Proper Multi-Seat X Support Is On The Way
Written by Michael Larabel in X.Org on 26 July 2009 at 07:33 AM EDT. 9 Comments
While multi-seat computing has been available on Linux for years, it's often been a chore to setup and required some time. Beyond just being time consuming and an unnecessary hassle, the way of setting up a multi-seat computer through an X Server with multiple nested Xephyr servers is not pleasant. There have been several attempts at improving the multi-seat Linux experience by creating a multi-seat display manager and taking various other steps, but to date this is still a challenge to setup. The good news though is that this may soon change.

Red Hat was wanting to deliver a good multi-seat implementation with Fedora 11, but that feature ended up being recalled and postponed to the next Fedora release, Fedora 12. Rather than mixing X.Org and Xephyr, a cleaner way of handling this would be to just start up multiple X Servers so that each seat would have its own X Server. If you do that right now though, you could run into some issues when you have multiple X Servers and multiple graphics cards, etc.

To work around this issue of multiple X Servers colliding with one another when talking to the graphics cards, there was a revival of the VGA Arbiter back in May. The VGA Arbiter was first designed nearly five years ago and its goal was to allow multiple X Servers to run with multiple graphics cards having the legacy VGA interface without causing any problems. Tiago Vignatti has now revised this VGA Arbiter work from earlier this year (along with the help of David Airlie) and he has now submitted a new VGA Arbiter implementation to the Linux kernel mailing list.

The VGA Arbiter hasn't made its way into the mainline tree yet and there are also some other patches that need to work their way upstream when it comes to the X Server and libpciaccess. However, once done, this should be a large step forward in improving the Linux multi-seat experience. Tiago has briefly talked about this work on his blog.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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