admin tool for typing into multiple terminal windows at once
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Latest commit d914a24 Aug 26, 2018


by Walter de Jong (C) 2001

pconsole COMES WITH NO WARRANTY. pconsole IS FREE SOFTWARE. pconsole is distributed under terms described in the GNU General Public License.

This is pconsole, the parallel console tool. pconsole was meant as an interactive administrative shell tool for clusters.

pconsole allows you to connect to each node of your cluster simultaneously, and you can type your administrative commands in a specialized window that 'multiplies' the input to each of the connections you have opened. pconsole is best run from within X Windows, although it is possible to employ it without X (in console mode) as well. You need to install pconsole on only 1 machine in the cluster, this would usually be your central administrative node.


Do a ./configure and make install as root. If you first only want to try pconsole, I suggest you do a ./configure --prefix=. and make install instead of just configure and make. Try running bin/ Or bin/ machine1 machine2 machine2.

pconsole was made to compile and run on any Unix-like platform. If you encounter problems, check the list of possible problems at the end of this README.

To reconfigure, do a make mrproper and ./configure before typing make again.

If you decide to make pconsole setuid root (as suggested), mind to restrict access via a special group (such as 'admin' or 'operator') or put it in a directory which the normal user doesn't have access to. pconsole is a very powerful tool that should not fall into the wrong hands. So, as root, execute:

    # chown root.admin pconsole
    # chmod 4110 pconsole

pconsole drops its root privileges when they're not needed, so the program maintains maximum security.


pconsole does not work through daemons. The script opens up a number of connections to each node of your cluster of workstations. Then, the pconsole binary attaches to the tty devices that these windows are using, and it copies the input you type to all open connections.

TWEAKING AND TUNING requires the xterm command. If you do not like xterm, you can either edit the script or put the environment variable P_TERM in your environment. Example:

    $ P_TERM=rxvt ; export P_TERM     # for sh

    > setenv P_TERM rxvt              # for csh

By default, the window geometry is 40x12 with font size 5x7. This is very small. To change, either edit the script or use P_TERM_OPTIONS in your environment. P_TERM_OPTIONS can have any options to the P_TERM command you like. Example:

    $ P_TERM_OPTIONS="-geometry 80x25 -fn 10x20 -rv +sb"
    $ export P_TERM_OPTIONS

There is also a P_CONSOLE_OPTIONS environment variable, which specifies the geometry of the main pconsole window.

By default, pconsole tries to use SSH to make connections. If you do not have ssh, it will try to use telnet. If you do have ssh but pconsole fails to find it, you should edit the script and adjust the line containing PATH. uses the P_CONNECT_CMD environment variable (by default set to ''). Example of changing it:

    $ P_CONNECT_CMD=rlogin ; export P_CONNECT_CMD

If you want to use pconsole to connect your serial console lines, you should probably set P_CONNECT_CMD to 'telnet', because serial console lines usually do not support the SSH protocol.


Fire up Everything you type can and will be used against you. Hit to enter command mode. Type 'help' (or just 'h') for help. Type 'c' to reconnect and leave command mode. Hit to re-enter command mode and type 'l' to list all connections. You can use 'detach' to detach from a particular tty or host. If you have multiple windows open to a particular host and enter 'detach ', it will detach all ttys for that host. Open up a new window on your local machine (same machine where you started pconsole in the first place). Type the 'tty' command. It gives you the name of the tty that the window is using. In the pconsole main window, type 'attach ' or 'attach yourmachine#'. Now type 'list' to see if the connection shows up. Type 'quit' or 'exit' to quit pconsole.

If you own a serial port multiplexer that allows you to telnet to specific port numbers on the IP of the multiplexer, you can have pconsole connect to ':'.


When logging in, you may need to enter a password. The pconsole main window echoes everything you type, as it cannot 'know' that you are at a password prompt. To keep the password from being visible, you should turn off the echo. You can do this by typing 'echo off' in command mode, or you can use the handy short-cut when not in command mode. With echo turned off, you can safely enter your password and hit again to toggle echoing back on.


In theory, pconsole can work with an infinite number of connections, but it's just not very practical to have more than 16 open windows on your screen. If you want to run pconsole on many machines, try adding the '-iconic' option to xterm:

    $ P_TERM_OPTIONS="-iconic" ; export P_TERM_OPTIONS

This will start all xterms in iconized mode, now just click one open and let the others iconized, and you can work nice and easy.


  • pconsole needs root privs. So, are you root? Or, is the pconsole binary setuid root?
  • The script uses 'ps' to find out on which tty the terminal processes are. You may need to edit this script and change the line containing 'ps'. If you don't know how to write shell scripts, ask a friend.
  • Check the PATH variables in the top of the scripts and Most common paths are listed, but you may have your stuff in unusual directories.
  • Read this README for more hints (see above).
  • If all else fails, throw this package in the dumpster..!


I hope you'll enjoy using pconsole.