Make the Debian GUI smaller


Source :
If using PocketCHIP, use VNC, or an external keyboard instead of the onboard keyboard as pipes " | " do not work properly on the keyboard like normal. They instead “erase” the content that was written when more is being put in (like below), and when the enter key is pressed, it retypes what was typed in before the pipe with no results above. Pressing enter again yields no results as it will only execute what was before the pipe.

Note, using an external method of keyboard that isn’t SSH works as expected. SSH-ing actually gives an error when trying to run some of the commands as it’s not being run native to the CHIP.

chip@chip:~$ xdpyinfo | grep dots resolution: 98x99 dots per inch
So I tried messing with the DPI. So, following the link, I tried the options.

First one was to directly modify the lightdm.conf

And editing the line


Save, restart. Nada. Ran xdpyinfo again and gave the same result of 98x99.

So, I tried 50. If I’m going to go loud, I might as well break my flash install. I can always reflash.

Repeat what just happened. Nothing changed.

Okay, let’s try something different.

Well, that did SOMETHING. It made the screen flicker on the PocketCHIP. But nothing changed. Restart. Nothing changed again. Same numbers. Tried running the command again with a different DPI (50)

Well, Blade… you just ain’t doin’ it right. {link to a wave audio file from Team Fortress 2}
Maybe. sniff Maybe.

Those numbers prior had two parts. an X and a Y most likely. It was 98x99, not a 90 or a 50. ROUND 3.

Aaaaaand the results, are in.

It’s the same as before. “xdpyinfo | grep dots” shows the same 98x99 DPI from before.


Same thing. Again.

Here’s the results that I get from running “xrandr” by itself.

chip@chip:~$ xrandr Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 480 x 272, maximum 8192 x 819 2 None-0 connected 480x272+0+0 0mm x 0mm 480x272 59.52* Composite-0 connected NTSC10 72.01 + NTSC 59.94 + PAL 50.00 PAL5 54.71 PAL10 60.13 NTSC5 65.56 PAL15 66.38 NTSC15 79.47

Mind that Composite is not connected physically and that the only screen I’m currently using is the PocketCHIP screen. I do not have the appropriate cable to connect via Composite.

Also did a bit more research into it on my CHIP 4.4 page. See here : PocketCHIP running CHIP 4.4 GUI

For the sake of simplicity, keep the discussion on this page.



I find it so frustrating not having my PocketCHIP yet, because once I have it, I can test this stuff. But since what you are reading is not working thus far, let me make some suggestions based on my experience with ArchLinux and Fedora with changing screensize in X.

First, you may not be able to get the screensize commands to work if you submit them without prefacing them with “sudo”, unless you are running as root.

Second, there is a general convention with X to set screensize as well as size of applications with the --geometry option.

If the “xserver-command” is what starts X, then what I would try would be something like:

xserver-command='X --geometry=480x272'

The problem I see with this is not knowing where and how xserver-command is called and executed. I am suspicious that the “geometry” part might not get seen, as xserver-command is a two-part array variable, and only the X might get seen without some fiddling to make sure the geometry is seen.

You might try running the following after X is restarted. Note that just setting the above variable, in my estimation, is not likely to change the screensize.

ps aux | grep X

That should show you the geometry for X if your modification took.

I think I have seen elsewhere on the bbs the suggestion to vnc in to the chip/pocketCHIP from itself, that is one way you could resize without having to reboot or to restart X. To start a vncserver on PocketCHIP, and get the desired screensize, I think the command would be the following. The one thing I am not sure about is the desktop number. Your main display would be :0, the vncserver could be put in :1

vncserver :1 --geometry  480x272 &

Now, that might not work because of borders, you might want to make the vncserver geometry a little smaller to make sure you see it all on the pocketCHIP display, something like a geometry of 460x252 to start with, and then you could fiddle with those settings.

Again, just some thoughts from a chipster who does not yet have their PocketCHIP but does have experience with setting screensizes on other small devices.

I am not clear on whether by “Debian GUI” you mean some other OS you flashed on to PocketCHIP, or you are using the default OS.

I think that ps aux command may provide an important clue as to how X is started. Your desktop manager should be started by an entry in ~/.xinitrc, and you might be able to add the geometry to that, but only if that is what starts the desktop manager you are using.


