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Old 05-20-2008, 04:38 AM   #1
jasonparent
LQ Newbie
 
Registered: Sep 2007
Posts: 11

Rep: Reputation: 0
debian xvesa directfb Xfbdev base install....without X; midrange machine


Hello....I'm looking for a little advice here. In the process of doing so, I may end up opening up a whole new can of worms for the entire linux community and providing some ideas to attack some problems that i think are on the horizon.

I am indeed a linux newbie, but i'm an advanced windows user and part of the goal here is to learn more about linux. I recognize that the question i'm going to ask has an easy answer - "use X". unfortunately, that answer is not good enough for two reasons. first off, the goal is to learn about the way that linux works.....taking the easy route doesn't lead me to that goal. secondly, i really don't want to use X for reasons i will now explain.

i am looking to setup a lightweight base installation of debian on a pc in my bedroom and build the machine up from there. the function of this machine is going to be to house mathml, tex and pdf files for a web page that will never be published (the web page features a lot of unconventional mathematical meanderings that i'm afraid to attempt to publish). it's more of a journal or a scratch pad, really. it's in my bedroom so i can work on the pc late at night while lying in bed. i'm typing this from my main pc, which is a modern sound engineering / general purpose box that dual boots windows xp and osx86.

now, lightweight has an obvious answer - don't use debian, use dsl or puppy or feather or [....]. yes, i've googled my ass off here and am only posting as a last resort. now, this option would be great if the pc i'm working with was built for windows 95 or earlier, if it was a PI or low end PII celeron or something with 100 or 200 MB of RAM.

however, this pc is not an old pile of junk. it was a very fast, top of the line machine when i initially built it many years ago. it's a PII 500 with 640 MB of RAM in it. i built it for sound design in windows 98 and eventually XP; it's done it's job very well and still has the capability to run xp reasonably well.

so, the lightweight distributions are a little too lightweight. this thing doesn't have to run dillo, it can handle iceweasel just fine. it doesn't have to conserve every last MB of RAM...it has plenty for what it's built for.

therefore, i've made the choice to go with a base debian install because of debian's easy package management and incredible versatility. there's no reason why i need to accept somebody's else's choice about what the best low resource options are; i have the ability to make my own choices and make the choice to lose some resources in order to gain some functionality if it's functionality that i really want. however, i don't want to lose precious resources on functionality that i don't want....there's a balance that needs to be striven for here.

this balance makes the mainstream modern distributions completely useless. a full blown debian or ubuntu install would bog this thing down; i'd might as well stick with an archaic windows install as i wouldn't be gaining anything by installing a full blown debian.

but, i want to learn about linux.

i can't be the first person to come across this concern and i would suspect that it's something that's going to be starting to come up rather persistently. "i just bought a dual-core to run vista.....what do i do with my PIII?". there's zillions of them out there running windows XP. putting dsl on them is a waste; they can handle more than this. but, they can't handle the newer distributions.

as far as i can tell, there's nothing in the middle really built for them - and i mean REALLY built for them.

a middle ground needs to be developed - a set of distributions that are able to run numerous tabs of a plug-in filled instance of firefox reasonably well but really cut out the entire gui and all of the bells and whistles in the process of doing so.....the tools exist to turn these things into blazingly fast "library terminal" type research machines.

in this context.....why waste the resources on X? i don't care about transparent windows. i don't care about backgrounds or fancy icons. i don't care about the gui's ability to communicate through a network. all of these things are just a waste of hard drive space and a waste of RAM. all the gui needs to be able to do is be a graphical user interface. dos users may remember GEM....black and white is a little overboard, but that's more along the lines of what the gui needs to be here.....as minimal as possible. i'm not talking about the window manager, i'm talking about the server....

what the lightweight distros do have going for them here is that they use xvesa instead....but the result is never ideal. ideal would be either debian base + xvesa or directfb + xvesa. ideal would be customization + lightweight gui.

i stumbled upon fbui, which is of course now busted. i really think this should be a priority moving ahead in order to get the right OS on the aging PIIIs and PIVs. go ahead and throw the windows jokes at me, i can take it.

and, now, i will finally ask some questions.

1) is directfb really functional enough to use as a replacement for X? i believe that the answer is no. but, i'd like to run it by some more knowledgeable people before i give up on it.

2) how do i get xvesa to launch in the absence of X? i believe that i'm missing some kind of symbolic link but i'm completely clueless as to how to go about building it. maybe i should explain what i've done...

all i have on the other machine is the following:

a) i installed a debian base install
b) i did a wget to download the xvesa .deb from here: http://www.pps.jussieu.fr/~jch/software/kdrive/

(xvesa is only in the debian repository as a part of the xorg meta-package and won't install by itself...the link has the last seperate version of xvesa before it was merged back into xorg)

c) i installed some fonts that xvesa requested
d) i installed xvesa....typically debpkg -i stuff...it installed just fine.

but, when i type "startx" or "xvesa" (from root) it just tells me that the command is unrecognized.

i've noticed that the x11r6 folder exists, but there's no startx command.

afaik, no documentation on this problem exists.

so....can anybody explain to me what it is that i need to do to get xvesa to launch when i type in "startx" ?

