S11 X11: ye olde window system in today's new operating system

Today's the big release for Oracle Solaris 11, after 7 years of development. For me, the Solaris 11 release comes a little more than 11 years after I joined the X11 engineering team at what was then Sun, and finishes off some projects that were started all the way back then.

For instance, when I joined the X team, Sun was finishing off the removal of the old OpenWindows desktop, and we kept getting questions asking about the rest of the stuff being shipped in /usr/openwin, the directory that held both the OpenLook applications and the X Window System software. I wrote up an ARC case at the time to move the X software to /usr/X11, but there were various issues and higher priority work, so we didn't end up starting that move until near the end of the Solaris 10 development cycle several years later. Solaris 10 thus had a mix of the recently added Xorg server and related code delivered in /usr/X11, while most of the existing bits from Sun's proprietary fork of X11R6 were still in /usr/openwin.

During Solaris 11 development, we finished that move, and then jumped again, moving the programs directly into /usr/bin, following the general Solaris 11 strategy of using /usr/bin for most of the programs shipped with the OS, and using other directories, such as /usr/gnu/bin, /usr/xpg4/bin, /usr/sunos/bin, and /usr/ucb for conflicting alternate implementations of the programs shipped in /usr/bin, no longer as a way to segregate out various subsystems to allow the OS to better fit onto the 105Mb hard disks that shipped with Sun workstations back when /usr/openwin was created. However, if for some reason you wanted to build your own set of X binaries, you could put them in /usr/X11R7 (as I do for testing builds of the upstream git master repos), and then put that first in your $PATH, so nothing is really lost here.

The other major project that was started during Solaris 10 development and finished for Solaris 11 was replacing that old proprietary fork of X11R6, including the Xsun server, with the modernized, modularized, open source X11R7.* code base from the new X.Org, including the Xorg server. The final result, included in this Solaris 11 release, is based mostly on the X11R7.6 release, including recent additions such as the XCB API I blogged about last year, though we did include newer versions of modules that had upstream releases since the X11R7.6 katamari, such as Xorg server version 1.10.3.

That said, we do still apply some local patches, configuration options, and other changes, for things from just fitting into the Solaris man page style or adding support for Trusted Extensions labeled desktops. You can see all of those changes in our source repository, which is searchable and browsable via OpenGrok on src.opensolaris.org (or via hgweb on community mirrors such as openindiana.org) and available for anonymous hg cloning as well. That xnv-clone tree is now frozen, a permanent snapshot of the Solaris 11 sources, while we've created a new x-s11-update-clone tree for the Solaris 11 update releases now being developed to follow on from here.

Naturally, when your OS has 7 years between major release cycles, the hardware environment you run on greatly changes in the meantime as well, and as the layer that handles the graphics hardware, there have been changes due to that. Most of the SPARC graphics devices that were supported in Solaris 10 aren't any more, because the platforms they ran in are no longer supported - we still ship a couple SPARC drivers that are supported, the efb driver for the Sun XVR-50, XVR-100, and XVR-300 cards based on the ATI Radeon chipsets, and the astfb driver for the AST2100 remote Keyboard/Video/Mouse/Storage (rKVMS) chipset in the server ILOM devices. On the x86 side, the EOL of 32-bit platforms let us clear out a lot of the older x86 video device drivers for chipsets and cards you wouldn't find in x64 systems - of course, there's still many supported there, due to the wider variety of graphics hardware found in the x64 world, and even some recent updates, such as the addition of Kernel Mode Setting (KMS) support for Intel graphics up through the Sandy Bridge generation.

For those who followed the development as it happened, either via watching our open source code releases or using one of the many development builds and interim releases such as the various Solaris Express trains, much of this is old news to you. For those who didn't, or who want a refresher on the details, you can see last year's summary in my X11 changes in the 2010.11 release blog post. Once again, the detailed change logs for the X11 packages are available, though unfortunately, all the links in them to the bug reports are now broken, so browsing the hg history log is probably more informative.

Since that update, which covered up to the build 151 released as 2010.11, we've continued development and polishing to get this Solaris 11 release finished up. We added a couple more components, including the previously mentioned xcb libraries, the FreeGLUT library, and the Xdmx Distributed Multihead X server. We cleaned up documentation, including the addition of some docs for the Xserver DTrace provider in /usr/share/doc/Xserver/. The packaging was improved, clearing up errors and optimizing the builds to reduce unnecessary updates. A few old and rarely used components were dropped, including the rstart program for starting up X clients remotely (ssh X forwarding replaces this in a more secure fashion) and the xrx plugin for embedding X applications in a web browser page (which hasn't been kept up to date with the rapidly evolving browser environment). Because Solaris 11 only supports 64-bit systems, and most of the upstream X code was already 64-bit clean, the X servers and most of the X applications are now shipped as 64-bit builds, though the libraries of course are delivered in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions for binary compatibility with applications of each flavor. The Solaris auditing system can now record each attempt by a client to connect to the Xorg server and whether or not it succeeded, for sites which need that level of detail.

In total, we recorded 1512 change request id's during Solaris 11 development, from the time we forked the “Nevada” gate from the Solaris 10 release until the final code freeze for todays release - some were one line bug fixes, some were man page updates, some were minor RFE's and some were major projects, but in the end, the result is both very different (and hopefully much better) than what we started with, and yet, still contains the core X11 code base with 24 years of backwards compatibility in the core protocols and APIs.

Comments:

Funny, I thought of the title the other way around: new X in ye olde operating system. ;)

Posted by guest on November 09, 2011 at 05:52 AM PST #

Hi, Alan!
What can you tell about the project http://www.freedesktop.org/wiki/Xegl ?
He is now developing? Can work without X.org? What happened with the XGL?
What video drivers work with Xegl? Who now owns the rights to the copyright, trademark, brand, code?

Posted by linuxuser on December 05, 2011 at 06:03 PM PST #

linuxuser: I can tell you no more than the web page says - the Xgl/Xegl project was abandoned years ago, and no one is developing it any more.

Posted by alanc on December 06, 2011 at 01:22 AM PST #

alanc,
But why project was abandoned if it faster and better than X.org?

Posted by guest on December 06, 2011 at 06:45 AM PST #

Xegl wasn't faster and better than Xorg, and had much less driver support - especially since the commercial driver vendors like Nvidia were not going to support it, and no one was creating EGL drivers for many of the older graphics cards that vendors no longer support.

Posted by alanc on December 06, 2011 at 06:59 AM PST #

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