Where there are the 2009 Linux Graphics Survey results from a few months back, we are interested in hearing what you would like from Linux graphics drivers in 2010. Whether it be specific features, overall improvements, a change in policies, or anything else that influences your Linux graphics experience.
X@FOSDEM, the X.Org development room that's held at FOSDEM each year, has traditionally been a two day event that runs the duration of this major European free software meeting. This year though it turned into a one day affair, even though there is only one other X.Org conference held each year (which used to be two -- XDS and XDC -- until that fell apart in 2008). Even with this trimmed down schedule and not many opportunities to talk about X.Org each year at such conferences, the speaking schedule remains only half filled.
While X Server 1.8 left its primary development cycle and entered a period of bug-fixing at the end of last month, per its release schedule with planned readiness by the end of March, some late work does continue to get pulled into this next major X.Org Server release. On Monday, Intel's Jesse Barnes put in a pull request for one of his trees that adds in support for the DRI 2.2 protocol requests and new extensions for the X Server. This work, which bumps the DRI2 version to v2.2, has now been pulled and will be part of X Server 1.8.
There's just one month left until the Free and Open-source Software Developers' European Meeting (FOSDEM) takes place once again in Brussels, Belgium. Like in past years, there will be an X.Org development room where various talks about X will be held, but this year it has turned into a one-day affair. Even with having half the time as past years to talk about X, the schedule is not even full at this point.
Version 1.7.4 of the X.Org Server has been released this morning. This point release continues to bring new bug-fixes to the X Server 1.7 series branch since its release last year. All major development work continues to be focused on X Server 1.8, which is expected for release in March.
Back in 2008, Novell's David Reveman published his own branch of the Distributed Multi-head X (DMX) server which he called dmx-2 as it was close to a complete rewrite of the original DMX implementation. David's DMX-2 branch was less complex but provided a greater set of features, including X-Video, RandR 1.2, and Composite support in a DMX environment, D-Bus configuration, and many other changes. This branch was never merged to master, but now Red Hat's Adam Jackson is looking at merging some of the DMX-2 to work into the mainline X Server.
The end of 2009 marked the closure of the merge window for X Server 1.8, which means that HAL removal work got in, including xorg.conf.d and udev input handling. What didn't make it in time for X Server 1.8 though was XKB2. XKB2 has been talked about for quite a while now and going back a number of X Server releases, but now we will not see this revised version of the X Keyboard Extension until at least X Server 1.9. This though is not entirely surprising since XKB2 hasn't been discussed a lot as of late.
We are just a few days into 2010, but the standard (basic) window manager for X.Org, TWM, has finally received some updates. TWM has been around for 13 years and under the hands of many developers, but is now receiving some new development love from Eeri Kask. Eeri has been hacking away at TWM for a few years now and has made many improvements already, but this is the first time since September of 2008 that he is announcing some of his new work.
A month ago we reported on news regarding the X.Org plans to move away from HAL considering the FreeDesktop.org Hardware Abstraction Layer project is no longer being developed. Since then patches have emerged to support a xorg.conf.d directory for storing some device-specific options and some new xorg.conf configuration options have emerged for filling in some of the gaps previously covered by HAL.
Multi-Pointer X has been fully supported by X.Org since the X Server 1.7 release earlier this year. The MPX support allows multiple input devices to work independently within a single running X Server. GTK has been hacked-up to allow for multi-touch events to some extent and Qt 4.6 was released with multi-touch support. The Intel developers working on Moblin and Clutter have also been working on multi-touch support for the Clutter tool-kit. In addition, they have also developed a gestures recognition framework for multi-touch (and for some gestures, single-touch) environments.
Work on the X Server 1.7.4 point release is finishing up and as a result Peter Hutterer has tagged the second release candidate, which may very well be the last test release before it goes gold. X Server 1.7.4 RC2 back-ports a number of fixes from X Server 1.8, switches the default keyboard layout to pc105 (from pc104), man-page fixes/updates, and miscellaneous other work.
With there being just more than three months left until the planned release of X Server 1.8, Keith Packard has just issued the second snapshot for those interested in trying out this developmental X.Org server. The first X Server 1.8 snapshot came two months ago, but this second snapshot is arriving later than expected after having to deal with some bugs.
Back in June we shared a nifty video that was produced by the French-based ENAC Interactive Computing Lab that showed off some multi-touch capabilities on Linux. At that time and in the video they were using the Linux kernel and then recognizing gestures from input events and then sending specialized commands over D-Bus straight into Compiz. Since that time though, X Server 1.7 / X.Org 7.5 has been released, which fully delivers on Multi-Pointer X support.
One of the features being worked on for X Server 1.8 is the removal of HAL support. The FreeDesktop.org Hardware Abstraction Layer project is nice in that is multi-platform, but the HAL project has largely been abandoned and is being replaced by UDisks and similar projects.
X Server 1.7.2 was released at the end of November and then X Server 1.7.3 was released at the start of this month to fix two show-stopping issues in the earlier point release. However, the first release candidate for X Server 1.7.4 has now been made available by Peter Hutterer.
