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X Power Tools

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Book Reviews 219

stoolpigeon writes "The X Window System has been around for over twenty years and is the display system for an incredibly wide range of operating systems. With the number of Linux users growing, there are more people working with X than ever before. Most modern desktop environments provide user friendly interfaces that make modifying X rather simple. There is not a need to dig into config files and settings as in the past. For those environments without such tools or for the user who loves to dig deep into their environment, this book can be a simple way to understand how X works and how to tweak it in any number of ways. If you want things that 'just work' and have no interest in digging around below the surface this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you think the best thing to do with a shiny new tool is to take it apart, well "X Power Tools" by Chris Tyler may be just for you." Read on for the rest of JR's thoughts on this book.The author, Chris Tyler, is a professor at Seneca College in Toronto as well as a programmer and Linux user. His first book published by O'Reilly was "Fedora Linux: A Complete Guide to Red Hat's Community Distribution", published in 2006. He cites the growth in X users, combined with active development and the lack of existing books that address X as the motivation for writing "X Power Tools."

X is the windowing system on a wide range of Unix and Unix like systems. Chris is obviously most familiar with Linux and so the material is heavily Linux oriented. This is most apparent when the book deals with Session Managers, Desktop Environments and Window Managers. The material focuses on Gnome, KDE and Xfce and their associated components in regards to X. For the Linux user this could be a valuable resource.

When I've had issues in working with X locally and over the network, I've found that while what I need is available on the web, getting just what I need can be very labor intensive at times. Usually just what I want is spread across tutorials, on-line man pages and forum posts. Sorting out what applies to my situation can be especially difficult when I'm not even sure just how things work for my setup. Chris makes this kind of guessing unnecessary and provides the locations and function of key files. He also spells out how the most important files and tools can be best used.

For the sysadmin on another platform, these Linux specific sections are not going to be much help. Most of the book though, deals with X itself. I've already loaned my copy to one of our AIX admins more than once and I think he plans on picking up a copy of his own.

When Gnome and KDE provide an interface for modifying or customizing X functionality, the book gives at least the name of the program and sometimes screen shots and explanations of how the tool works. This is always after an illustration of how to get the job done with the tools that are a part of X itself. From fonts to keyboard layouts, multi-display to kiosks, everything required is laid out in straight forward terms.

For me, as a Fedora user, this means that having read this book I approach my work environment with a new level of confidence. Behaviors that used to puzzle me, now make complete sense. Quirks that bothered me, no longer need to be tolerated as I know have the tools to get things working just the way I want, rather than using defaults.

The book has just come out, so it was being written before the release of KDE 4. I've looked through the documentation and I don't think any of the changes to programs like KDM or KWin make the information in the book out of date. In fact, according to the KWin release notes, when discussing KWins new compositing support, "...manual configuration of X may be required for proper results..." So if you are a KDE user that likes to live on the edge, this book may come in handy.

O'Reilly says that their "Power Tool" books are comprised of a series of stand-alone articles that are cross-referenced to one another. To be honest, it didn't feel much different from reading any other tech book. Topics flowed naturally and the articles are analogous to sections that divide up chapters in other books. One nice navigation feature is that page numbers are on the bottom of the pages while chapter and article numbers are at the top corner in a decimal notations. For example at the top of page 58 there is a grey square containing the number 3.13 which means that it is the 13th article in chapter 3.

The book has a thorough index. It also comes with 45 days free access to an electronic version through O'Reilly Safari.

For me the only real weakness of the book is that I would like to have seen more information on working with X on Unix. When reference is made to specific implementation of X it is almost always in regards to Linux. I wouldn't want to lose that, but I think a mixed environment of Unix, Linux and Windows is more the rule than the exception today. It would be more work to include other operating systems, but it would have also made the book much more valuable.

All tech books face the danger of becoming quickly useless as progress marches forward. X is actively being developed, but at the same time, looking back on its history I think this book will be useful for sysadmin and user for some time to come.

You can purchase X Power Tools from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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So when do we get its successor? (0, Troll)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410110)

I know X is entrenched and all, but really, aren't we all fed up with this dinosaur? A new window system might be a good thing for Linux as a whole.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410166)

Explain yourself! My 77 GMC runs great while my 2007 Benz is not running!

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

cbart387 (1192883) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410172)

Then make one ;)

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Derek Loev (1050412) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410178)

I entirely agree. It's obvious that it most be fairly hard to code for or else getting it to work wouldn't be so difficult.
Even on Ubuntu 7.10, it's still a beast to deal with. I don't have hardware ordered specifically with Linux in mind, I need Linux to work without that.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (3, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410318)

What are you smoking?

You don't install ANY OS on hardware without considering driver support.

MacOS is no different. Various forms of Windows are no different.

Linux and X are not alone in this.

That said, I've never gotten all the whining. I've put no more
effort into buying machines and vidcards that I would have done
to avoid a lemon under Windows. Yet I've managed to avoid problems.

Slackware 96 was not pretty but it wasn't painful in this regard at all.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410180)

But X is speedy and X works. And there'd need to be an awful lot of programs ported to get X's successor to catch on.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (2, Informative)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410234)

I wasn't aware a lot of programs interfaced directly with X. I'm sure there are some that for whatever reason feel like they must interact with X directly, but wouldn't say, X2 or X+ or whatever with GTK/QT4 be sufficient to run -almost everything-?

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

hummassa (157160) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410964)

Even porting only Qt4 (so your new operating environment could run KDE4.0 apps but not Gnome apps) would take a whole team of programmers some years.
That said, Y and Berlin _do_ exist, and are very pretty... why don't take a shot at it?

Re:So when do we get its successor? (2, Informative)

neumayr (819083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410610)

You're pretty new to this, eh?
It's not so obvious anymore on todays multicore, multi-GHz numbercrunchers with gigs of RAM, but X11 is a lot of things, but _not_ speedy. They didn't even try to make it speedy - the network transparency layer (among other things) creates so much overhead it was a pain to use X11 until relatively recently.
When XP was first released its windowing system actually felt more responsive than X11 did on the hardware from that time.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (4, Interesting)

ettlz (639203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411034)

When XP was first released its windowing system actually felt more responsive than X11 did on the hardware from that time.

This is what you get when most of your windowing system is run in the kernel: the low-level drawing and management routines are just a syscall away. Plus I believe the Windows window system is multithreaded (or, at least, much of the stuff runs in the applications' threads when they make windowing calls). X.org, on the other hand, is single-threaded and runs as a user-space process, so there's also context switching overhead. [All that "Ha-ha, NT runs its video drivers in the kernel" stuff is misleading; the criticism wasn't that the hardware support was in the kernel, which is where it should be, it was that a load of management stuff was there too.]

