is it possible to start the x server on a virtual console that is running getty already? i like the responsiveness of getty - scrolling through the man pages or scrolling in vi is much quicker than xterm (gnome terminal). but i also like being able to alt+tab between web browser and xterm. it would be great if i could alt+tab between getty and my chromium web browser. i'm running debian wheezy with gnome.

p.s. i know i could switch between x on tty7 and getty on tty6 say, but if i do it this way then i cannot use alt+tab.

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    Xterm and Gnome terminal aren't the same thing. Scrolling in xterm can be perceptibly faster than in Gnome terminal even on recent hardware, if you use a bitmap font in xterm. Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 22:34
  • hmm...i have asked the question feel free to respond Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 3:52
  • Instead of alt-tab to switch between programs, you could enable more workspaces (I have 10) and switch between them. And instead of switching to the console, you could try putty to localhost and check if the speed is acceptable.
    – ott--
    Commented Oct 5, 2013 at 20:55

1 Answer 1



Once you start X, the VT stops being handled as a "text device" and becomes a "graphical" one. In the olden days the distinction was clear: either the VT was relying on BIOS (at least to some extent), knew just a few text modes and was blazingly fast, or it was switched to a graphical mode, had more colours and/or larger resolution and was slower. These days the difference is not that clear (at least on Linux, can't tell about other UNIX variants), since the textual VT actually uses graphical mode, with the "translation" being done in the kernel. Nevertheless, you either let a text-based application open the VT or you leave it to X (or any other graphical front end like for example an implementation of the Wayland protocol).

As for the speed issues, choose your terminal right. Gnome terminal is likely to be slower than xterm, which itself is way slower than for example urxvt, unless you coerce it to use the same dirty tricks urxvt does, by setting the appropriate X resource:

XTerm*fastScroll: true

You very likely want to read Can a terminal emulator be as fast as TTY 1-6?, set up your terminal properly and use the graphical mode.

As a side note, some time ago (around 2007), I had problem with the nVidia framebuffer kernel driver, which was really slow on large resolutions like 1600x1200 - reading man pages in XTerm was much faster.

  • I used to use mrxvt until about a year ago because it was many times faster than any of the libvte based terminals (gnome-terminal, roxterm, etc). I gave it up because of lack of unicode support and switched to roxterm (IMO, the least bad of the libvte terms).
    – cas
    Commented Oct 5, 2013 at 5:01

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