Framebuffer Device for Linux on SGI Visual Workstations

Jeffrey Newquist, March 13, 1999
Updated: April 20, 1999

Installing Linux on a Visual Workstation

For information on  installing linux and getting started, please refer to "Linux kernel for SGI Visual Workstations". The information there is sufficient to getting you going.

Framebuffer Device (fbdev)

SGIVWFB is a framebuffer kernel device to get graphics going on the Cobalt chipset. This provides a set of /dev/fb* devices which are used by fbcon (framebuffer console) and XF86_FBDEV (framebuffer X server). Keep in mind that no rendering features of the Cobalt chip are utilized, so X is not zippy, but it works.

If you're interested in reading more about the fbcon/fbdev architecture (at least in its current incarnation), check out "A New Console Driver for Linux," by Geert Uytterhoeven.

Getting the Driver

The driver is now a standard part of the Linux kernel (as of 2.2.5). See "Linux kernel for SGI Visual Workstations", for kernel config options. Continue reading here to set up X Windows.

Setting up X

This section assumes you have Red Hat 5.x, or some distribution which can use RPM files.  Grab the following files:
  1. To reduce confusion, please uninstall whatever X server(s) you have installed (possibly SVGA, VGA16, etc):

  2. rpm -e XFree86-XSERVER
  3. Install XFree86 (we'll actually just "upgrade" it, does the same thing):

  4. rpm -Uvh XFree86*.rpm
  5. Install the XF86_FBDev server:

  6. cd /usr/X11R6
    tar zxvf XFB.tgz
    cd /etc/X11
    rm X
    ln -s ../../usr/X11R6/bin/XF86_FBDev X
    cp XF86Config .
  7. Install fbset (framebuffer config tool):

  8. tar zxf fbset-19990118.tar.gz
    cd fbset
    make install
    cd ..
    cp fb.modes /etc
    put "/usr/sbin/fbset 1024x768x16-85" at end of /etc/rc.d/rc.local
When you start X it comes up in 1024x768, 16-bit color mode.  Resolutions higher than that will work, but keep in mind this is an unaccelerated X server.

Keyboard and Mouse via USB

To use the USB keyboard and mouse with X you need to do the following:

Keyboard and Mouse via NDS

To get keyboard and mouse access to the Visual Workstation when running X, another machine (linux or IRIX) can be used as the master display in a dual-head configuration, as long as both machines are on the network.  If you have an IRIX 6.5 machine, skip the installation step.
  1. Install

  2. cd /usr
    tar xvf nds.i386.tgz
  3. Run 'xhost +' or 'xhost +mastername'
  4. Run ndsd

  5. /usr/nds/ndsd -master :0 -slave <visws hostname>:0
    (add -slaveright to have the VisWS be the monitor on the right)
At this point moving the mouse off the left side of the master display should make it appear on the VisWS monitor.