Chapter 10. The X Window System and Virtual Consoles

10.1. What is the X Window System?
10.2. I want to run Xorg, how do I go about it?
10.3. I tried to run X, but I get a No devices detected. error when I type startx. What do I do now?
10.4. Why does my mouse not work with X?
10.5. My mouse has a fancy wheel. Can I use it in X?
10.6. My laptop has a Synaptics touchpad. Can I use it in X?
10.7. How do I use remote X displays?
10.8. What is a virtual console and how do I make more?
10.9. How do I access the virtual consoles from X?
10.10. How do I start XDM on boot?
10.11. Why do I get Couldn't open console when I run xconsole?
10.12. Why does my PS/2 mouse misbehave under X?
10.13. How do I reverse the mouse buttons?
10.14. How do I install a splash screen and where do I find them?
10.15. Can I use the Windows keys on my keyboard in X?
10.16. How can I get 3D hardware acceleration for OpenGL®?

10.1.

What is the X Window System?

The X Window System (commonly X11) is the most widely available windowing system capable of running on UNIX® or UNIX® like systems, including FreeBSD. The X.Org Foundation administers the X protocol standards, with the current reference implementation, version 11 release 7.7, so you will often see references shortened to X11.

Many implementations are available for different architectures and operating systems. An implementation of the server-side code is properly known as an X server.

10.2.

I want to run Xorg, how do I go about it?

To install Xorg do one of the following:

Use the x11/xorg meta-port, which builds and installs every Xorg component.

Use x11/xorg-minimal, which builds and installs only the necessary Xorg components.

Install Xorg from FreeBSD packages:

# pkg_add -r xorg

or on systems using pkg:

# pkg install xorg

After the installation of Xorg, follow the instructions from the X11 Configuration section of the FreeBSD Handbook.

10.3.

I tried to run X, but I get a No devices detected. error when I type startx. What do I do now?

Your system is probably running at a raised securelevel. It is not possible to start X at a raised securelevel because X requires write access to io(4). For more information, see at the init(8) manual page.

There are two solutions to the problem: Set your securelevel back down to zero (usually in /etc/rc.conf), or run xdm(1) (or an alternative display manager) at boot time (before the securelevel is raised).

See Q: 10.10 for more information about running xdm(1) at boot time.

10.4.

Why does my mouse not work with X?

If you are using syscons(4) (the default console driver), you can configure FreeBSD to support a mouse pointer on each virtual screen. To avoid conflicting with X, syscons(4) supports a virtual device called /dev/sysmouse. All mouse events received from the real mouse device are written to the sysmouse(4) device via moused(8). To use your mouse on one or more virtual consoles, and use X, see Q: 4.4.1 and set up moused(8).

Then edit /etc/X11/xorg.conf and make sure you have the following lines:

Section "InputDevice"
   Option          "Protocol" "SysMouse"
   Option          "Device" "/dev/sysmouse"
.....

Starting with Xorg version 7.4, the InputDevice sections in xorg.conf are ignored in favor of autodetected devices. To restore the old behavior, add the following line to the ServerLayout or ServerFlags section:

Option "AutoAddDevices" "false"

Some people prefer to use /dev/mouse under X. To make this work, /dev/mouse should be linked to /dev/sysmouse (see sysmouse(4)) by adding the following line to /etc/devfs.conf (see devfs.conf(5)):

link    sysmouse    mouse

This link can be created by restarting devfs(5) with the following command (as root):

# service devfs restart

10.5.

My mouse has a fancy wheel. Can I use it in X?

Yes.

You need to tell X that you have a 5 button mouse. To do this, simply add the lines Buttons 5 and ZAxisMapping 4 5 to the InputDevice section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf. For example, you might have the following InputDevice section in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.

Example 10.1. InputDevice Section for Wheeled Mouse in Xorg Configuration File
Section "InputDevice"
   Identifier      "Mouse1"
   Driver          "mouse"
   Option          "Protocol" "auto"
   Option          "Device" "/dev/sysmouse"
   Option          "Buttons" "5"
   Option          "ZAxisMapping" "4 5"
EndSection

Example 10.2. .emacs Example for Naive Page Scrolling with Wheeled Mouse (optional)
;; wheel mouse
(global-set-key [mouse-4] 'scroll-down)
(global-set-key [mouse-5] 'scroll-up)

10.6.

My laptop has a Synaptics touchpad. Can I use it in X?

Yes, you will have to configure a few things to make it work.

