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30 years of X

The X.Org Foundation reminds us that the first announcement for the X Window System came out on June 19, 1984. "The X developers have pushed the boundaries and moved X from a system originally written to run on the CPU of a VAX VS100 to one that runs the GUI on today's laptops with 3D rendering capabilities. Indeed, X predates the concept of a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) as we currently know it, and even the company that popularized this term in 1999, Nvidia." Congratulations to one of the oldest and most successful free software projects out there.
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30 years of X

Posted Jun 20, 2014 4:03 UTC (Fri) by rsidd (subscriber, #2582) [Link]

Congratulations. It is remarkable how contemporary and yet true to its origins X has managed to be, thanks to the people still developing it. I won't be surprised if X stays around for 30 more years, even if Wayland/Mir/Surfaceflinger/whatever make inroads on the desktop.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 20, 2014 13:30 UTC (Fri) by ibukanov (subscriber, #3942) [Link]

There is an observation that for idea or other unperishable item that so far survived for x years the expected time to live is another x years unless one has some precise knowledge about the future. Another observation is that often we have no idea what makes the idea to stick. Thus new things that in theory looks good fail unless they also posses an unknown property required for longevity.

So indeed the expected time for X to live is 30 years and it is expected to outlive Wayland etc. by 20 years or so.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 20, 2014 22:02 UTC (Fri) by HelloWorld (guest, #56129) [Link]

We do have an idea of what made X stick so far: driver, OS and application compatibility. Drivers have mostly moved into Mesa and the Kernel, application compatibility is being sorted out as we speak with both Gnome and KDE actively working on Wayland support. The OS compatibility problem mostly solved itself, the only OS that uses X and is used by any significant number of people on the Desktop is Linux. Other, far more successful (in terms of adoption) operating systems like Mac OS X or Android have adopted a Wayland-like model (i. e. client-side rendering) a long time ago, and on top of all that, even most X developers agree that X a dead-end in the long term.

So I'm sorry, but suggesting that X will be around in 30 years as anything other than a legacy support hack is preposterous.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 21, 2014 15:31 UTC (Sat) by ibukanov (subscriber, #3942) [Link]

The notion of X running on tenths of millions of devices is itself is very recent. Throughout its history X was a pretty niche product. So indeed if it survive in 30 years X-Windows may find itself in a tiny niche running through layers of emulation. However we may expect that some news media will report in 2044 about 60 years of X. People would wonder what would have caused it to stick for such a long time outliving a lot of its younger contenders. This is similar like 65 years old Cobol outlived virtually all its replacements proposed 30 years ago.

The reason Wayland may fail to outlive X-Windows is that at this point there are rather few alternatives for Linux GUI and it could well be that, say, in RedHat 9 Wayland will be replaced by something that would only barely appear in few years with RedHat 8 release. And that new thing would still support running X applications but not Wayland ones repeating the story with System V -> upstart -> systemd transition.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 23, 2014 21:15 UTC (Mon) by Wol (guest, #4433) [Link]

> The reason Wayland may fail to outlive X-Window

The reason Wayland *will* outlive X-Window is that X-Window has been (yes, the choice of past tense is deliberate) abandoned by its developers.

The only reason that Wayland is not called X12 is because there already is a version of X called X12. It failed to take off. The X-Window developers have moved on to Wayland and X-Window is on life support. Wayland really is X13.

Cheers,
Wol

30 years of X

Posted Jun 27, 2014 1:00 UTC (Fri) by HelloWorld (guest, #56129) [Link]

> The reason Wayland *will* outlive X-Window is that X-Window has been (yes, the choice of past tense is deliberate) abandoned by its developers.
It hasn't yet, the X11 protocol is still being extended (Present, GLX_EXT_buffer_age).

30 years of X

Posted Jun 21, 2014 16:48 UTC (Sat) by rsidd (subscriber, #2582) [Link]

Linux on the desktop is small in marketshare but quite significant in numbers, and the sort of people who use it are pretty much the sort of people who used X in the 1980s, and such people will be around in 30 years time. I.e., mainly university academics in certain fields. I know many people who switched to Mac, but practically all of them use an X server and a command line heavily. And there are many more who never switched. The one thing X gives you which is immensely useful in a university-LAN-type environment is network transparency, which it is fashionable to scoff at, but when you have a fast LAN and want to view just a single window from a remote machine and not an entire remote desktop, there is nothing to beat X.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 21, 2014 23:22 UTC (Sat) by HelloWorld (guest, #56129) [Link]

The problem isn't that people scoff at network transparency but that Real-World X doesn't have it. Applications nowadays use extensions that only work locally, they do client-side rendering and push uncompressed bitmaps to the server and they employ latency-sensitive algorithms. They also use D-Bus which is usually not forwarded along with X. Perhaps it can still do good enough a job over low-latency, high-bandwidth connections, but so can Weston: it supports RDP today and is perfectly capable of forwarding single windows. Otoh, modern X applications are mostly unusable over the internet.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 21, 2014 23:52 UTC (Sat) by HelloWorld (guest, #56129) [Link]

