How Can I Configure WM? - Minimal Install + Xfce

Hello,

Very new to Rocky Linux (and Red Hat/CentOS, gnome, xfce, xfwm).

I followed this guide to create a minimal Rocky installation, followed by this guide to install the xfce desktop (this brought in a bunch of gnome dependencies).

All went well, but I’m having trouble locating the appropriate configuration files for the window manager. It is not clear whether I am running xfce or gnome (or what the relationship is between the two).

My immediate goal is to use my current setup, but have windows display a “Hide” (minimize) button. (Right now, they only display a “Close” button.)

This guide has some suggestions for configuring xfwm4 [note: xfwm4 ver = 4.16.1], but…

  • There is no .themes folder in my home folder
  • There are no xfwm configuration files in my home directory (even under .config)
  • There is a config file located at /usr/share/xfwm4/defaults

… which contains the line…

button_layout=O|SHMC

… which I intepret to mean that the window title bar should display an Option button on the left side of the window, a title bar in the middle of the window, and Shade, Hide, Maximize, and Close buttons on the right side. The only things that appear on my windows are the title and the close button. So apparently, this is not the correct configuration file.

$ dnf list --installed | grep xfce
--------------------------------------
libxfce4ui
libxfce4util
xfce-polkit
xfce4-appfinder
xfce4-panel
xfce4-power-manager
xfce4-pulseaudio-plugin
xfce4-screensaver
xfce4-session
xfce4-settings
xfce4-terminal

$ dnf list --installed | grep gnome
------------------------------------------
gnome-bluetooth
gnome-bluetooth-libs
gnome-control-center
gnome-control-center-filesystem
gnome-desktop3
gnome-keyring
gnome-keyring.pam
gnome-menus
gnome-online-accounts
gnome-session
gnome-session-wayland-session
gnome-session-xsession
gnome-settings-daemon
gnome-shell
gnome-themes-standard
libgnomekbd

This forum thread suggests that my problem might be a “feature” of gnome and that I’m not running xfce at all.

$ ehco $GNOME_SHELL_SESSION_MODE

$ echo $DESKTOP_SESSION
gnome-custom-session
$ echo $XDG_SESSION_TYPE
x11

From the LightDM login screen I have the option to select:

  • Custom
  • Standard (Wayland display server)
  • Standard (Wayland display server)
  • Standard (X11 display server) [not selectable]
  • Standard (X11 display server)
  • Xfce Session

“Custom” is selected, by default.

If I select “Xfce Session”, I see a “traditional” desktop with desktop icons, an application launcher, taskbar, etc. (Also, the button layout matches the above configuration file.) All of the other options display a more streamlined desktop with no desktop icons and a single bar at the top of the screen showing: “Activities” a clock/message area, and a simple status area.

Does this mean I’m running gnome? And if so, how do I configure the windows manager to show a Hide button?

Or… is this a non-editable “feature” of gnome?

Cheers,

Hummm. First of all I don’t do GNOME, but I am trying to understand your problem. IF you are trying to have ONLY a MINIMAL install that means you want ONLY a konsole; IF however you want xfce, which is a DE, then you need to screw the Custom" selection and drop down and select Xfce Session. As I understand it – and I could be WRONG – Xfce is a stripped and very minimal version of GNOME which I think uses GDM. In theory you should be able to run Xfce on any hardware no matter how old and junky it is. Why? Because it has really minimal hardware requirement, while both a full blown GNOME or KDE DE takes up a lot more disk space plus has hardware requirements. That said both are far, far smaller than M$ Windows.

One of the great things about your install is you have several DE to choose from. I encourage you to to EXPERIMENT and have FUN!! For a secondary DE I would select “Standard (X11 display server)” I would avoid anything marked Wayland anything – Wayland has caused me nothing but grief. While there are those who will disagree with me, Wayland is still listed as being EXPERIMENTAL but apparently stable enough for Red Hat to offer it as an alternative to X11 that has been used for decades, so you will see every DE that references the default X11 version along with its Wayland equivalent.

BTW I agree with you on one thing: I ditched the listed DM in favor of LightDM.

Have FUN!!!

D’Cat

I’m trying to understand my problem, too! LOL.

BTW, thank you very much for your reply! It helps a lot.

I have spent many, many hours on this…

What I Expected:

  1. a minimal operating system
  2. a simple desktop environment (xfce) that I could customize

What I Got:

  1. a minimal operating system
  2. a weirdly-indeterminate mix of gnome and xfce that I could only partially customize

I only recently discovered that I could select different DEs from the LightDM login screen! The default (after installing xfce and LightDM) was to log me in to a gnome desktop, not xfce. This is what was confusing me.

Your comments helped, because they showed me that I was on the right track.

  1. If I want to run and customize xfce, then I need to select “xfce” from the icon in the upper-right corner of the panel (at the top of the login screen).
  2. All of the other options run gnome… but not the full version of gnome.

I’m not sure which direction I’ll go, but this gives me enough to move on with.

Thank you!

Cheers,

If you just want a simple Rocky 8.5 desktop environment, that’s fully supported, just use Gnome 3.x out-of-the-box.
If you want a complicated and unsupported desktop environment that’s really hard to maintain, then continue as above.

1 Like

Thanks!

I appreciate the comment, and I’ll give that a try…

… but it seems a little counter-intuitive. As a newbie, I spent some time reading the documentation at docs.rockylinux.org before I started.

I got the impression that, unless I wanted a full-on server installation, I should select a minimal install and then install either or Mate or Xfce.

I see now that I got it all wrong. :wink:

Cheers,

Can you link to the exact page where they tell you to do that? I have not used the Rocky docs, as I use the RHEL docs.

