Using an X Configuration Tool

Several X configuration tools exist to help you get X up and running. Most Linux distributions run one of these tools at installation time, but you can run them after this point if you're not satisfied with the initial configuration. These configuration tools are:

XFree86 The XFree86 4.x program itself, XFree86, can generate an initial configuration file. Type XFree86 -configure as root when X is not running, and the program will produce a file called /root/, based on its probes of your hardware. This file will probably not contain an optimal configuration, though, so you may have to tweak it by hand or with another tool.

xf86cfg This program, shown in Figure 16.5, is a popular GUI tool for configuring XFree86 4.x. To configure a component, right-click its icon and select Configure from the resulting context menu. If you launch the program with the -textmode option, it runs in text mode, so X need not be running to use the program.

Figure 16.5: The xf86cfg program is a popular GUI tool for setting up XFree86 4.x.

xf86config This program is a fairly simple and inflexible but effective text-based tool. It asks you a series of questions and generates an XF86Config file based on your responses. Unlike most X configuration tools, xf86config can generate configuration files for both XFree86 3x and XFree86 4.x. Which one it generates is system-dependent. On most modern Linux distributions, it should create an XFree86 4.x file.

There are also tools for configuring XFree86 3.x, such as Xconfigurator and XF86Setup. Some distributions include custom tools that run during system installation, but others use a standard tool for this task. In some cases, the installer starts X using a generic VGA or SVGA driver in order to let you use an X-based configuration tool during system installation.

In any event, X configuration tools ask you for the basic information described earlier, in "The Structure of XF86Config," such as your mouse type and video card model. This last option is particularly important; an incorrect video card selection will most likely result in the inability to start X. In some cases, X may start, but performance will be poor.

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