Conserver is an application that allows multiple users to watch a serial console at the same time. It can log the data, allows users to take write-access of a console (one at a time), and has a variety of bells and whistles to accentuate that basic functionality. The idea is that conserver will log all your serial traffic so you can go back and review why something crashed, look at changes (if done on the console), or tie the console logs into a monitoring system (just watch the logfiles it creates). With multi-user capabilities you can work on equipment with others, mentor, train, etc. It also does all that client-server stuff so that, assuming you have a network connection, you can interact with any of the equipment from home or wherever.
There are currently two mailing lists available. email@example.com is an announcement-only mailing list for informing of new versions, major developments, etc. firstname.lastname@example.org is for general Q&A, discussions, ideas, etc. for conserver users. You can sign up by sending a message to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject of "subscribe" or head over to the online web pages.
Any POSIX-based system with an ANSI C compiler should be fine. Here's a list of systems that I've been told can successfully compile conserver. If anyone has more to add to this list (or something on the list doesn't work any more), please let me know.
Zonker Harris has fabulous documents regarding the hookup of consoles to terminal servers and other such devices. His Greater Scroll of Console Knowledge is a great place to start.
User community contributions contain a variety of helpful items.
The console server software found here is a heavily modified version originally written by Tom Fine (email@example.com) at Ohio State and then Kevin S Braunsdorf (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Purdue University. Patches from Robert Olson (email@example.com) at Argonne National Laboratory were then applied to get network console support.
The result is a combination of many people's work. This version is being released in hopes that it will help others. There is no warranty or support implied by the distribution of the software.
So, what the heck is up with all the different conserver versions? Well, the original authors are continuing to distribute their own threads of the software so you have three main threads (as far as I know). First, there's Tom Fine's thread at http://hea-www.harvard.edu/~fine/Tech/console-server.html. He isn't actively developing it, however, according to the website. Next, there's Kevin Braunsdorf's version at http://www.npcguild.org/software/pundits/. It doesn't look like Kevin is working on his thread ony more either. No new versions have been out since August 2000 (version 8.5), but maybe this info will be out of date by the time you read this (I last checked Feb 10, 2004). Lastly, the conserver.com version is based on Kevin's "5.21-Beta" distribution, but since HEAVILY modified and enhanced (more details in the "Origin" section above).
If I were looking for a conserver package I would definitely use the conserver.com distribution. Why? It's actively maintained, has many more features than the other versions (see CHANGES for a semi-scary history), and has an active user community. Kevin's version does have UPS support (basic serial port line toggling bits) which is missing in the conserver.com version, but no one has asked me for it, so does anyone actually need it?
As of version 6.1.7, the packaging and numbering scheme has changed. I used to package conserver as conserver-GNAC-v.vv. Since GNAC (now Certainty Solutions) has changed its name I've decided to drop the GNAC portion and use a three-digit version number (conserver-v.v.v). Why change the version numbering? I need to differentiate this thread of the code from the original authors' and I couldn't come up with a good replacement for the GNAC name - sad, but true.