Either way, the advice sounds wrong.

If you want a really quick and easy single user workstaion, you can use the “workstation” selection during the install, and you can add extras to your workstation as below:

Software Selection, choose roles and add-ons, e.g. "workstation"
	workstation : gnome applications, remote desktop clients, dev tools, GUI tools, rpm dev tools, system tools

the extras in the list above are just examples, e.g. I’m using ‘rpm dev tools’, but you may not need it.

You can still run this as a server just be adding a few more dnf goups after the install, but for a really serious server, you would probably use an install option that does not have any GUI at all.

OK unless you are a *nix guru – which I damn sure am not – stay away from a “minimal install” . I’ve accidentally, and once intentionally, have done a “Minimal Install” with the idea of back-filling by using yum grouplist and yum groupinstall’’ “XYZ” command from the CLI. Somewhere along the line I still ended up with internal conflicts , etc., and in the end I usually scrubed the disk with gparted, then did a fresh install, making sure I did not choose a minimal install.

The best advice is to select “desktop + GUI” during the install phase. There are only two valid reasons for doing a minimal install: 1) you are running some REALLY ANCIENT hardware 2) if you are setting this up as a strict server ONLY! Even the Server ONLY crowd find having a GUI installed can at times be easier than working strictly from a konsole. The last time I used a kolsole ONLY mode was back in the days of M$-DOS – there was no such thing as “Windows” back in those days. Even back then I found Norton Commander – now reborn and improved in Linux as Midnight Commander – to fly around the computer, simply because my typing skills sucked … and still do.

IF you have the room on your current drive it pays to have multiple DE other than Xfce. If your primary DE blows up you can switch to an alternative. Alternately if you have the room inside the computer case, buy yourself a cheap – and today they are cheap – 500 GB or larger 2.5" SATA drive and install a secondary OS. openSUSE LEAP 15.3 is a nice alternative to RHEL 8.x and it derivatives.

If you have only ONE Desktop Computer which is expected to serve a multiple number of purposes, then you really want the Desktop + GUI option NOT the “Minimal” Desktop because that is all you are going to get: a Konsole and nothing else.

The ONLY GUI you are going to get “Right out of the Box” is GNOME. Period. Me?!? I use KDE . I preferred KDE 4.14, because KDE 5.x has been a disaster since Day 1, and finally at KDE 5.18 it finally got to the point that KDE 4.14 was YEARS ago, only now you have to jump through a number of hoops to get there.

If you have a computer that has mold on it – ie running a Intel Single Core Pentium CPU Xfce is a perfect choice; however if you have something like an Intel -lake or an AMD FX- or Ryzen or later CPU that has 8 GB but preferably 16 GB of RAM or more, select either GNOME or KDE . Installing KDE is not to terribly difficult if you were able to install both Xfce and LightDM – even the full blown versions of either is still significantly smaller than M$ Windows. Investing time in configuring your computer NOW to the way YOU work is time well invested.

Example: leopard, my current WS, has an AMD 6 core, FX-6300 CPU, and 32 GB of RAM (Maxed out), running CentOS 7.9 and KDE 4.14, I have 10 Virtual Desktops, but because I have dual monitors I effectively got 20 VD’s of the 20 the most I’ve have had something going on in them was 14. When I get rolling tracking down a newly emerging disease, or writing something with lots and lots of research notes and tables, and, I can quickly populate both monitors, and many of the VD while using several different programs. It took about a week to install the various programs I use, set up the various wallpapers into place to serve as a visual clues where I am, install zsh, and colorize the prompt so it shows the complete PATH (something left over from my days of working in DOS, as well as changing either the # or $ to a > sign). Now regardless of if I am working at the CLI or running something from an Icon it is very comfortable to ME. My buddy, who use to work for IBM 2.5-3 decades ago and is an old *nix hand, feels right at home, as there is a flow and a logic about the way it is set up.

Truthfully unless this computer falls into the Very Ancient Hardware Category, or is intended as a single function set-it-and-forget-it server, it might prove smarter to simply buy a secondary 2.5" SATA drive and do a fresh install of RL 8.5 – just avoid the Minimal ONLY install trap – and use the current drive as a backup, or install a new OS entirely such as openSUSE 15.3 LEAP . It will ultimately prove faster and result in less head banging than to keep messing with this minimal install that may throw hissy fits for some unknown reason.

D’Cat

Scratches head…

I think I must be using a different installer than you guys.

The first link in my first post points to Installing Rocky Linux - Documentation and is called “Installing Rocky Linux”. That web page walks you through using the installer. In the “Software Selection” section, it mentions the “Base Environment” and “Additional Software”, but then recommends “Select the Minimal Install (Basic functionality) option instead.”

Following the guide until the end results in a command-line operating system with no gui.

The links on the left side of the page provide additional guides. Under “Desktop” are: MATE and XFCE, not Gnome.

The installer provides for 3 different Base Environments: server, minimal, and custom. If I choose “server”, I can add “gnome” as additional software, but I don’t really need/want a server installation.

Now that I think about it, I bet I downloaded the wrong .iso. The page that I linked to above uses the Rocky-8.5-x86_64-minimal.iso as an example, but I think I’ll download the DVD and see what it looks like.

Thanks guys!

Cheers,

I think the confusion is that there’s an iso called ‘minimal’, but there’s also a software selection called ‘minimal’ in the full installer.

Thank you, everyone, for your help.

I downloaded and installed the “Workstation” software package. The default is Gnome on Wayland. Once I installed gnome-tweaks (as suggested by this thread, I was able to tweak the settings and get the minimize/maximize buttons back.

Cheers,