Yesterday we shared the first numbers from our 2009 Linux Graphics Survey that showed the open-source ATI driver is now more popular than ATI's official Catalyst driver. The full results from this survey that concluded last month will be published tomorrow, but in yesterday's graph that we showed there was also something else interesting: the X.Org VESA driver usage. Approximately 1.5% of the survey respondents were using the xf86-video-vesa driver.
It was just one week ago that X Server 1.7.2 was released, but X Server 1.7.3 is now available today, which is far earlier than expected as it was not anticipated until the end of December. However, this X Server 1.7.3 release is out early because of two show-stopping issues that were found in the week-old 1.7.2 release.
To address the questions that have been coming up frequently regarding the X.Org Server and the plans to stop using HAL, Sun's Alan Coopersmith has created a new Wiki page called XorgHAL.
Luc Verhaegen, the longtime X.Org developer who was previously employed by Novell to work on their X11 stack and the RadeonHD driver and continues to hack on his VIA driver, has announced that at FOSDEM 2010 there will be an X.Org development room. Luc has been organizing X@FOSDEM annually for the past five years.
Our 2009 Linux Graphics Survey, which annually occurs to help and better inform both developers and end-users of the Linux desktop, ends tonight! Right now we are just shy of 14,000 submissions for this year's survey that has been running for the month of November. Take the survey now if you have not already done so. Results will be published in approximately one week.
For about two years now Red Hat has been working on the Plymouth project to replace RHGB with this graphical boot program that leverages kernel mode-setting and other newer Linux innovations to provide a clean, flicker-free boot experience. Over the course of the past few Fedora releases, Plymouth has continued to pickup new features and is also now being used by Mandriva. While Plymouth already does a great job at mode-setting to the display's native resolution and then showing the selected Plymouth plug-in and then to switch over to GNOME's GDM quite smoothly as the X.Org Server starts up, this process is getting even smoother now.
Just as planned, X Server 1.7.2 was released this morning to encompass all of the bug-fixes that have went into the X Server 1.7 branch over the past five weeks. The X Server 1.7.2 release message can be read on xorg-announce. Peter Hutterer is planning for an X Server 1.7.3 release in five weeks.
Our 2009 Linux Graphics Survey is ending at the end of the month. If you haven't already taken the survey, we would encourage you to do so now. The results from this survey will help both developers and end-users of the Linux desktop. It should only take a few minutes to complete, so why not take it now?
X Server 1.7.2 is scheduled to be released a week from Friday, so in preparations for that, Peter Hutterer has just pushed out the second release candidate for this minor point release. X Server 1.7.2 RC2 is made up of 15 fixes (mostly for XQuartz) since the RC1 release that arrived earlier this month.
At the end of October X Server 1.7.1 was released and at that time Peter Hutterer had said that the 1.7.2 build should arrive in about five weeks. It hasn't been five weeks yet, but it looks like he's still on track to delivering this bug-fix release on time or earlier. Peter has just announced the first pre-1.7.2 development release.
Merely eight hours ago we launched our 2009 Linux Graphics Survey to collect some data about the popular graphics drivers and hardware being used by our Linux readers along with other metrics such as the common ways one goes about installing their driver, what X server is being used, etc. The results of this survey are interesting in their own right, but they also help developers better understand what their users are most interested in with regard to the Linux graphics stack / X.Org and provide other statistics. This is our third time running this survey after successful runs in 2007 and 2008, but for 2009 it's looking like we will have a record number of survey responses.
When running a modern Linux graphics driver stack in a composited environment there is a lot less tearing -- particularly with regard to video playback, but OpenGL applications too -- now than there was in the past, but there is still room for improvement. One of the ways to improve this is by properly controlling the display of buffers with how often the swaps occur and to sync them with the monitor's refresh rate or the rate at which the compositor is running. Unfortunately, the X Server and open-source graphics stack have lacked such functionality even though some OpenGL/GLX extensions for this support have been around for years. Intel's Jesse Barnes though has been working on proper DRI2 support for synchronization and swapping.
In late September there was a call by Peter Hutterer for a new X.Org release process that consisted of a six-month release cycle for the X Server, all development work to be done in feature branches and not Git master, and a three-stage development cycle. The agreed upon version was pretty much the same as Peter's version, but it also called for the X.Org drivers to be pulled back into the X Server (around version 1.10).
X Server 1.7 was released earlier this month thereby paving the way for the release of X.Org 7.5, which is finally out there this afternoon. X.Org 7.5 consists of X Server 1.7.1 and all of the latest drivers, libraries, and other modules.
When it comes to video playback on Linux, the premiere choice for video acceleration is currently using VDPAU with its CPU-efficient, GPU-accelerated capabilities that even has no problems playing 1080p video files with extremely low-end hardware. However, VDPAU is not yet widespread in all Linux video drivers, and other free software developers have been working on improving other areas of the Linux video stack too. One of these developers is GNOME's Benjamin Otte who has been working on using Cairo/Pixman for raw video in GStreamer. Additionally, he has organized a Linux video "hackfest" that will take place next month in Barcelona, Spain to further this Linux video playback work.
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