[This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier]
After the much-publicized controversy earlier this year
about the XFree86 Project's development process, it seemed inevitable
that there would eventually be a fork of the project. Though it's not
exactly a fork, an experimental branch of XFree86 is now in the works.
Called "Xouvert," the project wasn't officially announced so much as outed on Slashdot.
The Xouvert project (pronounced "Zoo-vaire") is looking to allow
developers to add driver support and new features to XFree86 in a
modular fashion that should be easy to track and re-apply to the
official XFree86 tree. One complaint raised by Keith Packard, and
others, is that it has been difficult for developers outside the core
team to contribute to XFree86. Xouvert project coordinator Jonathan
Walther says that a main goal of the Xouvert project is to make it
We want to lower the barrier to entry to contribute to X. That means not
only being completely open in our source, but also doing other things.
For instance, we use the arch revision control system instead of CVS,
because this significantly lowers the barrier to participating. Anyone
can come along, download our sources, then start committing their
changes locally, keeping the sources under revision control, then at
some later point knock on our door and say "hey, I've got this great new
feature, please merge it back upstream" and it will be a snap, no
history will get lost.
Xouvert is being hosted on Savannah, though it's not an
official GNU project. The project is not officially connected to
XFree86 either. Walther says that the only communication between the XFree86
team and the Xouvert team, thus far, was when David Dawes "asked us to
capitalize XFree86 correctly" and indicate that XFree86 is a trademark.
Walther says he'd like to work with the XFree86 team in the long run,
Over time as we prove ourselves, we hope to have more communication with
the XFree86 team, and hope to be able to work closely with
them...Xouvert is interested in accepting code from any of the XFree86
developers, whether current or former.
The project is designed so that it is both easier to contribute to, and
easier to download and install. Walther mentioned that compiling XFree86
has "often been a source of frustration," so Xouvert's Cameron Berkenpas
is working on a HOWTO to
make it easier on users looking to compile their X server from source.
Walther also says that the Xouvert lead developer, William Lahti, is
working on a developer's handbook that will cover Xouvert's overall
architecture and API's, though it may not be ready until the second
Right now, there's no real difference between the XFree86 codebase and
Xouvert's. Users eager to see the first release of Xouvert don't have
too long to wait -- the first release is slated for October 1, and
stable releases are expected every six months after that. According to
Walther, the first release will only contain "small additions and
changes" but the second release next April should contain more
comprehensive changes like the DRI/DRM and Utah-glx projects.
New projects often fizzle before they reach maturity, so it's too soon
to say whether the Xouvert project will become a mainstay of the Linux
and open source community. However, given the importance of a free X
Server to the long-term (and short-term, for that matter) health and
success of Linux, one hopes that the project will be successful.
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