Small X server?

Francois Tigeot ftigeot at
Thu Jan 25 00:16:14 PST 2007

On Wed, Jan 24, 2007 at 03:56:04PM -0800, Alex Stewart wrote:
> I'm looking to build a Linux + X system on a semi-embedded platform (full ia32
> architecture, but with limited RAM and no disk (running off ramdisk)).  I'm
> therefore looking to build an X server that takes up as little memory/disk
> space as possible.  I don't need anything fancy, but would like to be able to
> run basic (custom) GTK applications against it..
> First of all, does anybody have suggestions on the best way to approach this?
> I've found a bunch of references out there to the kdrive/Xserver stuff, but all
> of the documentation out there seems to be rather old (XFree86 days), and it's
> rather unclear what, if anything, has been done in the past couple of years
> with this.  I did see a couple of cryptic comments here and there that kdrive
> had been "integrated" into Xorg 7.1.  Does this mean it is possible to build a
> kdrive-like minimal X server using the Xorg 7.1 sources?  If so, what's the
> procedure for doing this?
> Performance is also something of a concern, so I would like to have an
> accelerated (2D) video driver for my i810-based chipset, but everything I've
> seen suggests that there's no kdrive i810 driver available, so I'd probably
> need to make one myself.  For this reason I was also considering just using the
> full Xorg X server but trying to cut out all the extra bits I don't need, but
> what little I've seen makes it sound like this is a huge chore.  How hard is it
> to whittle down the Xorg X server to a minimal build, and how would this
> compare to building a kdrive server and porting a video driver to it (both in
> terms of work and in terms of the size of the results)?

This is a pita, but definitely doable.
I did such a thing with Xorg 6.9 for the ThinBSD project (a ramdisk based
system to create X terminals).

I managed to reduce Xorg to a ~= 7MB footprint including most mainstream
drivers (i810, vesa, radeon, ...).
The resulting system is still in production on diskless (and fanless) VIA
C3 machines.

You can find patches for the imake build system in ports/Xorg-thinbsd/
in the source tarball.

Have a look here:

Francois Tigeot

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