Posts Tagged ‘ttys’

How to disable ACPI on productive Linux servers to decrease kernel panics and increase CPU fan lifespan

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Linux TUX ACPI logo / Tux Hates ACPI logo

Why would anyone disable ACPI support on a server machine??
Well  ACPI support kernel loaded code is just another piece of code constantly being present in the memory,  that makes the probability for a fatal memory mess up leading to  a fatal bug resulting in system crash (kernel panic) more likely.

Many computers ship with buggy or out of specifications ACPI firmware which can cause a severe oddities on a brand new bought piece of comp equipment.

One such oddity related to ACPI motherboard support problems is if you notice your machine randomly powering off or failing to boot with a brand new Linux installed on it.

Another reason to switch off ACPI code will would to be prevent the CPU FAN rotation from being kernel controlled.

If the kernel controls the CPU fan on  high CPU heat up it will instruct the fan to rotate quickly and on low system loads it will bring back the fan to loose speed.
 This frequent switch of FAN from high speed to low speed  increases the probability for a short fan damage due to frequent changes of fan speed. Such a fan damage leads often to  system outage due to fan failure to rotate properly.

Therefore in my view it is better ACPI support is switched off completely on  servers. On some servers ACPI is useful as it can be used to track CPU temperature with embedded motherboard sensors with lm_sensors or any piece of hardwre vendor specific software provided. On many machines, however lm_sensors will not properly recognize the integrated CPU temperature sensors and hence ACPI is mostly useless.

There are 3 ways to disable fully or partially ACPI support.

- One is to disable it straight for BIOS (best way IMHO)
- Disable via GRUB or LILO passing a kernel parameter
- Partial ACPI off-ing - /disabling the software that controls the CPU fan/

1. Disable ACPI in BIOS level

Press DEL, F1, F2, F10 or whatever the enter bios key combination is go through all the different menus (depending on the vios BENDOR) and make sure every occurance of ACPI is set to off / disable whatever it is called.

Below is a screenshot of menus with ACPI stuff on a motherboard equipped with Phoenix AwardBIOS:

BIOS ACPI Disable power Off Phoenix BIOS

This is the in my opinon best and safest way to disable ACPI power saving, Unfortunately some newer PCs lack the functionality to disable ACPI; (probably due to the crazy "green" policy the whole world is nowdays mad of).

If that's the case with you, thanksfully there is a "software way" to disable ACPI via passing kernel options via GRUB and LILO boot loaders.

2. Disabling ACPI support on kernel boot level through GRUB boot loader config

There is a tiny difference in command to pass in order to disable  ACPI depending on the Linux installed  GRUB ver. 1.x or GRUB 2.x.

a) In GRUB 0.99 (GRUB version 1)

Edit file /etc/grub/menu.lst or /etc/grub/grub.conf (location differs across Linux distribution). Therein append:


to the end of kernel command line.

Here is an example of a kernel command line with ACPI not disabled (example taken from CentOS server grub.conf):

[root@centos ~]# grep -i title -A 4 /etc/grub/grub.conf
title Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server (2.6.18-36.el5)
root (hd0,0)
kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.18-36.el5 ro root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 console=ttyS0,115200n8
initrd /initrd-2.6.18-36.el5.img

The edited version of the file with acpi=off included should look like so:

title Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server (2.6.18-36.el5)
root (hd0,0)
kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.18-36.el5 ro root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 console=ttyS0,115200n8 acpi=off
initrd /initrd-2.6.18-36.el5.img

The kernel option root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 means the the server is configured to use LVM (Logical Volume Manager).

b) Disabling ACPI on GRUB version 1.99 +

This version is by default installed on newer Ubuntu and Debian Linux-es.

In grub 1.99 on latest Debian Squeeze, the file to edit is located in /boot/grub/grub.cfg. The file is more messy than with its predecessor menu.lst (grub 0.99).
Thanks God there is no need to directly edit the file (though this is possible), but on newer Linuces (as of time of writting the post), there is another simplied grub config file /etc/grub/config

Hence to add the acpi=off to 1.99 open /etc/grub/config find the line reading:


and append the "acpi=off" option, e.g. the line has to change to:


On some servers it might be better to also disable APIC along with ACPI:

Just in case you don't know what is the difference between ACPI and APIC, here is a short explanation:

ACPI = Advanced Configuration and Power Interface

APIC = Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controllers

ACPI is the system that controls your dynamic speed fans, the power button behavior, sleep states, etc.