</rant>
 
Old 05-20-2008, 09:59 PM   #2
MasterC
LQ Guru
 
Registered: Mar 2002
Location: Salt Lake City, UT - USA
Distribution: Gentoo ; LFS ; Kubuntu
Posts: 12,612

Rep: Reputation: 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonparent View Post
Hello....I'm looking for a little advice here. In the process of doing so, I may end up opening up a whole new can of worms for the entire linux community and providing some ideas to attack some problems that i think are on the horizon.
Hi!
I'm going to quote inline to try to discuss some of your points. I'll try to answer your questions at the end...
Quote:
I am indeed a linux newbie, but i'm an advanced windows user and part of the goal here is to learn more about linux. I recognize that the question i'm going to ask has an easy answer - "use X". unfortunately, that answer is not good enough for two reasons. first off, the goal is to learn about the way that linux works.....taking the easy route doesn't lead me to that goal. secondly, i really don't want to use X for reasons i will now explain.
It's good that you have a goal to learn linux, but to what extent? Asked another way, what is it that you expect to learn about Linux?

Quote:
i am looking to setup a lightweight base installation of debian on a pc in my bedroom and build the machine up from there. the function of this machine is going to be to house mathml, tex and pdf files for a web page that will never be published (the web page features a lot of unconventional mathematical meanderings that i'm afraid to attempt to publish). it's more of a journal or a scratch pad, really. it's in my bedroom so i can work on the pc late at night while lying in bed. i'm typing this from my main pc, which is a modern sound engineering / general purpose box that dual boots windows xp and osx86.

now, lightweight has an obvious answer - don't use debian, use dsl or puppy or feather or [....]. yes, i've googled my ass off here and am only posting as a last resort. now, this option would be great if the pc i'm working with was built for windows 95 or earlier, if it was a PI or low end PII celeron or something with 100 or 200 MB of RAM.
I wouldn't say "Don't use Debian" as Debian is a good lean distro. The same can be said about doing the server install of Ubuntu, doing a minimal install of Gentoo, using Slackware or building an LFS system. I would say "Avoid RPM distros" simply due to their excess bloat, but I'm more than confident someone would say otherwise; the point is every distro can be just as lean as it can be bloated.

Quote:
however, this pc is not an old pile of junk. it was a very fast, top of the line machine when i initially built it many years ago. it's a PII 500 with 640 MB of RAM in it. i built it for sound design in windows 98 and eventually XP; it's done it's job very well and still has the capability to run xp reasonably well.

so, the lightweight distributions are a little too lightweight. this thing doesn't have to run dillo, it can handle iceweasel just fine. it doesn't have to conserve every last MB of RAM...it has plenty for what it's built for.
P2 is really pushing what I would consider lightweight, but as you've pointed out, it's enough to do what you need it to. Just be prepared for some lag during initial configuration that Linux would otherwise handle very easily. Your RAM makes up for some of it, but really RAM is typically compensation for a slow HD not for a slow CPU, as I'm sure you are aware.

Quote:
therefore, i've made the choice to go with a base debian install because of debian's easy package management and incredible versatility. there's no reason why i need to accept somebody's else's choice about what the best low resource options are; i have the ability to make my own choices and make the choice to lose some resources in order to gain some functionality if it's functionality that i really want. however, i don't want to lose precious resources on functionality that i don't want....there's a balance that needs to be striven for here.

this balance makes the mainstream modern distributions completely useless. a full blown debian or ubuntu install would bog this thing down; i'd might as well stick with an archaic windows install as i wouldn't be gaining anything by installing a full blown debian.
I'm agreeing with you, but I also want to point out you don't need to do a "full blown" ubuntu install, there is Xubuntu if you want lightweight graphics or there is the server install for zero graphics.

Quote:
but, i want to learn about linux.

i can't be the first person to come across this concern and i would suspect that it's something that's going to be starting to come up rather persistently. "i just bought a dual-core to run vista.....what do i do with my PIII?". there's zillions of them out there running windows XP. putting dsl on them is a waste; they can handle more than this. but, they can't handle the newer distributions.
Actually, that's not true. I don't think there is a distribution available today that wouldn't install on a P3-P4 (aside from the arch specific distros like GentooAMD64, etc). Besides that, there are hundreds of people right here on this board using them as custom built firewalls, appliances for touch screens, custom NAS appliances, etc.

Quote:
as far as i can tell, there's nothing in the middle really built for them - and i mean REALLY built for them.
Yeah, there is plenty. Generalized distros are indeed probably geared towards newer hardware, but it will still install and run ok on this "meager" hardware. However you are overlooking a huge market: The specialized distros. Things like Smoothwall offer a complete distribution aimed at running on modest hardware and providing a (or a few) specialized function(s). This is where some view linux has it's greatest edge over Windows.

