Struggling since a Debian upgrade changed practically everything in fvwm.

Hello, if there’s anyone there at all…

First post on the forum. I much prefer mailing lists but I tried to subscribe and AFAICT got no reply yet from the list server.

I’ve been a very contented user of fvwm for what must now be more than two decades but I would still call myself no more than a novice user.

I use fvwm on several work machines and on my laptop. The laptop usually sits on my desk, powered up continuously.

To set up fvwm, all I’ve done over the years is tweak an example configuration file (which I think I originally found in some distribution) to give me something that does more or less what I like. That’s basically three desktops with a grid of 12x6 screens on each which I use in ways to which I’ve grown very accustomed to keep quite a lot of plates in the air. That’s how I work.

Normally I’ll run the fvwm desktops on my laptop like that for many months at a time continuously, without restarting fvwm.

When I upgraded from Debian Jessie to Stretch in February 2018 I didn’t notice any spectacular changes in the behaviour of fvwm, and I normally have automatic upgrades enabled so things keep fairly up to date (well, at least as up to date as Debian ever is, which isn’t very).

A few days ago, around August 7th-8th 2018, something happened overnight, possibly during an automatic update, which crashed the laptop.

It failed to restart the OS. It went into a rebooting loop which was still looping when I got to it the next morning.

After I got it rebooted I couldn’t start fvwm at all. There were error messages in the log about drivers which made no sense to me.

After some experimentation I got fvwm started with an old configuration file, but the behaviour of what I guess is a new fvwm with this old config was nothing like its behaviour when I used to use that file, years ago. In this state it was more or less unusable. I don’t even know what version of fvwm I was using before this event - I’d never had cause to ask, I was just happily using it - but the version now is

laptop3:~$ >>> fvwm -V
fvwm 2.6.7 compiled on Jan 16 2017 at 17:52:00
with support for: ReadLine, RPlay, Stroke, XPM, SVG, Shape, XShm, SM, Bidi text, Xinerama, XRender, XCursor, XFT, NLS

So I did some more tweaking (it took me three days) and got something that at least I could use to start a few xterms and a browser and actually do some work. The entire configuration directory as it stands is available on the Web in a password-protected file archived with tar and 7z if anyone wants it, please ask for the location and password which I’ll send by private message.

Now I’m left struggling with a some issues that are at the moment beyond my fvwm skills.

  1. I work on a lot of remote machines like Web and mail servers, which don’t themselves have X installed. I use emacs, with syntax highlighting for editing source code, mostly in C and Perl. I’ve been used to using those colours for many years, so a colour instantly says to me “comment” or “keyword” or whatever. Now, when I start emacs24-nox on a remote machine from an xterm on my laptop, the syntax colours are completely different from what I’m used to; some of them make the text illegible. I can tell emacs what colours to use in its startup files, and in desperation I’ve done that on a couple of machines, but I really don’t want have to edit the all the startup files for all the different users on all the remote machines if I can just get fvwm to do what it used to do. This is the most annoying problem I have at the moment.

  2. Somewhat less annoying but still rather damaging to productivity, the viewport size (if that’s the right term) seems now to be half the width that fvwm thinks is the width of a screen. The heights seem to agree, however. The disagreement in the widths has the very irritating effects that

(a) the mouse cursor sometimes vanishes for several seconds at a time until I manage to drag it back to someplace visible, and

(b) dragging a window from one screen to a screen to its left or right takes a whole lot longer than it should because the window vanishes into some sort of hyperspace between the two viewports during the process. I had no idea that a screen and a viewport could even be different sizes, and I’ve found no way to specify their relationship.

  1. More than slightly annoyingly

(a) FvwmPager vanished. I guess this was because it was always tethered to the top left of the screen (it was like that when I found it and I’ve never changed it) and the top left of the screen isn’t now actually visible in the viewport, because the viewport is only half the size of the screen and by my bad luck it’s viewing the right hand half of the screen. I’ve somehow accidentally untethered FvwmPager from its tethered position and made it visible (I don’t know how) but I’d like to tether it back again when I can see the whole screen in the viewport;

(b) FvwmPager is now a lot bigger than it used to be (I guess I did that); it used to be about 10% of the screen size, and now it’s about twice the viewport size in width (so you can’t see it all at once) and about 30% of the screen height; and

© the button on the right of FvwmPager (which used to minimize it leftwards or pull it out rightwards from its minimized state) has disappeared.

  1. Least annoying, but puzzling, the window decorations have changed significantly in appearance from what I’m used to and the ‘close window’ button has also disappeared. No big deal, I can exit a shell/xterm and kill a process if I need to, I rarely need to use the button.

I’ve spent days with man pages and search engines but I’m no closer to solving these problems than I was three days ago so if anyone can point me in the right directions I’d be most grateful.

Last question: Unrelated to the above unwelcome surprises, for many years I’ve wondered if there’s a way to assign a keyboard shortcut to switch between desktops. It’s not a deal breaker for me but it would be enormously useful to be able to do that switch with the keyboard instead of with the mouse. At present I use to move between viewports on a desktop.

Finally thanks for taking the time to read this, if you have, and if you’ve ever had any hand in developing fvwm, thank you very very very much for that too.

