Putting my new FreeBSD 9.3 desktop online ....

Polytropon freebsd at edvax.de
Sat Aug 16 16:31:15 UTC 2014

On Sat, 16 Aug 2014 09:02:02 -0700, Carl Johnson wrote:
> "William A. Mahaffey III" <wam at hiwaay.net> writes:
> > .... someone later suggested some alterations to some of the xdm
> > config files .... at this point, I've pretty much given up on it, I
> > just do a console login, then type startx & all is well. I normally
> > stay logged in for long periods (weeks/months), so this doesn't come
> > up often ....
> I had also given up on running xdm with xfce on 10.0.  I copied a
> running configuration from 9.1 but it refused to work with 10.0.  I
> tried just a bare xterm and jwm and both work with xdm, so it appears to
> be xfce.  Similar to others, I just have my .bash_profile run startx
> automatically, but in my case only when `tty` = /dev/ttyv3.

I don't know ehy, but this sounds totally wrong. :-/

I've been using xdm for a long time because it's simple to
set up, fast, and secure. I have also used Xfce because it
was easy to set up, sufficiently fast, and had useful features.
This combination doesn't seem to work anymore. For one point,
I switched to gdm + Gnome 2 (but gdm doesn't start anything
that's _not_ Gnome, so a "Gnome only party" there), for the
other, kept using xdm, but with WindowMaker for my home

An alternative to xdm with a similar look and feel is wdm,
the WindowMaker display manager, which almost looks like the
Solaris/CDE login manager. Maybe it's worth trying this one?
It even supports easily switching desktops or window managers
for an account (e. g., login user "foo" and start Xfce session,
or start Fluxbox session instead).

Regarding xdm configuration:

Fiddling with files in /usr/local/lib/X11/xdm sounds terrible.
I have to admit that I'm using custom settings for xdm, but
the correct places for such changes probably are /etc/X11/xdm
or at least /usr/local/etc/xdm (because those are places where
configuration files are located that are subject to the usual
versioning and backup processes). I have decided to keep the
stuff in /etc/X11/xdm (because xorg.conf also is in /etc/X11)
and create symlinks from the original location to where I
put _my_ configuration files (which are backed up and under
version control).

But I don't use Xfce anymore, nor do I recommend it. Yes, I
know, this is sad, because I actually liked Xfce (and even
XFCE, version 3, the nice CDE-lookalike that still runs on
on one of my backup machines).

Why did I abandon Xfce? Because it's not "portable enough"
anymore. It's a "mostly Linux" desktop environment where the
attempt of running it on FreeBSD leads to despair - it's not
trivial to set up anymore, and functionality is lacking. If
you want something lightweight, maybe consider LXDE, or get
rid of a desktop at all (and use a window manager instead).
If you want "all the features", go with Gnome. Or if you're
a KDE person (I'm not), use KDE. It's not that it works
out of the box in every aspect (as it used to be in the
good old days), primarily because this is ported software
coming from Linux, which is a different operating system,
but chances are good that you get the most things working.
If you're _really_ good, you even can get automounting to
run halfway as intended. It's not that _I_ would want to
use the abomination I've created to make this possible, but
my users (who wanted a Gnome desktop in a single-user manner)
seem to be happy with it. I can't even tell you how I did
it, but definitely not like the Handbook and FAQ told me to,
because it didn't work. Somehow, I god an automounter port
involved as well as replacing the umount program with a
stupid script, but...

Things got slower, more bloated, crashed more often and
were unmaintainable in essential or simple parts (like
changing the mouse cursor to a normal black color, or
changing keyboard bindings). I admit that this is normal,
and the logical reason of the software evolution process
(at least I have been told that this is the truth). But
I don't like it. When I have newer hardware and newer
software, I want things to be faster and easier, not
slower and more complicated. I even want that on the _same_
hardware - and for _many_ FreeBSD applications and especially
for the FreeBSD operating system, THIS IS TRUE!

The more complex modern software becomes, the more complicated
it seems to get easy things working. Or maybe I'm just too
stupid. But personally, I learned to prefer simple things
for simple tasks, and get rid of the "one size fits all"
desktop metaphor. Not because it's bad per se, but because
it just doesn't work.

Summary: Replace xdm with wdm. Replace Xfce with LXDE. Or
replace the whole stuff with gdm + Gnome 2. Or with KDE,
if you feel you like KDE.

So much for today's session of "blame-the-program seizure",
thanks for your time and attention. I will now receive the
proper medication and become silent, calm, and ignorant,
just as the society prefers me to be. :-)

Magdeburg, Germany
Happy FreeBSD user since 4.0
Andra moi ennepe, Mousa, ...

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