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Cygwin/XFree86 Leaving 446

An anonymous reader writes "The Cygwin/XFree86 project is leaving For those that don't know, Cygwin/XFree86 is a port of the X Window System to Cygwin (which provides a *nix-like API on Windows). Here is the announcement and the start of the trouble. The XFree86 project has pushed away more developers than most projects ever have - is this the beginning of the end for XFree86?"
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Cygwin/XFree86 Leaving

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  • by Sanity ( 1431 ) * on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:07PM (#7320834) Homepage Journal
    ...the core problem seems to be the rediculous difficulty in obtaining cvs commit access for the project. It is stunning and insulting that someone who has demonstrated their dedication to the project over two years is still not deemed worthy of being able to commit directly to cvs, after all, CVS is designed such that a problematic commit can be backed out very easily.

    These guys seem to care more about being able to brag about their commit access in their email signatures than streamlining development of their software and making things as easy as possible for those willing to devote their time and talent to the project.

    If ever a project was in need of a fork, and if ever some project developers were in need of an attitude readjustment - this is it.

  • Harry's right... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by corebreech ( 469871 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:08PM (#7320841) Journal
    And he presented his case well. These other XFree86 guys sound like the cast from Othello... way too serious for what is, after all, something that's supposed to be fun: working on an open source project.

    You know, what kind of nut must it be to crack to get X running atop of Windows? You'd think they'd give Harry some slack just out of the complexity of what he's doing.

    Another poster mentioned that it's the fault of the tools, and I think this is a good point. A truly usable code management system would allow for Bozo the Clown to have commit privileges and it wouldn't impact the overall effort at all.

  • by Ian Wolf ( 171633 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:08PM (#7320845) Homepage
    If I had a dollar for every time I heard that X was going away, I'd be a very wealthy man.
  • Unite! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by molnarcs ( 675885 ) <> on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:10PM (#7320859) Homepage Journal
    I think it would be best if all these projects that left united - the Cygwin/Xfree86 folks, Keith Packard, and pull their resources to come up with a workable development model (yeah, and a workable X - all major projects - Gnome, KDE - are waiting for long promised features that all modern graphical subsystems exhibit except for X.)
  • by cassidyc ( 167044 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:10PM (#7320867)
    Actually it was less to do with "Bloating it" and more to do with fixing bugs.

    But then I read it.

  • by hobbs ( 82453 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:13PM (#7320897)
    One thing that arguably sparsely resourced open source groups need is more fracturing. Now, in addition to doing the porting work, the cygwin/xfree86 porters will need to deal with source and site maintenance. That's just time wasted essentially.
  • by X_Bones ( 93097 ) <> on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:13PM (#7320901) Homepage Journal
    The XFree86 project has pushed away more developers than most projects ever have - is this the beginning of the end for XFree86?

    Why the scaremongering, anonymous submitter? Just because one project isn't getting access to XF86's CVS tree and will have to maintain one of their own somewhere else, doesn't mean that everyone will abandon XF86. It's mature, has a ton of features, and has no viable replacement; who is gonna leave and where are they gonna go?
  • by dinivin ( 444905 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:15PM (#7320918)
    From their Savannah website: []

    Xouvert is a development branch of the Xfree86 source tree. It's purpose is to provide wide testing and integration for third party patches, and to test and stabilize innovative new ideas for submission to the main Xfree86 branch.

    Doesn't really sound like Xouvert marks the end of XFree86. Indeed, it sounds like Xouvert is dedicated to improving XFree86.

  • by cgranade ( 702534 ) <cgranade AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:18PM (#7320940) Homepage Journal
    I wonder... do people say "X is going away" because they think it is, or becasue they hope it is?
  • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:27PM (#7321025)

    Remember when Gnome split from KDE? They fully intended to end KDE, yet today both are powerful desktop systems that have benifited from each other. (Last I cheked you can't even complile KDE with a couple GNOME libs - code reuse in action)

    For that matter, linux was the end of BSD, or perhaps we should say OpenBSD was the end of NetBSD. Take your pick of history, BSD is alive in well despite what some anonymous cowards would have you believe.

    This is a good thing, XFree86 has gotten a lot of criticism, let the critics go their own speerate ways and each prove their way is best. In the end the best way wins, or if there is no best way, all survive, and each focuses on the areas where its way of doing things is best.

  • Re:I wish. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:30PM (#7321048)
    What advanced features don't you need?

    Most likely, modern desktop users need much more of the advanced features (recent extensions such as video, OpenGL etc., in particular) than ever.

    If you look at what the basic X11 feature set really is, it's really very simple.

    Most likely the most complicated thing you aren't using is the color management stuff.

