I am trying to read some output from /dev/ttyUSB0, using od on Ubuntu. So I used this command:

od -x --endian=big < /dev/ttyUSB0

When I used it yesterday it was not blocking and just showed stuff without escaping or returning like in this way:

0000000 55aa 03ff 0104 0616 835a a555 aaff 0302
0000020 1104 e0e1 025a a555 aa03 ff01 0506 8682 ...

But when I use it today od stops and returns right after printing:


May somebody know what I am missing here?

  • Perhaps your previous od command is still running and getting all the data. – meuh Dec 20 '16 at 18:00
  • What's the output of stty -a < /dev/ttyUSB0? – Stéphane Chazelas Dec 20 '16 at 19:55

Possibly that tty device is in canonical mode (the one where the tty line discipline implements a simple line editor) so an eof character (^D by default) received from the other end causes read() to return nothing.

That would be the same as when you run

od -vx --endian=big 

in a terminal and type Ctrl-D.

Another explanation would be that the canonical mode is off but the VMIN termios setting is set to 0. With VMIN = 0, a read() on the device file returns whatever there is there ready to be read if any straight away and nothing otherwise (meaning end-of-file) (unless VTIME > 0 in which case it waits up to VTIME deciseconds for at least one byte).

Again, you can try it in a terminal with:

s=$(stty -g); stty -icanon min 0 time 0; od -vx --endian=big; stty "$s"

Check the current settings with:

stty -a < /dev/ttyUSB0

If that /dev/ttyUSB0 is a serial device which is just meant to be used to transfer data and not to be used as a terminal, you should issue a

stty raw -echo < /dev/ttyUSB0

In effect, that disables most of the effects of the tty line discipline on it.

See What are the responsibilities of each Pseudo-Terminal (PTY) component (software, master side, slave side)? and your termios(3) and stty(1) man pages for more information.

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