The Linux Desktop – XFree86 February 6th, 2006.
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The X Windows System is the graphical user interface to Linux. X is very usefull and a must-have for all Linux users. It makes doing alot of tasks in Linux much easier.

With X you can use Netscape Navigator to browse the web, do some graphic editing with The Gimp, play some games and tons of other stuff.

A Window Manager is a shell to the X Window System. It gives you the interface you need to use X. The cool thing about this is that there are tons of Window Managers out there. What happens if suddenly you get bored of the way Windows 98 looks? You change the theme and that’s the maximum you can do. With Linux and X you can change the Window Manager, which can look alot different than the other one. They not only change the colors and background, it changes the layout and menu completely. It’s something like switching from say Windows 3.1 to Windows 95/98. Check out our Screen Shots page.

Some of the popular windows managers are:

Setting Up X
Before you start up the X Window System you need to know some info about your video card, monitor and mouse. You should know your how much RAM your videocard has. If you don’t really know, you can find out by executing the following command:

Next you need to know about your mouse. What make is it? Is it a PS/2 busmouse or a serial mouse? PS/2 mice normally have round connectors that are sort of oblong, with nine holes for the contact wires.

Finally you need to know about your monitor. Usually, the back of your monitor manual has a table with such information as horizontal sync range (something like 30-78KHz), vertical sync range (something like 50-90KHz), and resolution (something like 640×480, 800×600 etc).

There are a few different ways to actually set up X. There is Xconfigurator, xf86config and XF86Setup. To use them you have to issue the following commands:
Each of the setups will ask you different questions about your systems hardware etc. It’s very important to configure everything as close as possible to your settings. If you don’t, you could have problems getting X to run. Once all that is done, try out X by typing startx. If all goes well you should see some color pattern or perhaps a small toolbar. If something goes wrong don’t worry, you will see a bunch of error messages.

It is probably due to errors made while setting up xf86config. You can try to play with the config file and see if you can make it work, or copy down the error message and come visit us on #LinuxGroup.

If you have a Riva TNT card please see for more information.

For Creative Labs Banshee cards see for more information.

For Voodoo3 Cards see for more information.

To see if your card is supported under Linux, see

Tips on running X
If for some reason X crashes or hangs on you, you can type:
And that will kill the X server and put you back into console.

You can get more then 256 colors by doing the following:
startx — -bpp 16


echo exec X -bpp 16 > ~/.xserverrc
To switch desktops in X with Red Hat Linux 6.0, simply load up an Xterm and type:

/usr/bin/switchdesk-gnome to switch to Gnome. To switch to KDE you will have to type:


If you are currently using Gnome/E and would like to change to windowmaker, first install the Window Maker RPMs and then type this:

cat wmaker > ~/.xinitrc and then startx to get into X.

You can also find tons of desktop themes at