I’ll try it in a bit. Right now I’m waiting for apt-get update to finish so I can recalibrate the screen. Apparently my last tests may have borked the PocketCHIP’s keyboard and made it non-functional. Will report back when I’m able.


As I think about it, setting the geometry of your desktop/window manager may be more productive and appropriate than setting the geometry of X, if you want to run stuff natively instead of through a vncserver. And easier than fiddling with the xorg.conf settings.

What are your desktop/window managers right now?

Another route to try is to modify the Exec lines of the /usr/share/application “desktop” files of applications you want to start from the GUI. You would add the geometry after the name of the application.

Of course, that will not make up for the applications themselves giving you menus that are too big, those are pretty much hard coded in. But if your window manager lets you add scrollbars, you could scroll up and down and sideways to get those things that are off screen. This is where vnc into the PocketCHIP should shine, because with that, you should be able to scroll around to see those menus that are too huge for the display.

For parts of applications or webpages that are just barely off my display (again, this is not on a PocketCHIP or CHIP), sometimes hitting the F11 key is enough to bring everything else into view. And hitting F11 (which toggles fullscreen mode) again will take things back to normal.

Scrollbars take up space but are pretty essential for small displays, because they let you move the display around so you can see what you need to see. If they are not enabled. I would enable them in all applications.


##Will the real Window Manager please stand up?


Hi @sdjf, You ask @BladeMaverick:

The default OS is Debian, but BladeMaverick wrote above:

lepel the thread initiator begins with:

Hope my rereading and quoting helps the conversaton continue easier.


@BladeMaverick never replied
but did you try looking in
Maybe “xvidtune” if you type that into terminal, you get some resolution settings.


Apologies for not replying. I’ve been having other issues.

Taking a brief hiatus until I can get this thing fixed or RMA’d.

And @debianUser I’m assuming that they’re using CHIP GUI 4.4 - as that one with the pocketCHIP screen is large.


And brief it was. Just working with what I have right now.

Ran “xvidtune” as mentioned by @midheaventech and…uh…

So I hit “test” with no changes done.

Running xvidtune with sudo yields the same error. I’ve flipped things back and forth. Same error.


This other thread has similar conversation about making the GUI smaller:


Sorry for the late reply everyone, work’s been busy and I haven’t had a chance to play with my CHIP a bit more.

To clear up something, I’m talking about the CHIP 4.4 OS with Debian and the normal desktop UI. When I got my CHIP I saw the standard UI, realized how limited it was and flashed the 4.4 OS on it. I’m trying to get that desktop UI to scale down so everything is a bit smaller and I can actually use all functions directly on my PocketCHIP.

I’ll try to fiddle with the various mentions in this thread when I get a chance.


I followed recommendations in this thread to look more closely at the window manager settings and I found changeable themes on the PocketCHIP. This doesn’t solve the small screen problem in ALL apps, but I’ve learned enough to share.

The default PocketCHIP theme is also named “Chip”. Themes are collections of window colors and icons and borders, buttons etc… It looks to me like the “Chip” theme is pretty good, except for some visibility issues of gray-on-black. I want to thank Next Thing folk for that. It sizes windows on the screen well and fits menus and scroll-bars nicely. I changed ALL the icons as I described elsewhere. I also tried to change the scroll-bar color and increase the font size. I was able to change them on other themes but not on the “Chip” theme. In LXappearance it says “color scheme is not supported by currently selected widget theme”. But the good news is that other themes ARE changeable and more can be downloaded as discussed elsewhere. And maybe someone can learn how to make changes to that theme as well.

For the other apps with screen size problems, I read yesterday (sorry forget where :slight_smile: ) the problem is that many graphical programs have hard-coded window sizes and button placements that don’t respond to theme changes. The apps changeable by themes are treated pretty well by the theme named “Chip”. And apps with movable windows can be moved around with “Alt” + drag. But the others would need to be changed in their source code, one by one. The good news is that programs in main Debian are open enough to be altered. The bad news is that requires skills in what-ever software languages and etc…

That’s the update on my research for now.


