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every line in a linux .vnc xstartup explained

I have been struggling for a few days getting a vnc server to work in my new Debian server with xfce desktop. Doing google searches returns a wealth of “try this and see if it sticks to the wall” type approach.  Well, not satisfied with that I am attempting to explain here every line in a common /home/username/.vnc/xstartup file, so when you go for troubleshooting you can fix things yourself more intelligently. Feel free to comment if you can add more to this thread.

Common xstartup file lines and their meaning:


First line of any executable script. The file needs execute permissions to run (obviously). That’s “chmod 755 xstartup” if you have issues there.  Don’t let the leading # comment tag fool you, as this is not really a comment, this is necessary to invoke the /bin/sh shell to run the rest of the lines of the script.  This is explained in wikipedia under “shebang (unix)”

# Uncomment the following two lines for normal desktop:
exec /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc



This is where you start your window manager. I am using xfce4. You can also use gnome, kde, cinnamon, etc. 



[ -x /etc/vnc/xstartup ] && exec /etc/vnc/xstartup

The [ -x /something ] construct means “if /something file eXists then”.   && is the logical and operator (if 1 and if 2). The way it is implemented here is an if then.  Basically this is saying if the /etc/vnc/xstartup file exists then execute it. Otherwise continue on. The /etc/vnc/xstartup file is a system wide kind of file, where the user based xstartup is specific to that user.

[ -r $HOME/.Xresources ] && xrdb $HOME/.Xresources

Same as above.  FWIW, I don’t have an /etc/vnc/ directory or a $HOME/.Xresources file, so I could remove / comment these.

xrdb sets the contents of the RESOURCE_MANAGER property on the root window of screen 0. This is where apps get user preferences on color and fonts.

xsetroot -solid grey

Tailors the background of the window, if the widow manager (xfce4) goes away. So, not that important because a vncserver without a xfce4 (or similar) desktop — what’s the point?

vncconfig -iconic &

A helper application for vnc. The option forces it to be iconized

xterm -geometry 80x24+10+10 -ls -title "$VNCDESKTOP Desktop" &

This one is odd. You would think the -geometry refers to the geometry of the vnc session, but it does not. This is saying start a console (xterm, or x-terminal-emulator, all programs found in /usr/bin) that is 80 columns wide, 24 columns tall and spaced 10 pixels (both the x and y axis) from the top left corner of the screen.   What’s odd? This terminal is behind the vnc x session, so you only see it when you log out of your vnc desktop. Because you don’t go back to a login window manager, only then you see this command prompt.   Really, you don’t need this line.

You will set the geometry of the screen elsewhere, in your user profile at computer startup time in the file

- or -


twm &

or could be x-windows-manager &. This says start the window manager and is the last line in the file.

Neville’s primary vote – 2016

Filed under: Who I am voting for in the Republican primary and why.

Usually Oklahoma’s vote does not matter.  By the time primaries in Oklahoma roll around the candidate is fairly well established. This time around I would have liked to vote for Jeb Bush — I heard him speak once on public education in Florida and he was spot on. However, as usual, my guy is out before the primaries roll into my state.

So what to do?  Well, I am left with 4 choices: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich.  It’s time for me to make my mind and cast my vote.

The first question I have to answer in my own mind is am I looking for a leader or a person who shares the same policy views I do. Think about it — say your political philosophy was socially moderate, fiscally conservative, you wanted this kind of tax code, that kind of education system, and Pee-Wee Herman exactly shares every one of your beliefs.  Does that mean you should back Pee-Wee? For me the answer is no.  I am looking for someone that I think is a good leader in addition to sharing common values.  I bring this up because I am using that criteria to not vote for Donald Trump.  I have heard Donald speak a couple times and he is enjoyable to listen to. As he says, he knows how to “talk”. He is a Washington outsider, he can communicate.  I’ll drop the similarities to Ronald Reagan there. I think Reagan had a wildly optimistic view of America, where Trump has a wildly optimistic view of himself.

