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Wayland, a New X Server For Linux 487

An anonymous reader writes "Phoronix has a new article out on Wayland: A New X Server For Linux. One of Red Hat's engineers has started writing a new X11 server around today's needs and to eliminate the cruft that has been in this critical piece of free software for more than a decade. This new server is called Wayland and it is designed with newer hardware features like kernel mode-setting and a kernel memory manager for graphics. Wayland is also dramatically simpler to target for in development. A compositing manager is embedded into the Wayland server and ensures 'every frame is perfect' according to the project's leader."
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Wayland, a New X Server For Linux

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  • Does this... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 03, 2008 @05:50PM (#25619203) Homepage Journal

    ...spell the death-knell of X-based graphics drivers? Does this mean that such drivers will finally be folded into pure kernel modules with no fancy wrappers required? Does that also mean that we can eliminate X as a dependency for playing video games, and using Linux in multimedia or kiosk environments?

    • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @05:51PM (#25619219)
      ...year of Linux at last?
    • Re:Does this... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KasperMeerts ( 1305097 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @05:52PM (#25619249)
      Now only to convince nVidia to release their drivers for this new X. As long as these things don't happen, this probably won't take off.
      Man, we really need OSS drivers.
      • Re:Does this... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by F-3582 ( 996772 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:09PM (#25619425)
        They'll probably do the same thing they did with X.Org: Circumvent the entire thing [blogspot.com].
        • Re:Does this... (Score:5, Informative)

          by MostAwesomeDude ( 980382 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @07:07PM (#25620081) Homepage

          I don't understand why you were modded down, when you are technically correct: nVidia's driver stack simply doesn't use most of X.org's API/ABI. There are actually bits and pieces of X that we'd like to deprecate, but we can't because the nVidia blobs need them in order to do their thing.

          • Fuck NVidia. Let them fix their binary blob when it breaks. There's a reason it's open source... so people can have the freedom to do the right thing, rather than half-ass backwards compatibility (I'm look at you, win32, and WoW-64 [wikipedia.org]).

          • Re:Does this... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by __aardcx5948 ( 913248 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @02:56AM (#25623371)
            Then why not force NVIDIA to evolve with Open Source by deprecating the pieces that you/we want to get rid of. I guess ATI would adapt more quickly if not right away, because of their openness. The same with VIA and Intel. NVIDIA would start seeing people buying ATI cards instead for their Linux boxes. (this might've started already though, with the 8000 series and above 2D fiasco)
      • by enos ( 627034 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @08:11PM (#25620649)

        We went through the same thing when switching to X.org from XFree86. When will nVidia support it? When will ATi support it? When will my driver be ported?

        Why is X dealing directly with the drivers anyway? Why isn't there a thin graphics layer in Linux, like a framebuffer that supports acceleration? Write X to that. Then you can switch your X or use whatever GUI you want and you hardware still works. Freedom to choose, right? The mantra of Open Source?

        I remember a bunch of very promising GUIs coming up in the early 2000s that really struggled without enough drivers. "The source is open, just port the thousands of drivers!" yeah sure.

        • by Goaway ( 82658 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @08:54PM (#25621021) Homepage

          Why isn't there a thin graphics layer in Linux, like a framebuffer that supports acceleration?

          This is not the reason why it's not done in Linux, but modern graphics cards accelerate some pretty high-level functionality, so your "thin graphics layer" would not stay very thin for long.

        • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2008 @02:33AM (#25623289) Homepage Journal

          ``Why is X dealing directly with the drivers anyway? Why isn't there a thin graphics layer in Linux''

          Don't forget that Linux is not the only game in town. X.org suppors Linux, but it also supports FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, UnixWare, LynxOS and HURD. I think there are actually more, but those are the ones listed in the manpage.

          If we do as you propose and make the operating system kernel supply the drivers, drivers would have to be written for all those 7 kernels, instead of just once for X.org. What we have now is exactly how I like things to be: a common driver API across operating systems, so that drivers need be written only once.

    • by Snowblindeye ( 1085701 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:42PM (#25619809)
      According to Article (I know, I know: I read it... I'm not from around here) this seems to be very early in its development. So don't rm your X server yet.

      Though before you think this will replace the current X.Org Server, Kristian explains "at this point wayland is just a prototype/playground for some ideas I've been toying with."

  • by number6x ( 626555 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @05:52PM (#25619245)

    While I'm a firm believer in "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", I think it is good to see Red Hat developers (or any developers) looking to future needs and being allowed to devote development time towards those needs.

    Xorg isn't broken for most users right now, but planning and creating alternatives is a good idea.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm pretty sure Xorg has (or had) the same goals as this Wayland project. Xorg was meant to add all the modern features not in XFree. In fact, the synopsis of Wayland reads just like the synopsis of Xorg. What the hell are they doing?

      The big question is: Will vendors port to it? (nVidia, ATI, Intel, etc)... and by that I mainly mean nVidia.

    • by Tetsujin ( 103070 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:14PM (#25619471) Homepage Journal

      Xorg isn't broken for most users right now, but planning and creating alternatives is a good idea.

