Unable to get into X

Marko Vojinovic vvmarko at gmail.com
Thu Dec 8 15:09:32 UTC 2011

On Thursday 08 December 2011 14:23:14 Timothy Murphy wrote:
> Marko Vojinovic wrote:
> > From the above I would say that the X session is up and running, using
> > 1280x1024, on virtual terminal 7.
> An ignorant question, but do the terms "virtual terminal", "desktop"
> and "virtual desktop" all mean the same thing?

No, they don't. Virtual terminal is what is also called a text console, the 
thing you get into with ctrl-alt-Fn. The "desktop" can mean a lot of things, 
but in this context it usually means the visible work-area you see on the 
screen when running X. A "virtual desktop" is another such surface, which is 
not currently visible and to which you can switch using the pager or some 
shortcut or otherwise.

AFAICT, there is a lot of mess in the terminology about these things. There 
are command line interfaces, or "terminals" (real terminals, virtual 
terminals, consoles, login consoles, shells, X terminals, etc.), and there are 
graphical interfaces, or "X desktops" (real desktops, virtual desktops, 
workspaces, activities, screens, etc.).

The only sane hierarchy I ever bothered to understand is that there are 7 or 
so text login terminals (the ctrl-alt-Fn things), with X server typically 
running inside one of them. Within the X server you typically have a "Desktop 
Environment" thing, which displays on the screen some portion of the "total 
working area" you have configured. There are various ways to cut that total 
area into pieces, with only one piece visible at a time on a single display. 
That's where it gets really messy, depending on the properties of each piece 
that should be shared or configured separately (like the background picture, 
menus, widgets and stuff). If you throw in another monitor, then it gets 
completely ugly, depending on how various pieces should interact with you when 
displayed on either of two monitors, which might have different resolutions 

So in KDE you can have 4 activities with 3 workspaces each, driven by the 
Compiz window manager painting them on two "cubes" with 6 faces each, with 
everything displayed on a dual-monitor setup in Xinerama... Of course, all 
that is living in the ctrl-alt-f7 virtual console, while you get into the 
others by ctrl-alt-Fn. Just don't ask me what "fullscreen" would mean in such 
a setup... :-D

Nice, eh? ;-)

HTH, :-)

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