Oh, Weston does actually *not* currently seem to support single windows. Anyway, it's possible in principle as both the RDP protocol and the Wayland architecture allow it.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 23, 2014 16:44 UTC (Mon) by rsidd (subscriber, #2582) [Link]

Look, I'm not claiming that X will dominate the linux desktop (assuming there is a Linux and a desktop in 30 years time -- though I'd be reasonably sure of both). But at my workplace there are people who still use xfig to make figures. It's not a stretch to think that, 30 years from now, I and many people of my age will surrender X transparency only when it is pried from my cold, dead hands. On the other hand, if Wayland/Weston/XWayland become perfect X clones and take over the world, that, as far as I am concerned, would be more or less the same thing: an X server is the important thing, whether it is Xorg or XWayland is not material.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 24, 2014 18:37 UTC (Tue) by Wol (guest, #4433) [Link]

From my postings on previous articles it comes across from the developers that "yes, the Wayland protocol is network transparent. No we haven't implemented network transparency because nobody has a strong enough itch to step up and do it".

So if it's important to you, then it's up to you to do it ... pretty much "life as normal" in the free software ecosystem ...

Cheers,
Wol

30 years of X

Posted Jun 25, 2014 13:06 UTC (Wed) by HelloWorld (guest, #56129) [Link]

The Wayland protocol is based on shared memory buffers, thus claiming that it's “network transparent” is bogus (and so is calling X11 “network transparent” due to widespread usage of MIT-SHM and DRI2). What's true is that it is possible to add network support to a Wayland compositor, and indeed Weston does support RDP.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 26, 2014 14:31 UTC (Thu) by tau (subscriber, #79651) [Link]

As anybody who has ever tried using a network filesystem can attest, you can't wave a magic wand to turn a naively written localised application into a distributed one. Certainly you can add transparent marshalling of certain function or system calls, but applications simply must be designed with distributed usage scenarios in mind, otherwise they'll block everywhere, round trip excessively, and generally be so slow as to be almost unusable.

So yeah, Wayland's intended approach of streaming 60fps compressed bitmaps is the way to go, X11-style remote rendering is not.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 27, 2014 4:23 UTC (Fri) by dlang (subscriber, #313) [Link]

> So yeah, Wayland's intended approach of streaming 60fps compressed bitmaps is the way to go, X11-style remote rendering is not.

If you are watching video over a high bandwidth, low latency connection, you are correct

if you are trying to type text in a terminal window ver a low speed, high latency connection, you are not

30 years of X

Posted Jun 27, 2014 4:29 UTC (Fri) by rsidd (subscriber, #2582) [Link]

Well, for terminal work GNU Screen beats X (and VNC) handily. It is interesting that X GUI programs over a network were much more usable in the 1980s and 1990s than today, even though the networks are much faster today! Not just video either (that's a rather minor use case). I regularly ran Maple or Matlab on the computer centre machines with display exported to my desktop.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 27, 2014 4:38 UTC (Fri) by JdGordy (subscriber, #70103) [Link]

Because they are all using client side rendering and pushing bitmaps over the network like HelloWorld said?

30 years of X

Posted Jun 24, 2014 20:36 UTC (Tue) by cry_regarder (subscriber, #50545) [Link]

inkscape is the closest competitor to xfig and it still doesn't do smart links (http://xfig.org/userman/attributes.html#smart-link) as well as xfig does.

For years I've been hoping to get off xfig, but I always end up going back.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 26, 2014 11:53 UTC (Thu) by da4089 (subscriber, #1195) [Link]

Another +1 for xfig.

I keep trying to use dia so that the Windows and Mac folks I want to share diagrams with have some hope of using them, but it's so broken it's not funny.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 26, 2014 12:07 UTC (Thu) by peter-b (subscriber, #66996) [Link]

I very very highly recommend Inkscape.

30 years of X

Posted Jun 26, 2014 15:42 UTC (Thu) by rsidd (subscriber, #2582) [Link]

I have used inkscape for years, except when I generate my own svg via python.

I used xfig back in the 1990s. I stopped when I realised that its "snapping to grid" depended on screen resolution -- things would look perfectly lined up on the xfig screen yet slightly off in the eps file.

About "smart links" -- in inkscape you can move a group of objects, which ought to have the same effect? It's nice if the program is "smart" enough to know what group you mean, but there are problems with over-smartness too -- quite often the object has unintentionally snapped to the boundary of another and I do NOT want to move both!

30 years of X

Posted Jun 21, 2014 11:07 UTC (Sat) by Jonno (subscriber, #49613) [Link]

> So indeed the expected time for X to live is 30 years and it is expected to outlive Wayland etc. by 20 years or so.

I'm sure X will still be around in 30 years, but in the form of XWayland, or something similar. I do not buy that it would outlive Wayland however, simply because if we move to something newer and shinier in 10 years, we will have a WFoo around to complement XFoo for backward compatibility.


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