Xwindows -- why

Cary B. O'Brien cobrien "at" access.digex.net
Sun, 22 Mar 1998 14:27:14 +0000

> What is the value of having  a GUI to your Unix box?
> I dont mean this in a negitive way...I really want to know. 

I'm not sure if I understand the question.

if it is

"Do you need a bitmapped display on a unix box" the answer is no.

A lot of unix boxes don't have bitmapped display cards, but the
GUI is still nice to have.  We just got a Sparc ULTRA for
a web server[1], and saved a bunch of money by skipping the video card
and monitor.  Instead it has a wyse50 attached.  Kind-a retro.  I just
wish it was green rather than amber. 

We used the terminal to install the os, and set the IP.  That's it.
Everything else is done remotely.  So I can log in and fire up x,
admintool, filemanager, or whatever back to my PC[2] and get work done.

So no, you don't need a graphical display on a Unix box.

Isn't X great.  I cannot imagine using an operating system without
it.  Though they do seem to exist (dig,dig).

if it is

"Is there any value in having anything beyond text apps" the answer
 is yes.

Even though you can get by just fine for many applications[3] with
just text-based apps, there's no reason, given the current state
of networking and cpu power, to do without graphical interfaces.

I use filemanager to get an idea of how things are layed out, and 
the solaris admin tool to set up users and stuff like that.  On my
linux box I use things like xv, dctrl[4], and applix all the time.
Even emacs is nicer under x (pull-down menus and such).

One advantage of vnc is that it allows persistant desktops. I shutdown
my desktop machine cf[2] every night, but with vnc I could leave the
desktop up.  For example, on the web server I might want an xload, a
top, and a bunch of tails of logfiles running.  With vnc I could nip
over once a day to make sure everything was running as expected.  Just
fire up vncviewer and up comes everything.

-- cary

[1] I prototyped the system with a surplus 486/66 running Linux.  Actually
    the linux box is still handling the traffic.  I'm pretty sure the
    load could be handled by a 32MB Pentium Linux system, but for political
    reasons that was nixed.  It was tough enough getting them to accept
    apache.  My plan is to leave the 486 there handling the traffic until
    it maxes out, just for fun, and then switch to the 256MB Solaris box.
    Should be interesting.

[2] Well, the PC is windows95 running Exceed X.  Most work, however, is
   done with a full-screen x session controlled by fvwm from the linux
   box in the corner.  The PC is there to 1) check cc:mail, 2) check
   applixware output with word.

[3] By application I mean what the box is used for.  In the case of
    the solaris box described, it is a web server and a communications
    'rerouter' for some proprietary protocols.  I.E. accept the connection
    and reroute data to the great hork'n HP machines behind the firewall.

[4] Graphical interface to diald[5]

[5] Demand dialing setup to access ISP.