Personally I'd like to see a lot change in the structure of X11. I'm not fond of the way the 2D stuff appears to work by acquiring privileged maps to areas of physical memory, effectively subverting the kernel. I'd much rather it were all built using DRI. In-kernel modules would be responsible for mediating access to hardware registers. The heavy lifting and config part of the drivers should be done in user-space (much like MesaGL) with a minimal multi-threaded graphics server. X11 would be run as an application on top of this to provide network/legacy support, etc. But then again I'm not an X.org developer and they probably know better.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (2, Informative)

ADRA (37398) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411796)

Quite a bit of XP's 2d drawing functions are accelerated using video card driver supports. All the blitting, etc.. which may be supported in Linux drivers was pretty much stock in every well used Windows graphics driver since 2k.

You ever run into the issue that Firefox scrolling is sooo slow? Its probably because the scrolling routines aren't being 2d accelerated like they should be.

Putting too much in user space might seem like a good compromise, but depending on how often you context switch to achieve this separation, the trade offs could be quite inhibitive. I'm not much of a driver programmer and I've never even looked at a graphics driver implementation, but given the cursory glance at the ATI released register mappings, I imagine that the setup and maintenance of said buffers requires quite a bit of hand-holding.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (3, Insightful)

chromatic (9471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411150)

the network transparency layer (among other things) creates so much overhead it was a pain to use X11 until relatively recently.

Have you measured the cost of network transparency, and would you be willing to debate Jim Gettys and Keith Packard about that being one of the bottlenecks? (This is one of the persistent myths of X11.)

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411490)

No idea who they are.
It's kind of a moot point anyways, like I said, today's computers are so fast the overhead of X probably doesn't matter. It's just that I spent some time in 2000 looking at what X events come up during a normal session - there were a lot. A lot more than there were on Windows IIRC.
Though the tone of your post suggests there's some other major bottleneck, besides the network layer - care to share?

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 6 years ago | (#22412056)

I have been using X since 1990 and it has *always* been fast enough for my purposes, except when used over a slow network link. I wish that they had improved the network performance of X long ago, but I have read recently about improvements that supposedly make X over slow links useable, which is great.

Aside from that, X has *always* been fast enough for me, to the extent that I have never considered it to be significantly different from, say, Windows on the same platform.

I'm talking about computers all the way from Digital DECStation 4100s (which had the processing equivalent of maybe a 486 sx 33), to Pentium 100s, AMD 233s, Athlons, Pentium Ms, desktop, notebooks, Sun SparcStations, you name it.

I don't know what it is you are doing, but your assertion that X has been perceptibly slow until modern hardware of the last couple of years made it fast enough flies in the face of over *two decades* of my own experience.

X may not be fast enough for high performance games or 3d stuff, that may very well be true, but considering the number of games available on X platforms, that is hardly important, and only affects a small number of applications and a small number of people who use them. And it's my understanding that lots of improvements have been made recently with respect to gaming in X, which is not surprising since nobody really wanted to play games in X until recently - we always used to just Do Real Work. Not that I have anything against games, I'm just saying that this aspect of the windowing system didn't get much focus until recently because the typical user of X didn't need it until recently. I do remember playing XEvil about 10 years ago, that was fun, but hardly a game that would stress any windowing system.

Causes For Rendering Bottlenecks (4, Informative)

krmt (91422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22412136)

Jim is one of the original authors of X. Keith is essentially the de facto overlord of the current X.org, although he doesn't play dictator except in rare cases.

As for rendering bottlenecks, they are many and varied and none of them have to do with the network transparency issue. When local clients talk to a local server they do so via local sockets or shared memory, both of which are very fast and impose minimal or no penalties.

What accounts for bottlenecks are things like the inability to do compositing, leading to tearing of windows when they're being dragged. This is fixed by the composite extension and a fast compositing manager, like the one found in compiz.

Another issue is that the old driver architecture (XAA) was geared towards old-style drawings. These days we don't really look at stipple patterns much, so the new driver architecture (EXA) is geared towards solid fills and fast blits for bitmaps instead, which is what you end up doing on a modern desktop anyway. It turns out though that this is very hard to get right and the bugs are still being worked out. I don't think that this is really an issue with X being old so much as that this is just a damned hard problem to get right. It is being worked on (check out Carl Worth's blog for some examples on this particular front) so hopefully things will improve.

Finally, there's the constant bottleneck due to incomplete or inadequate drivers. The new radeonhd, for example, only recently gained 2d acceleration support, and still lacks any sort of 3d accel. This sort of problem prevents X from adequately taking advantage of all the hardware has to offer, so performance can suffer. As a result, you lose the ability to run things like compiz, which address these issues.

Finally, I haven't watched it yet, but I recommend you take a look at Keith Packard's google talk on remaking X [google.com] . X has been largely rebuilt from the inside over the past several years, and things like Render, RandR, Composite, Damage, Fixes, Input Hotplug, and EXA have really sprung from that initiative. It's wort

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22412170)

They didn't even try to make it speedy - the network transparency layer (among other things) creates so much overhead it was a pain to use X11 until relatively recently.

That's not true. Locally, X communicates through unix domain sockets which aren't any slower than any other form of interprocess communication.

When XP was first released its windowing system actually felt more responsive than X11 did on the hardware from that time.

Also not true. A light weight window manager (I used icewm at the time) has always out performed XP on any hardware I've tried. You're probably conflating GUI toolkit bloat (which is a real problem) with the performance of the X server.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (2, Insightful)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410194)

Can you provide some code? You are free to make a new graphics interface. X has been around for a long time and it will stay for a long time yet. It has proven itself despite of its shortcomings. I don't think that a complete replacement is a good idea. The best thing for X that yet has to happen is it running as an unpriveledged user, but that is hard with the hardware so close to the software.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (3, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410378)

Can you provide some code? You are free to make a new graphics interface.
Look, I know this is the standard FOSS fanboy answer to any criticisms about anything and everything, but it's gotten tiresome - it doesn't actually address the criticism at all. It's on the same level of relevance as if you'd responded "Oh, yeah? Well your momma's fat!"

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1, Insightful)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410418)

Look, I know this is the standard FOSS fanboy answer to any criticisms about anything and everything, but it's gotten tiresome - it doesn't actually address the criticism at all.
The implication is that if you know enough about X to be able to say it is bad, then surely you know enough to offer an improvement.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (3, Insightful)

siride (974284) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410568)

That's an invalid argument. I may know enough to say my car isn't working (e.g., it won't start), but I certainly don't know enough to fix it.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410658)

That's an invalid argument. X works. In this case, you might know your car isn't getting forty miles per gallon like a hybrid, and don't know enough to convert it into one. Neither do most people. So just shut the fuck up unless you've got something to offer. It'd be awesome if someone would convert my car into a hybrid for me. It isn't likely to fucking happen--it might if enough FOSS people got together and came up with something though.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (4, Insightful)

cortana (588495) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410704)

Bad analogy. What the original poster said would be more like "I know the internal combustion engine is entrenched and all, aren't we fed up with this dinosaur? ..."

