

I've got a script, with 100 lines of code and when I run

head -n 5

the command just "hangs" until I press Ctrl-C.

man head

doesn't give much insight.

The path to head (via which) is /usr/bin/head

I'm SSH'd into the server if that makes a difference.

My shell is /bin/bash.

A workaround to use

sed 5q

works great, but I'd like an answer to this question. Thanks everyone.

share|improve this question
what does head --version report? Does head -n 5 < work as expected? If so, after head -n 5, does typing a few lines of random text followed by ctl-D cause the first 5 lines of your random text to be echoed? – rici Sep 18 '13 at 19:52
@rici head --version hangs, too! head -n 5 < doesn't work. I tried typing anyway and my characters get echoed immediately. – jcarpio Sep 18 '13 at 20:36
If head --version hangs (and you have no other problems, tail or similar programs work etc) then this is, as @rici said, almost certainly not a normal head but something else. – terdon Sep 18 '13 at 23:46

I was going to suggest that your head is symlinked to busybox, but even busybox will work with head -n 5 < (In fact, the one I tried works with head -n 5, but maybe there are versions which don't.) Still, it seems likely that the head on your machine is not any standard head. Perhaps its an alias, or a shell function.

Small note: It's important (although not always obvious) to distinguish between a program that is "hanging" and a program that is simply waiting for user input. Yours is waiting for user input. That's different from, for example, sleep 3600 or for ((i=1;i<100000000;++i)); do :; done.

Here are some things you can try:

$ type head
head is aliased to `echo Surprise\!'

$ type head
head is a function
head () 
    echo surprise\!
# ...

$ type head
head is hashed (/usr/local/bin/head)
$ file /usr/local/bin/head
/usr/local/bin/head: POSIX shell script, ASCII text executable

$ type head
head is hashed (/usr/local/bin/head)
$ file /usr/local/bin/head
/usr/local/bin/head: symbolic link to `/bin/busybox'
share|improve this answer
Ah, file head gives this information. ip-x-x-x-x:/usr/bin# file /usr/bin/head /usr/bin/head: ELF 64-bit LSB executable, x86-64, version 1 (SYSV), dynamically linked (uses shared libs), for GNU/Linux 2.6.8, stripped – jcarpio Sep 23 '13 at 21:36
@jcarpio: Gosh, your linux kernel just celebrated its ninth birthday! Did hash head reveal that it was using that path? Investigating oddities like this should not be done from a root account, by the way. If an attacker had gotten into your system and injected nasties over top of your standard utilities (or taken advantage of a badly-configured $PATH), running them as root would be playing into their hands. – rici Sep 23 '13 at 21:45
well, hash head doesn't give anything. at this point, the sed workaround seems fine. thanks for the help! – jcarpio Sep 25 '13 at 23:13

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