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How to install XFree86/OS2

How to install XFree86/OS2

The X Window System is ubiquitous on UNIX computers and now that Linux has achieved widespread use, X is becoming commonplace. XFree86 is a freely redistributable implementation of the X Window System. This essay describes installing and using XFree86 on OS/2.

The documentation for XFree86 is not inadequate; rather there are megabytes of files describing every detail. This essay attempts to distill this somewhat. My first attempt to install XFree86 failed, I encountered a bug in version version 3.3.3 that was corrected in version 3.3.5.

Note: as of 2014, I'm informed that these instructions no longer result in working X on eComStation. In any case, the version of X presented is so old that it is unlikely to interoperate with other operating systems.

Part One -- Prerequisites

To run XFree86, you should first install emx. Only the runtime of emx is required. These directions assume the use of InfoZip tools to uncompress the archives. Download the following files. I have included the SVGA driver because it will work for so many display adapters.

Download XFree86/OS2 from the site in North America.

Filename Date Size in bytes
Xbase.zip9 Jan 2000 238,887 9 Jan 20002,623,021 9 Jan 2000 269,822
Xfnts.zip9 Jan 20001,322,729 9 Jan 20001,990,535
XSVGA.zip9 Jan 20001,755,241

Part Two -- Selecting a Driver

XFree86/OS2 relies on a server program to match a video card. The SVGA server supports most cards. To properly test a system, the XFree86/OS2 device driver (xf86sup.sys) must be installed.

I chose to install XFree86 in the root of my e: drive. These are the steps I used to install the driver.

  1. Change directory to e:\.
  2. unzip
  3. Add "device=e:\XFree86\lib\xf86sup.sys" to config.sys
  4. Shutdown and restart OS/2
  5. Start a Full Screen OS/2 session.
  6. Run the SuperProbe: e:\XFree86\bin\SuperProbe > x.log
  7. Display x.log, decide which video driver you need. I needed XSVGA for my Matrox Millenium PCI card.

My SuperProbe results

Chipset: Matrox Millenium (PCI Probed)
RAMDAC: TI ViewPoint 3026 24-bit Truecolor DAC w/cursor, pixel mux, clock
(with 6-bit wide lookup tables (or in 6-bit mode)

Part Three -- XFree86 Installation

These are the steps I used to install XFree86/OS2. Note that my user name is zonker and my machine name is rambopeep.

  1. Change directory to e:\.
  2. unzip
  3. unzip
  4. unzip
  5. unzip
  6. unzip (If you have some other video card, subsitute the appropriate driver)
  7. Add the following lines to config.sys

    set term=ANSI
    set termcap=e:/bin/emx/etc/TERMCAP.X11
    set user=zonker
    set home=e:\zonker
    set x11root=e:
    set display=rambopeep:0.0
    set xserver=e:/XFree86/bin/XF86_SVGA.exe
    set etc=e:\mptn\etc
    set tmp=e:\temp
    set logname=zonker
    set hostname=rambopeep
    set manpath=e:/XFree86/man
  8. Add e:\XFree86\bin to the end of the path statement
  9. Add e:\XFree86\lib to the end of the libpath statement
  10. copy e:\XFree86\lib\X11\etc\emx.termcap.x11 e:\bin\emx\etc\TERMCAP.X11
  11. Shutdown and restart OS/2

Part Four -- Configuring XFree86

Now that XFree86 is installed, it needs to be configured.

  1. Start a Full Screen OS/2 session
  2. run checkinstall
  3. if checkinstall results in errors or warnings, correct the problems.
  4. Run xf86config which will present a series of choices, one per page. My selections follow. The monitor settings were right out of the specifications page of my monitor's manual.
  5. select XKB
  6. select Standard 101-key keyboard, US encoding
  7. select monitor hsync 31.5-64.3 Monitor that can do 1280x1024 @ 60 Hz
  8. select monitor vsync 50-100
  9. select video card Matrox Millenium 4MB, mga2064w, XF86_SVGA, do not probe clocks or use any clocks line
  10. select server XF86_SVGA
  11. clock chip TI33026
  12. modes OK
  13. saved file
  14. run startx to start XFree86
  15. if all went well, you are looking at an X screen
  16. press ctrl, alt, (Keypad +) to cycle through resolutions
  17. press crtl, alt, backspace to exit from XFree86
  18. Here is where my machine crashes with blinking alternating black screens. What happened here is that version 3.3.3 did not work with my Matrox Millenium display adapter. Version 3.3.5 has fixed this problem, and now I get desktop known as TWM.

Part Five - Adding useful programs

So far, I have added xgalaga, a clone of a video game from the 1980's.

More information

The XFree86/OS2 web page.

The XFree86/OS2.

Ported Software
The XFree86/OS2 ports web page.

Frequently Asked Questions
The XFree86/OS2 FAQ web page.