Console Mode in Solaris 11 Gnome Desktop

How do I open a console window in the Solaris 11 Gnome Desktop?

This question comes up occasionally- especially in my transition courses where I have administrators migrating from previous version of Solaris.  In those versions of Solaris, administrators used the Java Desktop (Solaris 10) and the Common Desktop Environment also called CDE (Solaris 9).  The console window was a special window where system generated messages were displayed.  Any messages sent to /dev/console by syslogd appeared in this window.

When using the Gnome Desktop in Solaris 11, there is an option to open a terminal window, but not a console window.   To view the console messages from the Gnome Desktop, use these keystrokes:

Press Ctrl+Alt+F1 and the screen switches out of the GUI environment into console mode

solaris console login:

You can switch to several different consoles by pressing Alt+F1 (F2, F6)   The login prompt will change for each console

solaris vt2 login:

Press Alt F3

solaris vt3 login:

When you want to return back to the Gnome Desktop environment, press Alt+F7

Note:  The Ctrl+Alt_F# also works for servers installed with the Text Installer that do not have Gnome desktop installed. When using the Text console, sometimes you want to open another console window.  USe the Ctrl+Alt+F# to open a new console window while the other window is busy.  It does NOT work for Putty sessions though.

Remember, the Gnome Desktop is not just for x86 users, it’s also available on the SPARC platform.  If you want more details on how to setup and access the Gnome Desktop on the SPARC platform, go to my blog entry on this topic.

Viewing the Console During the Boot Process

On Solaris x86 systems, when the Gnome Desktop is installed, you don’t see the console messages displayed during the boot process.  You only see the white splash screen shown in figure 1:

Figure 1


You could simply press Ctrl+Alt+F1 when you see the splash screen and the console screen will be shown.  The Ctrl+Alt+F1 toggles the screen from the GUI mode to the console mode.   But, the system will boot in a quiescent mode and the detailed boot messages will still not be displayed.

To change the configuration, so that boot messages are displayed during the boot process, edit the GRUB menu.   The GRUB menu can be changed either temporarily or permanently.

Make a temporary change to the boot screen by pressing the “e” key when the GRUB menu is displayed during the boot process as shown in figure 2


 Figure 2


The edit screen will open as shown in Figure 3:


Figure 3

Change the following line from “graphics“:

$multiboot /ROOT/solaris/@/$kern -B console=graphics -B $zfs_bootfs

to “text” as follows:

$multiboot /ROOT/solaris/@/$kern -B console=text -B $zfs_bootfs

After making the edit, press Ctrl+x to start the boot process in text mode.

By default, the system boots in a quiescent mode.  You can specify which messages you want to view during bootup.   Add -m verbose  to the end of the line as shown next, to display all of the SMF services as they start:

$multiboot /ROOT/solaris/@/$kern -B console=text -B $zfs_bootfs -m verbose

The following SMF messages will be displayed, showing all f the services starting up:


Add -v to the end of the line to display the kernel messages, but not the SMF service messages:

$multiboot /ROOT/solaris/@/$kern -B console=text -B $zfs_bootfs -v


Or view ALL of the boot messages by specifying both options as follows:

$multiboot /ROOT/solaris/@/$kern -B console=text -B $zfs_bootfs -m verbose -v

To make a permanent change to the boot process on the x86 platform, you’ll need to use the bootadm utility from the command line to modify the GRUB menu.  First display the current GRUB configuration as follows:

# bootadm list-menu
 the location of the boot loader configuration files is: /rpool/boot/grub
 default 0
 console graphics
 timeout 30
 0 Oracle Solaris 11.1

In the above example, the GRUB menu has one entry, entry 0 with a title of “Oracle Solaris 11.1."    To permanently change entry 0 in the GRUB menu so that it boots in verbose mode, type:

# bootadm change-entry -i 0 kargs="-v"

Also, you need to change the console to text as follows:

# bootadm set-menu console=text

Now, display the change:

# bootadm list-menu
 the location of the boot loader configuration files is: /rpool/boot/grub
 default 0
 console text
 timeout 30
 0 Oracle Solaris 11.1

The above list shows that the console is set to text, but it does not display the -v option which was also set.   You’ll need to list the details for entry 0 in the GRUB menu to see the boot string for that entry as follows:

# bootadm list-menu "Oracle Solaris 11.1"
 the location of the boot loader configuration files is: /rpool/boot/grub
 title: Oracle Solaris 11.1
 kernel: /platform/i86pc/kernel/amd64/unix
 kernel arguments: -v
 boot archive: /platform/i86pc/amd64/boot_archive
 bootfs: rpool/ROOT/solaris

Now, every time the system boots, you’ll see the kernel boot messages displayed.  After the system boots, the Gnome Desktop login will be displayed.

I hope this helps out and if you have questions, please submit them in the comment section at the bottom of this page.  Be sure to check out one of my online courses too!

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