Working with the serial console
Configure your Arch Linux machine, so you can connect to it via the serial console port (com port). This will enable you to administer the machine, even if it has no keyboard, mouse, monitor or network attached to it (a headless server).
As of Arch Linux 2007.x, installation of Arch Linux is possible via the serial console as well.
A basic environment for this scenario is two machines, connected using a serial cable (9-pin connector cable). The administering machine can be any Linux or Windows machine with a terminal emulator program (putty or Minicom for example)
The configuration instructions below will enable grub menu selection, boot messages and terminal forwarding to the serial console.
Configure console access on the target machine
1. Edit the grub.conf file:
# vi /boot/grub/menu.lst
Add these lines to the general area of the configuration:
serial --unit=0 --speed=9600 terminal --timeout=5 serial console
Add the console parameters at the end of your current kernel line:
For example, the kernel line should look something like this after modification:
kernel /vmlinuz26 root=/dev/md0 ro md=0,/dev/sda3,/dev/sdb3 vga=773 console=tty0 console=ttyS0,9600
Note: when the 'terminal --timeout=5 serial console' line is added to your menu.lst grub configuration, your boot sequence will now show a series of "Press any key to continue" messages. If no key is pressed, the boot menu will appear on which ever (serial or console) appear first in the 'terminal' configuration line. The lines will look like this upon boot:
Press any key to continue. Press any key to continue. Press any key to continue. Press any key to continue. Press any key to continue. Press any key to continue. Press any key to continue.
2. Edit the inittab file:
# vi /etc/inittab
Add a new agetty line below the existing ones :
c0:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 9600 ttyS0 linux
3. Edit the securetty file:
# vi /etc/securetty
Below the existing tty's add an entry for the the serial console:
4. Reboot the machine
Note that in all of the steps above ttyS1 can also be used, in case that your machine has more than one serial port.
Connect using a terminal emulator program
Perform these steps on the machine used to connect the remote console.
1. Install Minicom:
# pacman -S minicom
2. Start Minicom in setup mode:
# minicom -s
3. Using the textual navigation menu change the serial port settings to the following:
Serial Device: /dev/ttyS0 Bps/Par/Bits: 9600 8N1
Press Enter to exit the menus (pressing Esc will not save changes)
4. Remove the modem Init and Reset strings:
Under the 'Modem and Dialing' menu delete the Init and Reset strings.
5. Save the setup:
From the main menu, choose 'save setup as dfl'
6. Exit Minicom:
From the main menu, choose 'Exit from Minicom'
7. Connect to the target machine:
While the serial cable is connected to the target machine, start the Minicom program:
8. Exiting Minicom
To finish the session press 'ctrl-A' and then 'X'.
Screen is able to connect to a serial port. It will connect to a standard 9600 speed port without options.
# screen /dev/ttyS0
If needed see the section "WINDOW TYPES" in the screen man page for details on setting the baud rate.
On Windows machines, connect to the serial port using programs like Putty or Hyper Terminal.
Installing Arch Linux using the serial console
1. Connect to the target machine using the method described above.
2. Boot the target machine using the Arch Linux installation CD.
After a while, output from the console will start showing on screen and setup can be started normally.
Note that after setup is complete, the console settings will not be saved on the target machine, in order to avoid having to connect a keyboard and monitor, configure console access on the target machine before rebooting.
Note that while a port speed of 9600 is used in all of the examples in this document, working with higher values is recommended (List of available speeds is displayed in Minicom by pressing 'Ctrl-A' and then 'P')
Ctrl-C and Minicom
If you are having trouble sending a Control-C command through minicom you need to switch off hardware flow control in the device settings (minicom -s), which then enables the break.