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Plaid Phantom (818438) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411470)

So there are multi-billion-dollar corporations working to keep X11 so entrenched as to ensure profits for said corporations?

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410718)

False analogy.

When X doesn't start you simply tweak the configuration.

We're talking about possible serious flaws in the design of the protocol, APIs, etc.

Entitlement Complex in Open Source Software (3, Insightful)

MasterOfMagic (151058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410874)

Then hire (and more importantly pay) a mechanic to fix it. A mechanic doesn't do what he does out of the goodness of his heart and because he likes other people. He wouldn't be able to pay his bills if he did that. You are not entitled to free car service just because you are you, just like you are not entitled to free and open source software changes on your whim.

If you know him personally or if it's a side project or it interests him enough, he may do it for free. That's his choice as to how to spend his time. However, the vast majority of programmers in the open source community think that X works. They aren't interested in pursuing an alternative, at least not for free. I'll bet if you offer to pay their salary, their interest would be piqued. I'll bet if you had the skills to write one on your own, you could do it and attract some mindshare. Now, and this is key, sitting around on Slashdot and bitching about it won't solve the problem.

Do it yourself because you are interested, hire someone else to do it, or accept that the vast majority of open source development is done because it's in the best interests of the person working on a particular project, and right now, the consensus amongst open source developers is that the X Window System works.

Re:Entitlement Complex in Open Source Software (1)

maestroX (1061960) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411348)

Besides that, I'd say the last couple of years have seen a major improvement for X thanks to Keith Packard after years of inactivity at the open group.

Modularization, cairo, etc. etc. The beast that was once difficult to appreciate is now easily accessible, no more xlib, *aw*, editres.

the new messenger generation will never understand the why of BitchX ;-)

Re:Entitlement Complex in Open Source Software (1)

octopus72 (936841) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411418)

So what's actually wrong with X(org)? I don't see why it needs replacement just because it's based on old codebase so people (having no idea how it actually works) tend to call it a dinosaur.

Actually many (Linux) graphic problems are being worked on and I don't see any fundamental one that would require a rewrite of X.

Re:Entitlement Complex in Open Source Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22411862)

So unless you are going to either change it yourself or pay someone to make changes to a piece of software you shouldn't even discuss what you think is wrong with it?

Nice attitude.

Re:Entitlement Complex in Open Source Software (1)

FooBarWidget (556006) | more than 6 years ago | (#22412108)

Sure you can discuss it. But he wasn't discussing - he was whining. It was mindless complaints with absolutely no constructive criticism whatsoever. It serves no purpose other than to potentially discourage the people who actually want to improve it.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410912)

>That's an invalid argument. I may know enough to say my car isn't working (e.g., it won't start), but I certainly don't know enough to fix it.

Well, that's too bad for you. But your argument is only valid in a general sense if pretty much no cars start in the world.

X works for virtually everyone for virtually everything they want to do. Except in some cases, it feels like the wrong solution. A bit like how a MAC truck will do just about anything you would ever need to do with a vehicle (a few special exceptions exist), but you're tired of building special trailers to suit your solutions and you'd like it to fit in a normal parking space for once.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22411358)

That's an invalid argument. I may know enough to say my car isn't working (e.g., it won't start), but I certainly don't know enough to fix it.

Ok. "X won't start" is a valid criticism of (a particular implementation of) X. So is "X is too hard to write a toolkit for because API A is is very cumbersome", or "X implementation I is slower than Y doing operation Q.".

However, most of the "criticism" of X is from users that are parroting back what they've heard secondhand, or are conflating the desktop environment or other application with the windowing system, and have no appreciation for what a windowing system actually is.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (5, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410560)

> Look, I know this is the standard FOSS fanboy answer to any criticisms about anything and everything,
> but it's gotten tiresome - it doesn't actually address the criticism at all.

Actually it is more response than the original poster deserved. Go reread it, he complaimed that it is old. No specific complaint, no suggested solution.

And you fail to understand the FOSS idea. The line between users and developers doesn't exist. If you don't like it you are free to fix it. Iven if you aren't a uber coder who can write GL drivers in their sleep you can at least learn enough to make good guggestions, bug reports or hell, contribute some better documentation. If you can't code or at least understand the system enough to make constructive criticisms and suggestions for improvements then you really should just shut up and accept what you get because talking from ignorance just reduces the signal to noise and makes it harder for those who do have a clue to get on with improving the stuff you use.

10 to one both you and the original poster don't even realize GNOME and KDE aren't even part of X. That sort of ignorance is what makes every thread about X devolve into silly rants about GUI usability and brings out the Mac fanbois. X itself is just fine now and with some of the current improvements working their way towards mainstream it will only get better.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (0, Troll)

dangitman (862676) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411710)

If you can't code or at least understand the system enough to make constructive criticisms and suggestions for improvements then you really should just shut up and accept what you get because talking from ignorance just reduces the signal to noise and makes it harder for those who do have a clue to get on with improving the stuff you use.

... and people wonder why Linux adoption remains so low.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 6 years ago | (#22412094)

Ok, I don't think that the line between users and developers is entirely non-existant in most FOSS. In general you have:

1) Core maintainers (aka project leaders, steering committee members, etc)
2) Committers
3) Users/implementors/developers. They may all contribute in their own ways (bug reports, documentation, patches)

One of the key issues in FOSS community management is helping people contribute optimally. Even discussion about missing features should be encouraged because even if the original poster can't code, someone else who can may read the discussion thread.

Users, developers, etc. are not entirely separate in FOSS communities but they are not entirely the same either.

I would also add (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 6 years ago | (#22412030)

that just because the software is old doesn't mean that it is bad. In fact the case is often that old software which has withstood the test of time is often *better* than newer programs.

Having said this, X has had a bit of a controversial reputation for a *long* time. One day a number of years ago, I ran fortune and got the ABC's of UNIX:

A is for awk which runs like a snail
B is for biff which reads all your mail
C is for cc as hackers recall
D is for dd, the command that does all ....
W is for whoami which tells you your name
X is, well, X, of dubious fame ...

The basic issue is that X has traditionally been riddled with difficult (often nearly useless) error reporting, complex setups, low-level configuration issues which could cause hardware damage with older monitors, and the like. In some cases, documentation can also be a problem.

However, over the last decade or so that I have worked with X (and especially the move from XF86 to X.org), these issues have been greatly reduced. Even when I hack configuration files, I find that things are a lot more pleasant than they used to be and that error messages are almost always more meaningful. Yes, it is still a beast, but it is far better than it used to be. I expect it will continue to get better.

