A.P. Lawrence-SCO Unix Graphical Unix Interface
I resisted graphical user interfaces for years. On SCO versions
that installed them by default, one of the very first commands I
would issue was "scologin disable" I still
do that, just because I don't always want the GUI to start up, but
now I very often use "startx" to get a GUI
environment on demand.
The reason for the change in my attitude is speed. Modern
desktop systems have become powerful enough that using a GUI has
become quick enough that I actually find it useful for most (but
not all) of the things I do. While the GUI always offered some
advantages in ease of use, it has only been recently that those
advantages have not been offset by sluggish performance. The
sluggish performance is still there- most things still take longer
than they would from the command line, but longer is, of course, a
relative term: present day hardware runs the GUI's quickly enough
not to generally annoy me.
Not that there are no annoyances associated with the SCO GUI. On
the contrary, there are a multitude of annoying and confusing
issues that the new user has to struggle through. That's the
purpose of this article; to help you over the rough spots.
It doesn't work at all!
This is perhaps the most difficult problem new SCO users can get
trapped in. The machine is set to start the GUI automatically, but
it either fails completely, or it works partially but they can't
login, or they can login but the mouse doesn't work (and they can't
figure out how to get out of it without a
mouse). As most neophyte users have not yet learned about the
magic of alternate screens which lets you
switch away from the graphic screen that doesn't work, , they are
stuck, and horribly frustrated.
By default, most SCO systems get configured to assume IBM VGA
graphics. That's a pretty safe bet, and will almost always give an
at least marginally usable 640 by 480 GUI. If it does not, then you
need to run "mkdev graphics" (from a character based login, of
course) to correct the problem. Here, you'll select a video driver
that works with your system. Note it's not necessary to reboot to
test your changes: simply login on an alternate screen (ALT-F3, for
example) and type "startx".
It is possible for you to get stuck in a really bad GUI, stuck
so badly that CTRL-ALT and F1 will not switch you to a text screen.
However, appearances can be deceiving: it's usually the case that
it has switched you, but the screen is just confused by the
incorrect graphics configuration. To fix this requires logging in
Hold CTRL and ALT, and press F1 (or any other function key if F1
is where you started). Release those keys, and press CTRL-U and
then CTRL-J. Login, taking it on faith that the "Password" prompt
displayed even though you can't see it. It wouldn't hurt to count
to three after typing "root" just to give it time to come up. Press
enter a few times, and then carefully type
If that doesn't work, try
If you were already logged in on tty01, then just a couple of
Enters followed by "/etc/clean_screen" should do it.
Linux has a similar command, but it requires some forethought on
your part: you need to have run "savetextmode" BEFORE you have a
problem. Therefore, the obvious thing to do is to put it in one of
the startup scripts. Then, if you need it, you'd run "textmode"
(again, surrounded by CTRL-J's) to restore your screen.
What graphics driver?
How do you know what graphics card you have? On 3.2v5.x, the
"hw" command can give you at least the beginnings of a clue. If
not, inspection of the motherboard (or add-on video card) might
give you information. If there isn't a driver for the specific
graphics device you have, a driver for a card with the same chipset
Once you know that, you need to pick a driver. Grepping through
/usr/lib/grafinfo for what you do know can sometimes help:
grep 758 /usr/lib/grafinfo/* | more
If you don't find it there, you will want to check SCO's ftp
site for the latest Advanced
Hardware Supplement , and also under pub/drivers for new
graphics drivers. In particular, if you have a newer machine (this
article was written in April of 1998), and can't find the specific
driver you need, you might try the "vesa" drivers. This is a
generic driver that will work with almost everything, though not as
quickly as a "real" driver might. It's perfectly fine for ordinary
The command to configure a mouse is "mkdev mouse". In most
modern machines, you have a "High Resolution Keyboard Mouse".
If you can get by those issues, you can now either login through
"scologin" or use "startx" at a shell prompt to launch right into a
GUI session. Your problems may not be quite over yet, though.
If the "SCO Logon" graphical screen appears, but things get
screwy after you login, try this: after entering your password,
press F1 instead of ENTER. This "failsafe" login will startup one
Xterm and no other clients. You can start other clients from there
(for instance, type "netscape & ") and examine the
/usr/lib/X11/scologin/Xerrors log file to perhaps figure out what
is going wrong. To exit, just CTRL-D or "exit" the Xterm.
Now Why is Netscape messed up?
Probably because you haven't configured a high enough
resolution. Netscape expects 1024 by 768 at a minimum. Anything
less leaves part of it "off screen". You can use the panner to work with it that way, but that's pretty
painful. Run "mkdev graphics" and increase the resolution.
