Console options for legacy-free mini-itx server?

Andrew Reilly areilly at
Mon Nov 15 08:13:59 UTC 2010

Hi there,

I've replaced my old desktop with a laptop and a server, which
is mostly working great.  Naturally, the server is running
FreeBSD-stable.  It's built on an intel i3 MiniITX motherboard
that has lots of SATA sockets, a respectable number of USB
sockets, gigabit ethernet, eSATA, DVI, ... but no serial ports
or PS/2 keyboard or mouse ports.  Most of the time this is fine,
but I've found that sometimes it is very nice to be able to
debug something at a console.  Particularly if something goes
wrong when doing an upgrade of some sort.  I've discovered that
I can use the old VGA screen and USB keyboard for a console if I
have them plugged in at boot time, but if something goes wrong
after boot, plugging a keyboard in doesn't seem to help.

If I find a USB-to-RS232 dongle, will the console mechanism be
able to find it?  I worry that only legacy-16550-ish serial
ports need apply.

Any other possibilities or common practices?

Oh: the other thing about this system: I can't warm-start
it, have to power down and then manually hit the power-on
button.  Attempting to reboot leaves the console sitting at
something like "Stopping other CPUs" forever.  I assume that
this is a BIOS config problem, but haven't found the right
control knob yet.  I've tried turning hyperthreading on and off:
no difference.  Reading the kernel code around that message
suggests that rebooting involves getting the keyboard controller
to send an NMI, and I wonder if the legacy-free no-keyboard
state of my system is having an effect on that, too?



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