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Wayland Is Not For End-Users In Ubuntu 12.04

Ubuntu

Published on 15 March 2012 08:39 AM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Ubuntu
2 Comments

Two days ago I wrote about Wayland's Weston compositor landing in the Ubuntu 12.04 repository, which excited many Linux desktop users. However, for those thinking that Wayland/Weston is ready for end-users with next month's Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin", that is not the case.

The article two days ago that pointed out the Weston compositor landing in the Ubuntu Precise repository due to a package sync with Debian, but besides that, it also noted the GTK+ build in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is unlikely to support Wayland. While GTK+ 3.4 should be in the 12.04 LTS release, it must be built with the --enable-wayland-backend option in order to have the Wayland back-end support so that this tool-kit can function without X11.

Unless the Wayland back-end for GTK+ is built, there won't be any support. Yet in the 48 hours since, there's still been many messages asking about it, e.g. "I just heard that there is still hope Gnome 3.4 makes it into in the Ubuntu Precise? Have you heard anything about it? If that is true, what does it mean in terms of performance/wayland support/etc???" and "I just read that there is a chance that Gnome 3.4 actually makes it to Ubuntu 12.04, although an issue remains unresolved. So, that means updated Gtk+ etc, so does that mean that Wayland Weston might actually work on Ubuntu 12.04?"

Even if GTK+ gets re-built for Ubuntu 12.04 with the Wayland back-end enabled, using Wayland/Weston will be next to useless for a majority of Linux desktop users with this release. XWayland is coming along, but in terms of native applications running on Wayland, that's still a huge work in progress. There's some GTK+ and Qt applications now running on Wayland, and even Tizen's Dawati is running, but the GNOME and KDE desktops are not. Even the Wayland support for popular web-browsers is still being tackled.

Just yesterday it was announced that xeyes was ported to Wayland, but that's not even running on an upstream Weston as it requires non-trivial changes to the compositor itself and an extension to the Wayland protocol.

The Linux desktop isn't ready for Wayland in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS as even for experimental users wishing to have the least bit of productivity. Wayland can be used for some fun demos or if you're a developer wishing to bring your application over, but for others it really isn't time to leave X11/X.Org quite yet.

Running Wayland right now also means you're using the open-source DRM/KMS graphics drivers, which generally means slower performance, poor power management, slow-to-develop OpenGL support, and a reduced feature-set compared to the binary blobs. That is also assuming your graphics card even has open-source support.

Wayland might be more interested in Ubuntu 12.10 later in the year once Wayland changes more with 1.0 and more applications / desktops can natively handle this successor to the 25-year-old X11 server.

It's possible with Ubuntu 12.10 is where Ubuntu may try to push Wayland when 12.10 is running on supported hardware, but even then it will likely be relying upon XWayland to retain X11 support. Ubuntu 13.04 is a more likely target where impassioned Linux enthusiasts can get excited about Wayland on Ubuntu. We'll find out more plans in May during the Ubuntu 12.10 Developer Summit in Oakland.

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