Quote:
a middle ground needs to be developed - a set of distributions that are able to run numerous tabs of a plug-in filled instance of firefox reasonably well but really cut out the entire gui and all of the bells and whistles in the process of doing so.....the tools exist to turn these things into blazingly fast "library terminal" type research machines.

in this context.....why waste the resources on X? i don't care about transparent windows. i don't care about backgrounds or fancy icons. i don't care about the gui's ability to communicate through a network. all of these things are just a waste of hard drive space and a waste of RAM. all the gui needs to be able to do is be a graphical user interface. dos users may remember GEM....black and white is a little overboard, but that's more along the lines of what the gui needs to be here.....as minimal as possible. i'm not talking about the window manager, i'm talking about the server....
I think I see your POV, however the general point is that X is not as bloated as you make it out to be. X is able to run on small handheld devices and even some underpowered mobile phones! X is not the bloated piece of the GUI, the Toolkits are probably what make it feel that way (KDE, Gnome, etc).

Quote:
what the lightweight distros do have going for them here is that they use xvesa instead....but the result is never ideal. ideal would be either debian base + xvesa or directfb + xvesa. ideal would be customization + lightweight gui.
In my experience, aside from the work involved, I haven't found directfb to be all that it is cracked up to be. Indeed it has advantages that make it seem like a light year ahead of X, but X has evolved to be very lightweight, and fully functional where directfb is still somewhat of a pipe dream to most people.

Quote:
i stumbled upon fbui, which is of course now busted. i really think this should be a priority moving ahead in order to get the right OS on the aging PIIIs and PIVs. go ahead and throw the windows jokes at me, i can take it.
If you mean Windows jokes because you think a P3 or P4 cannot handle modern X applications, I don't know where to start A P3 or P4 is plenty to handle just about any typical daily use application (firefox, sylpheed, xpdf, mplayer, xine, amarok, full blown KDE installs using OpenOffice or Koffice, etc, etc, etc). I think you are instead confusing the sick and twisted requirements for a semi-decent experience on Windows XP or the down-right disgusting requirements for a mediocre experience on Vista. Linux shines on modest hardware, even for the newest and most mainstream distros today (Ubuntu, Fedora, SuSE, etc).

Quote:
and, now, i will finally ask some questions.

1) is directfb really functional enough to use as a replacement for X? i believe that the answer is no. but, i'd like to run it by some more knowledgeable people before i give up on it.
I would say that no, directfb is not functional enough to use as a replacement for X. However, if you are interested in frame buffers, how they work, porting applications to them, and just overall seeing how well you can avoid X and still have a usable gui, I think it's one of your best options.

Quote:
2) how do i get xvesa to launch in the absence of X? i believe that i'm missing some kind of symbolic link but i'm completely clueless as to how to go about building it. maybe i should explain what i've done...
That's a good question that I don't have an answer for, but I bet if you ask it by itself outside this thread without all of the preamble / discussion beforehand that you may get a response

Quote:
all i have on the other machine is the following:

a) i installed a debian base install
b) i did a wget to download the xvesa .deb from here: http://www.pps.jussieu.fr/~jch/software/kdrive/

(xvesa is only in the debian repository as a part of the xorg meta-package and won't install by itself...the link has the last seperate version of xvesa before it was merged back into xorg)

c) i installed some fonts that xvesa requested
d) i installed xvesa....typically debpkg -i stuff...it installed just fine.

but, when i type "startx" or "xvesa" (from root) it just tells me that the command is unrecognized.

i've noticed that the x11r6 folder exists, but there's no startx command.

afaik, no documentation on this problem exists.

so....can anybody explain to me what it is that i need to do to get xvesa to launch when i type in "startx" ?

</rant>
Whew! All of that to find out how to use xvesa! Indeed, if you don't get a response to that question, you may want to give a shot at a better title, cut out the discussion, and just ask how to setup / use xvesa. If all of my responses weren't helpful, I apologize. But I truly think you are passing judgment on a fine piece of software (Xorg) without giving it a fair shot. Your modest hardware should easily be able to display a simple fluxbox or if you prefer, twm screen. X can be VERY light, what you choose to put on the face of it can either weigh it down or take advantage of the lightness and provide a responsive UI as such Fluxbox does.

Good luck either way!

-Chad
 
Old 05-21-2008, 05:40 AM   #3
jasonparent
LQ Newbie
 
Registered: Sep 2007
Posts: 11

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 0
Quote:
Asked another way, what is it that you expect to learn about Linux?
that's a really hard question to answer. what does anybody expect to learn about anything? when you walk into a class at a school, you don't know what they're going to teach you. if you already know what they 're going to teach you, why take the class? the most enjoyable part of the learning process is not knowing what's coming next, having some unexpected concern be thrown at you and having to adjust. my goal is just to set the system up from scratch. in the process, i'll learn a lot about various different things. i've already taught myself a bunch of basic bash commands and have learned a lot about the modularity of the system.....

so, general familiarity, i guess; how to set a system up and troubleshoot it if i need to. the end goal is to create a stable system that i can use as a scratchpad; i'm just really picky about what i want to use, i want to completely maximize the hardware's potential as much as possible and completely understand that i need to do it from as small a base as possible. linux provides me with the best opportunity to do this, so i should learn more about linux in order to do this.

so, i guess the learning more about linux in the process of setting up the pc thing is just for the fun of it, really.

you mentioned LFS...which seems kind of silly in my case because i wouldn't be modifying the code. i'd basically just be recompiling a debian base install. or at least that's my impression....

