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I set up the motd to change with update-motd. The file at /etc/motd (and /var/run/motd) does show the full contents, but when I log in through ssh, the motd is not fully shown.

Why would this happen?

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Are you connecting from the actual terminal or remotely using SSH? If remotely, have you attempted to use a larger SSH client (such as Putty) window to see if it's being truncated based on screen size? – rws907 Nov 13 '12 at 1:58

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