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Working with serial console


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Serial console is often helpful and even necessary when performing routine administrative tasks on a remote server. Access to the serial console for many Sun servers is the only way to perform administrative tasks given these servers do not come with a frame buffer (i.e. video card).

It also can be used remotely via IPMI (Viewing serial console over network via IPMI 2.0), Dell DRAC, HP ILO and similar remote control systems.

Serial console allow cutting and pasting test from any Web page into the screen, the thing that is difficult with GUI based console used in DRAC and ILO

The first two sections of this article explain the applications (programs) used from a Sun SPARC server and then a Linux server for obtaining a serial console connection. The remainder of this article attempts to describe the details (cables, connections, adapters) of obtaining a serial console connection to/from different Sun SPARC servers.

As such it is often better for troubleshooting complex issues.

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Connect From Sun SPARC Serial Port
From a Sun machine, if you wanted to access the serial console of another computer (ie. Linux, Sun, etc.), you would use the tip command. The configuration file for tip is /etc/remote. In most cases, you will be concerned with the hardwire entry in this file. First, connect the two machines by their serial ports (null modem if required), and from the Sun SPARC (Solaris) machine, type the following at the command-line to connect to the serial console of the other machine (Solaris / Linux):
  # tip hardwire
Below is an example /etc/remote file from the Sun SPARC (Solaris) machine that contains the hardwire entry to go through serial port B (/dev/term/b). If you wanted to change this entry to go out through serial port A instead, change "/dev/term/b" to "/dev/term/a".
dialup1|Dial-up system:\
The attributes are:

dv      device to use for the tty
el      EOL marks (default is NULL)
du      make a call flag (dial up)
pn      phone numbers (@ =>'s search phones file; possibly taken from
                              PHONES environment variable)
at      ACU type
ie      input EOF marks (default is NULL)
oe      output EOF string (default is NULL)
cu      call unit (default is dv)
br      baud rate (defaults to 300)
fs      frame size (default is BUFSIZ) -- used in buffering writes
          on receive operations
tc      to continue a capability

Connect to a Sun Serial Console from Linux
Linux provides two methods (programs) that can be used to connect to a serial console of a Sun server.

Connecting Using minicom

The first application I'll talk about is "minicom". Most Linux distributions (i.e. Red Hat) already include minicom. If your particular distribution does not include minicom, you can download it from the following URL:

Once you have Minicom installed, start it up with the command "minicom". Press "Ctrl-A Z" to get to the main menu. Press "o" to configure minicom. Go to "Serial port setup" and make sure that you are set to the correct "Serial Device" and that the speed on line E matches the speed of the serial console you are connecting to. (In most cases with Sun, this is 9600.) Here are the settings I made when using my Serial A / COM1 port on my Linux box:

| A -    Serial Device      : /dev/ttyS0                                |
| B - Lockfile Location     : /var/lock                                 |
| C -   Callin Program      :                                           |
| D -  Callout Program      :                                           |
| E -    Bps/Par/Bits       : 9600 8N1                                  |
| F - Hardware Flow Control : Yes                                       |
| G - Software Flow Control : No                                        |
|                                                                       |
|    Change which setting?                                              |
After making all necessary changes, hit the ESC key to go back to the "configurations" menu. Now go to "Modem and dialing". Change the "Init string" to "~^M~". Save the settings (as dflt), and then restart Minicom. You should now see a login prompt.

Connecting Using UUCP

Another common application to use in Linux for connecting to a serial console is UUCP. Most Linux distributions include the UUCP application. Start UUCP with the command "cu -l [device] -s [speed]", where [device] is the serial port you are using, such as ttyS0 (COM1) or ttyS1 (COM2), and [speed] is the speed of the serial console that you are connecting to.

Here is an example:

# cu -l /dev/ttyS0 -s 9600
You may need to hit enter before you see the login prompt. If you see a bunch of weird characters, then you probably specified the wrong speed.

To exit, just type "~.".

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