Quote:
P2 is really pushing what I would consider lightweight
right. and the point i was trying to make is that because so much modern software - be it windows-based or gnome-based - is so resource hungry and because the systems you can buy today are so much faster than a P2 is, P2 IS becoming VERY lightweight. they're borderline obsolete from the viewpoint of being able to do modern multimedia things with them but they're way more than sufficient to run a basic desktop on.

these small distros - these dsls, etc - were designed to make the old P1s and whatnot useful again, to keep them out of the landfills. right? well, the same concern is coming up with the PIIs, PIIIs and even PIVs. so, distributions that are targeted for PIIs and PIIIS - in the same way that DSL is targetted for PIs - need to start appearing.

i mean, they WILL start appearing. i'm just giving you a heads up and am hoping somebody with the time and interest runs into this and makes a decision to start NOW and not 6 months or a year from now when it's so blatantly obvious that they couldn't ignore it if they wanted to. ideally, i'd love to be able to just pop a cd in, install a decent system and be done with it....currently, that's not an option.

i mean, i could install DSL and install tex on top of it. it would certainly be very fast. but i'd just end up uninstalling all of the little apps that come with it and replacing them with more functional apps because i have the luxury that i can. why not just build the system from the ground up?

similarly, i could go with ubuntu, uninstall all of the eye candy and replace the resource drains [open office for example, which mostly just has a lot of stuff that nobody ever uses in it] with lighter apps. but, why not just build the system from the ground up?

if there are enough people building a system from the ground up in the same way.....that means there's a need for a targeted distribution here. really, that's all i'm saying.

Quote:
there is Xubuntu if you want lightweight graphics or there is the server install for zero graphics.
xubuntu does seem intriguing, but i think i'm more interested in fluxbox at this point.

Quote:
Actually, that's not true. I don't think there is a distribution available today that wouldn't install on a P3-P4
aha! this is what i didn't want to see

installing on a machine is not the same as being built specifically for a machine. this is supposed to be the advantage of linux; it's not one size fits all, it's an OS built directly for the functionality you wish the machine to have.

Quote:
Besides that, there are hundreds of people right here on this board using them as custom built firewalls, appliances for touch screens, custom NAS appliances, etc.
fair enough....i appreciate that. one answer to the question of "what do i do with my old pc?" is "turn it into a firewall.". but, these aren't desktop distros, which is what i'm talking about here.

Quote:
Generalized distros are indeed probably geared towards newer hardware, but it will still install and run ok on this "meager" hardware.
aha!

Quote:
I think I see your POV, however the general point is that X is not as bloated as you make it out to be. X is able to run on small handheld devices and even some underpowered mobile phones! X is not the bloated piece of the GUI, the Toolkits are probably what make it feel that way (KDE, Gnome, etc).
right, and i'll admit i need to experiment a bit more. i've installed X + a few windows managers on the thing and it's certainly more than responsive, but i'm really searching for an ideal more than a workable solution.

whether X + fluxbox works or not is besides the point. xvesa + fluxbox would be <i>better</i>. how much better? i can't answer that one yet because i can't get xvesa to launch.

the other thing is that xvesa is 500K and X is 100 MB. it's only a 20 GB drive. so, i'd rather the use the 100 MB for something else. i <i>could</i> lose the 99 MB. but, why would i want to?

Quote:
In my experience, aside from the work involved, I haven't found directfb to be all that it is cracked up to be. Indeed it has advantages that make it seem like a light year ahead of X, but X has evolved to be very lightweight, and fully functional where directfb is still somewhat of a pipe dream to most people.
my biggest concern is that it appears that nothing runs on top of it. in windows-speak, it's not "backwards compatible" with X applications unless you install an add-on package that is more or less just X. if they can work this out by providing some kind of reasonable compatibility layer that's less than a repackaged X, they'll be laughing.

Quote:
If you mean Windows jokes because you think a P3 or P4 cannot handle modern X applications, I don't know where to start
i certainly recognize that a PIII can handle X, in fact it can do so very well, i'd just rather run something lighter and use the computer's power to run the apps, not the gui.....smaller gui = faster compile time for tex, less issues with firefox, etc.

as i'm advocating fbui's strategy as the proper strategy and fbui dumps the gui in the kernel like windows does, my "windows jokes" reference was along the lines of "sure, you think fbui has the right idea....but you're a windows user, so of course you do.".

i appreciate the response and will repost more reasonably in the debian forum.
 
