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Re: x window / starting the desktop

Janeque Peterson wrote:

> Needless to say I'm very new to this. I tried starting the x window
> (although I don't have a very clear idea what it is exactly)

The X Window System has been the traditional windowing system (Graphical
User Interface - "GUI") for Unix/Linux based systems.

Apple decided to build their own windowing system ("Aqua") for the
Macintosh Operating System 10 (OS/X), which is based on a "flavor" of Unix.

Windows is a totally different OS, not based on Unix. But it still has a
GUI, which is (for the purpose of this discussion) equivalent to the
operating system.

If you can remember the days of Windows 3.x or Windows 95, you'll
realize that those versions of Windows were merely GUIs on top of the
underlying MS-DOS operating system. In a similar way, the X Window
System is merely a GUI on top of the Linux operating system.

Unlike Windows, which was designed as a single-user system for a single
computer, the X Window System (or "X" for short) was designed for a
multi-user system spanning over multiple computers. As a result, X is
broken into two parts: the "server", and "clients". Don't think of these
terms in the way you're accustomed to thinking; you're used to thinking
of a server as a machine at some office that serves out web pages, or
holds a database system, and to thinking of a client as a machine that a
user sits down at in order to connect remotely to that server.

But as I say, don't think of it that way.

In X, the server is the basic GUI "engine". As a general rule, it would
sit on your local computer where the user sits. The "X server" is kind
of like the blue screen on a Windows computer that appears just before
the Start Menu and Taskbar and "My Computer" appear.

The "clients" are applications that run within the X server. These
clients probably sit on your local computer, but they may also sit on a
remote computer. "X clients" are kind of like the Notepad app or
MS-Office on a Windows computer.

So you can see the confusion: an "X server" feels more like a "client
machine", whereas an "X client" feels more like a "server machine at the
head office".

The above explanation isn't entirely accurate, but it should be close
enough for now.

> with the "startx' command, also I tried 'start kde'. I got a command
> not found to both. Then, to make sure my x configuration is right, I
> did 'dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xfree86' (thanks, Chris). The response
> was package 'xserver-xfree86' is not installed and no info is available.

This just means you don't have X installed. This command:

    apt-get install x-window-system kde icewm gnome

should get a fairly complete X system installed, along with the "Big
Two" windowing environments KDE and Gnome, along with a lighter window
environment ("window manager") Icewm. By having all three windowing
environments available, you can experiment to see which one you like.
There are dozens of others available also. Debian is all about freedom
and choice.

Or to get a better education, you can install things more piecemeal, to
see what effect they have. In this case,

    apt-get install x-window-system-core

Then run "startx" to get X working. You'll probably only see a grayish
hatched screen. This is the X server running. Now you need some clients,
such as a window manager. A window manager is kind of like the
"Explorer.exe" (not "iexplorer.exe, which is the web browser) in
Windows, which provides the Start Menu and the Taskbar and the "My
Computer" icon, etc. You can kill X with Ctrl-Alt-Backspace.

    apt-get install icewm

Start X again, and you'll start seeing something more familiar. Now
you'll need some applications, such as a web browser. You can kill X as
above, or via the Icewm's Shutdown item in the menus, or just leave X
running, as you don't need to restart it just to install software:

    apt-get install mozilla-firefox

If the "menu" program is installed (which I believe it should be; if
not, "apt-get install menu"), Firefox will now appear on your Icewm
menus (at least, I think so; Icewm may not be smart enough to pick up
the menu changes without restarting X, which can be done without
restarting X, but you'll probably find it easier just to restart X).

If you want a "prettier" windowing environment than Icewm, you can try
out KDE:

    apt-get install kde

or Gnome:

    apt-get install gnome

To start up these environments, you probably will want to restart X.
Also, be aware that both of these will probably install a graphical
login screen, either kdm (in the case of KDE) or gdm (Gnomem), which
shows up the next time you reboot. During the install of these package,
you might be asked which login (gdm or kdm) you want to use. Pick one,
and if you want to change it later, run "dpkg-reconfigure gdm" if you
chose KDM earlier, or "dpkg-reconfigure kdm" if you chose GDM earlier.
(You should be able to set it using either command, but last time I
tried, it behaved a bit inconsistently unless I did the above.)

Hope this helps with some of the concepts.


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