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I would like to know what program is responsible for writing messages to the console during the start, logout and shutdown process. What I'm referring to is that black console that comes out and spews forth ugly messages on the screen. Is it init?

Under normal circumstances the console messages will not show on start. However it is almost always there on shutdown. On several occasions it also shows when I try to logout of a current session.

Thanks! :)

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What you're seeing will be the services that are starting up, or shutting down, on your machine. Those messages will be the scripts running at init 0/6 for shutdown/reboot and init 5 for normal boot. Ubuntu uses upstart instead of the traditional sysvinit for those since 6.10.

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