by April 6, 2001 0 comments

If you’re a Linux aficionado, you would’ve seen the desktop environments of KDE and GNOME. Between these desktop environments and the underlying hardware sits a software layer that interacts with your graphics hardware to give you the graphical functionality in these desktop environments. This software is called the XFree86 server and the desktop environments running on top of it are called clients, adhering to the client-server architecture. Not going into the details of this X server, we’ll describe how to set up its latest version, 4.0.2 on PCQuest Red Hat 6.2 that we gave on our June 2000 CD. 

The new version has significant enhancements. Earlier, there was a separate X server for each graphics chipset like RIVA TNT, Voodoo, SIS, etc. With XFree86 4 and above, there’s only one X server, and support for different chipsets is available as modules. This is much like drivers for Windows. Another technology that is included with this version is Direct Rendering Infrastructure (DRI) that allows X applications to access video hardware directly for faster performance. This is similar to DirectX on the Windows platform. This version also has improved support for latest graphics chipsets and some bug fixes. 


Configuring on Intel i810 motherboards

Follow the installation as described in the article up to the point where you set up the graphics card using xf86config. Select any graphics chipset say RIVA128 (option 7). For video memory, enter 6 (for specifying your own video memory) and enter 4092. For the video card identifier enter ‘i810’ (without the quotes). Now, select the default resolution and color depth as per your choice. Finally say ‘y’ for writing the configuration to the XF86Config file. Now open the file XF86Config found in /etc/X11 directory in a text editor. Look for the lines:
Section “Device”
Identifier “i810”
Driver “nv”
#VideoRam 4092
# Insert Clocks lines here if appropriate
Now change Driver to ‘i810’ and remove the hash mark (#) before the line ‘VideoRam 4092’ so that the section looks like this:
Section “Device”
Identifier “i810”
Driver “i810”
VideoRam 4092
#Insert Clocks lines here if appropriate
Save the file, reboot and issue ‘startx’ command.

Before we actually go about installing X server, backup the files belonging to the X server that’s currently running on your system. This can be done by copying the /usr/X11R6 and /etc/X11 directory to some other location, (say the directory /opt/backup) as the contents of these directories would be overwritten during the installation of the new X server. Issue the following commands on the Linux console to accomplish this:

mkdir /opt/backup
cp -r /usr/X11R6 /opt/backup
cp -r /etc/X11 /opt/backup

Next, mount this month’s PCQuest CD and copy the contents of /cdrom/linux/XFree86 4.0.2 to a directory named xserver (say) under /opt. The commands are:

mkdir /opt/xserver
mount /mnt/cdrom
cd /mnt/cdrom/cdrom/linux/”XFree86 4.0.2”
cp * /opt/xserver

Now we have the files required for the installation in /opt/xserver directory. Change to this directory (cd /opt/xserver) and issue the following command:


First, you’ll be warned to take a backup of your existing XFree86 installation. Since we’ve already done this, press ‘y’ to continue. Now, you’ll be asked a series of questions, which are to be answered in ‘y’ or ‘n’ with the default, indicated in [] (square brackets). Pressing ‘Enter’ selects the default. You’ll be issued warnings before overwriting a number of configuration files, which can be safely answered in ‘y’. After this, the basic or mandatory components of the X server are installed. Then you’re asked whether you want to install the optional components, which include the X font server, print server, and programmers’ support. You can select ‘y’ for all them, except for the Japanese Documents (Xjdoc.tgz), which we assume you won’t require. The three subsequent questions can be safely answered in ‘y’. This brings us to the end of the installation and we can now configure the new X server.


Keep your monitor and graphics card manuals handy. There are three utilities that come along with XFree86 4.0.2 that can be used to configure it. We used ‘xf86config’. You can go through the file ‘Install’ to find out more about the other two: xf86cfg and XFree86 -configure. Run xf86config by issuing the command:


This again brings up a series of questions. Here, we’ll select options that work for most hardware (keyboard mouse, monitor, graphics card) configurations and are safe. You can experiment with other options if you know more about your hardware. First, you will be asked for a mouse protocol. If you have a serial mouse select ‘Microsoft compatible’ which is option 1; if you have a PS/2 mouse, select option 4. For a three-button Logitech mouse you can select ‘y’ to enable the ChordMiddle. You may also want to select ‘y’ for emulating a three-button mouse if you have a two-button one. The third button works by clicking both buttons simultaneously on a two-button mouse. For mouse device, press Enter, which selects /dev/mouse. For the keyboard configuration, you can select ‘Generic 102-key (Intl) PC’, which is option 2. For ‘country’ or the keyboard language select US English (option 1). For variant select the default variant by pressing ‘Enter’. Enter ‘n’ for additional XKB option. Now refer to your monitor manual and enter the horizontal and vertical frequency range in the form: <lowest frequency>-<highest frequency> or select from the options given. For instance, we chose option 5 for horizontal and option 1 for vertical frequency to be the safest for our monitor. 

The next couple of options take you through configuring your graphics card. Select ‘y’ for the question ‘Do you want to look at the card database’. From the list of graphics chipset, select the one used by your graphics card (For Intel i810 based motherboards with onboard graphics, see box Configuring for Intel i810 motherboards). Enter the amount of video memory in kilobytes. For example if you have 16 MB of onboard video memory, multiply 16 with 1,024 to get the corresponding figure, 16,384, in kilobytes. Next, select the resolution or mode for different color depths. Note that the resolution, which you specify first, will be the default resolution. You can select ‘y’ or ‘n’ for a virtual screen, which will be bigger than the physical screen and can be panned by moving the mouse towards the edges. Then, you select the default color depth for X server. Finally, you’re prompted that the configuration will be written in the XF86Config file, which should be answered with a ‘y’ unless you are doubtful about your specified configuration. Reboot by pressing CRTL-ALT-DEL and after login, issue the startx command to start the X window.

Just in case

If something goes wrong and you can’t start the new X server, you can revert to your older X server that you had backed up. For this, issue the following commands to copy the backed up files to their original location:

cp —r /opt/backup/X11 /etc –force
cp —r /opt/backup/X11R6 /usr –force

Shekhar Govindarajan

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