Getting started with windows and screens without desktop environment

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# 1  
Old 10-31-2012
Question Getting started with windows and screens without desktop environment

Hi there,

Hope the title is sufficiently self explaining.
I have no idea how to start and where to start.
I don't even know what keywords to google for.

I need to build a machine :
  • based on Debian
  • without desktop environment
  • with a quite powerful multi-monitor graphic card
  • able to run 4 browsers (firefox?)
  • each browser sent to a different window
  • each windows sent to a different monitor
What program should I use to say :
  • run firefox, navigate to site1, send the image to screen1
  • run firefox, navigate to site2, send the image to screen2
  • run firefox, navigate to site3, send the image to screen3
  • etc.
I have to admit I know one keyword that I heard of and looks related to what I'm trying to do but it's to vast for me to narrow my google exploration. It's x11. Woohoo! Big start.

Can anyone point me even slightly in a more precise direction?

Thanks for your help.

# 2  
Old 10-31-2012
Programs like browsers rely heavily on some sort of desktop environment, like Gnome or KDE.

X11 is basically a library of graphic routines, not more. To make use of it, you need a window manager and more, which make up a desktop environment.

While it should be possible, to write programs which directly handle all the graphical output in fullscreen mode (like in the old DOS ages), programs like firefox won't work like this.

Or did I misunderstand you?
# 3  
Old 10-31-2012

Thanks hergp.
I think you understood what I meant.
And I completely believe what you're saying.

My objection is that I administrate a network of 140+ video players that are no more than debian based mini-computers with two basics programs run on startup (via /etc/inittab). I have not created the system so I might miss some points but here is what I can see working.
An X window (or tell me how to call it) is launched via the command
/usr/bin/startx /etc/X11/my-session -- -br -ac -nolisten tcp

Mplayer is launched in this window with the commande
mplayer -slave -idle -quiet -vo x11 -loop 0 -fs -zoom -fixed-vo -input file=myfile

That's it. Then the system rolls smoothly in a store to entertain customers with fancy videos.

This looks extremely simple to me and I thought I could do close to the same thing with Firefox. Am I deliring?

Again hergp, I completely trust your answer, I'm just curious to understand a bit more the implications of what I'm talking about.

# 4  
Old 10-31-2012
I'm not sure what you're expecting firefox to do here.

You can run firefox and then what?
# 5  
Old 10-31-2012
Hi Corona688,

Thanks for your interest.
Firefox will display a web page with charts that update every few minutes.
There's absolutely no input.

The 4 screens will display a different dashboards each.

# 6  
Old 10-31-2012
That sounds possible actually, but if Firefox encounters any sort of error, it will stop updating.
# 7  
Old 10-31-2012
An X window (or tell me how to call it) is launched via the command


/usr/bin/startx /etc/X11/my-session -- -br -ac -nolisten tcp
What you call a window is in fact a call to open an X session ( can contain multiple windows within e.g. a firefox window...) that means there is somewhere a X server running...
A X server can run different instances (sessions) the session number is what you see after IP or host name in the variable DISPLAY
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