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KDE Draws Up Plans For Wayland In 2012

Michael Larabel

Published on 7 August 2011
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 2 - 7 Comments

This weekend at the Desktop Summit in Berlin, plans were presented by Martin Gräßlin, the maintainer of the KWin compositing window manager, for supporting the Wayland Display Server as an alternative to KDE being limited to X11. For early adopters and those using Plasma Active, KDE on Wayland should become a reality in the 2012 calendar year.

In Martin's presentation at Humboldt University, he covered the current state of affairs for KDE/KWin on X, the opportunities that Wayland provides, and then the plans for adoption. The problems that Martin has with the X11/X.Org Server from his perspective as maintainer of KDE's compositing window manager is that X11 provides no direct communication, window managers need to fix shortcomings in X, there is no input redirection support, and that X11 was designed around non-compositing environments.

X.Org/X11 also faces slow development, the API is like "time travelling", and Martin thinks there is "hardly any chance" that we will see anything useful from X in terms of compositing support. Martin mentioned that Compiz developers have had X patches for years that have not been merged, among other problems. Wayland should not have these limitations and problems, while it also provides new opportunities, such as the ability for nested Wayland servers.

Phoronix readers should be well aware of the current state of Wayland based upon all of our Wayland content and discussions within our forums. Martin's Wayland status update said the Mesa code is supported, there is the Qt Lighthouse port, there is experiment Wayland support in GTK+3, and there is a Clutter back-end but it is currently out-of-date. In terms of Wayland usage, there are demo compositors and demo clients available.

While Wayland may be very hopeful with the heavy backing of Intel, MeeGo, and Qt, among other stakeholders, there are some obstacles. Among the Wayland obstacles that Martin Gräßlin mentioned was that Wayland is not actually used in the real-world yet so there's possible unforeseen problems at this point, it's not know when the proprietary (NVIDIA and ATI/AMD) graphics drivers will support Wayland, there is not yet EWMH support for Wayland, and other possible issues with the Wayland project still being quite young.

When Wayland is mature, an X.Org Server still may be needed in some situations for unsupported hardware / drivers, if needing to take advantage of X11 network transparency, and legacy software that is strictly dependent upon X11, among other areas. "Dropping X support is not (yet) possible!"

Martin does acknowledge that Wayland also has great advantages on mobile devices, especially when paired with KDE's Plasma Active. This is not a huge surprise considering Intel also thinks highly of Wayland on mobile devices too. Intel is even hoping to possibly use Wayland on MeeGo Tablet UX 1.3, which will ship this calendar year. The big hurdle, of course, at least initially is having the mobile graphics drivers to support the Wayland Display Server.

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