From a policy standpoint I am not that much out of line with Trump.  First of all you know where he stands,  For instance how does Trump feel about illegal immigrants from Mexico?  I have a feeling you know that one. When he spoke in OKC at the state fair his backdrop was a 40′ wall and he looked at it and said the Mexico wall was going to be waaaaaaay taller than that.    Personally I think illegal immigration from Mexico is nothing to fear.  People will always want a better life for their families and it shows how much we have to offer here in America that people would risk what they do to come here. Personally I fear when illegal immigration from Mexico is not a problem, because that means that Mexicans are voting with their feet — opportunity and life is better there than here.

But I digress.  I know where Trump stands on Mexico. I know where he stands on immigration for Islamic people. I know where he stands on corporate tax inversions.   I can’t really say I know where Marco Rubio or Kasich stand on anything. Most of their message is about how they can win in November, not anything about who they are or what they believe in.

So what are my policy care abouts? And who represents them the best?

1. Limited government. More than anything else, I feel Reagan’s words “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem” are truth.   Our government – federal, state and local is too big and represents a huge waste of our resources and potential.  The word “politics” comes from the Greek “poli” – meaning “many” and “tics” meaning “blood-sucking insect”.  So there you have it. Politics and politicians are just a bunch of blood-sucking insects that that try to do more and more programs that just result in nothing. I strongly believe free-market capitalism is the best road to prosperity and everything about government is the antithesis of free-market capitalism.  Government programs are all about chosing winners and dictating what those blood sucking insects think is correct.  Put people in control – let us decide what goods and services we want. Don’t force programs on us.  Being fiscally conservative and limited government go hand in hand.  The best way to reign in those blood sucking insects is to cut off their ability to tax and spend. The current federal budget is $3.5 trillion.  Divided by this countries 300 million population that’s roughly $11,000 perperson.  So that means for my family of 6, I am funding the feds to the tune of $66,000 per year.  And that’s just the federal part of the pie. What do we get for that $66,000? I have no idea.   I am driving on the same interstates that were built 5 decades ago. Our military? The wars in Iraq is over. In case you have not noticed, Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are dead. So what is our money going to?  Social Security (for someone else), Medicare (for someone else) and military boondoggles (for someone else).   This system is terrible and is ripe for a collapse.  The federal budget should be half of what it is now.  Social security should function to keep seniors (and I do mean seniors- those 70+) outside of poverty. Medicare should negotiate prices on prescription drugs.  Basically you should have to add value to society in order to benefit from society — not just the “me” generation and “what’s coming to me” attitude of people these days.

So what do the candidates have to say on cutting back the size of the government?  The following data I get from the candidates own web sites:

Trump – C –  Tax code goes to 4 brackets, For a family with a $150,000 income that would correspond to a tax burden of $25,000. It’s right now about $29,000.

Cruz – A –  Tax code goes to 1 bracket – 10%.  Same family with $150k income? Tax burden of $15,000.  He does not mention it on his site, but others sites report that he wants to institute a VAT to make up the difference. Most people tend to disagree with that but I wholeheartedly agree– if income tax goes away.  In fact I say repeal the 16th amendment and replace it with a VAT.  Our incomes should not be taxed.  That is just a dis-incentive to work and a reason for this place to become a welfare state.  Today’s attitude is to let somebody else provide value and let someone else pay for my stuff because I just want to consume.  Instead, tax consumption.  You effectively means test people to pay taxes — if they can afford a Louis Vuitton bag let them pay taxes on it — regardless if they are a multi-millionaire or on welfare. If they can afford to consume they can afford to pay tax.

Rubio –  B – Tax code to 3 brackets, same $150k income family pays $22,500

Kasich – D.  His website talks about cutting taxes, but I see no specifics.  The only specific he has is cutting the top rate to 28%.  I can’t use the info on to ballpark middle-class families tax burden.


OK, so that’s the #1 issue for me. How about the other issues I care about?