Old 05-21-2008, 02:58 PM   #4
MasterC
LQ Guru
 
Registered: Mar 2002
Location: Salt Lake City, UT - USA
Distribution: Gentoo ; LFS ; Kubuntu
Posts: 12,612

Rep: Reputation: 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonparent View Post
that's a really hard question to answer. what does anybody expect to learn about anything? when you walk into a class at a school, you don't know what they're going to teach you. if you already know what they 're going to teach you, why take the class? the most enjoyable part of the learning process is not knowing what's coming next, having some unexpected concern be thrown at you and having to adjust. my goal is just to set the system up from scratch. in the process, i'll learn a lot about various different things. i've already taught myself a bunch of basic bash commands and have learned a lot about the modularity of the system.....

so, general familiarity, i guess; how to set a system up and troubleshoot it if i need to. the end goal is to create a stable system that i can use as a scratchpad; i'm just really picky about what i want to use, i want to completely maximize the hardware's potential as much as possible and completely understand that i need to do it from as small a base as possible. linux provides me with the best opportunity to do this, so i should learn more about linux in order to do this.

so, i guess the learning more about linux in the process of setting up the pc thing is just for the fun of it, really.
I'm not trying to tie you down to a specific area, it just makes sense to target something so you can learn it, then move onto another section. In your college analogy you don't become a PhD in everything all at once, you target specific degrees. You become an PhD in physics, then you move onto taking classes towards a degree in Chemical Engineering, and so on. And to further that, when I walk into a class called "CHEM 5100 Metallurgy" I expect to learn something about metallurgy, so there is a general understanding of the specific nature of the course.

Quote:
you mentioned LFS...which seems kind of silly in my case because i wouldn't be modifying the code. i'd basically just be recompiling a debian base install. or at least that's my impression....
No, this is exactly the opposite of what LFS offers. LFS is not Debian minus the .deb apps. LFS is building the foundation of a Linux OS. It teaches you how Linux works, the fundamental applications, how init works, what the basic tools are, and more than all of that, it teaches how things don't work and when something breaks, what it might be.

Quote:
right. and the point i was trying to make is that because so much modern software - be it windows-based or gnome-based - is so resource hungry and because the systems you can buy today are so much faster than a P2 is, P2 IS becoming VERY lightweight. they're borderline obsolete from the viewpoint of being able to do modern multimedia things with them but they're way more than sufficient to run a basic desktop on.
By defining a basic desktop you will help solidify your point. A basic desktop to one person might mean it KDE while to another person it means some form of email client and text editor neither of which require X or an FB. It will also help you on your quest to get some form of DirecFB running your favorite applications because you will have defined what those applications are.

Quote:
these small distros - these dsls, etc - were designed to make the old P1s and whatnot useful again, to keep them out of the landfills. right? well, the same concern is coming up with the PIIs, PIIIs and even PIVs. so, distributions that are targeted for PIIs and PIIIS - in the same way that DSL is targetted for PIs - need to start appearing.

i mean, they WILL start appearing. i'm just giving you a heads up and am hoping somebody with the time and interest runs into this and makes a decision to start NOW and not 6 months or a year from now when it's so blatantly obvious that they couldn't ignore it if they wanted to. ideally, i'd love to be able to just pop a cd in, install a decent system and be done with it....currently, that's not an option.
You are defining a target audience. These audiences will expand and shrink as hardware gets faster and cheaper. A Core2Duo today will be as obsolete as a P3 in less than 2 years I imagine. Does that mean we should stop focusing on the future of computing simply because our outdated systems will exist? As you've pointed out, this is the beauty of Linux. You don't have to compromise one for the other. GCC can be compiled to produce code that will run on an old 386 all the way up to just about anything imaginable today such as AMD Phenom quad cores. Your disconnect is how that is possible. Binaries, such as those produced for Debian, are compiled for a minimum architecture. SOURCE CODE is where you find the bread and butter to design your distribution for varying degrees of systems. Your build system may be a P2, but mine is an AMD64 X2 at 3Ghz. I don't want to waste my resources running a distro compiled for a P2. How do we find that compromise? We use source code. Gentoo offers a lot of options to fill this range of hardware and your system compiles the source for your system. Other distributions offer binaries of differing degrees to fill that need, such as i386 or i686 binaries.

Quote:
i mean, i could install DSL and install tex on top of it. it would certainly be very fast. but i'd just end up uninstalling all of the little apps that come with it and replacing them with more functional apps because i have the luxury that i can. why not just build the system from the ground up?
Like LFS? Debian doesn't provide you this option, you have an init system already built, you have a package manager, you have thousands of package repositories... I'm not trying to take away from Debian, but your goals are pointing a lot more towards a source based distro rather than Debian. Debian has plenty of merit, but you are describing a need for source code and wanting Debian to provide that to you.

Quote:
similarly, i could go with ubuntu, uninstall all of the eye candy and replace the resource drains [open office for example, which mostly just has a lot of stuff that nobody ever uses in it] with lighter apps. but, why not just build the system from the ground up?

if there are enough people building a system from the ground up in the same way.....that means there's a need for a targeted distribution here. really, that's all i'm saying.
Indeed, and a lot of distributions provide this framework to you.

