When I ssh into my VPS, I have irssi running in screen. When someone sends a unicode character (such as © or €), irssi displays garbage when I use it via the screen in a ssh session. If I connect to that irssi using irssi's proxy module, from irssi running on my local computer, it shows up correctly.

Likewise, if I run ghci on my VPS (outside a screen) and enter in one of those characters, it crashes.

So, obviously, there is a character encoding issue of some sort with my connection to my VPS, either in ssh or the system setup.

How can I find out what is causing this, and solve it?


Client system

  • Arch Linux x64
  • UTF-8 encoding

VPS system

  • Ubuntu Server 10.04
  • Unknown encoding used. How do I find this? (I just have to look in my /etc/rc.conf for Arch)

2 Answers 2


Running the locale command will give you information about your locale settings; the character encoding is given by the LC_CTYPE setting.

Under Ubuntu, the default locale settings are given in /etc/default/locale. You can change the character encoding by setting LC_CTYPE in your ~/.profile on the VPS, e.g.

export LC_CTYPE=en_US.UTF-8

You'll have to make sure that the en_US.UTF-8 locale is available. Ubuntu only generates locale data for requested locales. All English locales should be available if you have the package language-pack-en-base installed. You can manually request their generation with

sudo locale-gen en

You can also add entries to /var/lib/locales/supported.d/local to make sure a particular locale is installed (e.g., add the line en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8).


actally the value given in LC_CTYPE is a locale name. It is customary, but not required, that the charset encoding be in the name.

But if you want to know, for sure, the charset, then the command is locale -k charmap.

~$ LC_CTYPE=C locale -k charmap
~$ LC_CTYPE=fr_BE locale -k charmap

(note how the charset doesn't appear on the LC_TYPE values above).

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