Tax on overseas profits.   This is a serious issue.  John Chambers, to his credit, talked about this at least 7 years ago, long before it was such a national topic. Companies have trillions of dollars overseas. Take Apple for example. They manufacture an iPhone is China and sell it to a person in China.  China rightly wants to tax Apple’s consumption and production over there.  However, what if Apple wants to take that profit and use it to fund more research and development or build a factory here in the US?  They can’t because the feds want another 40% tax in addition to what the Chinese have already taken.  The result of this policy?  Apple will leave the money in China and use it to build new factories in China. The net result of this high repatriation tax is that companies that want to be patriotic can’t be.  They are forced to invest more overseas. Just plain stupid.  And the politicians just don’t get it.  They think these companies are being anti-american — No! They want to be American, the tics don’t allow it. They assume people will just bring money home.  In the global society they have to compete for dollars, not assume them.  Let’s use an example.  Say you manufacture widgets. You have built a healthy business in the US manufacturing them, you make and sell $1M of widgets every year with a cost to you of $900k to produce them.   You pay your taxes on that profit of $100k, say the business is left with an annual after-tax profit of $80k each year.  Fine.  Now let’s say you expand your widget into Canada and it takes off over there.  You now sell $3M of widgets in Canada and log a Canadian profit of $300K. After total taxes (Canada and US) you are left with $80k in profit in your US bank and $240k of profit in your Canada bank.  You would like to use all $320k to invest back into the business and expand your widget factory. Whoops! The US wants to change you $120k in tax to bring home that $240k. So in other words from a US perspective you only have $200k to invest in your business.  What are you going to do? You will instead keep that money in Canada and build your widget factory in Canada. It’s a no brainier.  And then, after you build it in Canada if the US tics want to figure out some other way to tax you, you will just sell the business to a Canadian entity.

Trump gets it and posts on “A one-time deemed repatriation of corporate cash held overseas at a significantly discounted 10% tax rate, followed by an end to the deferral of taxes on corporate income earned abroad.”   Bravo. That is the exact right policy.

Cruz, Rubio and Kasich get it, I think. However. that comes from 3rd party report of what they think. Nowhere on do I see repatriation addressed. 3rd party sites quote them as in favor of a one time repatriation window at 10%.  No mention though going forward if they are for eliminating the double tax altogether though.

Interestingly Bernie Sanders takes an alternative approach that might make some sense.  Tax foreign income immediately, don’t wait for it to be repatriated.  Then, there is no barrier to bringing the cash home.   Of course his idea of tax rates are much higher– that is no good, but an instant tax of say 4% as opposed to 40% could work.

 Other issues? Obamacare. In hindsight Ted Cruz was 100% right to filibuster against Obamacare. At the time I saw it as a “me too” piggybacking off Rand Pauls CIA directed political assassinations (which I believe was truly heroic). But we all saw the Feds could not run a simple web site. Typical. Give a group of 5 programmers a $50k budget and 12 weeks and we can build Uber. Give the Feds 10k people and $500million dollars and you get… broken websites. The fix for healthcare in this country revolves around patient choice (meaning patients pay for their own care, or at least have skin in the game financially). Until that happens in both healthcare (and education) we will never live up to our potential. 
More other issues? There really is no bigger issue for me than reducing the size of government in our lives. So, to that end I’m voting for Ted Cruz.  I like what he says about winding down the dept of energy, education, and all those other useless federal departments.  I like the idea of a simple, smaller tax, elimination of corporate payroll tax.  I do believe he is for small government.


So, I’m voting for Ted Cruz.













He wants several


The idea


Chi Phi Mu Delta reunion weekend – Sept 18-20, 2015

Had a great time this weekend with my Chi Phi brothers in Auburn!

It’s been a while since I’ve put in a good blog post so here goes with the top twelve things I learned this weekend at the Chi Phi Mu Delta reunion in Auburn, Alabama  (ten wasn’t enough)


12. Everyone’s changed / no-one’s changed: Sure twenty years will put on a little heft on the waistline and take a little hair off the top, that’s to be expected. However the six inches between everyone’s ears remains the same as I remembered it from college. In fact, any change has been for the better – happy to see so many successful and giving back brothers.  The laughs are still the same, the storytellers are the same. The guys that were driven then are driven now. Glad to see everyone doing well.




11. Auburn’s football team stinks this year, that’s going to be written about extensively elsewhere for the next three months, so we’ll just leave it at that here. I’m thinking it’s a conspiracy between the football team and agriculture school to go 3-9 this year so the trees do not get rolled this year. More on that on #3.

