I have a debian-based system (Voyage Linux 0.9.1 actually, which is based on debian wheezy) and when I do /etc/init.d/ntp status it returns (for example)

$ /etc/init.d/ntp status
[ ok ] NTP server is running

However, inside a screen session (version 4.01.00devel 2-May-06) the [ ok ] is not shown.

$ screen
$ /etc/init.d/ntp status
NTP server is running

Why is this the case? And how to show it also in the Screen session?

BTW: On another debian server (which also returns xterm-256color when I do echo $TERM), I noticed that /etc/init.d/ntp status does never show the [ ok ], regardless of whether I am in a screen session or not, so it probably is not really a screen issue.

1 Answer 1


It doensn't require screen. Let's experiment:

TERM=dumb /etc/init.d/ntp status  # no [OK]
/etc/init.d/ntp status | cat      # also no [OK]

This also leaves out the [OK]. Since abviously the output differs based on the TERM setting (dumb and screen drop the [OK]), you can pretend to have a fully featured terminal instead of screen:

TERM=xterm /etc/init.d/ntp status

And it seems to detect as well if it's connected to a terminal. When you pipe the output to another process, the [OK] vanishes.

I assume the reason for this is that due to the use of escape codes for the [OK], there is a check which prevents their use in “unsave” environments. The escape sequences do not really add anything, but they might mess up the output.

The terminal capability check is done in /lib/lsb/init-functions. There's a function called log_use_fancy_output which makes use of tput:

tput The tput utility uses the terminfo database to make the values of terminal-dependent capabilities and information available to the shell

It issues the following two commands:

tput hpa 60
tput setaf 1

From tput: Portable Terminal Control and Bash Prompt HOWTO - Colours and Cursor Movement:

hpa          - Move cursor to column #1
setaf [1-7]  - Set a foreground colour using ANSI escape

In particular log_use_fancy_output checks if it is connected to a terminal. It then checks if TERM is empty or set to dumb and if those two tput operations succeed. If that is successfull, the [OK] is printed, otherwise the [OK] is skipped.

  • Thanks. Indeed, it seem that the outputting of "[ ok ]" or "[FAIL]" in front of daemons is handled by /lib/lsb/init-functions which contains a function log_use_fancy_output() that indeed queries the capabilities of the terminal using tput. It check for something like tput hpa 60 and tput setaf 1 although it is unclear to me from the tput man page what that exactly means... Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 10:25

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