Getting help when stuck in the console

If you’re in console (aka virtual console) doing an install or repairs on a system, it’s good to know how to get help if problems occur.

“Ground Control…”

To get help in console you can use a chat client. Read this page on how to set up irssi – a terminal/console IRC program. The guide will walk you through setting up irssi and connecting to freenode where many Linux distribution chat channels are located.

“Waiting for details, Houston…”

When you tell the people in the chat-room what your problem is, sometimes they will need to know additional information. This could be the output of a command or the contents of a configuration file. To do a command without leaving irssi do Ctrl+Alt+F2 (F3, F4… can also be used) to enter another console, then enter the command.

Be better not to have to write everything down on a notepad and then type it into irssi, this is where it becomes useful to use a collaborative debugging tool like pastebin. Pastebin is a website that temporarily holds configurations, bug outputs… that you can refer other people to get help. There are several tools that can be used from the command line that can send files to a pastebin service, for example pastebinit. Add pastebinit from your distro, then upload a file. For example, your xorg.conf file:

pastebinit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

For uploading the output of a command, first you have to put it into a file:

sudo fdisk -l &> partitions.txt

&> will redirect all output to a text file (both standard output and error output) and now it can be uploaded.

“I have visual…”

Occasionally you might need to actually show a picture of what your question is about (e.g. if you have a question about a console-based installer). For this you can use fbshot. fbshot is a framebuffer screenshot program. To take a screenshot of the first console (Ctrl+Alt+F1):

fbshot -c 1 console1.png

Then you can use a console web-browser and a image-hosting website to upload the image.

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