The large question as to a successor is a big one. I am not sure that it is possible to displace X at the moment. However, even if it happens, it will be extremely difficult to fill the entire market that X fills.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

doti (966971) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410616)

I agree with that, but you haven't even told us what's wrong with X, or how another system could be better.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410700)

Why don't you double how much you're paying for the X Window System ($0) and see if anybody is interested in writing a replacement for that kind of money?

If you didn't pay for it and you don't like it you have two options:
1) Write something better. Surely you can because you know what you don't like about the old one, right?
2) Shut the fuck up, grow a set, and realize that the open source community is not your personal bitch.

You are exactly the reason why I gave up writing open source software. You had criticisms about my software, software that I designed and wrote for what I needed it for. I told you that I wasn't going to change it and you went on a total tirade about how I was supposed to fix this for you and how this software was yours. Bullshit. If you don't like it, fix it. If you can't fix it, there are programmers that specialize in open source software that would be more than happy to make a little scratch on the side to code something up for you. If you're too cheap to do that, then SHUT THE FUCK UP.

MOD PARENT UP!!! (1)

uuxququex (1175981) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411264)

Parent is right. The developers write software for different reasons, be it to scratch a personal itch, to try and make the world a better place, whatever. Most share their work freely and gladly with whomever wants it.

If you don't like the software you can try to get the developer to fix it, by sending detailed bug reports or requests for adding some functionality. The developer may, or may not, work on your requests.

But you are NOT entitled to bitch about any of the work done. You are free to not use it, to fix it yourself, to have someone fix it for you however.

If you don't contribute yourself then you may take what is offered or you can leave it alone. But, as parent put so eloquently, SHUT THE FUCK UP if you're only going to whine.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411090)

Look, I know this is the standard FOSS fanboy answer to any criticisms about anything and everything, but it's gotten tiresome - it doesn't actually address the criticism at all. It's on the same level of relevance as if you'd responded "Oh, yeah? Well your momma's fat!"

But the original post didn't have any criticisms to answer! All he said was X was a dinosaur. No specific complaints of any kind. So what better response to a content-free question than a content-free answer?

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

FooBarWidget (556006) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411122)

"Look, I know this is the standard FOSS fanboy answer to any criticisms about anything and everything, but it's gotten tiresome - it doesn't actually address the criticism at all."

And you think complaining about it is somehow going to magically solve the problem? Problems are solved because *someone* creates a solution, not because people whine about it. If everybody complains and nobody actually does anything about it, then the problem will continue to exist forever.

"It's on the same level of relevance as if you'd responded "Oh, yeah? Well your momma's fat!"

No it isn't. Such a comparison is utterly ridiculous.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411330)

it doesn't actually address the criticism at all.

What criticism? The complaint didn't describe anything actually wrong with X. I see no problem with the "put up or shut up" response when the other person hasn't even bothered to describe what problems they think need to be fixed.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410422)

The best thing for X that yet has to happen is it running as an unpriveledged user, but that is hard with the hardware so close to the software.

So separate the driver layer from the transport layer from the application layer. Why is it acceptable for these all to be mashed together in one program?

I can't think of any other network protocol in the Unix world that has its own in-process hardware drivers. Can you?

Put the drivers in kernel modules, where drivers belong, and let X do what it does best: security and networking. This isn't even a full-on Tannenbaum microkernel. This is just common sense. Not even monolithic kernel advocates seem to promote this kind of architecture-gumbo anywhere else.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410468)

Because then it wouldn't work on BSD or Solaris, which is also why X has it's own Keyboard and Mouse drivers, because not all kernels that X was designed for provided APIs for them.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410626)

Actually, that's how Solaris already works. The graphics drivers are compiled into the kernel for workstation builds. The Xsun server just hooks into those drivers.

From Alan Coopersmith [opensolaris.org] of Sun Microsystems:

Xsun though is only an Xserver, with no device specific knowledge - the
drivers for various graphics devices for Xsun come from 3 other groups
at Sun - SPARC Graphics, x86 Platform Drivers, and Sun Ray.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410734)

Put the drivers in kernel modules, where drivers belong, and let X do what it does best: security and networking. This isn't even a full-on Tannenbaum microkernel. This is just common sense. Not even monolithic kernel advocates seem to promote this kind of architecture-gumbo anywhere else.


Didn't Windows at some point suffer from having all the graphics stuff running in kernel mode? I'm pretty sure you wouldn't like loading a multi-megabyte module into your kernel. The size of the NVIDIA closed source kernel module alone is scary enough. Now, take a lot of functionality out of X and put it in there and you have a real monstrosity.

-matthew

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411094)

Windows XP has the GDI and Window Manager in the Executive. A lot would probably argue that this, and the most computationally intensive parts of the drivers should be in user-space, leaving the kernel to handle the protection of the low-level hardware interfaces.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

cortana (588495) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410772)

What you are describing is already been worked on. Soon, at least on Linux, Xorg will no longer need to run as root.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22411282)

The whole point of X was to separate the graphics from the application. Anything with an input device and a graphical output device can be an X server, and anything that wants to talk to that API can be a client, without having to know much about the hardware. The transport layer is TCP/IP; are you seriously suggesting changing that to something else? No wonder you posted AC -- you're a moron.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

octopus72 (936841) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411504)

Good suggestions. Fortunately that's exactly what Xorg/DRI/DRM people are working on. Future graphic system on linux will have full drivers in kernel, rootless X, and all that with unified 2D+3D acceleration. They also want to get rid of a VT switch in the future and allow for multiple accelerated instances of X, but also non-X acelerated apps.

With Gallium a userspace acceleration will get a performance boost and cleaner architecture.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Simon (S2) (600188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410442)

but really, aren't we all fed up with this dinosaur?

Why? What's wrong? We have hw acceleration, we can use it over the network, we have nice toolkits that work on top of it, it has good documentation and nvidia, ati and intel write drivers for it. Why change it?

Re:So when do we get its successor? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22411318)

It's good to look at why one wants to replace something, and not replace it if it's not broken.

But really, X *is* a dinosaur. The drawing operations it has to support were neat when we had 1-bit displays, but aren't that useful (or accelerated) on modern hardware. Its imaging model is completely different from modern printers and page definition languages. Antialiasing and transparency (at the window level) is obviously an afterthought, and resolution-independence was an early goal that nobody really got working. Font support is only so-so. Color calibration is basically nonexistant. It has a bunch of individual features which run great, but not with each other, like OpenGL and video and Xinerama. Compositing support is still kind of flakey. Network support can be useful but X11 screwed up the design. The Unix Haters' Handbook has a whole chapter of other issues.