      In a sense I think it really is... Admittedly, not necessarily in a way that everybody would notice, as you said - but still...

      What X is good at, basically, is putting simple UIs over a network. For instance, I can run XEmacs remotely over the internet, and performance is decent.

      Presently, this feature of X is being under-utilized. We're using a network-transparent protocol for the display server, but most people aren't running apps from remote hosts, and applications aren't being written with this in mind.

      Basically, for all the overhead associated with something like X to be worthwhile then one of a few possible conditions must be satisfied. Either applications must be designed such that they work efficiently over the network with the present limitations in the display protocol, or the display protocol must be enhanced or altered such that today's applications can run reasonably well over a network link.

      Running X apps over an internet link versus a LAN is an extreme case, admittedly - but nevertheless, an old Athena app can do it, while the simplest of GTK or QT apps can have a real problem with it...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fat_mike ( 71855 )

        Hell, I run MythTV over the Internet. By that I mean I run mythfrontend on the server via X11 to my non-Linux work computer.

        Works pretty well.

    • by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:38PM (#25619747)

      While I'm a firm believer in "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

      We're talking about X. You seem to have wandered onto some other topic. ;)

  • by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @05:53PM (#25619255) Homepage

    For including Wayland in Ubuntu:
    http://brainstorm.ubuntu.com/idea/15205/ [ubuntu.com]

  • HELL yes. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:05PM (#25619375)

    eliminate the cruft


    X has been a case study in How Not to Write Software for twenty years now. Once upon a time, it was a pretty cool experimental software project. But for twenty years now, there have been exactly two kinds of X development:

    A) Throw a layer on top of it to make it useable for normal people

    B) Throw another driver underneath it to make it just barely work on your particular hardware.

    Project A is fine until someone has to get beyond your little layer, in which case it's .xinitrc hell. Project B is just treading water, postponing the day that we all realize this indispensable software tool is a gigantic house of cards headed for collapse.

    Probably some XFree86 dudes are reading this. Let me just tell you I appreciate your diligence in the nightmare of a job you've set yourself to, but the time has come. Take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

    • Re:HELL yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dondelelcaro ( 81997 ) <don@donarmstrong.com> on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:32PM (#25619695) Homepage Journal

      Project A is fine until someone has to get beyond your little layer, in which case it's .xinitrc hell.

      What in the world does the X11 rendering engine have to do with "useable for normal people" or the "xinitrc"?

      X11, and by extension, the X server, is a layer whose job is to put stuff on screen. That means dealing with the wibbly bits (mice, keyboards, displays, video cards, tablets, pedals, etc.) that cause the stuff on screen to be displayed or interact with the stuff on screen.

      But for twenty years now, there have been exactly two kinds of X development:

      Furthermore, it's not like people haven't been modifying how the bits in between your "Project A" and "Project B" work, either. See xrandr 1.2 and 1.3, for example, as well as the countless other projects working on this very part of X11.

      That's not to say there aren't problems with X11 and the various implementations of the X server, but it'd help to at least have studied what's actually going on before attacking the work of those who are actually doing the work.

    • Re:HELL yes. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MostAwesomeDude ( 980382 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @07:13PM (#25620143) Homepage

      Fun fact: Every single bit of development put into X.org since the big fork has been undoing the mistakes committed during the XFree86 years. Making X modular, reworking font handling, introducing EXA, crafting AIGLX, even kernel mode-setting, all of these are undoing bad things from the past.

      KRH, who's been writing Wayland, also is responsible for parts of GEM, RGBA OpenGL visuals, and other GLX improvements. Neither he, nor any of us, are planning to just abandon code that's still viable. Tender love and care goes a long way with bit-rotted code.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by goodmanj ( 234846 )

      Replyin' to my own comment, since it's drawing some attention...

      A little background: I've been only dabbling in the free Unix game since I switched to Mac a few years back -- partly *because* of my frustrations with X11 -- so some of my impressions are out of date, There's no question the UI layers on top of X have improved by leaps and bounds since then. And I'm by no means an X developer.

      Yes, I understand that X is intended to be a rendering engine, and that user interaction isn't its main job. Yet some

  • by Wesley Felter ( 138342 ) <wesley@felter.org> on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:06PM (#25619387) Homepage

    xclock? xeyes?

  • by spankey51 ( 804888 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:08PM (#25619419)
    Wayland-Yutani, "Building better X-servers"
  • Y windows; drivers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:22PM (#25619577) Homepage

    There's another project called Y Windows [y-windows.org], which also aims to replace X with something that has less historical cruft.

    The real question in my mind is whether this kind of thing does anything to address the big problems users are really encountering. Of course, not every open source project has to make large numbers of users happier. But the author of Y Windows says, for example, "I've got tired with the state of desktop GNU/Linux. Most of the problems that I see with it can be traced back to the underlying window system, X. So I decided to write its successor... "

    For me as an end-user, the big issues are simply hassles with xorg not correctly recognizing LCD screens, so that it sets them to an inappropriate resolution, or the image appears offset. I have close to zero interest in gaming, so personally I just use the onboard video of my mobo, with only 2-d driver features, but the impression I get from people who do care about gaming (or fancy WMs) is that the big issue is drivers, not the internal structure of X.

