In NetBSD versions before 1.4 the user could choose between two different drivers for screen and keyboard, pccons (specific for i386) and pcvt. In NetBSD 1.4 the new wscons multiplatform driver appeared, which has substituted the previous drivers.
Wscons is NetBSD's platform-independent workstation console driver. It handles complete abstraction of keyboards and mice. This means that you can plug in several keyboards or mice and they will be multiplexed onto a single terminal, but also that it can multiplex several virtual terminals onto one physical terminal.
The capabilities of wscons can vary depending on the port. Starting with NetBSD 4.0, almost all ports have full support for most capabilities wscons has to offer. If you are using a non-mainstream architecture, please see the port-specific FAQ if wscons seems to lack features.
Wscons support is enabled by default on most architectures. This
can be done manually by adding
wscons=YES to your
/etc/rc.conf. Then configure the desired number
of virtual consoles as described in Section 220.127.116.11, “Virtual consoles”
and start wscons by entering
sh /etc/rc.d/wscons start followed by
sh /etc/rc.d/ttys restart. You can now switch
virtual consoles by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Fn or
similar, depending on the platform.
wscons comprises three subsystems: wsdisplay, wskbd and wsmouse. These subsystems handle abstraction for all display, keyboard and mouse devices respectively. The following sections discuss the configuration of wscons per subsystem.
This section will explain how to configure display and screen-related options.
The number of pre-allocated virtual console is controlled by the following option
Other consoles can be added by enabling the relevant lines in the
/etc/wscons.conf file: the comment mark (#) must
be removed from the lines beginning with
In the following example a fifth console is added to the four
# screens to create # idx screen emul #screen 0 - vt100 screen 1 - vt100 screen 2 - vt100 screen 3 - vt100 screen 4 - - #screen 4 80x25bf vt100 #screen 5 80x50 vt100
rc.wscons script transforms each of the non
commented lines in a call to the wsconscfg command:
the columns become the parameters of the call. The
idx column becomes the
parameter, the screen column becomes the
-t type parameter (which defines the type of screen:
rows and columns, number of colors, ...) and the
emul column becomes the
parameter, which defines the emulation. For example:
screen 3 - vt100
becomes a call to:
wsconscfg -e vt100 3
Please note that it is possible to have a (harmless)
conflict between the consoles
pre-allocated by the kernel and the consoles allocated at boot time
If during boot the system tries to allocate an already allocated
screen, the following message will be displayed:
wsconscfg: WSDISPLAYIO_ADDSCREEN: Device busy
The solution is to comment out the offending lines in
Note that while it is possible to delete a screen and add it with different settings, it is, technically speaking, not possible to actually modify the settings of a screen.
screen 0 cannot be deleted if used as system console.
This implies that the setting of screen 0 cannot be
changed in a running system, if used as system console.
The virtual console must also be active in
/etc/ttys, so that NetBSD runs the
getty(8) program to ask for login. For example:
console "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" pc3 off secure ttyE0 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 on secure ttyE1 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 on secure ttyE2 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 on secure ttyE3 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 off secure ...
When starting up the X server, it will look for a virtual
console with no getty(8) program running, e.g. one console
should left as "off" in
ttyE3 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 off secure
/etc/ttys is used by the X server
for this purpose. To use a screen different from number 4, a
parameter of the form vt
n must be passed to
the X server, where
n is the number of the
function key used to activate the screen for X.
screen 7 could be enabled in
/etc/wscons.conf and X could be started with
vt8. If you use xdm you must
:0 local /usr/X11R6/bin/X +kb dpms -bpp 16 dpms vt8
For xdm3d the path is different:
This error message usually occurs when wsconscfg tries
to add a screen which already exists. One time this occurs
is if you have a
screen 0 line in your
/etc/wscons.conf file, because the
kernel always allocates a screen 0 as the console device.
The error message is harmless in this case, and you can get
rid of it by deleting (or commenting out) the
screen 0 line.
