multitail: Making logs fun

screen is cool. screen with the vertical split patch is the next best thing to sliced bread.

And until a week or so ago, I thought I had seen just about all the split-screen fun I could have in a terminal.

That was before I found multitail.


Now I’ll be honest and say I usually don’t give a spit about system logs. As a matter of course I usually uninstall things like logrotate, just because I dislike leaving tracks.

On the other hand, multitail makes those things fun. Self-contained and with built-in help screens, it turns droll logs into multicolored explosions of system history.

In my case, I really don’t have many uses for it except perhaps for pacman.log or ntp.log.

But if you have a big machine — a really big machine, like … like … like a server or something — and you enjoy (or rely on) watching for the footprints it leaves, this is the tool for you.

12 thoughts on “multitail: Making logs fun

  1. CorkyAgain

    Like you, I don’t usually pay much attention to system logs. In fact, I’ve given up any kind of on-screen system monitoring. No htop, no conky, no cute little icons in the tray.

    I’m not running a server, so it feels pretentious to have these things running all the time, as if I had multiple users relying on me to keep things running efficiently. But really there’s just me, and I get more than enough feedback about the state of the system by how snappy (or sluggish) common operations are.

    If things seem to be slowing down, sure, I’ll break out these tools in order to figure out the problem. Otherwise, not.

  2. pdanner

    You are the reason I started using Screen and applying the VS Patch (or finding it with the patch applied in the AUR for example), and for that I thank you. I have, however, been turned on to Tmux as a replacement and have never looked back. I would like to read your thoughts on the two in comparison. If you haven’t tried it, I think you should. A quick modification to it’s config file and all of your familiar keystrokes from Screen are the same. If you HAVE used it, I would like to read why you prefer Screen. I say all of this because I consider your opinion to be a valuable one.

    Again, Thanks for returning. 🙂

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      If I remember, some of it was just getting used to how tmux did things, but at that time tmux also lacked a couple of small points I relied on in screen.

      I really enjoy finding little gimmicks to force-feed screen’s idle and blanker options, for a “screensaver” effect. Childish, I know.

      At that time tmux didn’t seem to handle those things. I will give it a try again though. 🙂

  3. pdanner

    Yeah, blanking is nice. I’ve never tried to force feed it, though. That sounds pretty cool. Maybe if you had a script that would detach and then auto log off your user before blanking, although then it wouldn’t be “screen” that was doing the blanking. I guess I’m talking in circles.

  4. valkaiser

    Multitail is also fun to use with other programs that generate growing text files. I’ve used it with mostly. Quite entertaining to output several slow channels interlaced together in different colors, as long as you can keep straight who you’re replying to. 😛

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