Screen size thoughts and questions


So I just got my PocketCHIP today and have been playing around with it to see what it can do. One of the first things that surprised me, and seems like a common notion in this forum, is that it doesn’t come with (or appear to come with) a web browser. Nor is there an application manager…in fact, the six icons on the desktop seem both fixed and somewhat limited. Now I understand that there are limitations involved in making an inexpensive, open source computer, but from what I’ve seen in the forums here and on the main site, it looks like the CHIP ships with quite a bit more on-board than the PocketCHIP. I guess I assumed they should be exactly the same, with the only difference being that we get a nice screen, keyboard, battery and case to wrap it all up with and make it portable.

Yes, I do know that it’s easy to install tons of other things via the terminal, including a few browsers with varying degrees of functionality. I also tried out Steve McGrath’s script from this post: PocketCHIP Browser Installer Script which, impressively, manages to put a browser icon on the desktop (albeit at the expense of losing the direct link to the documentation).

As far as I understand it right now, the main issue seems to be that the screen resolution for the PocketCHIP is low, and therefore a lot of apps won’t fit on the screen (and, hence, weren’t pre-installed). This may even be the justification for having this custom desktop environment over any other xwindows environment, but even if it is, the one provided seems far less adaptable than I would expect.

I tried installing and running a few programs, including ScummVM, and Scratch, that I knew CHIP could run, and indeed they do–but they extend beyond the screen. I even installed a stripped-down desktop environment called LXDE, and that works too, although it’s a little clunky.

So after testing this out a bit, I’m left with some questions. The most direct one is whether there is some way to force programs to be smaller in size, or control their resolution. Unfortunately, searching for “using linux apps on low resolution screens” turns up the exact opposite–how to optimize or adjust your settings for use on high-res screens. The next most obvious thing to me would be scroll bars. When I use Teamviewer or Logmein from my phone I can scroll around the larger screen of my desktop, effectively panning around a zoomed-in image. Is there some way to do that here? Let the programs be too big, just let me pan across them. If so, how can I do it? If not, why not? Is there an alternate desktop environment that would be able to do this?

Also, regarding the web browsers…mobile browsers have been around for years. OperaMini was crunching pages down to bite-size form back in the WAP flip-phone days, as well as being the backbone for Nintendo’s DS and Wii browsers. Is there not a similar open source mini-browser that could work more comfortably on the small screen?

My last question is about the mouse. It’s a little iffy on the screen between touching and clicking or click-dragging for me. Maybe it’s a matter of getting used to it, but I’m wondering if there are sensitivity settings somewhere that could be adjusted. Also, is there some way to right-click on things? Maybe by holding a button before pressing the screen? If not, could that be added somewhere down the line?

My apologies for such a long post, but I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on the limitations (and workarounds thereof) of the low screen resolution and I’m looking forward to all the fun ways this pocket computer will be put to use!

Make the Debian GUI smaller
PocketChips New Documentation
Usability Status Update - now with images and video

Disclaimer: no pocketCHIP yet, but I spent plenty of years using GUI browsers on my Zaurus PDAs, as well as remotely logging in to my Raspberry Pi.

All (or almost all) of them (browsers and desktops) will allow you to configure them to fit your desired screen resolution. But it often does require some research. Both Zaurii had screen smaller than the PocketCHIP has, and while I started out using LXDE remotely as a desktop environment, I decided that was heavier than I needed and ended up settling on Openbox with lxpanel for a system tray.

I did not get adept at using LXDE, so all I know well is Openbox, and I know in that I have the choice of hitting an icon at the top left of my screen to bring up a menu that gives me various options, including increase or decrease the size of the display for the application that is running. But they all have configuration files that allow you to set the default screensize. And this is generally possible to do from a settings GUI, it does not require changing configuration files from the command line, although that is generally also possible.

Besides looking for how-tos on the specific desktops or window managers you want to use, poke around in your home .config directory to see what configuration files are already there for installed applications.

I like using lxpanel to switch between applications on my Raspberry Pi, but am thinking I don’t want to lose screen height on the PocketCHIP to a bottom tray. However, lxpanel has the option of putting the the tray on either side, and I am thinking of putting a very narrow tray on the left side of the PocketCHIP’s screen, with just icons to click on to change between running apps.

And one of those icons will bring up a popup menu of applications to choose from, that are already installed. i never could figure out how to get apps on a desktop, so if I don’t want to start an app from command line, then I go to the bottom tray and the leftmost icon, if I click on it, lists all applications that have a desktop entry for themselves.

But it is so many years since I installed this, that i do not recall offhand where the launchbar came from, I think it was part of lxpanel and might be called pcmanfm, but am not sure.

Anyhow, whatever you want to run, if the menu bars are too big or unnecessary, or you need scroll bars, that all is possible to change by modifying the settings to meet your needs. This has been summarized in other threads with statements something like “this is Linux, you can configure anything”.

One of the things I like about Openbox is the ability to define hotkey combinations, and to do keyboard mouse emulation. My experience with both Zaurii with the same kind of resistive touchscreens is that even with using a stylus that is the right kind of plastic, at some point, those places one taps a whole lot, the screen will likely wear down at those points, so I am wary of doing too much with a stylus.

I like the fact that PocketCHIP uses resistive touchscreen, though, as I really do not want to learn “gestures”. I am used to working with a resistive touchscreen.

Never got comfortable with using mice, so I love the mouse emulation possible with xwit and xdotool that I define in my openboxrc file.

Anyhow, I am not the least bit worried about being able to get browsers and other apps working well with the small screen, despite other people’s comments about how awful it would be. I mean, I have spent a good part of the last decade or so with my only screens being smaller than that of of the PocketCHIP, check out the Zaurus sl5500 and sl600 if you want to see what I mean, both screen are smaller.

If I needed to visit a webpage that required a larger screen ( and it is the webpage, not the browser, that would really be the issue), then I learned to VNC into a friend’s box with Firefox, and had my Xvnc seet with the screensize I found would work best with my tiny screens. I did need to scroll around to the left or right, but there were scrollbars both in my vnc client as well as the remote Firefox.

For your searches, I would just look at Settings for the applications themselves. Pick something you want to use, and just modify it. Also, if you are turning up examples about how to increase screen size, and they talk about changing the settings, just pick lower numbers that fit the screensize of the PocketCHIP.

Try hitting the F10 (the function key, however you bring it up with PocketCHIP’s keyboard), that usually brings up menus on stuff already installed, and check out the contents of the various dropdown menus that appear. Often there is a View option with the ability to zoom in or out or set a custom font size.


@FireflyII I could always add into the configuration of dwb a link to the documentation if you feel the need for it. The current configuration that relates to PocketCHIP is here (GitHub Link). It’s also setting the screen resolution and attemping to make the PocketCHIP look like a mobile device (in this case an android phone) in order to prefer mobile sites when possible.


for the screen problem, in some of the videos next thing company posted on vimeo, the guy just put it to full screen


Openbox could be really great on pocketchip. I’d like to set up something similar to #!/BunsenLabs


Thanks for the nice reply @sdjf, I’ll be interested in hearing what you make of the pocketCHIP when you do get it (I’m assuming you’re going to since you said “yet”). I don’t know Openbox, but I’ll definitely be looking into it. Looking for config files is also a good idea. I did a little exploring for that (I know some programs have command-line options for setting such things too), and I agree with the general sense of “this is Linux, you can configure anything,” which is why it seems to me that adjusting programs to accommodate a small screen should be doable.

I do also like the resistive touchscreen. I used to use Pocket PCs before smartphones took off, and I miss the degree of accuracy you can get from a stylus or fingernail over a whole finger. The only downside I’ve found is that multi-touch is actually pretty useful (for zooming, or panning/scrolling vs. highlighting). I’m not familiar with xwit and xdotool, but I’ll check those out too.

By the way, I did find out that panning around windows is at least partially doable. If you hold down the alt key, then tap and drag, it will move the window around. It doesn’t work for everything though, and is a little tricky to do. After moving the window, you have to click again to go back to “normal” mouse mode, and the window moves when you do that. So, effectively, to put a window where you want, alt-click and drag, let go, and click again right where you just let go (otherwise it’ll jump to where you next click).

To clarify something, I was trying to make the point that I’d like to be able to pan around the whole desktop/work-space, rather than simply dragging windows, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to accomplish that yet. As you point out, it’s common in vnc, so it really shouldn’t be too tall an order.

The things I’ve found about increasing screen size are largely driver and environment related (and there is only one resolution option for the PocketCHIP) rather than program based. Not all programs have size settings either, at least anywhere obvious. In some cases they try to auto-adjust, but it doesn’t really work as something or other gets crowded out.

@stevemcgrath, thanks for your response as well. My point about losing the documentation link was meant more as a “you can put a new app on the main screen but only by losing one, rather than adding another one,” rather than a lament at not having such direct access to the docs anymore. I think the dwb browser looks pretty good, actually, with the android settings you make, but I need to learn my way around dwb before it’s as useful as something like firefox or chrome.

@Frosty, what do you mean “just put it to full screen?”


@FireflyII Yeah dwb does have a slighty steeper learning curve than Firefox or Chromium does, but its a lot lighter-weight on the system and gives you miles more screen real-estate on a device where screen space is at a premium.


I will try to explain when i get my pocket chip, i find it hard to explain for some weird reason…@Fireflyll


Just to share an update, I’m still trying to figure this out. I’ve managed to load a few different window managers, but they all have the same problems regarding the screen size. I came across a post in another forum that seems like it offers exactly the kind of thing I’m after, but I’ve been unsucessful in making any headway with it so far.

The post is here, but in short it describes using xrandr to either make your screen larger and pan around it, or squish a larger resolution into a smaller display. When I try, I get an error that the screen can’t go beyond 480x272 and that it “failed to get size of gamma for output default.” Looking up those errors led me to a number of posts about needing to add a device before you can switch to it, which led to needing to edit the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, which doesn’t exist on the PocketCHIP, and the command for generating it also fails! The suggestion at that point is to write your own xorg.conf, but that requires knowing the device and driver information, which also turns up empty with the commands that are supposed to provide it.

So I’m not sure where to go from here on this particular path, as I’m guessing the display driver info is absent because it’s non-standard. If anyone knows the details about that please let me know, otherwise I’m still looking for other ways that might work.


@FireflyII: Look at the files in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/, if I am correct in understanding that PocketC.H.I.P. uses systemd, that is where the information will go that defines the monitor. characteristics. Each file in that directory is generally devoted to one type of device.

With regards to those files, although there often is some sort of catch-all conf file as well called something like 10-evdev.conf. The number at the start of the file defines the order the data is read and processed.

I needed to learn about this stuff when I had to tell my RaspberryPi about my USB monitor, and that is where screensize is also defined. I am not sure what to tell you to search for to find appropriate examples for the PocketCHIP’s monitor and your applications.

With regards to your needing to know the driver, isn’t the screen a frame buffer device? if there is an fbdev module, my guess is that would be the driver.

If you want help creating that file, it would help if you posted what you tried and what the output was.


Yes, there is a 10-evdev.conf file, and yes I’ve seen fbdev show up in the various messages, though I wasn’t sure if that was meant to be a driver, a mode, an output device, etc. I’ll take another look around and post with more information later.


@FireflyII: Please post a list of the files in /etc/Xll/xorg.conf.d/?? That will give me a better idea what is there. On my Pi, the details including driver, location in system as well as resolution for my DisplayLink USB monitor are in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/21-displaylink.conf, which I put together based on examples I found around the web, and then tested until I got it right.

And my display size is defined in that file as follows, so the word is Modes for entering the resolution, but I have no idea how entering info in another xorg.conf.d file would interact with the existing NTC setup.:

Section "Screen"
Identifier "DisplayLinkScreen"
Device "DisplayLinkDevice"
Monitor "DisplayLinkMonitor"
SubSection "Display"
Depth 24
Modes "1024x600"

Also, you asked above about changing applications to fit the screen, and someone said to do "full screen", but did not elaborate. I think that means to hit F11, which on most systems temporarily takes away all your desktop stuff and maximizes the application so it fills your screen. F11 toggles that, so you can get your desktop back by hitting F11. If an application still does not behave, then I think you have to edit it's configuration on case by case.

If you have applications autostarting with openbox, though, you can define their geometry in the openbox autostart file. For example, for my USB monitor and terminal, I have:

xfce4-terminal --geometry=111x24 &

Then, I mentioned (above) defining mouse emulation key combinations with Openbox. But from your experience with xbindkeys in our discussion about the hardware aspects of your question on Adding buttons?, I realize that we probably do not need to use openbox to do that. However, I promised here to give you more information. I have already given the details for emulating clicks in that topic, as you wanted a button to do clicking.

Now, about the other part of mouse emulation, which is mouse movement…if you install xwit, it can move the mouse cursor around your screen, either called directly, or with it’s actions defined in another configuration file or script or whatever.

Check out Adriano’s post in the LXDE forum, I used the information provided there as a template for my own openbox on the Pi:

Using MOUSE on Keyboard on LXDE

But of course I customized what Adriano got me started with, defining a bunch of additional key combinations that would perform various actions for me. I use CTRL plus a number to move the mouse various directions, so I suppose on the PocketC.H.I.P., I will be trying out CTRL+SHIFT+number.

Moral of the story: if you want to save your screen from wearing down in it’s most used spots, and don’t want to use a mouse, get xwit!!! The calls to xwit are in Adriano’s post mentioned above, I am going to be lazy and not copy the details here, have other things I need to attend to.



@sdjf, there isn’t any xorg anything in /etc/X11, but there is in /usr/share/X11. We’ve got 10-evdev.conf, 10-quirks.conf and 99-calibration.conf. Here’s a link to a zip of them:

I have found the type of entry you shared on a number of forums, all saying “just add this to your xorg.conf, and if you don’t have one, run so-and-so to generate it,” but none of the commands to create it have worked, and I don’t know what exactly needs to be put in the file.

I’m a bit busy today, but I’ll try out the F11 and geometry things later. Thanks again!


@FireflyII - that is weird about no xorg.conf.d, I was sure I saw someone mention that here somewhere, will have to dig around to find it. And found it, but it is not xorg.conf.d, look at this post. I wonder where he got his /etc/X11/xorg.conf from?

Doesn’t pocketCHIP run systemd? I am stumped.

I need to poke around the file system myself, and very likely won’t be able to do that for at least another month, bah humbug!! Pre-order woes, such is life.

But anxious to see what you think about xwit, sorry I could not post a summary list of commands for that, it was gonna require a major amount of editing. :disappointed:


Good question about where the xorg.conf came from. I’ve been looking in other places, and on other systems (I’ve got a couple raspberry Pis) and nothing seems to make use of it anymore, despite it being the prime suggestion on the web for where to go to make your edits. Yes, PocketCHIP is running systemd. I haven’t made it to exploring xwit yet, though I’ve still been trying to wrangle xrandr, and I’m starting to put xdotool through its paces! I still don’t get why I can’t change the screen–I’ve gotten as far as changing the maximum size possible, but not the currently set one. It seems to keep coming back to some issue of not having or knowing the device name or driver or some such. Somewhere I read a post where someone said it may not be possible to raise resolutions at all for some systems, even in a virtual window, if the graphics card is limited, but considering that logging into the PocketCHIP over VNC produces a much larger screen, I don’t see how that would be the case here.

Incidentally, based on our discussion in the VNC client thread, I decided to try another roundabout approach: use VNC on the PocketCHIP to log in to itself. This actually works, though it’s still using the same “desktop” as the PocketCHIP, so there’s no menu or anything. Still, it’s progress of a sort.

I might try doing startx in the VNC, but every time I’ve tried that so far I get stuck at the “real” login screen from then on, as has been reported in a couple other threads, and I’m not sure they’ve figured out how to get back without reflashing the system (although I’m watching those threads, so maybe it’ll be answered soon).

Anyway, just a quick update to keep this thread going and say I’m still trying to figure things out!


Yeah I just wish it were easy to change up what is on the icon screen, I’d rather have the browser there or perhaps a favorite apps pane, just hope the unified chip theory becomes fact soon lol


I’m really interested to know how to resolve this issue. When running FreeCiv, I get this screen clipping issue but running Doom, it seems to be fine.



Googling for freediv and screensize or small screen, it looks like this is a general issue for freeciv and not specifically a PocketC.H.I.P. issue. Trouble with either top or bottom icons/trays being visible but not both. Maybe it can be fixed by recompiling from source.


It looks like no-one answered the question about right-clicking yet (unless I missed it, I’m doing this on my phone).
I was able to get context menus in most applications by using Ctrl-click (similar to how they do it on Macs I guess), so you might try that.


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. It forces a number of large application windows into pretty small space, including GUI buttons that were getting lost at the bottom of windows.