1. X
    1. What is X?
    2. Configuration
    3. The mouse
    4. The keyboard
    5. The monitor
    6. The video card
    7. Starting X
    8. Customizing X
    9. Other window managers or desktop environments
    10. Graphical login with xdm


What is X?

NetBSD uses the X Window System (often referred as X11) to provide a graphical interface. In NetBSD 5.0, the amd64, i386, macppc, shark, sgimips, and sparc64 ports use X.Org and the rest use XFree86.

Please note that the X Window System is a rather bare bones framework. It acts as a base for modern desktop environments like GNOME or KDE, but they are not part of the X Window System. NetBSD ships with the X Window System, but it does not include these desktop environments; they must be added via pkgsrc.

When you start using X you'll find many new terms which you may find confusing at first. The basic elements are:


In some cases, you may be able to start using X without any configuration at all, and startx will work just fine. In many cases, however, some configuration of the X server is required. Depending on the port you use, this configuration file will be either /etc/X11/xorg.conf (for platforms using or /etc/X11/XF86Config (for those using XFree86). The structure of the configuration file is described formally in xorg.conf(5) or XF86Config(5).

To generate an initial configuration file for your X server, run the command

# X -configure

This command should create a configuration file and place it in your home directory. To test the generated configuration file, run, e.g.,

# X -config ~/

If this succeeds, you should see a crosshatched background and a cursor in the shape of an X. Try moving the cursor around to verify that the mouse is functional. To quit, press Ctrl-Alt-Backspace.

If the above test was successful, move the file into place (as either /etc/X11/xorg.conf or /etc/X11/XF86Config) and you are ready to go. The following sections may be of interest or use, but are not required reading.

The mouse

PS/2 and USB mice will normally be autodetected, and a configuration entry like the following will be generated:

Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier  "Mouse0"
        Driver      "mouse"
        Option      "Protocol" "wsmouse"
        Option      "Device" "/dev/wsmouse"
        Option      "ZAxisMapping" "4 5 6 7"

For a serial mouse on the first serial port, try something like:

Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier  "Mouse0"
        Driver      "mouse"
        Option      "Protocol" "auto"
        Option      "Device" "/dev/tty00"

In this example. /dev/tty00 is the first serial port. Use /dev/tty01 for the second, and so on. Protocol auto will try to automatically detect the protocol of your serial mouse. If this doesn't work, try values like Microsoft, IntelliMouse or Logitech. See mousedrv(4) for more information.

The keyboard

Even if you have already configured your keyboard for wscons (see wscons), you need to configure it for X as well, at least if you want to use a non-US layout.

An easy solution is to use the XKB protocol to specify the keyboard type and layout.

Here is an example that shows how to use a German keyboard:

Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier  "Keyboard0"
        Driver      "kbd"
        Option      "XkbRules" "xorg"
        Option      "XkbModel" "pc105"
        Option      "XkbLayout" "de"
        Option      "XkbOptions" "ctrl:nocaps"

If you wish to change the repeat rate of your keyboard, you can set it with the AutoRepeat option, which takes two arguments: delay and rate, respectively. The following example sets the initial delay to 200 milliseconds and the repeat rate to 30 per second:

Option      "AutoRepeat"    "200 30"

If X is already running, the keyboard repeat rate can be changed with the xset(1) command:

$ xset r 200 30

You can also run this command in your .xinitrc file. See below (Customizing X) for more information.

The monitor

If X does not run at the resolution you think it should, first run xrandr and see if the resolution you want is listed. If your preferred resolution is listed in that command's output, you can change resolutions with, e.g.,

$ xrandr -s 1680x1050

If your preferred resolution is not listed, or you have issues with flickering, you may need to manually specify your monitor's horizontal and vertical frequencies. These can be set with the HorizSync and VertRefresh directives in the Monitor section. An example is provided below.

Section "Monitor"
        Identifier   "Monitor0"
        VendorName   "Monitor Vendor"
        ModelName    "Monitor Model"
        HorizSync    30-83
        VertRefresh  56-75

Possible values for your specific monitor can often be found in the manual, sometimes even on the monitor itself.

The video card

Normally, your video card will be automatically detected. In the event that this autodetection fails, all available drivers can be found in /usr/X11R7/lib/modules/drivers. (Replace X11R7 with X11R6 if you use a port that has not yet switched to X.Org.) The driver can be set with the Driver directive in the Device section, as shown below.