    What most people experience as "X11 bloat" currently probably consists more of bloat on the widget toolkit side than on the XFree86 side.

    XFree86 could use a lot of cleaning up, but it's not particularly bloated.
  • by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:30PM (#7321049) Homepage
    The reason the push developers away is that many of these guys are trying to bloat xfree to hell

    Have any proof to back that statement up?

    Harold was requesting CVS commit access only for bugs that pertained to Cygwin only -- they had no impact on other platforms. Hell, if properly ifdef'd they wouldn't even compile into the binaries on other platforms. That doesn't mean they're not bugs though, and it doesn't mean they shouldn't be fixed in the main tree.

    We're not talking about features here. And there's a long line of people that have tried to get XFree86 to fix bugs -- either in the core or in drivers -- that have not only been denied commit access but also had their fixes ignored, their questions ignored, and been passively shoved aside when trying to get things fixed. The number of actually active developers (i.e. - number of people with commit access and are actually spending time on the project) on XFree86 is absurdly low for the size of the project.

  • Re:Leaving? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by physman ( 460332 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:33PM (#7321075) Homepage
    There was talk last month of a system called Y (check out the slashdot article []). However this project is in its infancy, and so cannot be said to be an alternative so the question still remains is there an alternative and the answer would seem to be no (unless anybody can correct me on this). Intrestingly this reminds me of the British Conservative Party and the back-biting and in-fighting they are presently having with their leader IDS (Ian Duncan Smith)!
  • Re:I wish. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:36PM (#7321105)
    I would be willing to wager that >75% of those of us who run a Linux desktop don't need hardly *any* of the advanced features in the X Windows server.

    I would wager that >75% of all software users don't need *any* of the advanced features of the software they use on a daily basis. I would also wager that those in the 25% range drive over 95% of the innovation and development, and that those users _need_ (as much as anyone can need anything) those advanced features.

    Doesn't anyone know about the 10/90 or the 20/80 rule anymore? (If no, look it up).

    I would like to see a completely modular, X-windows core-compatible windowing system for Linux. Want to use some of the advanced features? Add in the module, recompile, and go!

    1st, to me, modular means you don't need to recompile. 2nd, who really cares how modular X is? That surely wouldn't help me get cut and paste working (by this I mean between all X apps and beyond text data). That surely wouldn't help me get drag and drop working. These little features that are over 20 years old are welcomed!

    Until these basic needs are met, I don't want to hear another "Is Linux ready for the desktop?" questions.
  • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:38PM (#7321121) Homepage Journal

    Xouvert is a development branch of the Xfree86 source tree. It's purpose is to provide wide testing and integration for third party patches, and to test and stabilize innovative new ideas for submission to the main Xfree86 branch.

    It's an interesting phenomenon associated with free software: enough talented developers get the perception that the current people in control are being unreasonable about release schedules, overall direction, features, bugs, indenting styles, etc. and fork their own branch.

    A closely-related parallel here is how the egcs [] folks wanted greater ability to change the gcc codebase than the gcc developers wanted to do.

    Then, the egcs branch took off so famously that later it essentially became [] the gcc development branch.

    May the best X branch become the tree trunk.

  • by ADRA ( 37398 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:42PM (#7321148)
    If you actually followed X or even the discussion linked to for 5 minutes you'd realized that it is NOT the problem at all.

    The problem as cited through the list is that the core developers do not allow external commits by major commiters like the entire Xwin cygwin port.

    These people have to wait weeks for any changes to possibly show up in the CVS because the core developers don't have time for it.

    The core dev's answer: Shut up and stop complaining we are doing the best we can.

    This has nothing to do with bloat and everything to do with control and workload.
  • by Dicky ( 1327 ) <> on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:44PM (#7321169) Homepage
    So what, I'm supposed to invent a bug and then solve it?

    I certainly can't speak for XFree86, but this is normal practice within the engineering group at my employer, and AFAIK at other commercial development houses. Raising a bug for a feature means that it can be tracked as a commit, means people can make comments on it, means you have a common format for all commits, be they bugfixes or new features, and so on. No, I don't really like it either, but it makes a lot of sense.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 27, 2003 @03:55PM (#7321293)
    how many XFree86 users are using Cygwin port?

    Uh... I can see 1 FreeBSD box, 1 Linux box and 1 Windows box that runs Cygwin / XFree86 from where I'm sitting. There are probably more users than you think.

    Anyway, since when did ignoring support for a platform become the cool thing to do? Software projects are either expanding and growing - or they're shrinking and on their way out.

    Great one there XFree86 - start ignoring contributers trying to commit bug fixes to the codebase. It gives me great incentive to try and fix bugs myself. Morons. The sooner XFree is dead, buried and replaced the better.
  • by psavo ( 162634 ) <> on Monday October 27, 2003 @04:05PM (#7321413) Homepage

    I wonder... do people say "X is going away" because they think it is, or becasue they hope it is?

