I have several sources saying that
/var/log/messages has system log message but I don't have that file (Ubuntu 11, Debian).
Is the messages file somewhere else now? I tried using
locate to look for it but didn't see it.
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Ubuntu no longer uses the
/var/log/messages file by default. The same information is available in the file
/var/log/syslog. You can re-enable logging to
/var/log/messages if you would like.
Syslog is a standard logging facility. It collects messages from various programs, including the kernel. It is usually configured to store these messages by default. How it stores these messages is generally distribution-dependant.
/var/log/messages is generally used to store non-critical messages while
/var/log/syslog stores everything, including critical and non-critical messages.