And sure, we could (and probably will, eventually) fix each of these things. But X11 seems to never drop its old baggage, even when nobody's using it. So when somebody wants to fix fonts or colors, they'll do that by adding new extensions (which have to be installed in the server, yay), and now we'll have N+1 ways to do these things, and still most people won't use the good new way. Anybody who's done software testing can tell you about the reliability of N orthogonal features; it's no wonder compositing + video + OpenGL + Xinerama doesn't work.

There's something to be said for wiping the slate clean and saying "OK, it's 2008 and we now know how to do compositing and acceleration and video and fonts and colors, so we're going to throw out all the dead ends we've created in the past 25 years, and start fresh". (You can even run X11 inside whatever graphics system we create, like X11.app on the Mac.)

Writing a network protocol for a graphics system isn't fundamentally that hard to do. There's no black magic here. Linux users claim to know better than anybody the problems with a monoculture. And yet, X11 is so monstrous that there's really only room for one implementation; there simply aren't enough graphics geeks who are willing to put up with the pain of maintenance to support several. So when Xorg forked, it was a Really Big Deal. It shouldn't be! Note that the programs that open-source does best are those that we have a million of (like text editors, or chat clients, or MP3 players), and those that we always complain about are the big monsters that nobody is crazy enough to write a new implementation of (X11, OOo, Moz). I do not believe this is a coincidence.

I would really like to have a graphics system that is simple enough that I (with only a 4-year degree in computer science) can understand, and which we're using because it's the best design we can come up with, not because it's the only free windowing system we could find in 1984.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410528)

In 1997 I'd have agreed with you, but today X is working better than ever. Only problems I run into are: configuring it still sucks; and, exporting to a remote machine is still slow as crap compared to Windows Remote Desktop*. There are other things that could make it even better like detaching and reattaching windows to different screens, but personally I'd just be happy if it was as snappy over the network as Windows.

*My experience with NX has not been that great, both from a use and configuration standpoint. And it's not standard with X.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411328)

configuring it still sucks

That's less and less the case. The whole of my xorg.conf was written automatically without my participation. The only thing I was asked was the layout of my keyboard.

Sucking was when you had to invoke the help of the mightier gods in order to protect you from having your monitor burst in flames and/or emit very acute noises when you were trying modelines and sync rates...

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

debatem1 (1087307) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411578)

lol man that brings back memories... remember the sizzling noise it used to make if you screwed up your vsync?
good times, good times.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Tiber (613512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410562)

X is not a window system, it's a display system.

KDE is a windowing system, as is GNOME.

Wrong (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410774)

> X is not a window system, it's a display system.

X is the windowing system, metacity/kwin are window managers and Gnome/KDE are desktops. Why do you presume everyone would call it "X Windows" if it wasn't a windowing system?

Re:Wrong (1)

Tiber (613512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411344)

OK, you tell me what happens to applications when you fire up X along with an application of your choice that isn't a window manager.

Re:Wrong (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411782)

You get a GUI with a window for the application you launched. If that happens to be a terminal,
you can even launch more programs. All the wm does it let you select which window in the stack
you wish to play with.

Re:Wrong (1)

lahvak (69490) | more than 6 years ago | (#22412078)

That's simple. The application windows will be created, but not managed. Which may be a problem if the application has several windows that have to be used at the same time, since one of the windows will probably cover at least parts of the other windows, and without a window manager it will be rather hard to access the other windows and bring them on top, or move windows out of the way. However, if you have an application that has only one window, or has a one main window and occasionally pops up a dialog window, that is used and closed quickly, you have no problem. I used to have a somewhat underpowered computer that I used to run starlogo. In order to minimize memory use, I would run starlogo directly on top of X. The computer would run just a very minimal system, X and starlogo. It worked perfectly well.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411254)

<nitpick>
KDE is not a windowing system, neither is GNOME.
For KDE kwin and plasma are the windowing systems, for GNOME it's metacity and compiz.
<\nitpick>

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Tiber (613512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411672)

wait wait wait

your computer is in a house
the house's windows are made of glass
therefor only things made of glass are window managers, such as glassfish

I wouldn't want a window made of plasma!

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

abaddononion (1004472) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410806)

I think this is a great post, in spite of the backlash against it. I support your cause, and fully agree. If I had mod points, I'd give them to you rather than posting here.

The general defense I keep seeing for X seems to be that people "aren't criticizing it properly". As if to say that just having problems with X isnt sufficient if you don't fully understand and can vocalize on those problems in a tech-savvy manner. In the past year, I don't know how many X problems I've run into, *most* of them being related to the fact that X itself is single-threaded, and there's a whole can of worms related to that when something minor in X happens to go wrong. There are certain issues that can be triggered in either KDE or Gnome (since X is beneath both of them), and some of them are fairly crippling. Maybe most users don't have the issues with X that I do. I find that very easy to believe, since I tend to be one of those users who manages to scrape even the most insignificant bugs out of any software.

I would think open-source users would be more akin to a certain way of thinking. For example, a piece of software isnt good "just because" it's entrenched. If that's the case, then that just creates a whole boatload of defenses for the proprietary softwares like Microsoft. X has issues, it's fairly limited as far as a display protocol goes, unless I'm misremembering it is the *only* display manager between Linux, Apple, and Microsoft systems that is single-threaded... and the main reason it's not replaced is that it's such a very daunting task. Now I'm not saying that's not a good reason (I certainly don't have the gall to try to replace X), but it's a very poor defense of it.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411380)

What `issues' would you describe as crippling?

In what way being multithreaded would help? Do you know or are you simply repeating something you heard?

Re:So when do we get its successor? (2, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411644)

The general defense I keep seeing for X seems to be that people "aren't criticizing it properly". As if to say that just having problems with X isnt sufficient if you don't fully understand and can vocalize on those problems in a tech-savvy manner.

Not being psychic, if the best vocalization of your problem is "I have a problem", but refuse to say any more detail at all than that, then yes, you can't be helped, sorry. You appear to be inserting words into the OP's mouth beyond that -- the OP didn't even say they had a problem! They merely said X is old, and had no actual criticism to offer at all. Being old isn't in and of itself a problem, but it's the only issue that poster appeared to have. You don't have to be tech-savvy to say you have a problem, and to try to explain as best you can what the problem is, but OP didn't even get as far as saying they had a problem, much less even offer a clue as to what the problem might be.

If the problem is bugs, then the bugs need to be fixed. If the problem is inherent in the design, then the design needs to be redone. But if the problem is "it's over X years old and running software over X years old is uncool" then the software doesn't need fixing, the user's attiude needs fixing. Since OP appears to have no problems other than age (no complaint was made other than the age of the software), then frankly his comment should have been modded as the obvious troll that it is. Even if it's true that X actually needs fixing or replacing, that doesn't justify pointless trolling.

I think this is a great post, in spite of the backlash against it. I support your cause, and fully agree. If I had mod points, I'd give them to you rather than posting here.

