posted by Clinton De Young on Sun 27th Oct 2002 18:15 UTC

"Installing XFree86 - Part I"

In order to configure Xfree86, you need to know three things. First of all, you need to know whether you have a PS/2 mouse, a USB mouse, or a Serial mouse. You also need to know the vertical and horizontal scan frequencies of your monitor. I have a Sony, a KDS and an NEC monitor. The specs for each one can be found on the web at each of those companies's web site (although if you have a KDS monitor, I would recommend going to their Canadian site - since their US site is just plain stupid). Finally, you need to know what kind of video card your machine has.

If you have Windows installed on your machine, you can reboot the machine into Windows and look at your hardware settings by clicking START | Settings | Control Panel | System. Then click on the Hardware tab and then the Device Manager. This should tell you all the information you need to know about your video card and mouse. It will not, however, tell you your refresh rates, so you will need to either consult your monitor's manual or the manufacturer's web site. Look for the specifications for your monitor, both horizontal and vertical scan frequencies should be listed there.

Note on USB mice: I don't have a USB mouse, but I know what is needed to run one. However, since I don't own one, I can't test it and make sure it will work without adding support for it manually to the kernel. However, I highly doubt it will.

The module that must be loaded in order to use USB devices, "usb-uhci" does not show up when I use the lsmod command, so I'm thinking it won't work. However, since it is listed in the supported port list (/dev/input/mice) perhaps module support is in the kernel already and the installer will set it up if you select that option from the list. I don't know. If someone wants to send me a USB mouse to test with, I will let you know for sure.

Since I don't think the USB mouse will work at this point, I would suggest that those who are using a USB mouse attach one of those green PS/2 adapters to their mouse and plug it into the PS/2 port on their machine (please do so when the power is off), and use the mouse that way until we have an opportunity to recompile the kernel, if necessary. I will write another tutorial explaining how to recompile the kernel the Debian way if people are interested.

Step 1 (Obtaining Xfree86)
Before we can configure Xfree86, we need to download it. This is very easy using apt. Before we can use apt, however, we need to be logged in as root. To log in as root, type "su" (it stands for Switch User or something to that effect) at the command line and press Enter. You will be prompted for the root user's password. Enter the password and press the Enter key. Note that your command line prompt should have changed from a '$' and the end to a '#' instead; indicating you are now logged in as root.

Now, type the following command, while logged in as root:

"apt-get install x-window-system"

You should now see a long list of all the packages that apt is going to install. At the very bottom of the screen, you will see a prompt asking you if you want to continue. Type 'y' and press the Enter key to begin downloading Xfree86. This may take a while.

Step 2 (Managing Xwrapper.config)
Once all of the packages have been downloaded, you are presented with a screen that looks like the installation screens. This new screen should be titled "Configuring Xserver-common". This screen is asking whether you want to control who has access to the X server or if you want debconf (Debian's configuration tool) to do it for you. I suggest you choose "Yes" and press the Enter key to continue; unless you know what you're doing.

Step 3 (Managing XF86Config-4)
The next screen is asking you if you would like debconf to manage your XF86Config-4 file. Again, you will want to choose "Yes" and press Enter to continue.

Step 4 (Choosing your video card)
The next screen, which is the "Configuring Xserver-xfree86" screen, has a list of video card chipsets and manufacturers. Pick the one that matches your video card. One that may be difficult to find is the driver for the Voodoo cards. It is "tdfx", which I suppose stands for "Three D FX". Another one that may elude people is the NVidia driver, which is simply "nv". Please select your cards manufacturer or chipset from the list and press Enter to continue.

Step 4 (Configuring the framebuffer)
The next screen asks whether or not you wish to enable the kernel framebuffer. If you say "Yes" here, you will communicate with the video card through the kernel's framebuffer. If you say "No", you will communicate with the hardware directly. As it says on the screen, both methods should work, but in reality, using the framebuffer hangs my machine, so I'm going to choose "No". Once you have made your choice, press Enter to continue.

Step 5 (Defining your keyboard rules set)
The next screen is asking you to enter your keyboard rule set. The default in the text area at the bottom of the screen is xfree86. I recommend leaving it as the default. Press Enter to continue.

Step 6 (Defining your keyboard layout)
The next screen is simply providing information regarding the various types of keyboards. After you have read it and identified which kind of keyboard you have, press Enter to move to the next screen where we can actually define our keyboard type.

On the next smaller screen, there is a text area where you need to enter your keyboard type. It defaults to "pc104". If you have a keyboard with the "Windows" keys on it (in between the CTRL and ALT keys), then you will want to accept the default "pc104" value, and press Enter. However, if you have one of the older keyboards without the "Windows" keys on it, you may have a "pc101" keyboard. Enter the type of keyboard you have and press the Enter key.

Step 7 (Defining your keyboard layout)
During the Debian installation, we defined our keyboard layout. This is only valid for the command line. We also need to define the keyboard layout for Xfree86. If you selected the standard QWERTY keyboard during installation, which most people probably did, please accept the default "us" value on this screen and press the Enter key to continue.

If you will recall, I use the dvorak layout. Therefore, I am going to replace "us" with "dvorak" before continuing on.

Step 8 (Selecting your mouse port)
The next step is asking you to identify your mouse port. Here are the choices:
/dev/psaux (PS/2 mice)
/dev/ttys0 (Serial mouse on COM1)
/dev/ttys1 (Serial mouse on COM2)
/dev/ttys2 (Serial mouse on COM3)
/dev/ttys3 (Serial mouse on COM4)
/dev/input/mice (USB Mouse)

Please either select "/dev/psaux" for a PS/2 mouse or, if you have a serial mouse, the appropriate "ttys" device, depending on which COM port your mouse is on.

Make your selection and press Enter.

Table of contents
  1. "Introduction and how to get hold of Debian"
  2. "Getting to the main installation"
  3. "Going through the main installation cycle - Part I"
  4. "Going through the main installation cycle - Part II"
  5. "Going through the main installation cycle - Part III"
  6. "Going through the main installation cycle - Part IV"
  7. "System Configuration - Part I"
  8. "System Configuration - Part II"
  9. "Installing XFree86 - Part I"
  10. "Installing XFree86 - Part II"
  11. "Synaptic, Mozilla, Conclusion"
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