X/fvwm in OpenBSD

It claims, for most user, there is no need to create a configuration file for X server unless the hardware cannot be detected properly. Unfortunately, the display in my desktop is terrible. I have NVIDIA GeForce 6100 nForce 430 vga card and a very old monitor, SUMSUNG SyncMaster 170N.

xfce4 and gnome failed to start. Only fvwm can work properly. But, the screen is ugly (stretched in vertical direction), I guess because of display resolution.

Server fatal error when run
# Xorg -configure

show the parameter of output (monitor)
# xrandr
xrandr: Failed to get size of gamma for output default

So, it seems I need to write the xorg.conf by myself. Luckily, the [1] uses the similar monitor as I have.

[1] http://www.x.org/wiki/FAQVideoModes
[2] https://wiki.ubuntu.com/X/Config/Resolution#Setting_resolution_changes_in_xorg.conf

Create xorg.conf and copy it to /etc/X11

Section “Monitor”
    DisplaySize    338 270
    HorizSync    30-81
    Identifier   “Monitor0”
    ModelName    “SyncMaster”
    Option        “DPMS”    
    VendorName   “Samsung”
    VertRefresh    56-76    
    UseModes    “Modes[0]”

Section “Screen”
    Identifier    “Default Screen”
    Monitor        “Samsung SyncMaster 170N”
    DefaultDepth    24    
    SubSection    “Display”
        Depth    24    
        Modes    “1024×768”

As [1] did, I also get all the values for Monitor session from /var/log/Xorg.0.log
[ 87221.639] (II) NV(0): Supported detailed timing:
[ 87221.639] (II) NV(0): clock: 108.0 MHz Image Size: 338 x 270 mm
[ 87221.639] (II) NV(0): h_active: 1280 h_sync: 1328 h_sync_end 1440 h_blank_end 1688 h_border: 0
[ 87221.639] (II) NV(0): v_active: 1024 v_sync: 1025 v_sync_end 1028 v_blanking: 1066 v_border: 0
[ 87221.639] (II) NV(0): Ranges: V min: 56 V max: 76 Hz, H min: 30 H max: 81 kHz, PixClock max 145 MHz
[ 87221.639] (II) NV(0): Monitor name: SyncMaster
[ 87221.639] (II) NV(0): Serial No: HCHX418600

Note, the line Modes in section “Screen” is critical. It seems the tools failed to detected automatically, so it use 1280×1024 as its default resolution which leads the ugly display. So, I change the mode to 1024×768, which makes the display normal. But, the screen is off position – some portion is out of screen. By using the ‘Auto’ button in the monitor, it was adjusted to be perfect!!!


fvwm (free version window manager) is a default window manager in OpenBSD, which is derived from twm. Once you select to install X windows when you are installing the system, you can run ‘startx’ to enter fvwm world.

Here are several things you need to know, most of which you can get from ‘man fvwm’ (this is one thing).

1. To initial, fvwm will search configuration file named .fvwmrc from user’s home directory, then /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fvwm/

2. By editing the .fvwmrc file, you can customize the style or content of fvwm. For example, you can remove some utilities you are not using, such as ‘Xman’, ‘Xmag’ or other stuffs. Instead deleting those you are not using, it is always better to comment them using #, or put your personal .fvwm in your home directory. You can put it in effect immediately by ‘Restart fvwm’ in the menu ‘(Re)Start’.

3. To customer fvwm, you should really dive into the manual of fvwm. Run ‘man fvwm’, you can find everything you need. For example, you probably want to add the menu item, say ‘shutdown’ to the root menu. Then, you can use AddToMenu.

4. Font


about fonts. Fvwm uses 4 different types of fonts, each of them could be
configured independently from the others:

*Font: font type associated to menus.
*WindowFont: as it name implies, the font used on window titles.
*IconFont: for the icon labels. If not present, Font is used.
*PagerFont: used for virtual consoles.

Regarding the fonts for window contents, they depend on the specific
application. For instance,

whatever_your_login_is$ xterm -fn 7x13bold


One more tip: if you do not like the xconsole when you startx. you can edit /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc file to remove it. And also, you can add any other applications you want to start when you enter X window

# start some nice programs

xclock -geometry 50×50-1+1 &
xconsole -iconic &
xterm -geometry 80×24 &
fvwm || xterm


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