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The Serial Console: A Front Door Worth Leaving Open
Foregoing Direct Neural Implants
August 19, 2004
In these modern times, a hardworking admin might be tempted to turn her back on the Old Ways, and indulge in increasingly exotic methods of interfacing with servers: SSH over ethernet, USB, Firewire, wireless, infrared, KVM switches, VNC, VPN... next stop: direct neural implants.
There's one old timer that still has useful place in the admin's tool kit: the serial console. Sure, it's slow and funky. But there are times it can be a real lifesaver. When nothing else works, it's a direct pipeline into your system. It's simple and cheap. You don't need to install drivers or expansion cards, it's just there.
Administration via serial console is common in data centers. Just imagine the nightmare of trying to connect all those rack units to keyboards and displays. The cabling can be extended to a nice comfortable ops center (well, an ops center, anyway). (This Lantronix Console Manager is an example of the type of device used to administer these.)
There are a number of ways to make the physical connection. You can connect an external modem--the kind us old timers fondly refer to as "real" modems--and do remote administration via dialup. It couldn't be any simpler, just dial direct. Or grab a null modem cable, connect to a laptop or a nearby workstation, and you have an instant terminal.