Sub-Surfaces Support Merged Into Wayland
Written by Michael Larabel in Wayland on 13 May 2013 at 11:58 PM EDT. 9 Comments
Support for sub-surfaces has been merged into mainline Wayland after the protocol work and other changes for this exciting new feature has been in development for several months. Sub-surfaces by itself isn't too exciting to end-users but will benefit application developers in enhancing the Wayland-powered Linux desktop.

Sub-surfaces in this perspective are additional Wayland surface objects that are connected to an application window. The Wayland compositor then does the compositing work of these sub-surfaces that the application/client would otherwise be responsible for compositing. With having the compositor itself handle these sub-surfaces of a given application window rather than the application itself, it should be easier for application developers while also yielding better performance.

Pekka Paalanen, the principal developer of the Wayland sub-surfaces work, used video players as one of the aims for this work. Video players have to deal with window decorations, the video content itself, and other potential overlays for sub-titles and displaying other content. Often these different layers are in different color formats when it comes to video playback. With the sub-surfaces work, the compositor itself can handle blending all of the layers together and potentially make greater use of hardware overlays and other performance-enhancing paths.

Sub-surfaces could also allow separate rendering APIs to work separately while being able to efficiently produced a finished product (window).

After the Wayland sub-surfaces patches went through three revisions, Kristian Høgsberg merged the work last Friday, per this mailing list post. Besides the Wayland protocol work for sub-surfaces, there's also a Weston compositor implementation and toytoolkit support.

Wayland sub-surfaces is one of the many planned features for Wayland 1.2. Another recently merged Wayland/Weston 1.2 feature was color management support.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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