A text mode with 50 lines can be used starting with version 1.4.1 of
NetBSD. This mode is activated in the
/etc/wscons.conf. The following line must be
font ibm - 8 ibm /usr/share/pcvt/fonts/vt220l.808
Then the following lines must be modified:
#screen 0 80x50 vt100 screen 1 80x50 vt100 screen 2 80x50 vt100 screen 3 80x50 vt100 screen 4 80x50 vt100 screen 5 80x50 vt100 screen 6 80x50 vt100 screen 7 80x50 vt100
This configuration enables eight screens, which can be accessed with
the key combination Ctrl-Alt-Fn (where
n varies from 1 to 8); the corresponding devices
are ttyE0..ttyE7. To enable them and get a login prompt,
/etc/ttys must be modified:
ttyE0 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 on secure ttyE1 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 on secure ttyE2 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 on secure ttyE3 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 on secure ttyE4 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 on secure ttyE5 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 on secure ttyE6 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 on secure ttyE7 "/usr/libexec/getty Pc" vt220 on secure
screen 0 as system console can be set to another
screen type at boot time on VGA displays. This
is a kernel configuration option. If a non-80x25 setting
is selected, it must be made sure that a usable font is
compiled into the kernel, which would be an 8x8 one
There is a problem with many ATI graphics cards which don't implement the standard VGA font switching logics: These need another kernel option to make a nonstandard console font work.
An example set of kernel configuration options might be:
options VGA_CONSOLE_SCREENTYPE="\"80x50\"" options VGA_CONSOLE_ATI_BROKEN_FONTSEL options FONT_VT220L8x8
On many architectures, there is only one type of screen mode: a graphical framebuffer mode. On machines with VGA graphics cards, there is a second mode: textmode. This is an optimized mode specially made for displaying text. Hence, this is the default console mode for GENERIC kernels on architectures where the graphics card is typically a VGA card (i386, amd64).
However, you can enable a framebuffer on machines with VGA cards that support the VESA BIOS extension (VBE).
To enable support for this mode in NetBSD 4.x and 5.x, uncomment the following lines in the kernel configuration file:
# VESA framebuffer console options KVM86 # required for vesabios vesabios* at vesabiosbus? vesafb* at vesabios? options VESAFB_WIDTH=640 options VESAFB_HEIGHT=480 options VESAFB_DEPTH=8 options VESAFB_PM # power management support wsdisplay* at vesafb? console ?
Beginning in NetBSD 4.0, if you have a VIA Unichrome-family graphics device, you can enable the following instead:
# VIA Unichrome framebuffer console unichromefb* at pci? dev ? function ? wsdisplay* at unichromefb?
You can enable scrolling back on wscons consoles by compiling
WSDISPLAY_SCROLLSUPPORT option into your
kernel. Make sure you don't have option
VGA_RASTERCONSOLE enabled at the same time
though! See Chapter 32, Compiling the kernel for instructions on
building a kernel.
When you have a kernel with options
WSDISPLAY_SCROLLSUPPORT running, you can
scroll up on the console by pressing LEFT SHIFT plus PAGE
UP/DOWN. Please note that this may not work on your system
It is possible to change the foreground and background color of kernel messages by setting the following options in kernel config files:
options WS_KERNEL_FG=WSCOL_xxx options WS_KERNEL_BG=WSCOL_xxx
WSCOL_xxx color constants are defined in
Starting from NetBSD 3.0, you can easily customize many aspects of your display appearance: the colors used to print normal messages, the colors used to print kernel messages and the color used to draw a border around the screen.
All of these details can be changed either from kernel
options or through the wsconsctl(8) utility; the later
may be preferable if you don't want to compile your own
kernel, as the default options in
are suitable to get this tip working.
The following options can be set through wsconsctl(8):
border: The color
of the screen border. Its respective kernel
msg.default.attrs: The attributes
used to print normal console messages. Its respective
kernel options are
WS_DEFAULT_MONOATTR (the former is used
in color displays, while the later is used in monochrome
The background color used to print normal console
messages. Its respective kernel option is
The foreground color used to print normal console
messages. Its respective kernel option is
The attributes used to print kernel messages and warnings.
Its respective kernel options are
former is used in color displays, while the later is used
in monochrome displays).
The background color used to print kernel messages and
warnings. Its respective kernel option is
The foreground color used to print kernel messages and
warnings. Its respective kernel option is
The values accepted as colors are: black, red, green, brown, blue, magenta, cyan and white. The attributes are a comma separated list of one or more flags, which can be: reverse, hilit, blink and/or underline.
For example, to emulate the look of one of those old Amstrad machines:
wsconsctl -d -w border=blue msg.default.bg=blue msg.default.fg=white msg.default.attrs=hilit
Or, to make your kernel messages appear red:
wsconsctl -d -w msg.kernel.fg=red
Note that, in older versions of NetBSD, only a subset of this functionality is available; more specifically, you can only change the kernel colors by changing kernel options, as explained above. Also note that not all drivers support these features, so you may not get correct results on all architectures.
NetBSD uses the termcap database to
tell applications what the current terminal's capabilities are.
For example, some terminals don't support colors, some don't
support underlining (PC VGA terminals don't, for example) etc.
TERM environment variable tells the termcap
library the type of terminal. It then refers to its database
for the options.
