I missed this reply until Lisi bumped the thread.
These are my opinions, based of the pathetically little I know.

On Sun 11 Sep 2016 at 18:52:59 (-0400), Harry Putnam wrote:
> The Wanderer <wande...@fastmail.fm> writes:
> > On 2016-09-11 at 17:04, Harry Putnam wrote:
> >
> >> How can I arrange to boot to console mode rather than X.   With the
> >> ability to startx when I feel like it.
> >> 
> [...]
> > The way I usually do it is to uninstall gdm, kdm, xdm, et cetera; those
> > are the packages which hook in to provide a graphical login prompt. With
> > none of them present, what you get is the traditional text-mode login
> > prompt, and your configured shell after login.
> >
> [...]
> That sounds promissing.  

It ought to. It's the display managers that start X. If they're not
there, you've to start it yourself with startx.

> Used one of the methods below and quickly
> realized I was expecting a nice big framebuffered text console with a
> much higher resolution than the standard.

But you got ... what?

If you want to know whether you're looking at a nice big framebuffered
text console, install fbset and type
$ fbset
If you see something like:

mode "1280x800"
    geometry 1280 800 1280 800 32
    timings 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
    accel true
    rgba 8/16,8/8,8/0,0/0

then you are.

BTW What's the "standard" resolution of which you speak?

> (Previously my OS of choice
> was gentoo), But of course all that has to be setup.... as I recall it
> is done with a few extra bits on the kernel line grub.conf....
> Using grub2 I'm thoroughly lost what or where one would edit to allow
> a console frame buffer.

I've yet to install a Debian system where the kernel didn't boot into
a console (VC1) running at anything other than the native/maximum
resolution. Now, maybe I'm lucky. Maybe I've had good fortune with
graphics devices, screens and everything else. But I would recommend
investigating exactly what you've got on booting up before you start
fiddling. Oh, and if you see your huge screen with a blurry 80x25
console on it, don't mistake font size for resolution.

Use   dpkg-reconfigure console-setup   to set utf-8, Latin1, the font
and its size. With a framebuffer you get more choice of size.
Note: don't ever run dpkg-reconfigure console-setup if X is running,
whether or not you're using it (eg by typing Ctl-Alt-Fn). It won't
have the desired effect and it might have you troubleshooting
problems of your own making.

As for systemctl set-default, no idea, never used it wittingly.
As for runlevels, well, as Lisi said, Debian doesn't use them in
the way some distributions do, which can cause confusion.
1 is single-user, 2 is normal. Apologies if that simplicity has been
abandoned in stretch since I last checked.


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