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#1 2004-04-09 15:22:15

Registered: 2004-03-04
Posts: 155

XFree86 vs. X.Org


The XFree86 community has been roiled by controversy over the last few months; and this has led to a fork in X development.  Although many Linux distributions have refused to accept the most recent (4.4.0) version of XFree86, Arch Linux has incorporated it (the package: xfree86 4.4.0-1).

Since the fork to the X.Org version appears to have been successful (at least this article supports that point of view), Arch Linux may have to make a decision about whether or not to support one or the other or both of these X variants in the future.

BTW: I'm not advocating any particular position here, just raising the issue.



++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ … hp/3338031

April 8, 2004
With Release, X.Org Seals Fate of XFree86
By Sean Michael Kerner

The X.Org Foundation has announced its first official release of the X Window System, effectively trumping rival XFree86, from which it originally forked over a licensing issue.

Called X Window System Version 11 Release 6.7 (X11R6.7), a windowing system for computers with bitmap displays, the release is the first since X.Org became a Foundation in January of this year.

Linux distributors Red Hat, SuSe, and Debian have endorsed the X.Org Foundation's latest; foundation sponsors include IBM (Quote, Chart), SUN (Quote, Chart) and HP (Quote, Chart).

The Free and Open Source Communities are legendary for their debates over licensing. And licensing was among the issues facing the XFree86 group that led an offshoot group to form the X.Org Foundation. Until their break, virtually every major Linux distribution, BSD variants and a number of UNIX systems used XFree86 as their X Window System implementation of choice.

Now, a group of small distributions remain committed to XFree86.

The X Window System, a public domain windowing system (graphical user interface) for *nix platforms, is essentially a standard library of routines that can be used to develop GUI applications and open source desktop environments such as KDE or GNOME.

XFree86's president, David Dawes, said the group changed to a new licensing scheme in January that was widely regarded by developers and the leading Linux distributions, Red Hat, SuSe, Mandrake, Debian and others as being incompatible with GPL.

But Martin Michlmayr, Debian Project Leader, told that over time, it became much clearer that, a free software project that works on interoperability and shared technology for desktop environments for the X Window System, was the way to go.

"XFree86 [members] were not willing to make important changes in their processes, and the license change was when most vendors decided that enough is enough," he said. "I'm glad to see vendors moving to, both because it's a more active and open community, and because they believe in freedom."

But Dawes, in a recent post to the XFree86 mailing list, wrote: "I'm disappointed that many of the major distros have chosen to discriminate against XFree86 and its [license] when they have been shipping other software for years with similar or more onerous [licenses]."

Dawes said he still believes that XFree86 is viable, and that the only way to keep it alive is through the licensing change.

At least one former influential XFree86 developer disagrees with Dawes. "License change can only be done by consensus, and while legally David Dawes can do what he did, it was done over the objections of most members of the X development community," said Jim Gettys, co-founder of the X Window System.

"This could not be tolerated. The MIT/X copyright has been sufficient for over 15 years," said Gettys, an interim board member of X.Org and former XFree86 contributor.

Gettys explained to that, in his opinion, a number of other events and decisions were made without proper community consultation. "No one can work in that environment, and the way XFree86 is organized as a corporation, there was no way to appeal or influence its course, unless it, itself, decided to change," Gettys said. "XFree86 decided not to change, and that is ultimately its decision."

The former XFree86 contributor also told that he believes that the foundation and its release is a triumph for Free and Open Source software. "It marks the transition to open community based governance of the X Window System and standards," he said.

Gettys said the newly formed X.Org Foundation is different than its immediate predecessor, the X.Org consortium. The consortium was an industry based organization, whereas the Foundation is an open membership organization that allows membership and a voice in governance to any that have contributed to development.

The new X.Org X Window System release is also more than just a replacement for the latest version of XFree86 (4.4), according to Gettys. "We updated a number of major components that were very stale in XFree864.4: e.g. fontconfig, Xft, freetype, and made the distribution much less likely to break systems that had more up to date packages," Gettys told "Some critical bug fixes were also incorporated."

X.Org intends to keep on innovating the X Windows System and already has a number of interesting development in the pipeline, the HP researcher added. "The major innovation is going on in the 'modular' packages we are also working on, with Composite, Damage, XFixes, etc, but those are not yet ready for widespread deployment. We hope to start a pre-release sequence on the repackaged distribution with the new extensions sometime this summer."