It's a sad commentary on the rampant abuse of the mod system that you admit you'd give him mod points merely because you agree with him, rather than objectively mod him down, not because you agree or disagree, but because it was a bad, content-less post. Your own post was actually interesting and informative of what the actual issues are that people have with X (unlike the post you're replying to, which was in fact nothing but a troll). Mod points shouldn't be handed out because you support a cause, they should be handed out because the post is a good one, whether you agree with it not. (Or negative points given if it's a bad post, whether you agree with it or not.)

Re:So when do we get its successor? (2, Insightful)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411668)

What you mean is that the Xfree86 and xorg implementations of the X server for the PC are single-threaded. I don't think there is anything in the standard that prevents X servers in general from being written differently. X clients, like browsers or window managers, are not single threaded.

The problems of being single-threaded are simple and easy to find: something hanging causes all updates to stop. The bugs that you get in multi-threaded code are generally much worse: locking problems and concurrency issues can be very hard to track down.

Access to the hardware has to be serialized anyway, so its not clear that multi-threading the server is going to result in any major improvement. It would speed up any rendering that is done in software and could be parallelized, but would not help X operations that are a single call to the graphics card.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410842)

Why?

Seriously, why? I'm not aware of any fundamental flaws in X that would necessitate scraping it in its entirety and replacing it by something else. It does what it's supposed to do, and I don't see anything in your post that explains why you'd disagree - the only reason you seem to be putting forward is that after a while, programs should be scraped and replaced by default, just because.

I don't think that's a good reason.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411060)

Let me put it this way. If we were to come up with say, a new open standard for a window system API, and all the associated drivers necessary for it, etc., and we were to submit that to ISO, we would call it something like the Open Window Standard or somesuch. X.Org would rename themselves to "Open X.Org." X is as much a defacto standard as .doc, but that doesn't make it good. And anyone whose ever had X break on them can testify to the fact that it's just not an elegant solution for how to do things. It's inefficient, it's monolithic, it doesn't play well with multiple processors, it has all these flaws. I didn't think I had to bring those things up: this is Slashdot, we know the flaws are there. Dammit, we should be complaining about them shouldn't we?

Since when does Open Source mean we have to be content with what we have and bitch at people who say what we have isn't better than the competition? I love Open Source, I'd eat, drink and sleep with Open Source. My toaster should be Open Source. And in some ways it's really, spectacularly advanced. Server applications for example, top-notch. But for desktop users we have a monolithic window system that breaks, all the damn time, and has fallen so far behind the competition that it's only recently become usable and with an enormous investment of effort into hacking 3d rendering into it.

I shouldn't need to say those things though, as I said, this is Slashdot. People here know what the problems with X are, dammit, I'm announcing my dissatisfaction. People reply with "You don't like it, code your own," ok. Let's start. Let's make a development program for a replacement for X that will correctly process the hooks for a few popular toolkits (QT,GTK+) and work from there. If we can get QT4 and GTK+2 working on something -other- than X, that will be major progress.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411266)

Let me put it this way. If we were to come up with say, a new open standard for a window system API, and all the associated drivers necessary for it, etc., and we were to submit that to ISO, we would call it something like the Open Window Standard or somesuch. X.Org would rename themselves to "Open X.Org." X is as much a defacto standard as .doc, but that doesn't make it good.

Was there a point to all that?

And anyone whose ever had X break on them can testify to the fact that it's just not an elegant solution for how to do things.

If X is breaking on you all the time, you're doing something wrong. X is very stable.

What specific problems have you had?

It's inefficient

It's at least as fast as the competition.

it's monolithic,

So? How does that affect the user?

it doesn't play well with multiple processors,

It works just fine on my dual core system.

I didn't think I had to bring those things up: this is Slashdot, we know the flaws are there.

No we don't, we use X every day, and we quite like it thank you very much. These days saying that X is a dinosaur sounds a lot like saying that BSD is dying.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (2, Informative)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411592)

Let me put it this way. If we were to come up with say, a new open standard for a window system API, and all the associated drivers necessary for it, etc., and we were to submit that to ISO, we would call it something like the Open Window Standard or somesuch. X.Org would rename themselves to "Open X.Org." X is as much a defacto standard as .doc, but that doesn't make it good. And anyone whose ever had X break on them can testify to the fact that it's just not an elegant solution for how to do things. It's inefficient, it's monolithic, it doesn't play well with multiple processors, it has all these flaws. I didn't think I had to bring those things up: this is Slashdot, we know the flaws are there. Dammit, we should be complaining about them shouldn't we?

Actually, here in slashdot what we get is lots of people, much as yourself, mentioning flaws. But very few people have any real idea of what they are talking and about one third (being generous!) of the posters are probably among those that think that KDE is a window manager, that QT and GTK are part of X, and that have some very mystical and completely misguided understanding of how the SELECTION protocol works.

There are flaws. This is obvious from reading the mailing lists of the X developers. But your blowing hot air about `flaws' in no way is comparable to any positive action with regards to their solution---let alone their identification.

But for desktop users we have a monolithic window system that breaks, all the damn time, and has fallen so far behind the competition that it's only recently become usable and with an enormous investment of effort into hacking 3d rendering into it.

When does it break, exactly, and all that frequently, for desktop users? In what way does its being monolithic affect anyone apart from its own developers? Are you really not aware of the reasons why accelerated 3d rendering goes at somewhat glacial speed?

I shouldn't need to say those things though, as I said, this is Slashdot. People here know what the problems with X are, dammit, I'm announcing my dissatisfaction. People reply with "You don't like it, code your own," ok. Let's start. Let's make a development program for a replacement for X that will correctly process the hooks for a few popular toolkits (QT,GTK+) and work from there.

Ah. I see. You are going to be in charge of the management of such a project... And I imagine you'll want to participate in the critique part, too! We will contact you.

If we can get QT4 and GTK+2 working on something -other- than X, that will be major progress.

Both work on top of things other than X, on top of several different things in fact.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

octopus72 (936841) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410954)

You mean loosing 5 years (and a manpower needed elsewhere) on a rewrite, while in the meantime Xorg will be improved to the point that a rewrite is pointless? (we can't just drop X protocol compatibility or all existing applications will stop working).

Re:So when do we get its successor? (4, Interesting)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410992)

I know X is entrenched and all, but really, aren't we all fed up with this dinosaur? A new window system might be a good thing for Linux as a whole.

Why does every new kid on the block insist you have to replace it to be any good without knowing how much effort it takes to get a GUI working right?

X-Windows is also 1984 from MIT as Wiki on X-Windows [wikipedia.org] , which makes it almost 24 years old. And components of it likely existed before it's 1984 debut. It has had a lot of years to become polished. For without it Linux would likely still have some proprietary GUI that can't be used with other hosts. That is, I enjoy login into Linux, login to a different vendor of Linux or perhaps a BSD, AIX or Solaris....and it works!

