GNOME 40 Introducing Headless Native Backend, Virtual Monitors

Written by Michael Larabel in GNOME on 12 March 2021 at 11:22 AM EST. 22 Comments
Another feature tacked onto the big GNOME 40 desktop update is a headless native back-end for Mutter and the ability to easily create virtual monitors.

This headless native back-end that was merged today into GNOME 40's Mutter allows for running the native back-end atop a render node in a headless configuration without a physical display attached. As part of this headless native back-end is also the ability to create virtual monitors via command-line options for debugging and other purposes. This also allows creating virtual monitor PipeWire streams. Virtual monitors can be used outside of the headless native back-end but the headless back-end is dependent upon virtual monitors.

Multiple virtual monitors can be created for a single session. An example of Mutter's new support for a headless virtual monitor output is via mutter --wayland --headless --virtual-monitor 1920x1080. The virtual monitor output can be viewed via streaming with PipeWire.

At least for now this virtual monitor / headless support appears to be primarily for debugging purposes but may also prove useful in time for CI and similar functionality.

More details on this headless native back-end for GNOME 40 Mutter can be found via this merge request that was merged this morning. Longtime GNOME developer Jonas Ã…dahl of Red Hat is responsible for this latest addition that comes in at more than five thousand lines of code.
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