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Re: command "cat /etc/localtime" breaks output on tty-terminal

From: Eli Schwartz
Subject: Re: command "cat /etc/localtime" breaks output on tty-terminal
Date: Sun, 23 Jun 2019 13:00:28 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:60.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/60.7.1

On 6/23/19 8:18 AM, bitfreak25 wrote:
> On Sun, 23 Jun 2019 06:04:29 -0500
> Dennis Williamson <address@hidden> wrote:
>> On Sun, Jun 23, 2019, 5:31 AM bitfreak25 <address@hidden> wrote:
>>> OS: Arch Linux 5.1.12-arch1-1-ARCH (tty1)
>>> Bash-Version: 5.0.7(1)-release
>>> localization: de_DE.UTF-8 UTF-8
>>> keymap: de-latin1-nodeadkeys
>>> Description:
>>> The command "cat /etc/localtime" was called in a tty-terminal. After that
>>> some characters will be printed incorrectly (mostly "cyrillic" chars
>>> instead of the correct ones). The typed chars seems to be handled correctly
>>> (e.g. calling "exit") but the output is broken at this point. This
>>> behaviour is reproducible on my other PC with Debian Stable (Bash-Version
>>> in Debian: 4.4-5), so it seems to be a old bug. Changing to another tty or
>>> rebooting the OS will fix this behaviour until the command is called again.
>>> Kind regards,
>>> bitfreak
>> /etc/localtime is symlinked to a file that contains time zone data. If you
>> enter the command
>> file -L /etc/localtime
>> you'll see that that's the case. It contains data that's not meant to be
>> displayed including control characters which cause the effect you observed.
>> If you cat any so-called binary file such as this you are likely to see the
>> same kind of thing happen. Entering the
>> reset
>> command in the affected terminal will correct the problem after it occurs.
> I kind of thought that this could be the reason. It also happens with
> "cat /dev/urandom" which is stopped by [STRG] + [C].
> It seems to be a very small bug thats only breaks the output with an
> unusual command and there are already 3 workarounds. But in my opinion
> it should be fixed some time as it isn't the correct behaviour like
> doing it with a gui-terminal e.g. xfce4-terminal.

All GUI terminals in my experience display the correct behavior. The
correct behavior is to:
- faithfully emit the output you requested
- thereby emit control characters which the terminal cannot properly
- break terminal output in some cases, depending on the control
  characters in question

Some programs, unlike cat, try to protect you from this effect. See for

$ curl file:///etc/localtime
Warning: Binary output can mess up your terminal. Use "--output -" to tell
Warning: curl to output it to your terminal anyway, or consider "--output
Warning: <FILE>" to save to a file.

Eli Schwartz
Arch Linux Bug Wrangler and Trusted User

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