    I'd wager my bet on that in general people don't have a slightest clue..

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 27, 2003 @04:11PM (#7321458)
    This is nothing new. The XFree86 guys have been assholes from the start. I don't know of any "outsider" who has ever had successful dealings with them. Heck, I pointed out a bug (and included a fix) in their S3 driver years ago. Every email was ignored. Not so much as an acknowledgment let alone a thank you.
  • by nolife ( 233813 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @04:12PM (#7321464) Homepage Journal
    That is a nice post you referenced but, posting ONE link in one thread of communication between two parties does not provide the context or big picture that lead to that. Basically you should not create judgement off of this alone. With the exception of journalism and campaign speeches, this principal should apply to anything in life.
  • Wow, what a jerk (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kelmenson ( 592104 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .nosnemlek.> on Monday October 27, 2003 @04:21PM (#7321544)
    That entire thread is about a guy who has spent years devoted to helping a project and being unable to make commits, despite begging for the access, to ease the load on both himself and the people currently in charge? And the people currently in charge take that as insulting?

    Seems clear that that David Dawes guy is just an egomaniac jerk... If I was working on that project, and he was acting in that manner in representing the project, I'd sure as hell quit the project.

    I sure hope the project does die, and Mr. David Dawes can be king of his sandcastle, with nobody to play with... What an attitude.

  • Not true at all. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @04:34PM (#7321699) Homepage
    The X network layer is not a "bloated" bolt-on kit or added feature that someone wedged into X as a gimmick... X is itself just a specification for a data stream, like umpteen other protocols you have in your /etc/services file. At its core it is really quite simple and lightweight.

    Furthermore, when the client and server are on the same machine, the data stream is NOT sent over the network, but is routed through local UNIX sockets or shared memory, making X essentially as slow or as fast as your system bus and graphics hardware. Only when you actually separate client and server on to different machines does X use the network sockets.

    Overhead is simply not a factor on an average Linux desktop.

    This feature bloat everyone is frightened of is in other places, like for example the KDE and GNOME architectures and the desire of most users to drown in pixmaps and theme engines.

    With that said, on my own Linux desktop (a lowly 900MHz PIII) I use KDE 3 and play Quake III and so on and I don't find it to be any slower than Windows 2000.

    Maybe there is just a small crowd (the ones who keep submitting "3D site" or "hardware site" stories) who won't feel elite at LAN parties until their Linux box can beat Windows boxen by at least 6fps in frame rate tests, 403fps. vs. 397fps.... and they're somehow convinced that if they can just get rid of that damn protocol and somehow drop "abstract" graphic ideas directly into video memory rather than organizing and processing them, that extra 6fps will be forthcoming.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us continue to use the god-send network features of X to administer large installations from a single point of access, or to deploy narrow-application thin clients at greatly reduced cost.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 27, 2003 @04:35PM (#7321707)
    I wonder if they'll use arch [] as their RCS, since it is made specifically for distributed branches developpement.
  • Re:I wish. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @05:39PM (#7322338) Homepage Journal
    I would be willing to wager that >75% of those of us who run a Linux desktop don't need hardly *any* of the advanced features in the X Windows server.

    Screw those 25%. They're the minority. They lost the election. Their duty is to humbly follow the behind the victorious mob!

    Oh wait... Those 25% are those that actually help product the software, unlike the 75% that merely sits around and soaks up freebies.


    Okay, all facetiousness aside. The 75% is not more important than the 25%, even assuming those numbers were accurate. This isn't a democracy where the winner takes all. This is a marketplace where everyone who participates has the opportunity to win.

    Let's look at some of the "advanced" features. None of them, by the way, detract anything from the experience of those using the basic features. First, Xinerama. I don't use it, since I possess only a single monitor. But I know people who do use it, and they absolutely love it. Some recent reports show that their productivity is improved. If all you do is run a single game in a single window on a single monitor, you might never want it. But if you don't, someone else using it is not going to affect you.

    Second, remote networking. I use this daily. Most people I know who are on a UNIX local network use it. It frees you from the physical constraints of your workstation. And like Xinerama, if you don't use it, it doesn't affect you. Contrary to myth, the overhead of networking support for local use is non-existant. Local connections use sockets, which are damned fast.