The default setting for
TERM can be
inspected by typing
on the terminal of interest. Usually this is something like
vt220. This terminal type doesn't support
colors. On a typical PC console with 25 lines, you can change
this value to
wsvt25 instead, to get colors.
This is done in the C shell (csh) by entering:
setenv TERM wsvt25
In a Bourne-compatible shell (sh, ksh), you can enter:
If this does not work for you, you can try the
ansi terminal type, which supports
ANSI color codes. However, other functionality may be
missing with this terminal type. You can have a look
at the file
to see if you can find a useful match for your
There are several fonts in
that can be loaded as console fonts. This can be done with the
wsfontload(8) command, for example:
wsfontload -N ibm -h 8 -e ibm /usr/share/wscons/fonts/vt220l.808.
This command loads the IBM-encoded (
font in the file
vt2201.808 which has a height
of eight pixels (
-h 8). Name it ibm for later
To actually display the font on the console, use the command
wsconsctl -dw font=ibm.
If you want to edit a font, you can use the old pcvt
utils that are available in the
Wscons also allows setting the keymap to map the keys on various national keyboards to the right characters. E.g. to set the keymap for an Italian keymap, run:
wsconsctl -k -w encoding=itencoding -> it
This setting will last until the next reboot.
To make it permanent, add a
encoding line to
/etc/wscons.conf: it will be executed
automatically the next time you reboot.
cp /etc/wscons.conf /etc/wscons.conf.orig
echo encoding it >>/etc/wscons.conf
Please be careful and type two
If you type only one
>, you will overwrite
the file instead of adding a line. But that's why we always
make backup files before touching critical files!
A full list of keyboard mappings can be found in
be - Belgian
de - German
dk - Danish
es - Spanish
fi - Finnish
fr - French
gr - Greek
hu - Hungarian
it - Italian
jp - Japanese
no - Norwegian
pl - Polish
pt - Portuguese
ru - Russian
sf - Swiss French
sg - Swiss German
sv - Swedish
ua - Ukrainian
uk - UK-English
us - US-English
There are also several "variants" that can be used to modify a map:
dvorak uses the Dvorak keyboard
swapctrlcaps switches the functions of the
Caps Lock and Left Control keys.
is for the nonstandard keyboard layout on the Netpliance
i-opener and makes F1 into Escape and F2 through F12 into F1
These can be combined with another map by appending a dot
and then the variant name, for example,
us.iopener. Multiple variants can
be combined, such as
us.dvorak.swapctrlcaps. Note that not all
combinations are allowed.
You can change the compiled in kernel default by adding
where encoding is an uppercase entry
from the list above
PCKBD_LAYOUT=KB_FR). Variants can be
bitwise or'd in
Configuring the keyboard layout under X is described elsewhere.
If your favourite keymap is not supported, you can start
to make your own. Be sure to send-pr a change-request PR with your work, so others can
make use of it!
You can test your keymap by using wsconsctl instead of directly hacking the keymaps into the keyboard mapping file. For example, to say keycode 51 without any modifiers should map to a comma, with shift it should map to a question mark, with alt it should map to a semicolon and with both alt and shift it should map to colon, issue the following command:
wsconsctl -w "map += keycode 51=comma question semicolon colon"
Keyboard repeat speed can be tuned using the
There are two variables of interest:
repeat.del1, which specifies the delay before
character repetition starts, and
which sets the delay between each character repetition (once
Let's see an example, assuming you want to accelerate keyboard speed. You could do, from the command line:
wsconsctl -w repeat.del1=300 wsconsctl -w repeat.deln=40
Or, if you want this to happen automatically every time
you boot up the system, you could add the following lines to
setvar repeat.del1=300 setvar repeat.deln=40
The wsmouse device (part of wscons) does not directly support serial mice. The moused(8) daemon is provided to read serial mouse data, convert it into wsmouse events and inject them in wscons' event queue, so the mouse can be used through the abstraction layer provided by wsmouse.
A typical use can be:
moused -p /dev/tty00.
This will try to determine the type of mouse connected to
the first serial port and start reading its data. The
moused(8) man page contains more examples.
It is possible to use the mouse on the wscons console to mark (cut) text with one mouse button, and insert (paste) it again with another button.
To do this, enable "wsmoused" in
/etc/rc.conf, and start it:
echo wsmoused=yes >>/etc/rc.conf
sh /etc/rc.d/wsmoused start
After that you can use the mouse to mark text with the left
mouse button, and paste it with the right one. To tune the
behaviour of wsmoused(8) see its manpage, which also
describes the format of the wsmoused.conf(5) config file,
an example of which can be found in