Trouble with cron.php in a Drupal multisite configuration

I'm running a couple of servers full of Drupal sites hosted in a multisite configuration (one copy of Drupal used to host dozens of sites, each with their own sites/sitename directory. I'd been using sympal_scripts to automatically run Drupal's cron.php script for each site in order to keep search indexes up to date and run other routine maintenance functions as expected. It's easy enough to drop a curl http://server/site/curl.php into a crontab, but as you start adding sites to the server, it becomes unwieldy to maintain a current crontab of sites to cron.

Sympal_scripts attempts to read through the scripts directory, poking through each site and loading Drupal for each one in order to fire off the appropriate cron.php. It's been adding records to the Drupal watchdog table, so I expected it to be working just fine. Except it hasn't actually been running cron.php - it's been failing silently.

Looks like there's something funky in the way Drupal refers to the $base_url variable for the site. It's set in each settings.php file, so it should be as simple as returning the content of a string variable. But it's borking, and returning the name of the directory containing the site's settings.php file.

Say I've got a server,, with a bunch of sites all configured to be served as subdirectories of that server's main website, such as and

Each site has a respective directory within the Drupal installation's sites directory, such as and (the / are converted to . for use in the directory name because / would be invalid in a directory or filename).

When Drupal is initialized by sympal_scripts/cron.php, it's getting $base_url values of and

So, when it goes to fire off the cron task, it's using urls like:

It works fine on sites configured to run on their own domain, as the domain matches the site directory.

WTF? The http:// shows that it's reading the value within each settings.php file (or does it?), but why is it retaining the .site1 rather than /site1?

Failing that, is there a better way to reliably run cron.php on a bunch of hosted sites? I'm thinking of writing a script that crawls the sites directory and pulls out the $base_url values for each site and then fires off a curl base_url on the lot of them.

It'd be really cool if Drupal's own cron.php had a command-line version, capable of operating on any (or all) configured sites. Any ideas?

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