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9 Using GRUB via a serial line

This chapter describes how to use the serial terminal support in GRUB.

If you have many computers or computers with no display/keyboard, it could be very useful to control the computers through serial communications. To connect one computer with another via a serial line, you need to prepare a null-modem (cross) serial cable, and you may need to have multiport serial boards, if your computer doesn’t have extra serial ports. In addition, a terminal emulator is also required, such as minicom. Refer to a manual of your operating system, for more information.

As for GRUB, the instruction to set up a serial terminal is quite simple. Here is an example:

grub> serial --unit=0 --speed=9600
grub> terminal_input serial; terminal_output serial

The command serial initializes the serial unit 0 with the speed 9600bps. The serial unit 0 is usually called ‘COM1’, so, if you want to use COM2, you must specify ‘--unit=1’ instead. This command accepts many other options, see serial for more details.

Without argument or with ‘--port=auto’, GRUB will attempt to use ACPI when available to auto-detect the default serial port and its configuration.

The commands terminal_input (see terminal_input) and terminal_output (see terminal_output) choose which type of terminal you want to use. In the case above, the terminal will be a serial terminal, but you can also pass console to the command, as ‘terminal_input serial console’. In this case, a terminal in which you press any key will be selected as a GRUB terminal. In the example above, note that you need to put both commands on the same command line, as you will lose the ability to type commands on the console after the first command.

However, note that GRUB assumes that your terminal emulator is compatible with VT100 by default. This is true for most terminal emulators nowadays, but you should pass the option --dumb to the command if your terminal emulator is not VT100-compatible or implements few VT100 escape sequences. If you specify this option then GRUB provides you with an alternative menu interface, because the normal menu requires several fancy features of your terminal.

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