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2004/12/05 Xorg


Some material is very old and may be incorrect today

© December 2004 Tony Lawrence

A fork of Xfree86 that now appears to be taking over - RedHat, IBM, Sun, Suse and Debian all are adopting it over Xfree86. While you will hear people arguing technical points, the reason behind this fork was political: the Xfree86 folk changed their licensing, apparently causing problems with GPL software that would link to it.

You wouldn't think this change would be so politically charged from reading the license, but it caused a lot of controversy. I thought one Slashot comment by "gaijin99 (143693)" was interesting:

There is nothing more idealistic about "we want source in exchange
for source" than there is about "we want money in exchange for
source". Both approacches have problems, both approaches have
benefits. The hassles arise when people try to take the source
without the payment (the propriatary folks call it "piracy" and
everyone nods and agrees that its horrible. Open Source says
"licensing violation" and folks like you sneer and lecture about
our fruitless idealism). Nice double standard there.
 

Good point, I thought. But most of this bickering is far beyond my ken.

Drag had some comments that I have moved into this article so they won't get overwritten:

It's not just the licensing issue, though. It was kinda the last
straw..

The structure of the XFree86 organization was breaking down, they
kicked out a lot of very fruitfull developers that were rocking
the boat trying to get progress and they kept lots of developers
in high level positions that hadn't contributed time or code to
the project in a long long time, like they were honorary titles.

Basicly it made it very hard to progress and not much of anything
was going on. The whole thing was very bad and developement of X
was languishing.

Support for new hardware, stability fixes, new features and cutting
away old cruft just wasn't happenning.

Now with a new orginization you have the X.org and FreeDesktop?.org
conterparts, were X.org is very structed and corporate like, while
FreeDesktop?.org is very democratic and relatively free-wheeling.
In a few short months they were able to institute drastic changes
and new features that would of taken years with XFree86...

And not just "oh eye candy!", type stuff (like composition extensions).
Frankly X was getting to crusty and with X.org they are restructuring
it and creating a modular and easily extensable code base while
still maintaining backward compatability.

Personally I am looking forward to better OpenGL-based rendering.
That's a good example of the modernization of X.

Right now any video card has to have 2 seperate drivers. Completely
unlike any other OS out their and a big pain in the rear. You have
the 2-d drivers used for rendering windows and such, and then if
you want 3-d acceleration you have to have ANOTHER driver for that,
and not only that the 2-d and the 3-d have to be compatable and be
able to run at the same time! And then each application is responsible
for it's own little 3-d land.

When they finally switch over to a OpenGL-based display then you
reduce the need for the drivers down to one driver and then the X
server becomes responsible for the 3-d ability and can offer it as
a service to applications so that it makes the application developer's
job much easier.

At first I thought this would cause slow-downs because your basicly
going to emulate a 2-d enviroment with 3-d-specific instructions.
But what I learned is that all developement in modern video cards
is going into the 3-d portions of the card. The 2-d specific regions
of the video card are now throw backs to the very first 3-d video
cards and the 3-d portions offer significant improvements in design,
speed, and execution. Plus it would simplify driver developement
significantly making it much much easier for companies like Nvidia
and ATI to support Linux properly and make free software drivers
more realistic.

This sort of modernization effort to make X as modern as the future
Windows Longhorn display or OS X's aqua probably just wouldn't of
happenned if XFree86 was in charge, unfortunately.

It's too bad things like this fork has to happen, but there is
nothing stopping Xfree86 from getting their act together and
incorporating X.org stuff.  
 

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