#2 2004-04-09 16:30:00

Schwag Merchant
From: Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
Registered: 2004-01-18
Posts: 5,986

Re: XFree86 vs. X.Org

Win wrote:

BTW: I'm not advocating any particular position here, just raising the issue.



#3 2004-04-09 18:54:28

Forum Fellow
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2003-01-17
Posts: 1,797

Re: XFree86 vs. X.Org

Dusty wrote:


I think this approach is more intelligent and fact supported.  He's making everyone aware of these issues by giving the facts, instead of hiding behind them.

I have discovered that all of mans unhappiness derives from only one source, not being able to sit quietly in a room
- Blaise Pascal


#4 2004-04-09 19:46:30

From: Germany
Registered: 2002-10-11
Posts: 374

Re: XFree86 vs. X.Org

Talking about facts, is this blessed by the developers ?
XFree86 probably needs no blessing from the Arch developers to post that info. But I found it kind of disturbing.


#5 2004-04-09 21:06:35

From: NYC
Registered: 2002-10-11
Posts: 465

Re: XFree86 vs. X.Org

Not to mention they spelled pacman incorrectly.  smile


#6 2004-04-09 21:25:17

From: Athens, Greece
Registered: 2004-03-05
Posts: 807

Re: XFree86 vs. X.Org

andy wrote:

Talking about facts, is this blessed by the developers ?
XFree86 probably needs no blessing from the Arch developers to post that info. But I found it kind of disturbing.

I'm with you. this could stop from new users coming to Arch. [after all the Archers don't fear the console, so that means they know about GNU philosophy and stuff]
This could result in bad reputation for AL {especially from the used-to-have Debian but now gonna try AL}
but not only debian, because only SlackWare ships 4.4

there was a discussion [said Xentac IIRC]. Didn't see any arguments for putting 4.4 in a package [and  automatically update for every archer via pacman -Syu]

I don't post to flame you guys! I just think that it should be very clear [perhaps in the next newsletter]
eg. you could say:

"Xfree 4.4 is non-GPL compatible [and provide a link]. Because in ArchLand we also believe in the freedom of choice [I firstly thought of another 'bad' noun neutral ], you can have it. If you don't like having such basic software non-GPL, you should put ignorepkg=xfree86 in /etc/pacman.conf.
We the ArchDevs also will ship a package [soon in Staging] with FreeDesktop's X Server [which was born as a fork of 4.3 [some devs of xfree86 joined the team too]. FreeDesktop's X Server is GPL compatible software"

I strongly believe that is the best way to go with this {afterall you chose 4.4 already}

I don't push nor am I here to say to you what to do. I know my weak position { "hey! who the f...k are you to talk about Arch?"} tongue

but anyways, SlackWare is the only major Distro that ships 4.4 [that happend before AL]
I believe Judd likes SlackWare [as I read in his interviews] so I don't blame him [we all like SlackWare, yet I don't understand patrick's choice here nor judd's {if he was the last "ok go with it"}..]

That's all folks!

a huge respect for Patrick, Judd and others is of course implied
but a reply or a note in the next newsletter is also higly appreciated


#7 2004-04-10 02:24:59

From: Gurupi - TO, Brasil
Registered: 2003-05-18
Posts: 82

Re: XFree86 vs. X.Org

1) I've never installed X11R6.7 but according to many testimonies, the whole thing works pretty well.

2) X11R6.7 is fully compatible with XFree86 4.4 (almost the same code by now), and is able to inherit the same config files without changes.

3) The new license problem is not the real question (even so it is GPL incompatible). David Dawes attitude and the development model of XFree86 are the real one.

4) The development model and community around X.Org seems to be more open and flexible than XFree86, leading to faster improvement and better integration of efforts.

5) The misleadings of the XFree86 group can (at least potentially) shrink its  team quickly, impairing the development.

that said, I´d like to suggest to the Archlinux team (this one RULES!  big_smile ) to consider the idea of moving toward X.Org (maybe placing XFree86 in extra, as an alternative) as fast as possible.

Just my two (or three) cents.

"...archoholism is a hard disease to cure..."
Archlinux Brasil


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