10. Brian Pierce is an awesome cook! Friday afternoon he brought up some shrimp, sausage, something resembling a lime-green artichoke heart (didn’t want to ask what critter that was), potatoes and corn on the cob chunks. Did a low country boil in the front lawn with a propane heater and a 5 gallon stainless pot- finished it up with saltines, Stapleton family foods Jezebel sauce (unfortunately only available in Baldwin county) and paper napkins (who needs plates?) Wow was that excellent!

Low-Country Boil. Around the Southern Table Cookbook by Rebecca Lang


9. The Auburn campus is stunning beautiful. This weekend was only the 2nd time I have been back in 22 years and I had forgotten how beautiful it can get on the campus. This shot from Toomer’s looking back to Samford hall was such an incredible feeling – perfect weather, no wind, no bugs – just a lovely, quiet village on the plains of east Alabama. Words can’t do it justice. Back at the house you could see the moon and the stars so clearly and brightly – just a beautiful fall evening.  If you have the opportunity you’d have to be nuts to go anywhere else.


8. The Chi Phi chapter will be strong again. I genuinely appreciate how the current Alpha and the current members embraced us old farts. We were made to feel welcome, addressed as “sir”, given handshakes and called out by name. I know we made a mess while we were there, and others did work setting up and cleaning up after us and I appreciate their work as well. The chapter apparently ran into a rough patch a couple years ago but what’s in the past is in the past. What matters in life, where you gain your character, is not what happens to you but how you respond to it. These men you can tell have good character and will go far in life.

7. The golf courses are better in the southeast. Out west we have our trees but they are few and far between so you have a few trees framing each hole. Back in Alabama the forrest is thick and thick trees and pine straw frame up each fairway. And the golden eagles hovering overhead did not hurt either. Unfortunately those were the only eagles on the course – in fact somehow our group achieved a new low in best-ball golf – we actually scored a double-bogey 6 on the par 4 last hole. With 4 golfers and mulligans how in the heck is it possible for us to stink that bad?  We should have quit scoring after hole 1 with our birdie.

File Sep 20, 11 10 42 AM


6. College is nuts expensive. Yes, I’m bracing for that big bill in a couple years, but its not just tuition and room/board. The books are crazy expensive too – I joyrneyed to the back of J&M (yes, they still keep class textbooks back there) – look at the price for a EE book!  I remember I paid something like $60 for each class textbook and sold them back (the ones that sucked) at the end of each quarter for $15, now a new textbook averages $250.  And that’s just one class. Yikes!

File Sep 20, 11 13 12 AM


5. Big shout out to all the alumni that organized and came to the event. Especially Bryan Schreiber who gave his time, set up golf, picked up Jon and myself from the airport and provided the Chi Phi Uber service.


4. Memo to The hotel at Auburn University—people coming here care about football. As crazy as it sounds, apparently the management there has not yet figured this out. Check out the picture below—we decided to watch the Ole Miss – Bama game as a group in the hotel bar. The hotel bar only has two smallish (~20”) TVs in the bar, and they are far away from the seating. Resembled watching TV on your watchman in the 1980s – size of a postage stamp.  We moved into the banquet room where there was a larger TV – however check out the live mellow Jazz band on the right of the pic—You would normally watch Ole Miss-Bama to the sound of Eli Gold’s incoherent droning (Golden Flake chips, anyone) – no, we got to watch the game to the… soft mellow cover of moon river playing in the background.  I can’t make this up.

File Sep 20, 11 13 55 AM


3. Toomer’s corner itself is different. By now it’s legend that several Chi Phi’s were responsible for the 20’ tiger paw smack dab in the middle of Toomers.  This year they decided to make that paw permanent with brick pavers. While I applaud the intent to make that a permanent fixture of what Auburn is, the execution is off a little bit. The paw prints lead into town not away from it and the print itself is rotated 180 degrees from where it should be. Mostly though it’s the color. The new pavers are a tan-yellowish color. Everyone knows that tiger paw prints are supposed to be orange. I guess there is some safety aspect to painting orange in a large intersection (only reason I can think they did not use orange pavers), but damn — this is Auburn and orange is the only color that seems right to me.    Sounds like we need another 5 gallons of paint and a 4am window part 2.  Bryan, you think we can still play they “young kid, good old student fun” card?


