Posts Tagged ‘old habits’

How to make screenshot in /dev/tty console on GNU / Linux – Taking picture JPEG / PNG snapshot of text console in systems without graphical environment

Monday, April 30th, 2012

I'm used to making picture screenshots in GNOME desktop environment. As I've said in my prior posts, I'm starting to return to my old habits of using console ttys for regular daily jobs in order to increase my work efficiency. In that manner of thoughts sometimes I need to take a screenshot of what I'm seeing in my physical (TTY consoles) to be able to later reuse this. I did some experimenting and this is how this article got born.

In this post, I will shortly explain how a picture of a command running in console or terminal in GNU / Linux can be made

Before proceeding to the core of the article, I will say few words on ttys as I believe they might be helpful someone.
The abbreviation of tty comes after TeleTYpewritter phrase and is dating back somewhere near the 1960s. The TTY was invented to help people with impaired eyesight or hearing to use a telephone like typing interface.

In Unix / Linux / BSD ttys are the physical consoles, where one logs in (typing in his user/password). There are physical ttys and virtual vtys in today *nixes. Today ttys, are used everywhere in a modern Unixes or Unix like operating system with or without graphical environments.
Various Linux distributions have different number of physical consoles (TTYs) (terminals connected to standard output) and this depends mostly on the distro major contributors, developers or surrounding OS community philosophy.
Most modern Linux distributions have at least 5 to 7 physical ttys. Some Linux distributions like Debian for instance as of time of writting this, had 7 active by default physical consoles.
Adding 3 more ttys in Debian / Ubuntu Linux is done by adding the following lines in /etc/inittab:
 

7:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty7
8:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty8
9:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty9

On some Linux distributions like Fedora version 9 and newer ones, new ttys can no longer be added via /etc/inittab,as the RedHat guys changed it for some weird reason, but I guess this is too broad issue to discuss ….

In graphical environments ttys are called methaphorically "virtual". For instance in gnome-terminal or while connecting to a remote SSH server, a common tty naming would be /dev/pts/8 etc.

tty command in Linux and BSDs can be used to learn which tty, one is operating in.

Here is output from my tty command, issued on 3rd TTY (ALT+F3) on my notebook:
 

noah:~# tty
/dev/tty3

A tty cmd output from mlterm GUI terminal is like so:
 

hipo@noah:~$ tty/dev/pts/9

Now as mentioned few basic things on ttys I will proceed further to explain how I managed to:

a) Take screenshot of a plain text tty screen into .txt file format
b) take a (picture) JPG / PNG screenshot of my Linux TTY consoles content

1. Take screenshot of plain text tty screen into a plain (ASCII) .txt file:

To take a screenshot of tty1, tty2 and tty3 text consoles in a txt plain text format, cat + a standard UNIX redirect is all necessery:
 

noah:~# cat /dev/vcs1 > /home/hipo/tty1_text_screenshot.txt
noah:~# cat /dev/vcs2 > /home/hipo/tty2_text_screenshot.txt
noah:~# cat /dev/vcs3 > /home/hipo/tty3_text_screenshot.txt

This will dump the text content of the console into the respective files, if however you try to dump an ncurses library like text interactive interfaces you will end up with a bunch of unreadable mess.
In order to read the produced text 'shots' onwards less command can be used …
 

noah:~# less /home/hipo/tty1_text_screenshot.txt
noah:~# less /home/hipo/tty2_text_screenshot.txt
noah:~# less /home/hipo/tty3_text_screenshot.txt

2. Take picture JPG / PNG snapshot of Linux TTY console content

To take a screenshot of my notebook tty consoles I had to first install a "third party program" snapscreenshot . There is no deb / rpm package available as of time of writting this post for the 4 major desktop linux distributions Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora and Slackware.
Hence to install snapscreenshot,I had to manually download the latest program tar ball source and compile e.g.:
 

noah:~# cd /usr/local/src
noah:/usr/local/src# wget -q http://bisqwit.iki.fi/src/arch/snapscreenshot-1.0.14.3.tar.bz2
noah:/usr/local/src# tar -jxvvvf snapscreenshot-1.0.14.3.tar.bz2