I will admit, having used and programmed X-Windows from almost year one, it was initially heavy, had alignment bugs and was no where near like today's X. It was in fact ahead of it's time but now that the graphics hardware has enough juice it is in it's prime. A portable inter-operable network/GUI.

And just so you don't think this fossil is stodgy, GTK is a fantastic Motif replacement. You should try it, real nice.

Don't try to make Linux look like Vista, Vista will not last. And X-Windows will outlast Bill Gates himself. Bills empire still can't do portable Windows without outside help. Perhaps spend your time with that new X-Windows desktop for Linux, the one with the cube.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411056)

Nice troll, first post too. 9/10.

Re:So when do we get its successor? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411674)

Why?
On my version of Ubuntu that I just installed it is working just fine and is pretty fast.
Most of the problems with X have to do with the current implementation and not with X.
Improving X is what needs to be done.

Typo.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410114)

SEX Power Tools

There fixed that typo!

IT books rarely go out of date (4, Insightful)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410152)

As long as the program lives on (even as abandonware), so does the technology and the potential for manuals and other HOWTO material. People still buy QBasic By Example (and blogs still rave about it) even though it was unbundled from Windows in Vista (maybe even XP, I'm not sure) and most people (myself included) haven't written a proper program in it for coming up on a decade.

Proper qbasic program? (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410492)

Isn't that one of those oxymoron things like "Military Intelligence".

Bad review (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410156)

How bad can a review be? This provides no useful information, except that the reviewer seems to have liked it a lot.

Re:Bad review (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410384)

How bad can a review be? This provides no useful information, except that the reviewer seems to have liked it a lot.


Maybe they didn't want to spoil it due to their undying love for the author and/or the book.

Re:Bad review (2, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410406)

What did I leave out that you would like to know? I'm always looking to do a better job and would appreciate any help in that regard.

Re:Bad review (2, Informative)

logru (909550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410918)

* What does it cover?
* What are the chapters?
* What detail does it go into?
* Who is it aimed at?
  * Would a newbie find it useful or bewildering?
* How expensive is it?
* Is it easy to use as a reference or do you read it cover to cover?
* What didn't you like about it?
* Was there any bad information in there?
* When you say it's more linux aimed, to what degree?

Those are just some of the questions I can come up with from the top of my head...

Re:Bad review (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411708)

I try hard not to just summarize the book. Or just go over stuff that's really easy to get - I think you might find that this page [oreilly.com] has a lot of what you want - the toc will give you a great idea of what the book covers.
 
The subjects are covered thoroughly as I mentioned, with coverage of command line as well as gui tools and the appropriate config files. There is also some explanation as to why things work the way they do and nice ideas/examples of various ways that those options can be implemented.
 
I think the importance in regards to audience is not level of experience but rather desire. That's why I addressed this issue the way that I did. A person who doesn't care how X works - as long as it does, probably would not be too interested in this book or implementing what it has to offer. A person who is new to systems that use X or is experienced but hasn't played with X a lot would find it useful. I don't think it would bewilder a newbie. Things are explained thoroughly and I guess all they would need is some level of familiarity with the command line. Nothing extreme though. They could probably even get by without vim, as easy as it is to use things like Kate or other options. I guess I also assumed that anyone who would buy this - would in all likelihood know enough to work through it.
 
I can't really put the cost in the review - I mean I guess I could tell you what O'Reilly has suggested for the price - but if you are paying that, you aren't being a smart consumer. Every book review is accompanied by a link directly to the book at Amazon (or whoever slashdot links to at the time). And the ISBN is up there too - if cost is a consideration I'd use that to find your best option.
 
You could read it cover to cover. I did. It was almost all new to me so that worked out well. With any technical book - I think a good index is really important so that it can serve as a decent reference. This book has a good index and would work well as a reference. If it didn't have a good index, I guess the detailed breakdown of the toc would help - but it would still be tough to go back and hunt down specific bits. This is, in my opinion where Safari shines. Searching the electronic version is nice.
 
I didn't have any real problems with the book beyond the Linux orientation. If I had, I'd have mentioned them.
 
No bad information to my knowledge. There was one typo - they used the word depreciate instead of deprecate. I filled out the form on the book's O'Reilly page. It wasn't too big a deal, I knew what the author meant.
 
Aimed at Linux to the degree that it's pretty much always Linux he's dealing with when he moves outside of generic X stuff. I'm not sure what you want beyond that. That I thought I was pretty clear on, but I guess not. Now - in the case of the flavor of Unix I work with, AIX - a lot of Linux stuff is available on it now. But it would have been cool to know if AIX keeps something somewhere different from most Linux distros that he would mention that. But he didn't really deal with Unix that way. I'm assuming this is in large part due to the fact that it isn't as easy to get one's hands on Unix. I never worked with AIX until my current job - because my employer has it. I don't own any p-serires machines or anything myself. It's not a deal breaker though - because a lot of X stuff is pretty standardized across all platforms.
 
I wrote the review at Panera, on a Sunday morning after I finished the book. It's kind of a hobby, writing reviews and submitting them to Slashdot. I find myself often pulled to just regurgitate what's in the book. That would be more of a book-report than a review. With a review, my understanding is that I want to convey more why I think the book is worthwhile or not, as opposed to listing what's in the book. But maybe I pulled a little too far that way this time. The nice thing is, I think, if you ever see a book review by me on slashdot - I'll probably be reading the thread like today. And will answer questions if I can. If I don't see a post - people can always email me, or just drop a note in one of my journal entries. I'm here too much probably. :)

O Rly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410174)

Nice book but what i was really looking for was "X Window System Power Toys Plus!"

My only suggestion for X (2, Insightful)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410312)

is that it know the hardware it's running on better. You shouldn't need a file to say what resolution your monitor can do for instance; it should just know and keep track of preferences of what resolution you'd prefer maybe.

This isn't a troll; monitors and graphics cards have been able for donkeys years to tell the OS what resolutions and refresh-rates they are capable of for years now and X hasn't caught on.

And that's pretty much my only complaint.

Re:My only suggestion for X (0)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410366)

Your complaint is at least 5 years out of date.

Re:My only suggestion for X (3, Informative)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410392)

You mean X should be able to auto config itself and not rely on a set resolution in /etc/X1ll/xorg.conf? Kinda like how it does now?

Re:My only suggestion for X (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410948)

Yes, that works great if you plug in one display when you install and never change it.

Now go to your nearest Mac, plug in a second display (while it's running), and watch what happens. Then go to your nearest Linux box, plug in a second display (also while it's already running), and watch what happens. Note that the Mac was using both displays about 4 seconds after you plugged it in, and the Linux box was not.