The Toomer’s oaks also have changed the landscape. What a damn idiot Harvey Updike is. Oh well. The new oaks, while I guess they are as big as a transplanted tree can be, just look small. Also, they planted them further away from the intersection, so the net effect is the branches don’t come out into the intersection as much as they used to.    It won’t look the same with toilet paper rolled all over it.File Sep 20, 11 13 25 AM

The lemonade was great. On my last trip to Auburn for some reason the lemonade was meh.  This weekend it stood out as excellent, enough so for a 2nd cup Saturday morning.


2. In life it takes all kinds. I’ll admit a part of the reason I came back is I wanted to see how people’s lives have played out. Among our brothers we have some doctors, judges, board members, life failures and everything in-between. Some divorced, some never married, some with kids of their own in college now. It’s refreshing to hear all the stories and realize that we share something in all life throws at us. It is fun to be part of the journey.


1. Auburn girls are dumb. Sorry, but this one of my favorites. Its coined by my wife in who is referring to the fact the Auburn girls let me go and I got scooped up by in Oklahoma. When it comes to how life played out, I am blessed – my life has played out fantastic with my wonderful wife and our four kids. Amazing that Neville, the goofy, nerdy one in the frat house ended up being married the longest (20 years plus now).. I love you Shelli – you’re gorgeous and the best—time to go home to Oklahoma now!


Update: Journey to #1 IT company in the world

With GSX 2015 upon us it is a great time to reflect at last year’s challenge and how we are faring on the journey to #1 IT company in the world.

To recap, at GSX14 John Chambers charged us with the goal of being the #1 IT company in the world.  By my calculations we were #4 in the world last year.   Here is my post from last year in case you missed it

So one year later?   While we are still #4 I’m happy to say that we have moved much closer to #3&#2.  Market caps today of ORCL, IBM and CSCO are $160B, $145B and $130 respectively.  So we only have $15B to go for #3 and $30B to go for the #2 spot. That’s down from last years $60B gap to those two.

So, give us one more year and we are at #2.  Call MSFT a consumer company and were #1!




President Truman Library in Independence, Mo

What should you do when in Kansas City?  The answer is drive out to the Harry S Truman library in Independence, Missouri.



This is the 4th presidential library I have visited and I have to say I am absolutely hooked.  Each one is excellent and needs to be seen by anyone who is a fan of this great country.  Fortunately for someone living in Oklahoma there are several within a long drive of me, including the Bush 41, Bush 43, Eisenhower, Truman, Hoover and Clinton libraries.

We all know Truman dropped the bomb and that’s what comes to mind first for many of us, however I learned quite a few things yesterday.  Your top ten list for tonight is titled “Things I learned about Harry S. Truman”:

1. Truman was a puppet.  He was just a farm boy from rural Missouri and when he decided to go into politics he curried the favor of the Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast, who thought it was convenient to install Truman as his puppet in the Senate and then later as VP.  Nothing is more telling of Truman’s puppet upbringing than his acceptance of the Democratic party’s VP nomination.   You literally see him stand up and wave to the crowd.  When the dem. party leader does not think he is making a good 1st impression he literally grabs Trumans right arm and holds it up high and forces Truman to wave to the crowd.  This would be equivalent to Hillary Clinton when she gets the dem. nomination next year, one Debbie Schultz (chair of the national committee) would push Bill and the rest of Hillary’s family off the stage and grab Hillary and force her to raise he arms above her head. Can you possibly imagine that?

2. Truman was Vice President for a scant 12 weeks. The major decisions he did (drop the bomb, Hitler’s death) were within were within the 1st 16 weeks of his presidency. That’s a heck of a burden to put on someone — from one of 100 senators to president to emphatically end WWII, all within 5 months .  Tough.  The library tells the story of the conversation between FDR’s wife and Truman on the day he became president:

(Elanor Roosevelt) “My husband is dead”

(Truman) “I’m so sorry, is there anything I can do for you”

(Elanor) “Wrong question, is there anything I can do for you”

Some other person (Henry Wallace) was vice-president for FDRs 3rd term, but he must have pissed someone off (excuse the French) and Truman was at the right place / right time.




