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What is conserver?

From an email I once sent...

Conserver is an application that allows multiple users to watch a serial console at the same time. It can log the data, allows users to take write-access of a console (one at a time), and has a variety of bells and whistles to accentuate that basic functionality. The idea is that conserver will log all your serial traffic so you can go back and review why something crashed, look at changes (if done on the console), or tie the console logs into a monitoring system (just watch the logfiles it creates). With multi-user capabilities you can work on equipment with others, mentor, train, etc. It also does all that client-server stuff so that, assuming you have a network connection, you can interact with any of the equipment from home or wherever.


Here's the conserver FAQ. Got any additions? Let me know.

Mailing Lists

There are currently two mailing lists available. announce@conserver.com is an announcement-only mailing list for informing of new versions, major developments, etc. users@conserver.com is for general Q&A, discussions, ideas, etc. for conserver users. You can sign up by sending a message to announce-request@conserver.com or users-request@conserver.com with a subject of "subscribe" or head over to the online web pages.


The console server software found here is a heavily modified version originally written by Tom Fine (fine@head-cfa.harvard.edu) at Ohio State and then Kevin S Braunsdorf (ksb+conserver@sa.fedex.com). Patches from Robert Olson (olson@mcs.anl.gov) were then applied to get network console support.

Arnold de Leon (arnold@corp.webtv.net) then fixed various bugs and added enhancements while at Synopsys. I then took the result, continued fixing things, and added features we found useful.

GNAC (Global Networking and Computing - currently Certainty Solutions) has been supporting my coding efforts (in too many ways to list) since 1996.

The conserver.com Distribution

The result is a combination of many people's work. This version is being released in hopes that it will help others. There is no warranty or support implied by the distribution of the software.

So, what the heck is up with all the different conserver versions? Well, the original authors are continuing to distribute their own threads of the software so you have three main threads (as far as I know). First, there's Tom Fine's thread at http://hea-www.harvard.edu/~fine/Tech/console-server.html. He isn't actively developing it, however, according to the website. Next, there's Kevin Braunsdorf's version at ftp://ftp.physics.purdue.edu/pub/pundits/. Kevin is semi-actively working on his thread. Doesn't look like any new versions have been out since August 2000 (version 8.5), but maybe this info will be out of date by the time you read this. Lastly, the conserver.com version is based on Kevin's "5.21-Beta" distribution, but since HEAVILY modified and enhanced (more details in the "Origin" section above).

If I were looking for a conserver package I would either use Kevin's latest distribution or the conserver.com distribution. Which one? Well, obviously I'm biased and believe the conserver.com distribution should be your choice, but Kevin's does have UPS (serial port line toggling bits) that the conserver.com version doesn't have. What does the conserver.com distribution have? Well, in reality, too many things to list. You'll have to look at the CHANGES file and see the enhancements, bug fixes, and general development since the original. Don't let the version numbers fool you - you'll have to compare and contrast for yourself.


The current version, released on Jun 05, 2002, is 7.2.2.tar.gz. You can get it via FTP or HTTP. See the CHANGES file for information on the latest updates.

As of version 6.1.7, the packaging and numbering scheme has changed. I used to package conserver as conserver-GNAC-v.vv. Since GNAC (now Certainty Solutions) has changed its name I've decided to drop the GNAC portion and use a three-digit version number (conserver-v.v.v). Why change the version numbering? I need to differentiate this thread of the code from the original authors' and I couldn't come up with a good replacement for the GNAC name - sad, but true.


Check the INSTALL file for instructions.


I always like to hear from people who use conserver - it's exciting to see how many people all over the world are using the package. If you'd like to give me a real thrill, send me a postcard of your site, town, or area! Even if you're right around the corner, it would be a blast to hear from you.

        Bryan Stansell
        P.O. Box 984
        Redwood City, CA 94064-0984

Systems Tested

Here's a list of systems that I've been told can successfully compile conserver. If anyone has more to add to this list, please let me know.

  • Solaris 2.5.1 thru 8 (sparc/x86), gcc
  • BSDI BSD/OS 3.X, gcc
  • MacOS X
  • Linux 2.2.18 (x86), gcc
  • Linux 2.4.2 (x86), gcc
  • FreeBSD 4.2 (x86), gcc
  • cygwin (w2k),gcc 2.95.3
  • DEC Tru64 4.0, gcc
  • DEC Tru64 4.0/5.1, DEC cc
  • HP-UX 10.20, gcc
  • AIX 4.3.3, AIX cc

Other Good Information

Zonker Harris has fabulous documents regarding the hookup of consoles to terminal servers and other such devices. His Greater Scroll of Console Knowledge is a great place to start.

Bryan Stansell (bryan@conserver.com)