Josef “Jeff” Sipek

Serial Console

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been testing my changes to the crashdump core in Illumos. (Here’s why.) I do most of my development on my laptop — either directly, or I use it to ssh into a dev box. For Illumos development, I use the ssh approach. Often, I end up using my ancient desktop (pre-HyperThreading era 2GHz Pentium 4) as a test machine. It gets pretty annoying to have a physical keyboard and monitor to deal with when the system crashes. The obvious solution is to use a serial console. Sadly, all the “Solaris serial console howtos” leave a lot to be desired. As a result, I am going to document the steps here. I’m connecting from Solaris to Solaris. If you use Linux on one of the boxes, you will have to do it a little differently.

Test Box

First, let’s change the console speed from the default 9600 to a more reasonable 115200. In /etc/ttydefs change the console line to:

console:115200 hupcl opost onlcr:115200::console

Second, we need to tell the kernel to use the serial port as a console. Here, I’m going to assume that you are using the first serial port (i.e., ttya). So, open up your Grub config (/rpool/boot/grub/menu.lst assuming your root pool is rpool) and find the currently active entry.

You’ll see something like this:

title openindiana-8
findroot (pool_rpool,0,a)
bootfs rpool/ROOT/openindiana-8
splashimage /boot/splashimage.xpm
foreground FF0000
background A8A8A8
kernel$ /platform/i86pc/kernel/$ISADIR/unix -B $ZFS-BOOTFS
module$ /platform/i86pc/$ISADIR/boot_archive

We need to add two options. One to tell the kernel to use the serial port as a console, and one to tell it the serial config (rate, parity, etc.).

You’ll want to change the kernel$ line to:

kernel$ /platform/i86pc/kernel/$ISADIR/unix -B $ZFS-BOOTFS,console=ttya,ttya-mode="115200,8,n,1,-" -k

Note that we appended the options with commas to the existing -B. If you do not already have a -B, just add it and the two new options. The -k will make the kernel drop into the debugger when bad things happen. You can omit it if you just want a serial console without the debugger getting loaded.

There’s one last thing left to do. Let’s tell grub to use the same serial port and not use a splash image. This can be done by adding these lines to the top of your menu.lst:

serial --unit=0 --speed=115200
terminal serial

and removing (commenting out) the splashimage line.

So, what happens if you make all these changes and then beadm creates a new BE? The right thing! beadm will copy over all the kernel options so your new BE will just work.

Dev Box

I use OpenIndiana on my dev box. I could have used minicom, but I find minicom to be a huge pain unless you have a modem you want to talk to. I’m told that screen can talk to serial ports as well. I decided to keep things super-simple and configured tip.

First, one edits /etc/remote. I just changed the definition for hardwire to point to the first serial port (/dev/term/a) and use the right speed (115200):


Then, I can just run a simple command to get the other system:

$ tip hardwire


  1. Does opensolaris have the equivalent of netconsole that linux has? I'm assuming this is just for crash dumps and not logins.

    Comment by Doug — January 20, 2013 @ 02:07

  2. I use it mainly for interacting with the kernel debugger. You can login and get a shell. I'm not aware of a netconsole-like functionality. You could always let the BMC present a serial port for the OS.

    Comment by JeffPC — January 20, 2013 @ 04:50

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