If you plan to use the Xorg synaptics driver you must remove moused_enable from rc.conf. Xorg can not use the synaptics mouse if the moused already sits on /dev/psm0.

To enable synaptics in the psm(4) driver you need to add the following into /boot/loader.conf:

hw.psm.synaptics_support="1"

You also need the following into xorg.conf:

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier  "Touchpad0"
Driver      "synaptics"
Option      "Protocol" "psm"
Option      "Device" "/dev/psm0"
EndSection

And be sure to add the following into the ServerLayout section:

InputDevice    "Touchpad0" "SendCoreEvents"

10.7.

How do I use remote X displays?

For security reasons, the default setting is to not allow a machine to remotely open a window.

To enable this feature, simply start X with the optional -listen_tcp argument:

% startx -listen_tcp

10.8.

What is a virtual console and how do I make more?

Virtual consoles, put simply, enable you to have several simultaneous sessions on the same machine without doing anything complicated like setting up a network or running X.

When the system starts, it will display a login prompt on the monitor after displaying all the boot messages. You can then type in your login name and password and start working (or playing!) on the first virtual console.

At some point, you will probably wish to start another session, perhaps to look at documentation for a program you are running or to read your mail while waiting for an FTP transfer to finish. Just do Alt+F2 (hold down Alt and press F2), and you will find a login prompt waiting for you on the second virtual console! When you want to go back to the original session, do Alt+F1.

The default FreeBSD installation has eight virtual consoles enabled. Alt+F1, Alt+F2, Alt+F3, and so on will switch between these virtual consoles.

To enable more of them, edit /etc/ttys (see ttys(5)) and add entries for ttyv8 to ttyvc after the comment on Virtual terminals:

# Edit the existing entry for ttyv8 in /etc/ttys and change
# "off" to "on".
ttyv8   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm  on secure
ttyv9   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm  on secure
ttyva   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm  on secure
ttyvb   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm  on secure

Use as many or as few as you want. The more virtual terminals you have, the more resources that are used; this can be important if you have 8 MB RAM or less. You may also want to change the secure to insecure.

Note:

Versions of FreeBSD prior to 9.0 used the cons25 terminal type, and not xterm. Existing entries in /etc/ttys can be used on which to base new additions.

Important:

If you want to run an X server you must leave at least one virtual terminal unused (or turned off) for it to use. That is to say that if you want to have a login prompt pop up for all twelve of your Alt-function keys, you are out of luck — you can only do this for eleven of them if you also want to run an X server on the same machine.

The easiest way to disable a console is by turning it off. For example, if you had the full 12 terminal allocation mentioned above and you wanted to run X, you would change settings for virtual terminal 12 from:

ttyvb   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm  on  secure

to:

ttyvb   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm  off secure

If your keyboard has only ten function keys, you would end up with:

ttyv9   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm  off secure
ttyva   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm  off secure
ttyvb   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm  off secure

(You could also just delete these lines.)

Next, the easiest (and cleanest) way to activate the virtual consoles is to reboot. However, if you really do not want to reboot, you can just shut down the X Window system and execute (as root):

# kill -HUP 1

It is imperative that you completely shut down X Window if it is running, before running this command. If you do not, your system will probably appear to hang or lock up after executing kill.

10.9.

How do I access the virtual consoles from X?

Use Ctrl+Alt+Fn to switch back to a virtual console. Ctrl+Alt+F1 would return you to the first virtual console.

Once you are back to a text console, you can then use Alt+Fn as normal to move between them.

To return to the X session, you must switch to the virtual console running X. If you invoked X from the command line, (e.g., using startx) then the X session will attach to the next unused virtual console, not the text console from which it was invoked. If you have eight active virtual terminals then X will be running on the ninth, and you would use Alt+F9 to return.

10.10.

How do I start XDM on boot?

There are two schools of thought on how to start xdm(1). One school starts xdm from /etc/ttys (see ttys(5)) using the supplied example, while the other simply runs xdm from rc.local (see rc(8)) or from an X script in /usr/local/etc/rc.d. Both are equally valid, and one may work in situations where the other does not. In both cases the result is the same: X will pop up a graphical login prompt.

The ttys(5) method has the advantage of documenting which vty X will start on and passing the responsibility of restarting the X server on logout to init(8). The rc(8) method makes it easy to kill xdm if there is a problem starting the X server.

If loaded from rc(8), xdm should be started without any arguments (i.e., as a daemon). xdm must start after getty(8) runs, or else getty and xdm will conflict, locking out the console. The best way around this is to have the script sleep 10 seconds or so then launch xdm.