3.  The world was a crazy, crazy place prior to my birth. Evidenced by this footnote in the paper:


Also look at the note just above the Goering headline. With today’s incredible communication platforms it is hard to imagine how bad they were just a couple generations ago.  That’s the same way people got other to stop firing arrows in 1000 AD.


4.  TVs and fridges are better today than they were 70 years ago. OK, OK, I didn’t learn that yesterday, but I think it is good to reflect on what the living room looked like for our grandparents:

truman_library_05 truman_library_06



5.  Truman had one hell of a to-do list.    He wrote the following to-do list a few months after dropping 2 bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing ~200,000+ people.  I’d take him pretty seriously.  Apparently one morning after the war was over and he was trying to stave of inflation at home he decided he was not happy at some union bosses. Here is his to-do list, as best I can read it:

-Call in Phil Murray, William Green, Carpenter Hutchison, Daa Tolin (Teamsters Union), RJ Thomas (Longshoremen) and Sidney Hillian (SOB of Musicians). Tell them that patience is exhausted.

-Declare an emergency – call out troops

-Start industry and put anyone to work who wants to go to work.

-If any leader interferes court-martial him

-Lein (?) ought to have been shot in 1942, but Franklin didn’t have the guts to do it.

-Pass Ball-Burton (?) Bill

-Adjourn Congress and run the country

-Get plenty of atomic bombs on hand–  drop one on Stalin

-Put the U.N. to work

-Eventually set up a free world


Yeah.   My to do list includes doing my expense report, entering activity into and set up a lunch appointment. I think his list was more substantial.




6.  Europe was truly starving in the late 1940s:



7.   Today’s red states were yesterday’s blue states. Today’s blue states were yesterday’s red states.  Take a look at the electoral college map from Truman’s re-election in 1948.  Note the colors are reversed to what we are used to now — in the picture red represents democratic and blue represents republican.


If you take out the green for the 3rd party candidate and paint those all red it is so similar to today’s political map– except most state are now for the opposite party.    I don’t know what’s harder for me to believe — New York and Vermont going republican or Texas going solidly Democratic?


8.  Dewey defeats Truman.  We all know the picture and the headline, but look at this from an original copy of the paper.  The printing is upside down?  I guess they were in a hurry to go to press?  Is this what news looked like back then?  How could you trust it?



9. Truman’s atomic weapon was no so bad.  I know that sounds nuts to say, but he was briefed that the singe A-bomb would be about equivalent to 2,000 B29s firebombing the city.  Considering a few weeks before Hiroshima, an air raid went over Tokyo with 500 B29s dumping on the city and you see he just approved a raid only 4x greater than he did the week before.   What we have today with nuclear weapons makes Hiroshima/Nagasaki look like nothing.



10.  This purple heart and accompanying note got to me.


the text says:

“Mr. Truman:  As you have been directly responsible for the loss of our son’s life in Korea, you might just as well keep this emblem on display in your trophy room, as a memory of one of your historic deeds.

Our major regret at this time is that your daughter was not there to receive the same treatment as our son received in Korea.

Signed, William Banning, Nursery Rd, New Canaan, Connecticut”





Unfortunately for me, I ran out of time at this point.   I can’t wait to go back and get to all these libraries one day soon.



A good quote from Walter Isaacson

I think it’s wacky and outdated that we teach school math as a process leading up to calculus. That’s a relic of the Sputnik era, when were were all going to calculate rocket trajectories. Instead, starting in fourth grade, I think we should be teaching mathematical logic, proofs, and algorithms. We should also emphasize statistics and probabilities. Every kid should be able to do Boolean algebra and formal logic, rather than getting mired in just traditional algebra. We should also teach programming languages, especially C++, but we need to make sure that kids are also comfortable with the theory and concepts of algorithms, which underpins all programming language. Also, like Ada Lovelace, we should learn that math is a beautiful thing to be visualized, and not just formulas to be memorized. When we see an equation or algorithm or logical sequence, we should visualize it just as we do a line of her dad’s poetry, such as “she walks in beauty like the night.”