Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 5th Nov 2010 19:15 UTC, submitted by Debjit
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu Finally. Finally the leader of a major distribution who has the guts to stand up and say what a lot of people have known for a long time, but didn't dare to say because it usually leads to a storm of criticism. Mark Shuttleworth has announced that Ubuntu will be moving away from X.org, opting to go with Wayland instead.
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Let me spoil the lynching: X is awesome
by porcel on Fri 5th Nov 2010 19:58 UTC
porcel
Member since:
2006-01-28

I was running Linux well before a Matrox G450 was a top of the line card and for the life of me, I cannot understand what the issues or problems people seem to have with Xorg.

It has always worked well for me on a variety of hardware, on a variety of software environments and network transparency is a killer feature. I was the project director on a set of schools labs where people donated old hardware that were turned into thin clients and we donated the servers.

Given enough RAM, it was possible to have fifty sessions running on a single P4 or Xeon server of the time. These computers/thin clients brought the internet to lots of low-income and hard working people who could not afford internet access or a computer.

For me the X architecture is a thing of beauty and its development pace has been just fine. All my hardware old and recent has worked rather well within six months of it being released, usually within weeks.

I am writing this just in case some hard working X developer reads these forums on the hope that they may understand that their hard work is appreciated and has changed the lives of millions of people.

Edited for typos

Edited 2010-11-05 20:07 UTC

Reply Score: 17

apoclypse Member since:
2007-02-17

Yes but you are not the use case Ubuntu is going for. What good would network transparency do on a desktop or a netbook? That's why all other major OSes avoid it and use a layer on top of their display server instead. Like I said X11 will still be there running on top of Wayland. Most of X runs in userspace anyway, it won't really make a difference either way, you should still be able to run it as you normally would if configured correctly. Very similar to how OSX uses it.

Wayland will jut be a more efficient display server, but it still leverages a lot of the stuff the x developer have done lately in trying to get X to a useable state for modern desktop use. The fact that Wayland's main focus is only as a display server and compositor should reduce complexity and should increase developer interest. Currently X is so big that for such an important part of the Linux desktop, it has a limited amount of resources and developers compared to other OSS projects.

I never understood why X tried to do everything within itself. Things like input, drivers, etc. should have been handled by the kernel to begin with, imo.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Rahul Member since:
2005-07-06

"I never understood why X tried to do everything within itself. Things like input, drivers, etc. should have been handled by the kernel to begin with, imo."

That is because of a lot of Unix history too long to summarize here but in brief: X was developed to share common infrastructure between proprietary Unix vendors and when Xfree86 was formed, they were in a completely different universe and had no input or access to the kernel teams of various Unix vendors which means have to do everything yourself. Xorg forked from xfree86 and has been doing the monumental work of modarizing and moving bits to other places where it makes sense and this includes the kernel.

Wayland, originally developed by Red Hat and now supported by Intel and others was a means of taking advantage of the modern architecture that X was moving into, bit by bit. This is in essence a complete rewrite of the graphics subsystem of Linux in a staged manner.

Reply Parent Score: 5

sonic2000gr Member since:
2007-05-20

I'd say porcel has a point: I myself have built and work on an XDMCP based school lab that runs on old PC turned into GUI terminals through X. The fact that X is able to offer me this excellent way of remotely running apps due to its network transparency *is* a killer feature. And yes, there are ways for other display systems to do this somehow, but not in the transparent way X does it.

There is also a hidden point here: I agree with you, if you need X for this reason you will need some other distro than ubuntu. But then ubuntu is (at least for the time being) the leader in desktop linux. If ubuntu moves away from X, it won't be long until other distros will do the same and X developers will probably cease development due to lack of interest. Then the rest of us will have no choice.

Reply Parent Score: 5

Delgarde Member since:
2008-08-19

Yes but you are not the use case Ubuntu is going for. What good would network transparency do on a desktop or a netbook?


Depends on what kind of environment you run that desktop in. On your home PC, it's probably not a lot of use. In a software development shop where logging into other people's machine with ssh is routine, it's absolutely invaluable.

I never understood why X tried to do everything within itself. Things like input, drivers, etc. should have been handled by the kernel to begin with, imo.


Ok, so which kernel are you talking about? Linux? But X11 predates the Linux kernel by about 4-5 years. Or if you mean the kernel in a more generic sense, then you either need all possible kernels to present the same driver interface (which isn't going to happen), or you need some code that's both OS-specific and X11-specific - e.g the evdev input driver on Linux.

Reply Parent Score: 2

sorpigal Member since:
2005-11-02

Yes but you are not the use case Ubuntu is going for. What good would network transparency do on a desktop or a netbook?

Why is it people still keep bringing up network transparency as the defining difference (and deficiency) between X and anything else?

If network transparency were the only good thing about X vs. Wayland or any other up and coming replacement then we'd all just be lobbying for network transparency to be added to the new system. The people who hate X, irrationally I might add, always harp on network transparency as the obvious cause of all of X's flaws and issues, implying as self-evident that any system without it is better. This is the only reason why network transparency is such a cornerstone of X-replacement 'debate': the people who do not understand or like X keep bringing it up!

The real value of X is that it was designed carefully by a number of smart people to be as neutral as possible and as extensible as possible. There are certain fundamental flaws to X's architecture, which the designers themselves freely admit, but these problems almost never come up amidst the barrage of "We hate network transparency" bullshit. Thus, supports of X are forced to defend network transparency which, while useful, does not illustrate why it is that any system that is not X will not be as good as X.

How can X have lasted as long as it has with its protocol unchanged? It's not because the protocol is the best or all future problems were forseen! It's because it was designed well and made extensible. Is Wayland extensible? If it is not then it is fundamentally worse than X. Take a program written against X11 20 years ago and run it today against the latest X.org server. It will work. It may not be very pretty, because the old program doesn't talk any of the extended features, but it will work. Can Wayland promise that the same will be true in another 20 years?

There are a lot of good reasons to replace X with a better X but not a lot of good reasons to replace X with a system that is poorly conceived, poorly designed and solves a small subset of the problem-set that X solves.

I'll close out by bringing network transparency in to the debate again by means of this observation: If your display system is sufficiently good it will give you network transparency for free, regardless of your fundamental architecture. How does Wayland implement or plan to implement network transparency? If it just can't then it's inferior. If no plan exists then it's inferior and its developers are insufficiently foresightful to be building a display system.

It's easy to solve some of the problems some of the time. To replace the incumbent you must solve all of the same problems at least as well, or state explicitly why it is that you won't or don't need to, or explain why not solving them as well is still better than sticking with the incumbent. Perhaps the Wayland developers can describe all of these things about their system and perhaps they can't; it doesn't matter here. What matters here is that if you can't so describe then you shouldn't be running around declaring Wayland as the presumptive usurper to X's crown.

Reply Parent Score: 3

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

"what good would network transparency do on a desktop or netbook"

I frequently open apps from different machines. I'm on the couch with my notebook but want my desktop's browser and plugins; done. Need to pop open a GUI app from the notebook while someone else is using it; done. Want to use a work issued notebook a s think client around the house; done (by liveCD and ssh -X).

Granted, it's not a universal need but it's darn handy to have available.

Reply Parent Score: 2