Quote:
xubuntu does seem intriguing, but i think i'm more interested in fluxbox at this point.
Xubuntu, Debian, Gentoo, Fedora, CentOS, SuSE... can all run Fluxbox. Xubuntu will provide you with a minimum install on meager hardware, and then you can pull in a fluxbox binary and run flux. LFS also provides this to you, and you learn how the entire system works in the process.

Quote:
aha! this is what i didn't want to see

installing on a machine is not the same as being built specifically for a machine. this is supposed to be the advantage of linux; it's not one size fits all, it's an OS built directly for the functionality you wish the machine to have.
Again, you are describing source code. This is the substance to your argument, but you seem to think Debian is the answer. Debian is, typically, a binary-type distro.

Quote:
fair enough....i appreciate that. one answer to the question of "what do i do with my old pc?" is "turn it into a firewall.". but, these aren't desktop distros, which is what i'm talking about here.



aha!



right, and i'll admit i need to experiment a bit more. i've installed X + a few windows managers on the thing and it's certainly more than responsive, but i'm really searching for an ideal more than a workable solution.
I'm a broken record I'm sure, but my thought is that you should really take a look at a source based distribution, whether that be Slackware, LFS or Gentoo, they will provide a lot more of the stuff you seem to want.

Quote:
whether X + fluxbox works or not is besides the point. xvesa + fluxbox would be <i>better</i>. how much better? i can't answer that one yet because i can't get xvesa to launch.

the other thing is that xvesa is 500K and X is 100 MB. it's only a 20 GB drive. so, i'd rather the use the 100 MB for something else. i <i>could</i> lose the 99 MB. but, why would i want to?
The size of the binary is very dependent upon the creator of that binary. The X source allows one to compile as little or as much as one needs/wants and as I pointed out earlier, can be built onto a mobile phone running less than 64MB of ROM (that's hard drive) and with 64MB or less of RAM. X is not the "problem", it's the binary you are using.


Quote:
my biggest concern is that it appears that nothing runs on top of it. in windows-speak, it's not "backwards compatible" with X applications unless you install an add-on package that is more or less just X. if they can work this out by providing some kind of reasonable compatibility layer that's less than a repackaged X, they'll be laughing.
Sure, but this holds true to any piece of software (and other things) available. If they can figure out how to put a limitless supply of pizza at my house, that'll show all those pizzerias. A compatibility layer is basically X itself. And from experience, few compatibility layers provide an equivalent experience to the real thing.

Quote:
i certainly recognize that a PIII can handle X, in fact it can do so very well, i'd just rather run something lighter and use the computer's power to run the apps, not the gui.....smaller gui = faster compile time for tex, less issues with firefox, etc.

as i'm advocating fbui's strategy as the proper strategy and fbui dumps the gui in the kernel like windows does, my "windows jokes" reference was along the lines of "sure, you think fbui has the right idea....but you're a windows user, so of course you do.".

i appreciate the response and will repost more reasonably in the debian forum.
I'm not sure what term you would like to see there, but a P3 can chew X up and spit it out and still have room for cookies. Something lighter means compromise in the form of giving up a well supported application that runs natively in X for an equivalent that runs in an FB or uses Ncurses. And even then, it has only "lightened" the load for the graphics processor, the CPU, RAM and possibly audio card are still chugging along on that application. A P3 provides enough power for plenty of realtime computing for a very large selection of applications running in X, and that's today using readily available general distros like Debian.

-Chad
 
Old 05-21-2008, 04:20 PM   #5
jasonparent
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I actually figured this out on my own....I'm going to document this here because a google search for setting up xvesa in linux leads to hundreds
of people scratching their heads and trying their damnedest to figure itout....and either failing or failing to post the answers.

so, by posting, hopefully i'll save some people some headaches.

let's say you have a base debian install (i can't speak for other distros, but anything based on debian should be fine) and you've yet to install X.
you need to either be root or have sudo installed, but the following commands will get xvesa on your system:

1) sudo aptitude install libfreetype6
2) wget http://www.pps.jussieu.fr/~jch/softw...1107-2_all.deb
3) sudo dpkg -i xvesa_0.20031107-2_all.deb

that installed some fonts, then downloaded the package and then instaleld it.

if you type 'startx' or 'xvesa' you'll get a 'command not found' error.
i found the answer to this by tracking down some information on one of the few *nixes that doesn't use a derivative of Xorg - netbsd.
the initial link is here: http://www.netbsd.org/docs/x/#startx_not_found, which explained that the problem is as i thought - bash doesn't know
where to look to find xvesa. so, create a symbolic link from somewhere bash does know to look to where the file actually is:

4) sudo ln -s /usr/X11R6/bin/Xvesa /usr/local/bin/startx

at this point, typing startx from anywhere at all will lead to :

fatal server error:
LinuxInit: Server must be suid root

that sucks, but at least now it's trying. it seems to be telling me that i have to be root. pft.

this here link explains why:
http://git.fishsoup.net/cgit/xserver...55fe7f4b9e0c98

it's hard coded best guess is that the server needs to do "stuff" that requires root priveledges....whatever that stuff may be.

no matter, you can change the permission on the symbolic link to read/write/exec:

5) chmod 4711 /usr/local/bin/startx
6) cd /
7) startx

it's up! no window manager, crappy graphics....but it's up and you just saved yourself 100 MB. now, you need a window manager.....

