This follows my previous question, where I installed Debian for the purpose of having a lightweight distro to run virtual machines on. I installed it with just the laptop and admin packages -- not anything graphical.

I've installed VirtualBox and xorg. I cloned a VM from another hard drive, and registered it successfully. When I try to start the device (still from the console) it complains about being unable to create frame buffers. Sorry I can't copy and paste the long error message, but it's not really feasible at this point.

I figure this is because I don't have any window manager of any kind. If possible I would like to keep it that way. I will have no reason to minimize, resize, reposition, or close VirtualBox. I just need the VM to take up my entire screen as if the screen was a window.

What are the minimum requirements to run graphical applications on Linux?

  • What software do I need to install?

  • What command would I need to run to get my desired result?

All answers and links will be appreciated!


I wasn't very clear about my something earlier. I'm trying to run it via VBoxSDL. I think it'll lower the requirements. From that page it says...

VBoxSDL does indeed only provide a simple window that contains only the “pure” virtual machine, without menus or other controls to click upon and no additional indicators of virtual machine activity

2 Answers 2


As a premise, I want to remember that the host machine is the real machine on which runs VirtualBox, while the guest machine is the virtual machine that runs inside VirtualBox (I see some confusion on this point in the question and in some comment).

You need an X11 server (e.g. X.org X11 implementation) on your host machine to run VirtualBox application. VirtualBox opens an X11 client windows on the host to display the console of the guest.

On your guest machine (i.e. inside your virtual box), an X11 server could be needed if you have to run a graphical application on the guest console.

You can avoid to run an X11 server on the host machine using VBoxHeadless command but, in any case, you need to install X11 libraries on the host. If you use VBoxHeadless, the guest will run as you have no monitor connected to, so you'll can not see the guest console.

Using VBoxManage you can modify your virtual box configuration to activate remote display, this way you'll can display the guest console on a remote machine (running an X11 server) using rdesktop application.

You can find the procedure to create a guest that you can control by a remote machine on an headless host in Chapter 7 of VirtualBox manual.

Note that you need to install the VirtualBox Extension Pack to use VRDP.

  • Thank you! I was just putting the pieces together when I saw your answer. It turns out that all I needed to do was run startx and then the commands that were failing. I have my virtual machine up and running right now. All the other information (especially rdesktop) I'll need to look at in some more depth.
    – Brigand
    Commented Dec 26, 2011 at 21:04

You problem here is that "graphical applications" does not have a single, clear meaning on unix boxen.

  • Probably it means a program that requires X, so you'll have to install X11.
  • Only, it might mean a program that uses SVGAlib and runs from the text console. Or it could use aalib and run in any terminal.
  • If it runs in X it probably needs one of more of qt, gnome, kde, xfce, fltk, mosaic, ... all of which are (at least) widgit libraries (some of these are much more than that). You'll need every one of these that your programs require. (Some programs can work with more than one.)
  • Some may require SDL or some other compatibility layer. If so, you'll need those too...

Taking care of all these dependencies is a big part of what package-managers do and a big part of the add value that distributions bring.

In debian you would just ask aptitude to install the program you want and it will find all the necessary dependencies. Or you could use apt directly, and it will tell you what dependencies are not satisfied and you can install them first.

  • The application is Virtual Box. It requires SDL, which I have installed. It can work with just SDL, which is the version I am trying to use. I installed xorg, is X11 a different package?
    – Brigand
    Commented Dec 26, 2011 at 17:56
  • X.org is the most common X11 implementation these days. To the point that you rarely hear of any others. Commented Dec 26, 2011 at 17:58
  • I installed VirtualBox with apt-get. So that probably means I have everything I need installed... but not necessarily running, right? What needs to be running?
    – Brigand
    Commented Dec 26, 2011 at 18:02

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