noah:/usr/local/src# cd snapscreenshot-1.0.14.3
noah:/usr/local/src/snapscreenshot-1.0.14# ./configure && make && make install
Configuring…
Fine. Done. make.
make: Nothing to be done for `all'.
if [ ! "/usr/local/bin" = "" ]; then mkdir –parents /usr/local/bin 2>/dev/null; mkdir /usr/local/bin 2>/dev/null; \
for s in snapscreenshot ""; do if [ ! "$s" = "" ]; then \
install -c -s -o bin -g bin -m 755 "$s" /usr/local/bin/"$s";fi;\
done; \
fi; \
if [ ! "/usr/local/man" = "" ]; then mkdir –parents /usr/local/man 2>/dev/null; mkdir /usr/local/man 2>/dev/null; \
for s in snapscreenshot.1 ""; do if [ ! "$s" = "" ]; then \
install -m 644 "$s" /usr/local/man/man"`echo "$s"|sed 's/.*\.//'`"/"$s";fi;\
done; \
fi

By default snapscreenshot command is made to take screenshot in a tga image format, this format is readable by most picture viewing programs available today, however it is not too common and not so standartized for the web as the JPEG and PNG.
Therefore to make the text console tty snapshot taken in PNG or JPEG one needs to use ImageMagick's convert tool. The convert example is also shown in snapscreenshot manual page Example section.

To take a .png image format screenshot of lets say Midnight Commander interactive console file manager running in console tty1, I used the command:
 

noah:/home/hipo# snapscreenshot -c1 -x1 > ~/console-screenshot.tga && convert ~/console-screenshot.tga console-screenshot.png

Linux text console tty mc screenshot with snapscreenshot terminal / console snapshotting program

Note that you need to have read/write permissions to the /dev/vcs* otherwise the snapscreenshot will be unable to read the tty and produce an error:
 

hipo@noah:~/Desktop$ snapscreenshot -c2 -x1 > snap.tga && convert snap.tga snap.pngGeometry will be: 1x2Reading font…/dev/console: Permission denied

To take simultaneous picture screenshot of everything contained in all text consoles, ranging from tty1 to tty5, issue:
 

noah:/home/hipo# snapscreenshot -c5 -x1 > ~/console-screenshot.tga && convert ~/console-screenshot.tga console-screenshot.png

Here is a resized 480×320 pixels version of the original screenshot the command produces:

All text Consoles tty1 to tty5 merged screenshot png image with snapscreenshot taken on Debian GNU / Linux

Storing a picture shot of the text (console) screen in JPEG (JPG) format is done analogously just the convert command output extension has to be changed to jpeg i.e.:
 

noah:/home/hipo# snapscreenshot -c5 -x1 > ~/console-screenshot.tga && convert ~/console-screenshot.tga console-screenshot.jpeg

I've also written a tiny wrapper shell script, to facilitate myself picture picture taking as I didn't like to type each time I want to take a screenshot of a tty the above long line.

Here is the wrapper script I wrote:
 

#!/bin/sh
### Config
# .tga produced file name
output_f_name='console-screenshot.tga';
# gets current date
cur_date=$(date +%d_%m_%Y|sed -e 's/^ *//');
# png output f name
png_f_name="console-screenshot-$cur_date.png";
### END Config
snapscreenshot -c$arg1 -x1 > $output_f_name && convert $output_f_name $png_f_name;
echo "Output png screenshot from tty1 console produced in";
echo "$PWD/$png_f_name";
/bin/rm -f $output_f_name;

You can also download my console-screenshot.sh snapscreenshot wrapper script here

The script is quite simplistic to use, it takes just one argument which is the number of the tty you would like to screenshot.
To use my script download it in /usr/local/bin and set it executable flag:
 

noah:~# cd /usr/local/bin
noah:/usr/local/bin# wget -q http://www.pc-freak.net/~bshscr/console-screenshot.sh
noah:/usr/local/bin# chmod +x console-screenshot.sh

Onwards to use the script to snapshot console terminal (tty1) type:
 

noan:~# console-screenshot.sh

I've made also mirror of latest version of snapscreenshot-1.0.14.3.tar.bz2 here just in case this nice little program disappears from the net in future times.

 

Text mode (console) browsing with tabs with Elinks / Text browsers – (lynx, elinks, links and w3m) useful HTTP debugging tools for Linux and FreeBSD servers

Friday, April 27th, 2012

The last days, I'm starting to think the GUI use is making me brainless so I'm getting back to my old habits of using console.
I still remember with a grain of nostalgy how much more efficient I used to be when the way to interact with my computer was primary in text mode console.
Actually, I'm starting to get this idea the more new a software is the more inefficient it makes your use of computer, not to mention the hardware resources required by newer software is constantly increasing.