Re:My only suggestion for X (4, Insightful)

FooBarWidget (556006) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411190)

Nope. This has already been addressed in the most recent X.org release. In fact the goal of this release is automatic hardware hotplugging support with no config files.

Actually it already works now. I'm running Ubuntu 7.10. Not too long ago I plugged in a beamer into my VGA port, and it... just worked! No configurations, no restart, it Just Worked(tm).

If you're going to whine, at least make an effort to stay up to date with the facts.

Re:My only suggestion for X (2, Insightful)

ADRA (37398) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411920)

There will always be problematic hardware that needs more than just using auto-probed settings using than using /proc and EDID settings. My issue is a minor one, but a major head-ache. I've got a TV as my monitor, and like many many TV's on the market, the TV overscan/underscan issues. The only way to property configure that monitor is for someone to manually plug in settings to come up with a few 'magic' resolutions that will 'just work' out of the box of any new distribution.

But I do agree, most of whats currently inside Xogr.conf can be auto-probed. Maybe we should loosen up the constraints on required sections of Xorg.conf and allow for more 'probe and attach everything I have' configurations, but I wouldn't consider removing the file entirely.

Re:My only suggestion for X (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410396)

You shouldn't need a file to say what resolution your monitor can do
If you have a monitor that can tell X what it can do, then you don't need anything in your config file. I've only had to set them in my xorg.conf when I was running xvnc with no monitor attached (it defaulted to 800x600 I think, but I wanted a higher resolution).

X.Org 7.4 doesn't even seem to need a config file at all.

Re:My only suggestion for X (1)

mjm1231 (751545) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411126)

While what you say is true, how this works in practice varies by distro. The last several times I've installed slackware, I didn't need to run any config script or edit any files to get a working xorg setup.

However, I have an old P3 running xubuntu that I use on a daily basis which has taught me that detecting a monitor is one thing...redetecting a monitor is something else. Windows is often not much better in this regard, but at least the interface for changing the monitor settings is easier to navigate and more importantly, works.

When I first installed xubuntu on this machine, it had an old 15" monitor hooked up to it. When I decided it would be a useful machine, I dug up an old 17" monitor and swapped that one in. I could not get the default screen resolution to change from 800x600 to 1024x768. I ran through all the video setup instruction I could find on the ubuntu website and forums, including editing the xorg.conf by hand and resetting the grub splash screen. None of this really solved the problem. Eventually I got it to the point where restarting xwindows with a ctrl-alt-backspace brings it up at the desired resolution. The system still starts up with an 800x600 resolution almost every time. If it goes to sleep, when it wakes up it will sometimes revert back to 800x600. Since I have the ctrl-alt-back kludge, I stopped looking for a solution. I'm thinking of just doing a fresh install rather than an upgrade when xubuntu 8 becomes available, but really, should reinstalling the OS be the best solution to reset xorg when replacing a monitor?

Yeah, this is probably something solvable by the distro maintainers. It seems that if this was something easy to do with xorg, then a distro as large as ubuntu should have had it solved awhile ago.

Re:My only suggestion for X (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410430)

is that it know the hardware it's running on better.

Xorg does this just fine on vaguely modern hardware that doesn't need extra hacks. (Intel, I'm looking at your graphics chipset!) It's the distro's configure script that isn't up to the job.

Of course, you COULD contribute a better script...

Re:My only suggestion for X (0, Flamebait)

hitmark (640295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410882)

not only intel. from what i understand, there are displays out there that provide false info about its capabilities. one company selling such products have a half-eaten fruit as a logo iirc.

Re:My only suggestion for X (2, Informative)

Enleth (947766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410438)

mv /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.bak

And restart it. Seriously. Since about a year, the best way of running X on a PC is to let it autoconfigure itself without any configuration file, not even the one generated by some distro-supplied automatic configuration system.

Re:My only suggestion for X (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410612)

Actually your problem is probably that you have a file - these days, the meaning of xorg.conf has shifted mostly to "I want to OVERRIDE the stuff you autodetected, X". Thus, new linux users don't know what the heck you're on about.

Re:My only suggestion for X (2, Informative)

ianezz (31449) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410862)

This isn't a troll; monitors and graphics cards have been able for donkeys years to tell the OS what resolutions and refresh-rates they are capable of for years now and X hasn't caught on.

Uh? Xorg (and XFree86 before) have been querying monitors characteristics via DDC for years. HorizSync and VertRefresh are just for really ancient monitors/graphic adapters. Look here [tldp.org] if you don't believe me.

Courtesy of the fortune program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22410458)

X windows:
        The ultimate bottleneck.
        Flawed beyond belief.
        The only thing you have to fear.
        Somewhere between chaos and insanity.
        On autopilot to oblivion.
        The joke that kills.
        A disgrace you can be proud of.
        A mistake carried out to perfection.
        Belongs more to the problem set than the solution set.
        To err is X windows.
        Ignorance is our most important resource.
        Complex nonsolutions to simple nonproblems.
        Built to fall apart.
        Nullifying centuries of progress.
        Falling to new depths of inefficiency.
        The last thing you need.
        The defacto substandard.
 
Elevating brain damage to an art form.
        X windows.
That quoted; X is here, it's proven, it's stable and it works pretty damned well.

The best thing about Xorg documentation ever: (5, Insightful)

Enleth (947766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410490)

From man xorg.conf, verbatim:

VIDEOADAPTOR SECTION
Nobody wants to say how this works. Maybe nobody knows ...


On the more serious note, Xorg might have some misfeatures and shortcomings - that don't really justify everyone whining there, but, well, it's kind of typical - but the sheer fact that something designed over 20 years ago to operate with hardware and software long forgotten still does its job well and manages to keep up with other windowing systems even when it comes to bells and whistles (Composite, etc.), while being ABI (ABI, mind you, not API) compatible with software that actually is 20 years old, means something. That's one solid piece of engineering, the kind one doesn't see often.

XDMCP: Help please! (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410660)

XDMCP is one of my favorite features of X. But, getting it set up is such a royal pain in the butt, especially on networks with mixed distros and OSs. It's been a few years since I've had to administer it much, but my only real gripe with X was the time it took getting a good XDMCP environment up and running. Hope there's some help with it included.

Re:XDMCP: Help please! (2, Informative)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22410844)

Really? I don't recall having much problem with XDMCP. Granted, I never had to do it large scale, but it was more or less just a matter of having one machine run XDM/GDM and then on "client" machines start X with an option that points it to the IP of the XDMCP "server." IIRC, there is even an XDMCP browser. The only thing is that some distributions (maybe most these days?) don't enable listening for TCP connections by default for security reasons. So you have to know where to enable that.

-matthew

Hein? (0, Redundant)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22411704)

There is no linux version of X. Do you mean XFree86?
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