    Before you start trimming off huge chunks of X11 because one out of four people are not worthy, start with the Linux kernel. I would be willing to wager that 75% of Linux users don't need the advanced features of the kernel. Ditto for glibc. Ditto for everything else in the system.
  • by RedWizzard ( 192002 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @06:44PM (#7323054)
    I guess it was an ultimatum, but I think that term distorts the situation a bit. To me he seemed to be saying "The process is currently wasting 3-4 hours a month for me. I'm no longer willing to waste that time. I've been the maintainer of the cygwin port for 2 years. I need CVS write access to the cygwin stuff, or I'm going to stop contributing via the current process". Note he never got any sort of reply as to why he couldn't have CVS write access. Every reply from the "status quo" faction avoided the issue and most were personal attacks (though both sides were guilty of that). This little flamewar also seems to be the final straw rather than the whole story. Harold mentioned trying to talk to people privately and getting no satisfactory response. Most of his emails in that thread were very polite, almost unusually so.

    IMHO David Dawes comes off sounding arrogant and uninterested in solving problems (yet again - he seemed the same way over the Keith Packard blow up). He seems to have the attitude that since he is a volunteer he has no responsibility to the other developers, in terms of improving the process or otherwise making their life easier. It's not a good way to run a project.

  • Re:Threats (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Flamerule ( 467257 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @07:43PM (#7323587)
    His comment, "Let me make direct commits within 2 months, or I will pull out of the project altogether" isn't exactly dressed for success. Making threats, seriously or not, never gets people to come to your way of thinking.
    I think someone in the thread made a comment much like yours, and Harry responded to it by saying that it wasn't a threat, just a statement: that he would remove Cygwin/XFree86 from the main XFree86 project server unless he was given cvs commit access. Not a threat: no one's going to be harmed -- and, indeed, it looks like no one else in the project even cares much about the cygwin port, at least not enough to bother checking in his patches more than once every month. He's just going to take his branch out of the main project.

    If I'd been contributing for closing in on 3 years, and got insulted by asshole core devs when I asked for commit access, I'd blow up too.

    This is not Open Source/Free Software's proudest moment. With luck, perhaps it will be a moment that will lead to a better X.
    Man, I hope so. But it seems like we get a chance to say that every couple of months or so, when yet more devs leave the main XFree86 project, and nothing's come of it yet.
  • by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @07:46PM (#7323612)
    The context to harold hunt saying "go fuck yourself" to Thomas Dickey:

    Thomas Dickey says:
    "well, when you graduate and (presumably) find a real job, you'll have a chance to get an idea of where time goes. the patches _are_ applied, right?"

    Which is an extremely rude thing to say to anyone. Even more so when Harold has already spent several emails explaining, and also is apparently currently suffering some fairly serious medical problem.

    "When you are in a graduate degree program and working 30-40 hours per week, that is a *lot* of time."

    "Seriously, I don't know why I waste my time submitting patches that are specific to my platform and then wait up to three weeks for them to be committed."

    "Can I please finally be given CVS commit access with the understanding that I am a moron and that I will only commit things that are cygwin specific,..."

    All he wants is the ability to commit to CVS for the module that he is the expert on, and David Dawes and Thomas Dickey are unfriendly, insulting and rude to him. Not exactly a good way to run an open-source project. Did they not read the Cathedral and the Bazaar?
  • by ShadowRage ( 678728 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @09:58PM (#7324674) Homepage Journal
    has xlib support, with very little or no bloat.
    gonna try to use it for either an included app or and add-on to my floppy based distro (it's only a 100k server)
    The main problem with XFree86 is the developers are trying to create a closed environment for a somewhat open project, they dont want any changes besides their own. even if the suggested changes are better than anything the developers could ever pull out of their asses, and they do this whilst adding features no one will really ever use, I dont see too many people even using X as a network graphics system, people usually use a vnc to do all their work with, people use X as a local graphics system, so, what's needed is that someone needs to include a graphics system that does what a graphics system should do. run graphical apps, xfree runs just about anything under the sun.
    there's some functions I like in xfree, but, a lot of them I see as useless.
    and that's what many "outside" developers think, and when they try to make a change, or add a new feature or even try to optimise the code, they get told to shut the hell up and go back to fiddling with their little bits of code.

    Basically, the Xfree86 devs are afraid of any change that isnt their own. Afraid the change will break their work or put them out of the spotlight of ego, basically their position on the project.
  • by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Monday October 27, 2003 @11:40PM (#7325398)
    He only flew off the handle in response to stupifying and insulting statements made towards him as he was ASKING to be given CVS commit access to save everyone time and effort. I believe his "don't reply to me" email was simply a sarcastic response to the other guy being WAY overreactive, not meant seriously.

    If I were being sincere and asking for help, it sure would piss me off to have random people wander into the the discussion and start insulting me for no reason.

    If anything XFree's behavior is immature and unprofessional. Rubbing it in to a volunteer that he doesn't have a "real job" is no way to ATTRACT VOLUNTEERS. Duh.

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein