July 22, 2010

Debian in more depth: setting up X-Windows and Fluxbox

This post will detail the steps needed to get a working X-Windows installation on the Debian build that we put together in my last post. In other words, I’ll fill in some of the gaps between “run the installer” and “look how nice IceWeasel looks”.

Fortunately, the hard work has been done by the Debian package maintainers — we will mostly be doing mundane package selection. I’ve chosen IceWeasel as the target application and Fluxbox as a nice minimal window manager. I’ve also selected ntpdate and openssh-server because we don’t have a battery to back up the RTC on the Nitrogen, and it’s usually managed remotely anyway.

debian:~$ sudo apt-get install ntpdate openssh-server xinit xserver-xorg xfonts-scalable fluxbox iceweasel
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
 defoma fontconfig fontconfig-config hicolor-icon-theme libatk1.0-0
 libatk1.0-data libcairo2 libcap1 libcups2 libdatrie0 libdirectfb-1.0-0
 libexpat1 libfontconfig1 libfontenc1 libfreetype6 libgif4 libglib2.0-0
 libglib2.0-data libgtk2.0-0 libgtk2.0-bin libgtk2.0-common libhunspell-1.2-0
...

You’d think that this would be enough to launch startx and have something useful happen, but it’s not.

In order to prevent the X-Server from crashing while trying to autodetect our “graphics card”, we need to edit the X-Server configuration file /etc/X11/xorg.conf and add the Driver line to the Device section.

Section "Device"
	Identifier	"Configured Video Device"
	Option	"UseFBDev"		"true"
        Driver        "fbdev"
EndSection

Once that’s done, you can run startx from the console to launch IceWeasel and drive it with a mouse and keyboard. Next up: touch screen support.

IceWeasel running under Fluxbox