Isn't that annoying? Most programs change their icon when they
have been activated, so that you know your click took effect. Not
Netscape, at least not through 5.0.4. Worse, Netscape can take a
while to launch, so it would really be nice to know that it is
working. You can fix this:
Open up the Controls folder, and then drag the Netscape icon
onto the Object Builder icon. Be sure that you load both Pictures
and Actions when asked. Note that there is nothing shown for the
Activated and Small Activated pictures. That's why nothing changes
when you launch Netscape.
Choose Install Picture, and select an icon to use for the
Activated state. If you want, choose one of the standards, or you
could even make a version of the Netscape icon by dragging it to
the Paint program, changing it, and saving it under a new name.
You also need to change the text under the Trigger Action
Activate pane. Right now it just says "/usr/bin/X11/netscape".
Change it so it reads:
Type the above carefully. If it doesn't change back ( after
restarting the Desktop), you screwed up the last line.
When it's all done, it looks like this (your picture, of course,
Save it, and finally, choose Restart Desktop from the File menu,
and now you'll know when your click really worked.
Why is Netscape so old?
You can get something newer:
How do I print from Netscape?
Buy a Postscript printer, or use Ghostscript (available from
Skunkware Page to get some functionality. Ghostscript is slow
and has had a few problems now and then, but you might find that
you can live with it (newr versions are much much better).
You can install ghostscript from the Skunkware CD; don't forget
that you also need the Glib (Graphics Library) package.
To see the printers that ghostscript supports, type
You may have to experiment a bit to find out what works best
with your printer; for example I found that "ljet4" was good for my
LaserJet 6L. I suggest that you create a simple Postscript file for
echo "testing" | text2post > /tmp/test.ps
Then run that through Ghostscript. With a large page, you may
get page after page of junk on your printer- best to use something
small like this first.
Here's the script I use:
/usr/local/bin/gs -q -sDEVICE=ljet4 -r600 -sPAPERSIZE=letter -dNOPAUSE -dSAFER -sOutputFile="-" - | lp -dlaser -o raw
How do I capture program screens to a file?
To capture text output, use "script". By default, the file will
be called "typescript", but "script myfile" will use that name
instead. Press CTRL-D when you are finished recording.
To capture X screens, the "xwd" program is simple to use. Open
an xterm, type "xwd > file" and (after pressing ENTER), just
click on the window you want to capture. The resulting file can be
printed using "xpr" or manipulated by graphic programs like "Gimp"
and others if you need to save it as .gif or some other format.
Why does it keep asking me this?
Everytime you startup a GUI session, you get asked whether you
want to continue your old session or start a new one. You can
eliminate that annoyance by running
or by choosing the Preferences Editor from the options menu and
clicking on tne "session" icon.
"scologin disable" prevents the GUI from starting up
automatically on tty02.
"scologin stop" stops the scosession from running, but leaves it
set for automatic startup on next reboot.
You can run a graphical session at any time by logging in and
SCO provides up to 12 login sessions on the main console. You
can switch between these logins by holding down the ALT key and
then pressing a function key. Each key is related to a specific tty
port: F1 is tty01, F2 is tty02 and so on.
When you are using a GUI screen, however, you need to hold CTRL
and ALT, and then press a function key. So, if the automatic SCO
login is on tty02 (which it is by default), you can switch to a
character based login on tty01 by holding CTRL and ALT, and then
Amazingly enough, this behaviour can be changed using
"xswkey". This program allows you to specify that a
different sequence of keys will be used to switch screens. The
default, however, is CTRL and ALT.
Down in the left corner of your SCO GUI is a set of boxes marked
"SCO Panner". Good luck trying to find a man page on this, and it
won't help you a bit to know that /usr/bin/X11/pmwm is the binary,
or that SCO calls this "SCO Panorama"
Still, it's a neat little gizmo that lets you switch between
multiple GUI sessions as though you had a giant GUI screen. To see
how this works, just open up anything on your screen, it doesn't
matter what. Now click one of the other windows in the panner.
Notice that the look of the panner icon has changed: it shows you
what you have open in each window.
Also notice that you can get more windows by resizing the
panner: grab it by the corner and stretch it upward. This is one
way to deal with something that is too large for your current
There is a manual page in the graphical help section;
it's Chapter 8 on 5.0.4. Access this by pulling down Help from the
Desktop menu bar.
Stuck in the GUI without a mouse? Hold SHIFT-ALT-F2, release,
and then ALT-F will give you the File menu.
A way to just plain get out is to hold ALT and SYS-REQ, release
and press ENTER.
See also SCO X11 & GUI
(c)April 1998 A.P. Lawrence. All rights reserved
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