Allow the TERM env variable to be overwritten by .ssh/config

Palmer Dabbelt palmer at
Tue Sep 23 13:35:06 EST 2014

On Mon, 22 Sep 2014 19:06:51 PDT (-0700), imorgan at wrote:
> On Mon, Sep 22, 2014 at 15:33:29 -0700, Palmer Dabbelt wrote:
> > This is pretty much the same request as an old mailing list thread
> >
> >
> >
> > for almost exactly the same reason: some machines don't have
> > new-enough terminal info databases to support newer TERM strings
> > ("rxvt-unicode-256color" in my case).  As such, I'd like to be able to
> > override the TERM that is forwarded to some machines from my
> > .ssh/config.
> >
> > The solutions proposed in that post don't work well for me because I
> > like having a shared .bashrc and don't want to go making it super long
> > just to have a big list of hosts that don't support "*-256color".
> >
> Perhaps you could use tput to test for terminal capabilities rather than
> keeping a list of hosts.
> I've had to deal with a somewhat different issue; preferring to suppress
> color support. I used to use "tput colors" to test for the number of
> colors supported, and re-define TERM as needed. More recently, I taken
> to simply overriding the terminfo definitions for those terminal types
> that I use by creating a ~/.terminfo directory or ~/.terminfo.db
> database.

These are all hosts that are managed by the university, so I've got to
have some username overrides in there anyway.  This way just seemed
like the path of least resistance.

Just doing a "tput colors" doesn't seem to do it for me:

$ tput colors
tput: unknown terminal "rxvt-unicode-256color"

I could just check for a "tput" failure and redefine the terminal, I
don't really like overriding TERM because I worry about how it'll
interact with screen and such.

I think overriding the terminfo database is probably the best way to
do this, I didn't know that was possible!  Unfortunately it doesn't
appear to work on OSX, but that might just be user error...
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