Is It Worth Releasing X.Org Server Updates For Old Branches To Help Vintage Hardware?
Written by Michael Larabel in X.Org on 3 January 2019 at 06:58 AM EST. 22 Comments
X.ORG --
Is there enough interest in seeing new point releases for older X.Org Server release branches to ship fixes almost exclusively aimed at improving decades old graphics/display hardware? We'll see, but at least one person wants to work on such releases.

Kevin Brace got involved with the open-source graphics driver scene by being the lone one left/interested in working on OpenChrome for VIA x86 graphics hardware. He's learned along the way and managed to provide various fixes to the DDX and has also been working on the OpenChrome DRM/KMS driver though that effort seems to have stalled on getting mainlined as it would require porting to the atomic mode-setting interfaces.

Since then he's taken to working on patches and issuing new DDX releases for old X.Org drivers like Matrox and Imagine 128 hardware as well as the ATI RAGE 128 and other decades old hardware. In some cases for having a personal interest in having the hardware and in other cases no hardware but an interest in preserving old hardware support.

His latest proposal is wanting to issue a new maintenance release to X.Org Server 1.19 and potentially even older series too. One patch is currently motivating him and that was figuring out why Xfce was crashing with the SiS 6326, the Silicon Integrated Systems' GPU from 1997. That fix for the two decades old GPU turns out to be a problem within the EXA 2D acceleration code for handling 24-bit color modes. That bug has existed since X.Org Server 1.7.

That xorg-server patch doesn't allow the SiS 6326 run bug-free on the Linux desktop, but there are reported artifact problems still, though Kevin believes that is due to SiS DDX driver bugs. But now he is interested in shipping new xorg-server point releases for 1.19 and potentially back further in order to ship this EXA patch.

But with not having served as a xorg-server release manager previously and without the experience, he's currently soliciting feedback and potential help in making this a reality.

It remains to be seen how practical these old X.Org Server releases would be since the Linux distributions still on dated server builds are generally now unmaintained or not common practice for those distributions to ship new point releases of key components like the X.Org Server, especially if it's for an obscure bug and not a security fix or some prominent change.

The long unmaintained older branches also lack the X11 security fixes of the newer branches, so unless those patches were to be back-ported in which case it could turn out to be a slippery slope of additional work, it would be the potential of outing new point releases with known security vulnerabilities in order to fix vintage hardware issues.

The current X.Org Server 1.20 stable series has already been available for 7+ months. So we'll see if anything happens on this topic.
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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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