It was one of the things I would have thought that changing the DPI would may have remedied, as that would shrink down all elements for a smaller display while retaining the resolution. I’ve been poking at the xorg.conf in /etc/X11/, here’s the contents for xorg.conf.

Section "Monitor"
        Identifier      "VGA"
        Option          "PreferredMode" "1024x768_60.00"

Section "Monitor"
        Identifier      "HDMI"
        Option          "PreferredMode" "1280x720_60.00"

Section "Monitor"
        Identifier      "Composite"
        Option          "PreferredMode" "NTSC10"

Section "Device"
        Identifier      "Allwinner sun4i DRM"
        Option          "Monitor-Composite-0"   "Composite"
        Option          "Monitor-VGA-0"         "VGA"
        Option          "Monitor-HDMI-A-0"      "HDMI"

Section "Screen"
        Identifier      "Screen0"
        Device          "Card0"

So, there is stuff inside that is relevant to the CHIP. However, there is nothing for the PocketCHIP and its screen.
I’ll see about flashing later to PocketCHIP, unless someone wants to upload what is written inside.

I was thinking that you might be able to manually input the device and monitor into the xorg.conf, however that did not go over well.

Under ‘Section “Device”’ I added

and making its own section…

Section "Monitor" <tab>Identifier<tab>"None" <tab>Option<tabtab>"PreferredMode" "480x272_60.00" EndSection

Unfortunately, this yielded no results. :c Hopefully either I or someone can dump the xorg.conf from the PocketCHIP OS (And possibly the driver, located : /usr/lib/xorg/modules/drivers/ I saw two. (15.1 kB) and (27.4 kB)).


Any chance chip uses something like Notro’s frame buffer hack for the rpI for display?

I used adafruit screen and the hack there, and tweaked my settings


I still do not have my PocketCHIP yet, but NTC crew member telarium mentioned in another topic that the touchscreen calibration goes in /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/99-calibration.conf. That makes me wonder if you might have better luck making a separate file just for the monitor and putting it into a file there, or in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/.

Also, my experience with systemd xorg.conf.d on my Raspberry Pi with a USB monitor make me unconvinced that it will work to put multiple monitor listings in one configuration file.

I will be glad when I can get mine, so I can look at all this stuff live and see where the heck they actually set things. You might consider looking at dmesg right after a reboot, or /var/log/everything.log if you have it. I know with the nonstandard monitor declaration on my Pi, I had to also give a device name so that xorg knew where to look for the monitor.

anyhow, I think the Device section needs to also list the name of the driver, as well as the device location do dmesg or logs provide easy to retrieve information about those?


Nope, but it will be implemented soon, hopefully, maybe.


I’ve been working with my Pocket CHIP with 4.4 for a few weeks now and have an issue with the Windows sizes.
One observation is I’ve been working with a tracking application Xastir and the developers of that app have designed it
for small screens. Can’t see all the menu items? One can hit a “tear off” and move the screen/menu item around.
One can re-position the screen to find the “next” or close buttons.

Now this doesn’t help with the native apps I know but another deficiency is any windows that come up can’t be moved around at times. I wouldn’t mind the large window with unseen parts if I could re-position it to what I need to see and to be able to make a choice or close the window. I’ve had to shut down and reboot sometimes. I need to be able to simply pair B/T peripherals and use X-windows and I’ve considered perhaps trying the Pocket CHIP firmware and install the xfce X-windows interface along with a Bluetooth setup GUI.

I suspect there are two Bluetooth setup interfaces in 4.4 that might be causing problems. I’ve recounted that in other threads.

One suggestion is move the menu/taskbar from the top of the screen to the bottom. I find it helps a bit.



Ok, ok, ok, Found a posting here that suggested with oversized recalcitrant windows hold the “Alt” key, press and hold the left mouse button and the “stuck” window will “move” around. I’m getting to be a happier camper now.

Just get the B/T issue a little more manageable and I’ll be sitting pretty here! Kurt


You can also go alt+spacebar, then select “Move” or “Resize” and use the keyboard to move a window around…

It’s an ancient trick from the days of Windows 3.x…


I researched window managers for screen size issues. I settled on one with the best screen readability and wrote about it: Matchbox window manager on PocketCHIP. Works pretty well.