Feeds

XFree86 dust-up questions X11 model

Client-server paradigm needs up-ending

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The furious row over the vital open source software project XFree86 has raised questions over what future direction the group should take. One of the project's founders, David Wexelblat (actually the fourth guy - see this good history), has suggested that the X model is anachronistic and needs a fundamental garbage-can shaped overhaul.

The row stems from accusations levelled at developer Keith Packard, which saw Packard expelled. That's less interesting than what happens to XFree86, but tempers are running high, so let's pause a moment.

Packard says that the project is under-resourced and that stems from a poor governance model. His expulsion follows accusations that he had been working against the interests of the project by touting a closed source spin-off.

"What Keith has done is among the most low-class, unprofessional and tactless things I have ever experienced in my professional career," wrote Wexelblat.

Linux users wait too long to see new 3D graphics hardware - which arrives at a dizzying rate these days - supported by the windowing system, according to Packard. He cites a year-long wait for a version that officially supports Radeon, for example.

The project has only 250 contributors, compared to over 800 for the fetchmail project. We're not sure how much to deduce from that, because quite often the most important work comes from only a small number of regular developers.

But don't blame the developers, blame the model, says Wexelblat.

"X is obsolescent," he wrote in a mailing list posting.

"I've been working in the Windows world for years now, and client-server display systems are utterly irrelevant to the majority of real-world computer users. X needs to be replaced by a direct-rendered model, on which a backwards-compatible X server can be reasonably trivially implemented".

X11 offers the flexibility of running your application over the network, but that power comes at the cost of speed and flexibility for most users, who don't need that capability.

"The idea of being able to remote individual windows isn't relevent to the vast majority of desktop users," explained Wexelblat. "So the paradigm really needs to be inverted - direct-rendered desktop, with remotability."

Key Linux kernel developer Alan Cox agreed that the project needed a wake-up call, but didn't think a splinter project by Packard could cause too much harm:

"X has to evolve, X has to do cool stuff, X has to let people break stuff, X has to delegate trust to driver maintainers far more," he wrote. "To me it doesn't matter if Keith and friends spin off an "Xperimental" or XFree itself changes, but that change is vital to the future of X11."

So when the dust has settled over the Packard issue, what will the future X look like? ®

Bootnote The historical link cited above explains why the "86" remains part of the project's name, when it has long since evolved past being x86-specific. It's partly a pun, but partly in answer to the question "why not XFree?". In the interview, Dawes answers: "Take a look at xfree.com, you might see one reason why we're reluctant." Obvious, when you think about it.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
Torvalds CONFESSES: 'I'm pretty good at alienating devs'
Admits to 'a metric ****load' of mistakes during work with Linux collaborators
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.