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CLUELESS at the Prompt: A new column for new users

by Mike List, troll@net-link.net

Welcome to installment 6 of Clueless at the Prompt: a new column for new users.

This time let's take a quick look at the XF86Setup utility. at X window managers, concentrating on FVWM, adding popup menus, adding and subtracting apps from existing popups and other relatively easy ways to get a custom appearance and feel.

Using XF86Setup to configure X

Judging from the posts I've seen on the usenet, a lot of people aren't aware that there's an easier way to get X up and running than configuring it the old confusing way(at least I found it to be that way), using a tcl/tk script called XF86Setup. While it doesn't totally eliminate the need to manually edit your XConfig, it does provide a method of getting a usable configuration for most common video cards and monitors. XF86Setup first appeared in the XFree86 3.2 distribution, and uses the lowest common denominator VGA 16 color mode server and a tcl/tk(corrections welcome) script to start the config process in X and by using the graphical nature of this utility script you can be almost certain to have X running in a couple of tries, and if worst comes to worst you can have it running in 16 color mode until you can get the details to optimize it to your video hardware. Current downloads of Xfree86 all seem to have this included, and if your CDROM diskribution has X 3.2 or better you already have it available to install to your HD. If you download it from xf86.org, be sure to read the Relnotes for the component files necessary to insure a successful install. You'll need :

, where ?=the level of the distribution you're using, ie.3.2, 3.3 etc., for all installations, read the relnotes for any oher files your specific hardware might need. Since the 3.3 version just came out, if you are just getting around to setting up X you will most likely want to get this distribution, since every successive version has support for more hardware and often better support for hardware already supported.

OK, you have the files you need, that is the ones listed above, and the server for your particular video card, in my case the SVGA server, you may need to do a little detective work to determine which server to use. If you are using the X version that comes on your CDROM, you can probably install all the servers(assuming there's space on your HD)and let the XF86Setup prog make the choice. To install,type:

       cd /usr/X11R6
Next, copy the preinst.sh and postinst.sh scripts to /var/tmp, then go to /usr/X11R6 and type:

        cd /usr/X11R6
        sh /var/tmp/preinst.sh
the script will remove some symbolic links, and check to see that all the files you need are available, and may output a message asking for those files that are needed but not present. But assuming that you have followed the above, everything should be in place, and you should get a generally encouraging message on exit from the script.

Now for the installation itself,type:

       tar -zxvf /wherever/you/have/X3?files.tgz
you'll have to repeat this step with each of the required files, although if you have these files in a directory by themselves, you may be able to type:
       tar -zxvf /wherever/youhavethem/*.tgz
although it's been awhile, and I can't recall if it works, it won't hurt anything to try, since the alternative is to unpack each tgz file separately.

Next you run the postinst.sh script in the same manner as the preinst.sh above, this will make sure that you have all the X components in the correct places.Run ldconfig something like:

       ldconfig -m /usr/X11R6/lib
or reboot to run ldconfig automatically. This links the libraries necessary to run X. At this point you should be able to start the actual setup by typing, naturally:
which will present a dialog box asking if you want to start in graphical mode or tell you it will start momentarily. At this point you'll be in X, using the 16 color VGA server.Read all the instructions, and follow the routine, which I found to be pretty self-explanatory. You will probably have the most trouble finding the right mouse device and protocol, but try each one in turn if you aren't sure. You'll probably also want to change the keyboard to 102key US International keyboard. Specify the video card, and monitor info, don't worry if you don't know the salient monitor inf, you cna start at the top of the list and work your way down the list until you reach a good setting.Much easier if you have your monitor manual available, so have it on hand if you can. Finish the routine when you think it's right and that should do it. Congratulations on your hopefully valid Xconfiguration. If you muff it just try again using slightly different settings until you do get it right.

Window Managers

Most Linux distributions that i'm familiar with use the FVWM window manager as default and the rest of them should have it present, unless you downloaded the files directly from xf86.org, in which case the default is TWM.

FVWM is highly configurable by editing the /var/X11R6/lib/fvwm/system.fvwmrc file.You can use the file as it is, since it has the most common installed features already configured, but you can comment out those programs that you don't have installed by adding a "#" at the beginning of the lines you wish to drop, change colors, add popup menus, and more just by following the examples. Just be sure to save the system.fvwmrc by typing:

       cp /var/X11R6/lib/fvwm/system.fvwmrc
or something similar, so if you do mess up on your customization you can always start from scratch by cp'ing .old to the original system.fvwmrc.A couple of months ago The Weekend Mechanic column had some very cool ideas on wallpapering the root window, so you might want to check them out.

I made "Internet" and "PPP" popup menus to include lynx, Netscape and a couple of telnet sites, as well as an IRC client, and to use the chat script from X. you may have other ideas more to your liking, don't be afraid to try, you can always start over again if you don't like the results.

Take a look at my system.fvwmrc, nothing too sophisticated, but if you compare it to the original you should get the idea. I commented the changes that I made so you can see some of the ways in which you can customize yours.

Previous "Clueless at the Prompt" Columns

Clueless at the Prompt #1 - February 1997
Clueless at the Prompt #2 - March 1997
Clueless at the Prompt #3 - April 1997
Clueless at the Prompt #4 - May 1997
Clueless at the Prompt #5 - June 1997

Copyright © 1997, Mike List
Published in Issue 19 of the Linux Gazette, July 1997