Quickly Diff Two Strings in Bash Shell

Hello, World!

I am working on a Raspberry Pi 3 project (my first, I’m embarrassed to say :-p) and downloaded NOOBS OS installer to install Raspbian on my new Pi.

Even though I torrented the ZIP file, I still wanted to check the SHA256 checksum of the download. I’m careful that way.

Here’s what I want to do: compute the SHA256 hash of the NOOBS Zip file and compare that to the checksum from the website:

Screenshot 2017-08-25 09.56.05

Drop out to a command window. Enter this command (I don’t want the file name, so I run it through sed after the shamus command):

shasum -a 256 ./NOOBS_v2_4_3.zip | sed 's/^\(.[a-f0-9]*\) .*$/\1/'

Which returned:


Now, copy the line from the Terminal window, open a text editor, paste it in. Hit enter to get a new line in the editor, copy the SHA-256 hash from the NOOBS download page, and paste that in below it:

Screenshot 2017-08-25 10.09.00

By eye, I can easily see these match, but I thought, “Sheesh, what a lot of work! There has to be a better way!” Spoiler alert: there is!

I found this post at StackOverflow, which linked to this post about process substitution.

So through a single command, I can compute the SHA-256 hash of the downloaded ZIP file, and compare that to the checksum from the NOOBS downloads page (okay, okay, I still have to manually copy the checksum from the downloads page and paste it into the command line after the echo):

diff <(shasum -a 256 ./NOOBS_v2_4_3.zip | sed 's/^\(.[a-f0-9]*\) .*$/\1/') \
<(echo 94790b8d87086d46d16413bd1967e3f5eb709cb5e124d8213d40e5707da18437)

Note: I’m using “\” to indicate the line is too long for WordPress to display, but the command works just fine with the backslash in there. Here’s a screenshot in case you need further convincing (I ran it twice, once with and once without the backslash):

Screenshot 2017-08-25 10.39.55

Voila! When the command line comes back with no output (as diff does when there are no differences between “files”), I know the checksum is good!

So, to sum up, the basic format for this command (assumes you’re checking an SHA-256 hash) is:

diff <(shasum -a 256 /path/to/file/FILE_TO_CHECK | \
sed 's/^\(.[a-f0-9]*\) .*$/\1/') <(echo CHECKSUM_FROM_WEBSITE)

Hope you enjoyed this tip. Thanks for reading!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Raspberry Pi 3 project to get to!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s