    As far as programming, the structure of X also seems like kind of a non-issue. Sure, X's APIs are heinously ugly, but almost nobody uses them directly.

    The advantages listed by the article are things like a more manageable code base, a smaller memory footprint, and elimination of rendering artifacts. To me, none of those seem like major issues that I was all that worried about.

    • by Zaurus ( 674150 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:39PM (#25619765)

      I remember when Y windows was slashdotted in Feb 2004. It sounded pretty interesting. Unfortunately, it also looks like there hasn't been a single news item on their web site since Feb 2004, and their "community wiki" link points to a domain-squatter-ad-site. Also, the downloads match the version announced in 2004.

      It's dead, Jim.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:24PM (#25619605)

    The article describes this as a "new X server". However it quotes the author of said program pretty much implying this is some kind of a new, non-X video interface. He talks about "porting" GTK+ from X, and about writing native applications for it and a "new, rootless X server" in order to be able to run X apps. All things that would not be necessary if this were an X server.

    In other words, this is not an X server.

  • Canonical (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew.gmail@com> on Monday November 03, 2008 @06:42PM (#25619803) Homepage Journal

    Shuttleworth said he is going to pay devs to work on major upstream projects. He should focus on this. For one, it would affect both KDE and Gnome users, and it would solve a major problem with Linux. If he really wants Linux to compete with OS X in terms of interface, he should focus on the X Server first.

    That being said, I hope Novell chips in some dev support, and that the KDE, Gnome, QT and GTK+ devs all chime on what they'd like to see changed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Just Some Guy ( 3352 )

      If he really wants Linux to compete with OS X in terms of interface, he should focus on the X Server first.

      Why? What do you personally dislike about X in general (or X.org in particular)? I installed Ubuntu 8.10 on my work Dell and it correctly autoconfigured everything from my subpixel antialiasing on my LCD to my 7-button Microsoft trackball to my Model M keyboard, using the open source accelerated Radeon drivers for my ATI card. I have a nice, composited desktop with no tweaking necessary. What more should I be expecting from my graphics layer?

      • Re:Canonical (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew.gmail@com> on Monday November 03, 2008 @08:24PM (#25620757) Homepage Journal

        And yet for many users they must manually edit and configure xorg.conf to get anything to work, and sometimes they never get it to work.

        There are tons of API calls that haven't been used in years, but no one wants to cut cruft or deprecate.

        Xorg is painfully slow, and we're still working around ancient legacy code rather than designing for modern systems.

        As for all that auto-configuring, honestly you can credit Ubuntu with plenty of that. Try a major distro like Ubuntu or openSUSE and you'll see the installer configure most of the hardware. Now try Gentoo which doesn't autoconfigure X and see how X performs with your hardware.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 03, 2008 @07:27PM (#25620289)

    I hear a lot of (I bet) young people clamoring for X to die, and that would somehow improve Linux or Unix.

    X does not need and should not be allowed to die. Sadly X11 is probably one of the coolest pieces of misunderstood software on the planet. It is a bit dated and it does need a code cleanup/refactor, but because of proper design, that can happen without breaking the system.

    To those who have *no* understanding of X, they should try this:

    ssh -XC some_linux_machine

    What happens is that the "display" is a network device. Windows terminal server and citrix, even today, can't easily separate application from display. X has had it for years. It isn't an afterthought requiring drivers to probe and figure out what got changed on the display surface and send a block over the network (like citrix and VNC), no the display is rendered over the network.

    X11, IMHO, is one of those hidden jewels in Unix that don't quite get. They focus on trying to make it like Windows or be a gaming platform, but UNIX is a "productivity" platform.

    Like I said, I'm all for refactoring, cleanup, cruft-removal, etc. to the codebase, but keep X11.

  • Maybe too late. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Stalyn ( 662 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @07:30PM (#25620319) Homepage Journal

    Jon Smirl [googlepages.com] and David Reveman [freedesktop.org] lobbied for a new xorg server built on OpenGL. It got little support from the community especially from Red Hat and Novell. Personally I think this was one of the greatest missed opportunities in the history of OSS. We could have had a modern xorg server replacement which rivaled Apple and Microsoft. Now we have the main xorg branch floundering from lack of interest and developers. Not to say there hasn't been progress made but no one can argue that xorg has the resources available to compete.

    Ironically someone who argued against X on OpenGL now is working on his own xorg server replacement. Good luck to him and I hope he has better support.


  • Syncing to vblank? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Monday November 03, 2008 @07:31PM (#25620333) Homepage

    At the same time, I'm trying to fix some of the problems with composite that we still have in the X server; input redirection, window resizing, syncing to vblank, throttling of animations and atomic, consistent redrawing.

    That feature alone would make this rewrite worthwhile. This has been missing from our desktops for far too long.

  • by toby ( 759 ) * on Monday November 03, 2008 @07:50PM (#25620503) Homepage Journal
    ...or NEXTSTEP from 1989 onwards. :)

The Tao is like a stack: the data changes but not the structure. the more you use it, the deeper it becomes; the more you talk of it, the less you understand.