CDE under Debian Squeeze

Many administrators or IT enthusiasts still might know Common Desktop Environment (CDE) from old UNIX days. Introduced in 1993, it was Unix’s standard desktop for HP-UX, IBM AIX, Sun Solaris and Tru64 for more than 10 years. Even if Solaris dropped its CDE support 3 years ago, the old desktop is still used in HP-UX, AIX and OpenVMS.

A petition for publishing CDE’s source code was started in 2006. After 6 years, the desired source code was published in september 2012. Currently, there’s an alpha version which can be compiled under Linux.

Debian Squeeze is mentioned in the list of currently supported Linux distros – it’s time to have a look at it, isn’t it? 😉


If not installed yet, you’ll have to install HAL, DBUS and the X-server core components:

# apt-get install xserver-xorg-core xinit dbus hal xserver-xorg-input-kbd xserver-xorg-input-mouse xserver-xorg-input-vmmouse

CDE requires additional development tools and libraries – they have to be installed, too:

# apt-get install git libxp-dev libxt-dev libxmu-dev libxft-dev libxaw7-dev libx11-dev libjpeg-dev libjpeg62-dev libfreetype6-dev lesstif2 x11-xserver-utils ksh m4 ncompress xfonts-100dpi* rpcbind bison xbitmaps libmotif* x11-xserver-utils tcl-dev lprng


You can retrieve the source code using a GIT mirror or tar snapshot. Afterwards you’ll have to link the X-server header files before compiling CDE. After compiling some installation and configuration scripts have to be executed before creating a spool directory for the calendar application of CDE:

You can find additional information in the official build instructions: [click me!]

# w3m
# tar xfz cde-src-2.2.0c-alpha.tar.gz
# cd cdesktopenv-code/cde
# mkdir -p imports/x11/include
# cd imports/x11/include
# ln -s /usr/include/X11 .
# cd cdesktopenv-code/cde
# make World
# admin/IntegTools/dbTools/installCDE -s /path-to-cdesktopenv-code/cde/
# admin/IntegTools/post_install/linux/configRun -e
# chmod -R a+rwx /var/dt
# mkdir -p /usr/spool/calendar

Display manager

You can either use the Motif-based dtlogin display manager…

# export PATH=$PATH:/usr/dt/bin
# LANG=C /usr/dt/bin/dtlogin

…or configure another display manager like SLiM to start CDE:

# apt-get install slim
# vi /etc/slim.conf
#login_cmd           exec /bin/bash -login /etc/X11/Xsession %session
login_cmd        exec /bin/bash -login /usr/dt/bin/


# vi /usr/dt/bin/
export PATH=$PATH:/usr/dt/bin
export LANG=C


# service slim start


Attached some screenshots of the retro desktop:

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