If you are to start xdm from /etc/ttys, there still is a chance of conflict between xdm and getty(8). One way to avoid this is to add the vt number in /usr/local/lib/X11/xdm/Xservers

:0 local /usr/local/bin/X vt4

The above example will direct the X server to run in /dev/ttyv3. Note the number is offset by one. The X server counts the vty from one, whereas the FreeBSD kernel numbers the vty from zero.

10.11.

Why do I get Couldn't open console when I run xconsole?

If you start X with startx, the permissions on /dev/console will not get changed, resulting in things like xterm -C and xconsole not working.

This is because of the way console permissions are set by default. On a multi-user system, one does not necessarily want just any user to be able to write on the system console. For users who are logging directly onto a machine with a VTY, the fbtab(5) file exists to solve such problems.

In a nutshell, make sure an uncommented line of the form is in /etc/fbtab (see fbtab(5)):

/dev/ttyv0 0600 /dev/console

It will ensure that whomever logs in on /dev/ttyv0 will own the console.

10.12.

Why does my PS/2 mouse misbehave under X?

Your mouse and the mouse driver may have somewhat become out of synchronization.

In rare cases the driver may erroneously report synchronization problem and you may see the kernel message:

psmintr: out of sync (xxxx != yyyy)

and notice that your mouse does not work properly.

If this happens, disable the synchronization check code by setting the driver flags for the PS/2 mouse driver to 0x100. This can be easiest achieved by adding

hint.psm.0.flags="0x100"

to /boot/loader.conf and rebooting.

10.13.

How do I reverse the mouse buttons?

Run the command xmodmap -e "pointer = 3 2 1".

You add the above command to .xinitrc or .xsession to make it happen automatically.

10.14.

How do I install a splash screen and where do I find them?

The detailed answer for this question can be found in the Boot Time Splash Screens section of the FreeBSD Handbook.

10.15.

Can I use the Windows keys on my keyboard in X?

Yes. All you need to do is use xmodmap(1) to define what function you wish them to perform.

Assuming all Windows keyboards are standard then the keycodes for these three keys are the following:

  • 115Windows key, between the left-hand Ctrl and Alt keys

  • 116Windows key, to the right of AltGr

  • 117Menu, to the left of the right-hand Ctrl

To have the left Windows key print a comma, try this.

# xmodmap -e "keycode 115 = comma"

To have the Windows key-mappings enabled automatically every time you start X either put the xmodmap commands in ~/.xinitrc or, preferably, create a ~/.xmodmaprc and include the xmodmap options, one per line, then add the following line to ~/.xinitrc:

xmodmap $HOME/.xmodmaprc

For example, you could map the 3 keys to be F13, F14, and F15, respectively. This would make it easy to map them to useful functions within applications or your window manager, as demonstrated further down.

To do this put the following in ~/.xmodmaprc.

keycode 115 = F13
keycode 116 = F14
keycode 117 = F15

If you use the x11-wm/fvwm2 port, for example, you could map the keys so that F13 iconifies (or de-iconifies) the window the cursor is in, F14 brings the window the cursor is in to the front or, if it is already at the front, pushes it to the back, and F15 pops up the main Workplace (application) menu even if the cursor is not on the desktop, which is useful if you do not have any part of the desktop visible (and the logo on the key matches its functionality).

The following entries in ~/.fvwmrc implement the aforementioned setup:

Key F13        FTIWS    A        Iconify
Key F14        FTIWS    A        RaiseLower
Key F15        A        A        Menu Workplace Nop

10.16.

How can I get 3D hardware acceleration for OpenGL®?

The availability of 3D acceleration depends on the version of Xorg that you are using and the type of video chip you have. If you have an nVidia chip, you can use the binary drivers provided for FreeBSD by installing one of the following ports:

  • The latest versions of nVidia cards are supported by the x11/nvidia-driver port.

  • nVidia cards like the GeForce2 MX/3/4 series are supported by the 96XX series of drivers, available in the x11/nvidia-driver-96xx port.

  • Even older cards, like GeForce and RIVA TNT are supported by the 71XX series of drivers, available in the x11/nvidia-driver-71xx port.

nVidia provides detailed information on which card is supported by which driver on their web site: http://www.nvidia.com/object/IO_32667.html.

For Matrox G200/G400, check the x11-servers/mga_hal port.

For ATI Rage 128 and Radeon see ati(4), r128(4) and radeon(4).

All FreeBSD documents are available for download at http://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/doc/

Questions that are not answered by the documentation may be sent to <freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.org>.
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