Section "Device"
        Identifier  "Card0"
        Driver      "intel"

Starting X

You can start X with the following command:

$ startx

If your basic X server configuration is correct, you are left in the X environment with the default window manager (twm). If you want a more advanced window manager or desktop environment, many are available in pkgsrc. See Other window managers or desktop environments for information about adding and changing window managers.

Customizing X

One of the first things you will want to do is to change the programs that run when X is first started. The easiest way to do this is to copy the default .xinitrc file to your home directory and modify it, or create a simple new one from scratch. For example:

$ cp /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc ~/.xinitrc
$ vi ~/.xinitrc

The following example shows how to start the window manager (twm) and open an instance of the xclock and xterm programs. The screen background color is set to bisque4, which is defined in /usr/X11R7/lib/X11/rgb.txt.

# start some nice programs
xclock -geometry 50x50-1-1 &
xsetroot -solid bisque4 &
xterm -geometry 80x34-1+1 -bg OldLace &

exec twm    # no '&' here

With this type of setup, to quit X you must exit the window manager, which is usually done by selecting exit from its menu.

The above example is very simple, but illustrates the basics of controlling the clients that are run when X is started. You can run any number of commands from your .xinitrc, including basic X configuration commands like xset b off to turn off the bell.

Other window managers or desktop environments

If you don't like twm, which is a very simple window manager, you can install another window manager or a desktop environment from pkgsrc. The following example uses the Openbox window manager, but there are many others available in pkgsrc/wm.

Openbox can be installed via binary packages or compiled with pkgsrc. As always, assuming a properly set PKG_PATH, the binary package method is:

# pkg_add -v openbox

Or, with pkgin:

# pkgin install openbox

To build it with pkgsrc, run:

# cd /usr/pkgsrc/wm/openbox
# make install

Openbox is now installed; to start it you must modify your .xinitrc file: substitute the line which calls twm with a line which calls openbox. For example:

# start some useful programs
xclock -geometry 50x50-1-1 &
# start window manager:
exec openbox   # no '&' here

The startx(1) command will start the X11 session with Openbox. As configured in the example .xinitrc file above, choosing Exit or similar from the window manager's menu will quit the window manager and end the X11 session.

Installing a desktop environment is almost as easy. The following example shows how to use the Xfce desktop environment.

# pkg_add -v xfce4
# cp /usr/pkg/share/examples/rc.d/famd /etc/rc.d
# cp /usr/pkg/share/examples/rc.d/dbus /etc/rc.d
# cp /usr/pkg/share/examples/rc.d/hal /etc/rc.d
# echo rpcbind=YES >> /etc/rc.conf
# echo famd=YES >> /etc/rc.conf
# echo dbus=YES >> /etc/rc.conf
# echo hal=YES >> /etc/rc.conf
# /etc/rc.d/rpcbind start
# /etc/rc.d/famd start
# /etc/rc.d/dbus start
# /etc/rc.d/hal start

After running the above commands, edit your .xinitrc as above and change openbox (or twm) to xfce4-session. The next time you run startx, the Xfce desktop environment will be started.

Graphical login with xdm

If you always use X and the first thing you do after you log in is run startx, you can set up a graphical login to do this automatically. It is very easy:

  1. Create the .xsession file in your home directory. This file is similar to .xinitrc and can, in fact, be a link to it.

    $ ln -s .xinitrc ~/.xsession
  2. Modify /etc/rc.conf, adding the following line:

    xdm=YES       # x11 display manager
  3. Start xdm (or reboot your system, as this will be done automatically from now on):

    # /etc/rc.d/xdm start

The configuration files for xdm are in the /etc/X11/xdm directory. The Xservers file specifies the virtual console that X is started on. It defaults to vt05, which is the console you reach via Ctrl+Alt+F5. If you want to use a different virtual console, change vt05 as desired. In order to avoid keyboard contention between getty and xdm, be sure to start xdm on a virtual terminal where getty is disabled. For example, if in Xservers you have:

:0 local /usr/X11R6/bin/X :0 vt04

Then, in /etc/ttys you should have:

ttyE3   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         vt220   off secure

(Please note that vt04 corresponds to ttyE3; In /etc/X11/xdm/Xservers, numbering starts at 1, but in /etc/ttys, numbering starts at 0).

If you want to change the look of your xdm login screen, you can modify the xdm configuration file. For example, to change the background color you can add the following line to the Xsetup_0 file:

xsetroot -solid SeaGreen
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