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We have an increasing number of remote linux servers at "harsh" customer locations that sometimes need a site visit to debug. Originally, we used servers with VGA out, but recently, we have machines that have an HDMI out, but we do have HDMI to DVI adapter.

When I, or a technician visits these sites, it is often valuable to plug in a monitor to see what is going on (console messages etc - text only, no GUI) especially if we can't login over the network (which is probably why we are there in the first place). I've had one situation where this was absolutely necessary and revealed the problem - the grub menu file was corrupted by a bad disk so the system did not auto boot, could only see onscreen. Also if we ever needed to get into the BIOS.

So I'm after a cheap solution for a technician travel kit so that they can potentially access the video. Sometimes these techs get on planes to do the visit, so it needs to be portable. I do not intend to repeat the experience of taking a 12" VGA monitor in a flight bag with me! It looked stupid to the customer, and often the servers are physically difficult to access (high up etc), and sometimes there is water around (so power cords are not so clever)

I know there are things like this available but the price is prohibitive for us (v small company). Quality of output (so long as readable) is almost irrelevant.

The tech is always going to have a laptop (linux or windows). This old cnet post suggests a solution whereby you would use VGA to composite or svideo, then a USB video capture device to be able to see the screen. It's not clear to me (I am no video guy) whether you could do similar with digital, in a cable alone (avoiding external power or boxes).

I've seen these sorts of cables but I am a bit sceptical whether they can work without extra electronics. Other solutions involve boxes (and power supplies) and are a lot more expensive.

My perfect solution is mini wireless usb keyboard (easy), plus a couple of cables (VGA or HDMI to component) that can plug into the laptop, see the console video capture on the laptop screen and interact until such time as it is back on the network and the usual ssh type stuff can be used.

Sorry for droning on and hope someone can relate their similar experience

Note: someone will probably think of using the serial port, and yes, we already do this to show the console but this assume the system has part way booted.

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migrated from Apr 28 '11 at 22:01

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

I don't know why this got migrated here, sorry. Your servers need a remote management card. Most bigger vendors have these, some examples are dell and intel.

These must 'fit' to the specific server type, and will then allow to operate with e.g. BIOS over network. Some may even allow to turn the server on and off, and watch system health (fans, voltages,...) parameters.

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A good idea and links, thanks. However, what I didn't mention in the original question, for various reasons (my bad) was that we use small form factor PCs that do not accept management cards. Since the time of the question I've actually got a manageable solution together I will add the details of for future searchers – Aitch May 16 '11 at 9:01

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