Obviously I’m old enough that I had no trouble with the captcha. :slight_smile:


Oh - sorry - I now see that I’ve posted my very first post in the wrong section of the forum.
Mods please feel free to move it.

New information.

Now I’m actually using the new (fvwm code|configuration|whatever), I’m finding that the response is very much slower than I’m used to.

Previously, using to switch between viewports was almost instantaneous.

Now, it can take an appreciable fraction of a second - to the point where I don’t know which viewport I’ve switched to, so I have to wait a few seconds so I’m confident that the screen has had time to repaint, and then start navigating all over again.

That kinda sucks, and any suggestions on ways to recover the previous slick response will be VERY welcome.




Yes, the default config changed.

No, there’s nothing in there which would make switching pages noticably slower.

Can you distill your, err, observations, into a list of direct questions, so I don’t have to wade through all of the information you’ve posted, please?

– Thomas

Thanks very much for replying.

Please would the developers make a note never to do that again? It’s incredibly wasteful of people time.

If things are going to improve and there will be new features then that’s great, but the Principle Of Least Surprise should be paramount.

In this case the err, improvements left fvwm in my installation totally broken, and this has cost me four days now and counting.

Can you suggest what might have done that?

It’s at least a factor of five, and might be ten. Five days ago, switching pages was too fast to see. Now I’m waiting for it to settle.

Sure. Sorry if it was too long-winded, I was hoping the information might help somebody who understood this stuff to fault-find.

Let’s try to do one thing at a time if that’s OK with you.

The most serious problem at the moment is that the viewport seems to be half the width of a page (what I called a screen in my OP).
They seem to be the same height.
There’s stuff in the invisible portions.
The mouse cursor often hides in there - when it does it’s a bit of a struggle to get it back again using the touchpad on my laptop. I try to use the touchpad as little as possible but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

What do I have to do to make the viewport and the page the same size?



I’ve just answered that question myself.

For those of you in a hurry, either quit reading now or just read the red bits.

For meetings and stuff I have a projector connected to the laptop’s VGA port, but the lamps are like £250 each and don’t last very long so I keep the lamp powered off practically all the time.

Until now the laptop display and the projector have always displayed exactly the same things, and I didn’t even know that the VGA port could display different things from those that the laptop display shows. They can, and evidently something in the recent update enabled this facility without mentioning it to anyone – like in a mail from the automatic updates, which is where I’d have expected to see it – and evidently you don’t have to do anything to this particular laptop, like you do to some, to tell it to do whatever it needs to do to use two independent displays.

So the reason that the screen and the page are now different sizes is that there are two pages per screen (if ‘page’ and ‘screen’ are the right terms here). On a single screen, the laptop display displays one page, and the projector displays the other page. The “viewport” views a “page”, not a “screen” and using the keyboard shortcut switches screens, not pages, so I can’t see what’s on the projector screen (err, the projector page) without switching on the lamp. Err, now, obviously. :confused:

For single screen use I’ve tweaked the display manager (lightdm in this case) to switch off one of the displays (for what it calls a “Seat”) before starting Fvwm for the Seat:

laptop3:~# >>> diff -U3  /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf~  /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf
--- /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf~  2016-12-19 09:54:11.000000000 +0000
+++ /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf   2018-08-12 12:18:16.181600621 +0100
@@ -116,7 +116,7 @@
laptop3:~# >>> cat /root/
/usr/bin/xrandr --output VGA-1 --off

When I’ve caught up with some work I’ll probably define different "Seat"s for use with and without the projector.

I don’t know if this is the ‘right’ way to do this kind of thing but It Works For Me ™.

PS: With one display disabled, the speed of switching pages has now returned to normal - or at least to more or less what I’m used to. Obviously when I’m chairing a meeting and using two displays the switching will slow down again, but since no work gets done in meetings anyway, that won’t matter. :open_mouth:

PPS: I’d still love to have an answer to my original “Last question”, which is:

Is there a way to define a keyboard command to switch desktops?

Unfortunately now I have an entirely new question:

Are there ways to switch the fvwm viewport between pages (if those are the right terms), and to tell it to view two or more adjacent pages?

PPPS: It’s not clear to me that I’m using the terms ‘page’ and ‘screen’ correctly, nor even that they are used consistently in all the documentation, but in the, err, light of this new information I need to go back through it all again to gain a better understanding.

Incidentally I’ve also now found ways of living with the new FvwmPager issues, which if anything improve upon my previous workarounds.

So you can all look forward to an extended period of peace and quiet. :slight_smile:

Again, thanks for reading, if you have been, and I hope that sometime this will help somebody.

Answering yet another one of my own questions, I’d tried the suggestions in both




but neither worked for me.

Having found it necessary to become somewhat less of a fvwm novice in the last four days or so, I’ve persevered and found that the following works fine to give me to select Desk 0, to select Desk 1, etc.:

Key 1 A M GoToDesk 0 0 0 2
Key 2 A M GoToDesk 0 1 0 2
Key 3 A M GoToDesk 0 2 0 2

So my only remaining question is:

Are there ways to switch the fvwm viewport between pages (if those are the right terms), and to tell it to view two or more adjacent pages?