Using pipes while running external programs in Julia

Recently I was using Julia to run ffprobe to get the length of a video file. The trouble was the ffprobe was dumping its output to stderr and I wanted to take that output and run it through grep. From a bash shell one would typically run:

ffprobe somefile.mkv 2>&1 |grep Duration

This would result in an output like

 Duration: 00:04:44.94, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 128 kb/s

This works because we used 2>&1 to redirect stderr to stdout which would in be piped to grep.

If you were try to run this in Julia

julia> run(`ffprobe somefile.mkv 2>&1 |grep Duration`)

you will get errors. Julia does not like pipes | inside the backticks command (for very sensible reasons). Instead you should be using Julia’s pipeline command. Also the redirection 2>&1 will not work. So instead, the best thing to use is and instance of Pipe. This was not in the manual. I stumbled upon it in an issue discussion on GitHub. So a good why to do what I am after is to run.

julia> p=Pipe()
Pipe(uninit => uninit, 0 bytes waiting)
julia> run(pipeline(`ffprobe -i  somefile.mkv`,stderr=p))

This would create a pipe object p that is then used to capture stderr after the execution of the command. Next we need to close the input end of the pipe.

julia> close(p.in)

Finally we can use the pipe with grep to filter the output.

julia> readstring(pipeline(p,`grep Duration`))
"  Duration: 00:04:44.94, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 128 kb/s\n"

We can then do a little regex magic to get the duration we are after.

julia> matchall(r"(\d{2}:\d{2}:\d{2}.\d{2})",ans)[1]

Kaperkar’s Constant

I was recently introduced to Kaperkar’s Constant.
It is quite magical. You take any four digit number A, sort the digits from highest to lowest to create a new number A^{\text{high}}, sort the digits from lowest to highest to get A^{\text{low}}, and calculate and new number A= A^{\text{high}}- A^{\text{low}}. You repeat this procedure enough times and you end up with A=6174.

I made a nifty implementation of that in Julia below.


Julia calling C: A minimal example

This blog is a “Hello World” example of Julia calling C.

We start of by at bit of C code we want to call from Julia. We write the following in calc_mean.c

double mean(double a, double b) {
  return (a+b) / 2;

To build the library, we need to create a Makefile

CFLAGS=-c -Wall -fPIC
    $(CC) $(CFLAGS) $< -o $@ 
lib: $(OBJECTS)
    $(CC) -shared -fPIC -o libmean.so $(OBJECTS)
    rm *.o *.so

The option fPIC and -shared are essential for Julia to be able to resolve the function in our library. Now we are almost ready to build our library. From the bash terminal we invoke:

make lib

This will generate a libmean.so file.

In Julia we call the function in our c library by


For this to work,

  • Julia must be running either on the same path where libmean.so resides,
  • the path to libmean.so is in LD_LIBRARY_PATH, or
  • the path to the library is pushed to Libdl.DL_LOAD_PATH via


P.S. Thanks to Christopher Rackauckas for tips on Julia highlighting.