CAVEAT: xvesa is not safe to run unless you're in a safe environment. don't take my word for it:
http://www.xfree86.org/current/Xvesa.1.html
furthermore, there were exploit issues with xvesa in netware, so don't connect with xvesa unless you're behind a firewall/router that blocks
all incoming attempts.
in other words.....laptop in a coffee shop? mobile phone? don't use xvesa or any of the pocket distros that use it.

i'd really recommend NOT using it UNLESS you're just typing away in your bedroom.

(chad: i noticed you replied, i haven't read, i will later.)

Last edited by jasonparent; 05-21-2008 at 04:22 PM. Reason: links mangled
 
Old 05-21-2008, 05:07 PM   #6
jasonparent
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Quote:
I'm not trying to tie you down to a specific area, it just makes sense to target something so you can learn it, then move onto another section. In your college analogy you don't become a PhD in everything all at once, you target specific degrees. You become an PhD in physics, then you move onto taking classes towards a degree in Chemical Engineering, and so on. And to further that, when I walk into a class called "CHEM 5100 Metallurgy" I expect to learn something about metallurgy, so there is a general understanding of the specific nature of the course.
heh. people have been yelling at me for years to pick an area and specialize in it....i'm definitely somewhat of an unorganized kind of person. nonetheless, the course i'm taking here is "linux 101". i'm pretty sure that i'm going to learn something about linux, but i didn't know that the second day of classes was going to be about symbolic links....nor do i know what the topic of the next lecture is going to be.

Quote:
No, this is exactly the opposite of what LFS offers. LFS is not Debian minus the .deb apps. LFS is building the foundation of a Linux OS. It teaches you how Linux works, the fundamental applications, how init works, what the basic tools are, and more than all of that, it teaches how things don't work and when something breaks, what it might be.
i was definitely misinformed. i spent the afternoon reading about gentoo....i didn't realize that the compiling process took all of the optimization considerations into account, i figured everything would compile more or less the same on every computer. so, this is something else that i've learned.

i'll cut out most of the rest of this - after reading into it further, i've come to agree that gentoo is probably what i really want. i'm going to stick with debian for now to build the system i want (the package manager makes that very easy) and document the steps. when i'm done, i'll probably jump to gentoo and do it all over again. i believe that gentoo even has an install cd application that will then let me build a custom disc that will make the process of reinstallation a little easier if not less time consuming.

so, you're right. i do want gentoo. but, debian will help me make it easier to decide what i'm going to do with gentoo.

now, as far as the disconnect goes here...not everybody wants to compile source code. i don't have a problem with it if it means the system is faster, but the reason that ubuntu and fedora have been so successful is obviously because they're so user friendly. so, when i talk about desktops and getting PIIs and PIVs running systems that are designed for them, i'm talking about basic systems with front-end guis designed for novice users.....enough to run firefox, mp3s and maybe dvds. this is the same kind of crowd that dsl or puppy are geared towards. not providing a gui for these users is obviously not an option.

of course, there's no reason you'd have to use them.....i wouldn't want my core 2 with 4 gigs of RAM running an outdated system, either. but, that's just the point....

[/QUOTE]
 
Old 05-24-2008, 02:34 PM   #7
jasonparent
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i'd just like to follow up on this for those people that are attempting to do what i've done and are running into problems....i posted a solution in order to help, but it turns out it's not very helpful.

while what i've suggested will get the server to launch without a window manager or a terminal (ie it's not a functional system, it's a blank screen with a mouse cursor and no ability to do anything at all), it's not the best way to build a system because by the time you've actually installed a decent window manager you've just rebuilt the xorg package anyways. specifically, i should point out that i've suggested that you build a symbolic link to launch xvesa.....that's actually not a good idea. you want your startx to be a script that does a number of things, not a symbolic link to the server's binary. so, don't actually do what i've said.

you could use one of the ancient window managers to get around the problem of rebuilding xorg to get around not using xorg, but i highly suspect that most people will find such an approach displeasing. even the ultra-minimal window managers won't work properly without virtually the entirety of xorg behind them.

something else i've noticed is that even with xorg installed, i'm using xvesa anyways because there aren't any specific drivers for the oldish ati card (it's an ancient ati all-in-wonder, which is pretty lame by today's standards but still way more than powerful enough to do just about anything that's useful). so, there appears to be no difference in performance because the end result is the same thing.

that doesn't solve the disk space issues and there are indeed a lot of useless drivers packaged with xorg. but, after spending quite some time on this, i really would conclude that the most efficient option is to install xorg, let the scripts set the system up.....and then uninstall all of the extra drivers. peruse your aptitude/installed/x11 list for a list of unused drivers (you end up with everything from ati/nvidia drivers to drivers for cards that virtually nobody has used in 15 years).

so....yeah.

