Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
Recently I needed to do some distance education; one of my coworkers wanted me to show him how to do software builds on Linux. The only problem was that I'm on the East Coast and he is on the West. How could I show him the build and install process? After considering some alternatives, we found our solution in GNU Screen.
I considered using the standard Unix utility script to save a log of my typing. script has several problems, not the least of which is the horrible resulting output (script saves everything, including carriage returns and corrections). In addition, this would be completely non-interactive. If my coworker had a question or needed a clarification, we would have to correspond via email afterward. That would be a frustrating experience for both of us.
Another possible solution would be to use VNC. My coworker could connect to my display, and we could alternate control of the mouse and keyboard. That approach seemed like overkill, since what I wanted to demonstrate was purely command-line work. It would also be difficult to generate a log of a VNC session. Finally, technical limitations dictated that the only way he could connect to my machine for the demonstration was over a simple SSH connection, so this dictated a purely command-line solution.
Screen is one of those tools that is hard to explain but pure genius once you see it in operation. The description from its official Web site doesn't help much: