Summary: Weirdness with CDE and other GUI applications

Mike Box mbox-l at cleopas.stat.vt.edu
Thu Oct 17 17:10:10 EDT 2002


Setting the color depth to 24 via /usr/sbin/m64config corrected the problem.
Fortunately the graphics cards had enough memory to support the change.
I used /usr/openwin/bin/xdpyinfo to determine the current and possible depths.

While m64config corrected this problem, I share other suggestions in the
event that they may address similar symptoms in other situations.

Thanks to all who responded:
Annette Lee
Frank Smith
Gary P Carr
Jay Lessert
Matthew Stier
Steve Sandau
Damien Kilkenny

Mike Box                       Phone: (540)231-9506
Systems Administrator            Fax: (540)231-3863
Department of Statistics      E-mail: Mike.Box at vt.edu
Virginia Tech

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Netscape is a notorious "sucker" of color maps.  Make sure your Netscape
preferences are set to default.  Not saying that is the definitive answer to
your problem, but I fight this battle with CDE and Netscape on numerous
xterminals;  folks want to get fancy with their display and before you know
it, they have depleted their color maps.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sounds like your displays are in 8-bit (256 color) mode, and CDE is running
out of colors.  With netscape, you can call it as 'netscape -install' and it
will use its own colormap, but the screen colors will shift as you change
focus on and off the Netscape window.  Other apps may have similar options,
and I think there is even an X or CDE option to give each app a private
colormap.  The color flashing is very annoying, so the best solution is to
increase the color depth of your display to 16, 24, or 32 bit color.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
We saw similar problems and determined that it was a combination of two issues:

1) Some of the applications do not use shared color tables, consequently 
they quickly use up available colors.

2) We had our graphics cards set for 8 plane color depth, only (2**8=256 
colors.

Setting color depth to 24 planes worked for us on Ultra 5 and Blade 100 
workstations with pgx32 and pgx64 graphics cards. 2**24 colors is far more 
than most applications really need unless you are doing high end image 
processing.

There was no solution for older S-bus based workstations with basic 
graphics. The old pgx24 graphics cards that used to come with Ultra 5/10 
workstations will only support 24 plane colors on a 1024x768 resolution. We 
added pgx32 cards for our U5s. On the newer PCI bus workstations even the 
low end graphics cards (pgx64) will run with 24 plane color on most 
reasonable resolutions.  And of course the high end graphics cards are fine.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Are all your systems just running in 8-bit color mode?  That would
result in the symptoms your are seeing.

With 24-bit, you would see:

    % xdpyinfo | egrep depths
      depths (3):    1, 8, 24

With 8-bit, you would see:

    % xdpyinfo | egrep depths
      depths (2):    1, 8

>From my post-install finish script:

########################################################################
if [ -r /etc/dt/config/Xservers ] ; then
    echo /etc/dt/config/Xservers already exists, exiting.
    exit
fi
if [ ! -d /etc/dt/config ] ; then
    mkdir /etc/dt/config
fi
sed '/^  *:0/ s?$? -dev /dev/fb defclass TrueColor defdepth 24?' \
    < /usr/dt/config/Xservers > /etc/dt/config/Xservers
chmod -R go-w /etc/dt/config
/etc/init.d/dtlogin reset

## <    :0 Local local_uid at console root /usr/openwin/bin/Xsun :0 -nobanner
## >    :0 Local local_uid at console root /usr/openwin/bin/Xsun :0 -nobanner -dev 
/dev/fb defclass TrueColor defdepth 24
########################################################################

You need to restart Xsun ("Options->Reset Login Screen" from the
dtlogin window or something) to take effect.

Your frame buffer needs to be 24-bit capable.  Most of the framebuffers
for the boxes you mentioned are, albeit sometimes with resolution and
refresh rate restrictions.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
What you are talking about is called "colormap flashing".

The problem is that the framebuffer (video card) you have is in 8-bit mode.
(Because it is an 8-bit framebuffer, or  a 24bit framebuffer in 8bit mode.)

http://bul.eecs.umich.edu/~crowej/sunfaq/ColormapFAQ.html
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Run /usr/openwin/bin/xdpyinfo to see what depths are supported and what
you are currently set to.  If its an older Sun, be aware that some
of the low-end video cards were only capable of 8-bit color.
Try the framebuffer FAQ at http://www.sunhelp.org/faq/FrameBuffer.html
for lots of info on finding out what you have and how to change it.
The original problem is below.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Original problem:
>During a CDE session, once a GUI application (such as Netscape, Acrobat Reader,
>SAS, or StarOffice) is active, subsequent GUI applications result in the colors
>of that application, as well as the colors of the CDE desktop, being
>distorted / changed.
>
>For weeks I blamed SAS 8.2 and focused my attention only on SAS.  (SAS 8.0
>does not produce the symptoms while SAS 8.2 does.)  Just recently I realized
>that it's the combination of other products that produce these symptoms.  Not
>only the products, but the sequence of startup is significant, for example:
>
>1. SAS			2. AcrobatReader	okay
>1. Netscape		2. AcrobatReader	symptoms
>1. Netscape		2. SAS			symptoms
>1. StarOffice		2. SAS			symptoms
>1. AcrobatReader	2. SAS			symptoms
>
>I enabled the CDE session log file.  No errors are logged here or in
>/var/adm/messages. The symptoms described are the only (very blatant) signs
>of this problem.
>
>I have ~20 computers (Sun Ultra 5's, Sun Blade 100's) that produce the same 
>symptoms, all running Solaris 8.  Also, I have a Solaris 7 system that
>produces these symptoms.



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