Bash with MQTT

I’m working on re-purposing an old router. One of my goals is to bring sensor and performance data from the router to a Home Assistant node. The router doesn’t not have a lot of space so I’d prefer to use Bash rather than Python for MQTT communications.

While I was working on the project I wanted to use some simple tools to view the data, unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any information on how to make a good MQTT client in Bash.

This blog documents how I used Bash to show bar charts of MQTT data.


The first step is to install the Mosquitto command line tools on the OpenWrt router:

# Update the package manager list
opkg update
# Install the MQTT client utiliy
opkg install mosquitto-client-nossl

When I have some time I’d like to look at making some more MQTT Bash scripts that could be used with file input.

The next step is to install the Mosquitto client on my Linux PC and Raspberry Pi:

sudo apt-get install mosquitto-clients

There are a number of MQTT brokers that can be used, both Home Assistant and Node Red have reliable brokers. The Mosquitto broker can also be loaded on a Linux, MacOS and Windows node.

Publish MQTT Data in Bash

The Mosquitto client can be used to both publish and subscribe to MQTT data.

For my router project, I wanted the: temperature (from a USB thermometer), idle time, % used space and available space. Below is the script that passed the data to the mosquitto_pub (publishing) tool:

# - send data to MQTT broker
# Get Data values
idle=$(vmstat | awk '{ if (NR==3) print $15}')
used=$(df | awk '{if (NR==4) printf "%.f\n", $5 }')
space=$(df | awk '{if (NR==4) printf "%.1f\n", $4/1000 }')

echo "$temp $idle $used $space"

# Publish Data

mosquitto_pub -h $server -t rtr_temp -m $temp
sleep $pause
mosquitto_pub -h $server -t rtr_idle -m $idle
sleep $pause
mosquitto_pub -h $server -t rtr_used -m $used
sleep $pause
mosquitto_pub -h $server -t rtr_space -m $space

I added a pause between each publish to let me watch the actions.

The cron utility can be used to schedule the running of the script. Once a minute is the fastest time available with cron, so if faster times are needed the script could cycle with a while loop.

Read/Subscribe to MQTT Data

The mosquitto_sub client tool can be used to read or subscribe to the data.

To look at the router points:

$ service=""
$ mosquitto_sub -h $server -v -t rtr_idle -t rtr_temp -t rtr_used -t rtr_space

rtr_temp 26.25
rtr_idle 100
rtr_used 66
rtr_space 1.1

The -v (–verbose) option show output with the topic names and the values. Topics, -t option, can be put on the command line or passing in as a file.

For single point monitoring the Zenity utility can be used. This utility is typically preloaded on most Linux and Rasp Pi systems. A script to create a progress bar dialog with MQTT data is:

# Send MQTT values to a progress bar
  while :; do
  msg=$(mosquitto_sub -h -C 1 -t rtr_temp) 
  echo $msg
  echo "#$msg  Deg C"
  ) | zenity --progress  --title="Router External Temperature"

Multipoint Progress Dialogs

The Zenity utility can only manage single point progress bars. For multiple point progress bars the YAD (Yet Another Dialog) package can be used.

To install YAD on Raspberry Pi’s and Ubuntu: sudo apt-get install yad

Below is some script that will show multiple points in a YAD dialog:

# - Show multiple MQTT Topics on a Dialog
topics=("rtr_idle" "rtr_temp" "rtr_used" )
scale=(100 40 100 )
units=( '%' 'degC' '%'  )
title="Router MQTT Points"

#Build topic and yad strings
yadstr=" "
for i in ${topics[@]}; do
  topstr="$topstr -t $i"
  yadstr="$yadstr --bar=$i"

echo "Press [CTRL+C] to stop..."
# Cycle thru 1 message at a time to YAD 
while : 
  msg=$(mosquitto_sub -h $server -v -C 1 $topstr) 
  IFS=' ' read -a data <<< "$msg" 
  # match returned msg to order of bars, write value/label
  for i in "${!topics[@]} "
    if [ "${data[0]}" = "${topics[i]}" ]
      let j=i+1 ; # YAD indices start at 1
      # Rescale bar to defined scale
      barsize=$(bc <<< "${data[1]}*100/${scale[i]}")
      echo "$j:$barsize"
      echo  "$j:#${data[1]} ${units[i]}"
)  | yad --multi-progress $yadstr --title $title

Final Comments

There are probably lots of good 3rd party tools like Gnuplot that could be connected to mosquitto_sub to show real charts.

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