1) xorg seems like a massive download when it's the first thing you download, but that's because it's the first thing you're downloading. you need most of what it's downloading for just about everything, not just for xorg.

2) it's more efficient to install xorg, tell xorg to use Xvesa and delete the unused drivers than it is to install a number of X-related packages and build the system up from scratch.

3) whether you use option A or option B leads you to virtually an identical endpoint, so you'd might as well use option A.

the answer truly is "install X".
 
Old 05-24-2008, 05:26 PM   #8
jasonparent
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actually....and this is the final answer, dammit, just forget about xvesa and install these if you want to cut out the bloat of X:

xserver-xorg-video-vesa
xterm
xfonts-base

(plus dependencies)

that's all you need for a basic desktop system with a gui to be completely functional.

the package managers will stick you with a tiny bit of bloat still, but simply installing those 3 packages will get the server up in 2 minutes and is still 80 MB less than the full blown xorg.
 
Old 06-11-2008, 06:03 PM   #9
ugumba
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follow up for really low end machines

Thanks for a great thread - I too have been hunting for Xvesa/kdrive/TinyX for a long time.

*My* target PC is an ancient 486DX, 33 MHz, 16 MB RAM. Your conclusion is no good for this case, as X.org rapidly consumes 50-100 MB of RAM before any real work has been started. I'm basing this on a minimal install of Debian Etch, with a custom kernel (less than 800 KB, no initrd).

My post here is just to let you and other readers know that you can easily run the Xvesa server as an integral part of the X.org framework. After installing the .deb you linked to and setting setuid on /usr/X11R6/bin/Xvesa, simply run:

startx -- /usr/X11r6/bin/Xvesa

Behold, Xvesa consumes less than 4 MB RAM, as opposed to 60-70 MB with regular X.

Combining this with your minimal footprint X.org install should give best usage of HD space as well.

I need to experiment with this more, but I noticed:
- default mode seems to be 16 color
- mouse scroll wheel doesn't work

I've been attempting building Xvesa myself for a while. Does anyone have any up to date (and preferrably complete) info on this? (I've been battling obtuse instructions found on freedesktop.org (linked to from wikipedia's kdrive page). Sorry, no URL in first post.)
 
Old 05-01-2009, 08:02 AM   #10
cannon44fodder
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Slitaz is an independent distro that uses xvesa + Openbox and a custom package manager.

It is pretty complete and fairly user-friendly. I haven't tried it on really low-end hardware but - compared to full-blown Ubuntu + Gnome - it is very fast on a 2.93GHz p4 with 512Mb of RAM.

I mention Slitaz because there website includes a 'cookbook', documentation on making Slitaz from scratch.

I haven't had time to go thru it, but I would assume it covers installing xvesa.
 
Old 12-07-2009, 07:49 AM   #11
gnumaru
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in Debian lenny, after installing xvesa by doing "dpkg -i /packagepath.../xvesa_0.20031107-2_all.deb", just install xinit.

sudo apt-get install xinit

that's just all.
You would like, albeit, modifying your .xserverrc to make Xvesa initiate with the necessary or preferred parameters, and edit your .xinitrc to load the window manager and any other application upon the start o X. Both these hiden files must be on your home directory.





Hi, everyone

I know this is an old topic in the forum (september 2007) and was replied last time in may 2009. So, the one who created it most probably has already solved the question.

Although, reading the topic I didn't found the answer to the question

"so....can anybody explain to me what it is that i need to do to get xvesa to launch when i type in "startx" ?"

So, i just wanted to post a direct answer, so people who came up here by google, or any other web search engine, can find things easier.


I went trough this same situation weeks ago (doing a base installation of debian lenny, and afterwards installing xvesa instead of xorg), and I would like to share my experience with others. I think the answer is very simple, just install the package "xinit".

I also am not what I may call an experient linux user. I first used linux in 2005, but I am using it as my main OS just recently. But, since I passe trough this, I thought my words would be of any help...



Hope that this answer helps anyone out there
 
Old 06-22-2010, 10:06 PM   #12
foxtrotalphaone
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one man's opinion

Hi, I was just browsing threads and stumbled on this one. I decided to sign up to the forum just to share my thoughts, so this'll be my first post(also the first time I've ever wrote the word "this'll").

My first experience with Linux was about ten years ago when I got my first computer. It was a hand-me-down from my Mom--a 450mhz P II with 768mb RAM and running Windows 98. It was top of the line when she bought it.

I did a full install of Suse 8.1 Home, and it ran circles around the old OS. I'm fairly confident you won't see any notable lag in performance with a full install of Xorg on a slackware based distro, or even PC Linux.
 
  


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