Desktop, light setup

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After installing and configuring the base system, here are instructions on how to get a light desktop up and running quickly.



The following input is sufficient to install the programs for a running Desktop system:

% pkg install xorg xdm fluxbox

This example on the window manager fluxbox provides insight on how to install other window managers.

Desktop login

The instructions provided show how to get XDM or SLiM login managers working. KDM, GDM, and WDM login manager installations are not covered here, because they are part of base windowmanagers that are not BSD style.

To proceed with your choice of desktop login...


To configure x11/xdm to start up on boot, edit /etc/ttys_ and change the option on line ttyv8 from off to on:

ttyv8   "/usr/local/bin/xdm -nodaemon"  xterm   on secure

The secure option allows logging in to the root console without a password from single user mode.

Then set up .xsession_ in each home folder, with owner permissions to read and execute, for example chmod 500 .xsession.

.xsession_ requires the minimum of:

exec /usr/local/bin/<windowmanager>
exec $1


Customization files for XDM are located in /usr/local/lib/X11/xdm/_.

The background image can be changed by using a background setting command in Xsetup_0_. xsetroot can change the background color, but for images it is limited in the file types it can display. To overcome this, use a background setting console program in place of xsetroot.

Example of Xsetup_0_:

bgs /home/mydirectory/mypicture.jpg &
#xconsole & 

The xconsole line can optionally be commented out or removed here, as it is not required for all purposes.

It is important to add an & after adding new configuration commands, or the login screen will freeze up with certain commands.

To change the box logo, edit Xresources_, comment out or reference another .xpm file in the lines xlogin*logoFileName.

The file Xsession_ is responsible for choosing the window manager, it points to .xsession_ in the home directory.

For more information, see XFree Local Multi-User HOWTO: Using xdm and FreeBSD Handbook: XDM Configuration Files.


Without a properly set .xinitrc_ in each home folder, the window manager will fail to load from that user's command line. Add exec <window manager> to the .xinitrc_ file, without an &. Here is an example of the minimum needed .xinitrc_:

exec /usr/local/bin/fluxbox
exec $1

Make sure the owner file permissions of .xinitrc_ are at minimum set to read.

% chmod 400 .xinitrc

Finally, type startx.


x11/slim is a practical choice for a login manager, unless remote login access is needed. To enable slim, edit the line in /etc/ttys_ to :

ttyv8   "/usr/local/bin/slim -nodaemon"           xterm   on secure

Slim requires a *.desktop_ file, typically in /usr/local/share/xsessions/_. This directory is specified in /usr/local/etc/slim.conf_ next to the sessiondir option. If the directory doesn't exist, create it with the mkdir -p command.

Example of a minimal /usr/local/share/xsessions/fluxbox.desktop_ file:

[Desktop Entry]

.desktop_ files are in xdg-style, demonstrated at Desktop Entry Specification.


To change the background, look into /usr/local/share/slim/themes/default/_ [optionally create a backup file of background.jpg_] then copy your choice background image to /usr/local/share/slim/themes/default/background.jpg_

% cd /usr/local/share/slim/themes/default
% mv background.jpg background.bk.jpg
% cp [pathname/your file] background.jpg

To create multiple themes, you may create a new directory under themes/_ that is similar to the default/_ directory, then specify this themes subdirectory from /usr/local/etc/slim.conf_. If you do this, be sure each used folder ends off with three files named: slim.theme_, background.jpg_ and panel.png_.

Add or edit your themes to slim.conf_:

#current theme, use comma separated list to specify a set to randomly choose from
current_theme       default,mytheme

To create themes directories:

% cd /usr/local/share/slim/themes
% cp -R default mytheme

Then edit the mytheme/_ files to your liking. For more details of slim configuration, type either:

% man slim
% less /usr/local/etc/slim.conf.sample

Desktop programs

Use the window manager's configuration files, .xsession_ or .xinitrc_, depending on which one is used, to start up desktop programs. The window manager's configuration files, and .xsession_ can be used in combination to start programs, but, for clarity, it is better to not redundantly start the window manager through both.

Example of .xsession_ or .xinitrc_:

xterm &
xclock &
exec fluxbox
exec $1

Programs are loaded with &, and the window manager is loaded last with exec. The first and last line ensure which shell to use and to exit the script cleanly. The user's permissions will have to be set to read and execute, for example chmod 500 .xinitrc .xsession. .xsession_ and .xinit_ can be soft-linked to each other, which will make their file permissions match.


Xorg is now mostly auto-configured. xorg.conf_ is no longer used, but it is replaced by the directory /usr/local/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/_ for specific configurations only. The syntax of a configuration filename in this directory is <customname>.conf, such as 10-nvidia.conf_.

See Configuring X and the FreeBSD Handbook: The X Window System for more information.

Enabling hardware

To enable the mouse and keyboard, considering that recent versions of xorg are set to use autodetection by default.

Add the following to /etc/rc.conf_:


For using devfs, add to /etc/fstab_:

devfs      /dev       devfs     rw   0 0 # not necessary unless custom configuration is needed
fdescfs    /dev/fd    fdescfs   rw   0 0

fdescfs(5) can alternatively be loaded through compiling in the kernel or through /boot/loader.conf_. x11-servers/xorg-server has to be built without the hal option for this configuration.

See the manpages: devd(), devfs(), devfs.conf() and devfs.rules(). For advanced topics on hardware configuration, such as information about videocards, enabling HDMI audio out, and using multiple displays, see Hardware Configuration, Audio/Video.

See also


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