APIC is the replacement for the old PIC chip that used to come imbedded on motherboards that allowed you to setup interrupts for your soundcard, ide controllers, etc.

Hence on some machines experiencing still problems with even ACPI switched off, it is helpful  to disable the APIC support too, by using:

acpi=off noapic noacpi

Anyways, while doing the changes, be very very cautious or you might end up with un-boot-able server. Don't blame me if this happens :); be sure you have a backup option if server doesn't boot.

To assure faultless kernel boot, GRUB has ability to be configured to automatically load up a second kernel if 1st one fails to boot, if you need that read the grub documentation on that.

To load up the kernel with the new setting, give it a restart:

[root@centos ~]# shutdown -r now

3. Disable ACPI support on kernel boot time on Slackware or other Linuxes still booting kernel with LILO

Still, some Linux distros like Slackware, decided to keep the old way and use LILO (LInux LOader) as a default boot loader.

Disabling ACPI support in LILO is done through /etc/lilo.conf

By default in /etc/lilo.conf, there is a line:

append= acpi=on

it should be changed to:

append= acpi=off

Next to load up the new acpi disabled setting, lilo has to be reloaded:

slackware:~# /sbin/lilo -c /etc/lilo.conf

Finally a reboot is required:

slackware:~# reboot

(If you don't have a physical access or someone near the server you better not 🙂 )

4. Disable ACPI fan control support on a running Linux server without restart

This is the most secure work-around, to disabling the ACPI control over the machine CPU fan, however it has a downside that still the ACPI code will be loaded in the kernel and could cause kernel issues possibly in the long run – lets say the machine has uptime of more than 2 years…

The acpi support on a user level  is controlled by acpid or haldaemon (depending on the Linux distro), hence to disable the fan control on servers this services has to be switched off:

a) disabling ACPI on Debian and deb based Linux-es

As of time of writting on Debian Linux servers acpid (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface event daemon) is there to control how power management will be handled. To disable it stop it as a service (if running):

debian:~# /etc/init.d/acpid stop

To permanently remove acpid from boot up on system boot disable it with update-rc.d:

debian:~# update-rc.d acpid disable 2 3 4 5
update-rc.d: using dependency based boot sequencing
insserv: Script iptables is broken: incomplete LSB comment.
insserv: missing `Required-Start:' entry: please add even if empty.
insserv: warning: current start runlevel(s) (empty) of script `acpid' overwrites defaults (2 3 4 5).
insserv: warning: current stop runlevel(s) (2 3 4 5) of script `acpid' overwrites defaults (empty).
insserv: missing `Required-Start:' entry: please add even if empty.

b) disabling ACPI on RHEL, Fedora and other Redhat-s (also known as RedHacks 🙂 )

I'm not sure if this is safe,as many newer rpm based server system services,  might not work properly with haldaemon disabled.

Anyways you can give it a try if when it is stopped there are issues just bring it up again.

[root@rhel ~]# /etc/init.d/haldaemon stop

If all is fine with the haldaemon switched off (hope so), you can completely disable it to load on start up with:

[root@centos ~]# /sbin/chkconfig --level 2 3 4 5 haldaemon off

Disabling ACPI could increase a bit your server bills, but same time decrease losses from downtimes, so I guess it worths its costs 🙂


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

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
noah:/usr/local/src# tar -jxvvvf snapscreenshot-

noah:/usr/local/src# cd snapscreenshot-
noah:/usr/local/src/snapscreenshot-1.0.14# ./configure && make && make install
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; \

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:

### Config
# .tga produced file name
# gets current date
cur_date=$(date +%d_%m_%Y|sed -e 's/^ *//');
# png output f name
### END Config
snapscreenshot -c$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 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
noah:/usr/local/bin# chmod +x

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


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