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System Logs: Your Key to Successful System Administration

Novell Cool Solutions: Tip
By Scott M. Morris

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Posted: 21 Sep 2005

Applies to:

  • Platforms using Gnome

Once in a while, unexpected things happen in Linux. If a device isn't working properly, or an application isn't functioning correctly, that can be frustrating. It's nice to know that there are things one can do to troubleshoot these problems. In reference to troubleshooting system problems, a friend once told me, "If you can read logs, you can become an instant genious." So, where are these logs? Let's run through two ways of accessing them.

The first will be through YAST. Go to the SYSTEM menu, and click on ADMINISTRATOR SETTINGS. Yast then appears. Click MISC on the left, then VIEW SYSTEM LOG on the right:

Another YAST window appears with the system log in it:

You can then sort through the various messages to see if you can pinpoint why that kernel module just won't load, or whatever the problem may be.

There is another way to view the log as it is being created. This approach is nice if you need to see system messages in real-time.

Open a terminal window, become superuser, and type in tail -f /var/log/messages at the prompt:

[1412][scott@work:~]$ su
work:/home/scott # tail -f /var/log/messages
Sep 19 10:28:34 work syslog-ng[3698]: SIGHUP received, restarting syslog-ng
Sep 19 12:00:33 work syslog-ng[3698]: STATS: dropped 0
Sep 19 12:20:52 work su: (to root) scott on /dev/pts/2
Sep 19 12:20:52 work su: (to root) scott on /dev/pts/2
Sep 19 12:36:49 work su: (to root) scott on /dev/pts/3
Sep 19 12:36:49 work su: (to root) scott on /dev/pts/3
Sep 19 13:00:33 work syslog-ng[3698]: STATS: dropped 0
Sep 19 14:13:27 work su: (to root) scott on /dev/pts/1
Sep 19 14:13:27 work syslog-ng[3698]: STATS: dropped 0

You will then see about 10 lines of output. As the system receives more messages, they will continue to be printed here, until you exit.

System messages are very useful and helpful to nail down the cause of the problems that sometimes crop up. Whether it's a device that won't work, or a kernel module that won't load, additional information about the problem will usually appear in the system log. We've looked at two ways to access the information in these logs. Hopefully, this will be useful in the maintenance of your systems.

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