With this said, I started occasionally browsing again like in the old days by using links text browser.
In the old days I mostly used lynx and its more advanced "brother" text browser links.
The main difference between lynx and links is that lynx does not have any support for the terrible "javascript", whether links supports most of the Javascript ver 2.
Also links and has a midnight commander like pull down menus on the screen top, – handy for people who prefer some more interactivity.

In the past I remember I used also to browse graphically in normal consoles (ttys) with a hacked version of links calledTThere is also a variation of linksxlinks suitable for people who would like to have graphical browser in console (ttys).

I used xlinks quite heavily in the past, when I have slower computer P166Mhz with 64MB of memory 2.5 GB HDD (What a times boy what a times) .
Maybe when I have time I will install it on my PC and start using it again like in the old days to boost my computer use efficiency…
I remember the only major xlinks downside was it doesn't included support for Adobe flash (though this is due to the bad non-free software nature of Adobe lack of proper support for free software and not a failure of xlinks developers. Anyways for me this wasn't a big trouble since, ex Macromedia (Adobe) Flash support is not something essential for most of my work…

links2 is actually the naming of links version 2. elinks emerged later (if I remember correctly, as fork project of links).
elinks difference with links constitutes in this it supports tabbed browsing as well as colors (links browser displays results monochrome).

Having a tabbed browsing support in tty console is a great thing…
I personally belive text browsing if properly used can in many ways outbeat, graphic browsing in terms of performance and time spend to obtain data. I'm convinced text browsing is superior for two reasons:
1. with text there is way less elements to obstruct your attention.
– No graphical annoying flash banners, no annoying taking the attention pictures

2. Navigating in web pages using the keyboard is more efficient than mouse
– Using keyboard shorcuts is always quicker than mouse, generally keboard has always been a quicker way to access computer commands.

Another reason to use text browsing is, it is mostly the text part of a page that matters, most of the pages that provide images to better explain a topic are bloated (this is my personal view though, i'm sure designer guys will argue me :D).
Here is a screenshot of a my links text browser in action, I'm sorry the image is a bit unreadable, but after taking a screenshot of the console and resizing it with GIMP this is what I got …

Links text console browser screenshot with 2 tabs opened Debian GNU / Linux

For all those new to Linux who didn't tried text browsing yet and for those interested in computer history, I suggest you install and give a try to following text browsers:
 

  • lynx
  • (Supports colorful text console text browsing)
    lynx text console browser Debian Squeeze GNU / Linux Screenshot

  • links
  • Links www text console browser screenshot on Debian Linux

  • elinks
  • (Supports colors filled text browsing and tabs)
    elinks opened duckduckgo.com google alternative search engine in mlterm terminal Debian Linux

  • w3m
  • w3m one of the oldest text console browsers screenshot Debian Linux Squeeze 6.2

By the way having the 4 text browsers is very useful for debugging purposes for system administrators too, so in any case I think this 4 web browsers are absoutely required software for newly installed GNU / Linux or BSD* based servers.

For Debian and the derivatives Linux distributions, the 4 browsers are available as deb packages, so install them with following apt 1 liner:
 

debian:~# apt-get –yes install w3m elinks links lynx
….

FreeBSD users can install the browsers using, cmd:
 

freebsd# cd /usr/ports/www/w3mfreebsd# make install clean
….
freebsd# cd /usr/ports/www/elinksfreebsd# make install clean
….
freebsd# cd /usr/ports/www/linksfreebsd# make install clean
….
freebsd# cd /usr/ports/www/lynxfreebsd# make install clean
….

In links using the tabs functionality appeared, somewhere near the 2001 or 2000 (at least that was the first time I saw links with tabbed browsing enabled). My first time to saw links support opening multiple pages within the same screen under tabs was on Redhat Linux 9

Opening multiple pages in tabs in the text browser is done by pressing the t key and typing in the desired URL to open isnide.
For more than 2 tabs, again t has to be pressed and same procedure goes on and on.
It was pretty hard for me to figure out how I can do a text browsing with tabs, though I found a way to open new tabs it took me some 10 minutes in pondering how to switch between the new opened links browser tabs.

Hence, I thought it would be helpful to mention here how tabs can be switched in links text browser. Actually it turned it is pretty easy to Switch tabs tabs back and foward.

1 tab to move backwards is done with < (key), wheter switching one tab forward is done with the > key.

On UK and US qwerty keyboards alignment the movement a tab backward and forward is done with holding shift and pressing < onwards holding both keys simultaneously and analogously with pressing shift + >