Giving up Linux because of X.Org? – with the help of other Linux quirks, maybe yes

These days X.Org & Co. are slowly dragging me to the end of my patience. A short list of problems:

1.Configuring the laptop touchpad. Currently there are no tools to easily configure the touchpad. GSynaptics has incomplete support and the configuration is lost after Xorg restart. KSynaptics doesn’t work anymore because it expects some shared memory, which cannot be enabled whatever you do in Xorg. Go deeper to ugliness of HAL rules, you’ll do it, in hours.

2.XKB only accepts 4 keyboard layouts at a time (FOUR). A stupid small number, chosen by fair dice roll. Good that the dice didn’t say 1. It was known and discussed at least since 2005: (When I write this is 2009, FTR). KXKB of KDE 3 protected me from this, the one from KDE 4 doesn’t.

3.X.Org turns of external monitor output, for good. Video projector at presentations, that is. This one has been with Debian and Fedora on all 3 laptops I touched for at least 9 months (graphics from Ati, NVidia and Intel). You need to have the external monitor plugged in at computer startup so that it doesn’t get turned off. It may be gone with the current X.Org from Debian unstable, as it fixed other bunch of stuff too. It really gives you confidence when giving presentations (and makes you look professional when audience sees terminals scolling 🙂 )

I forgot the rest, X.Org has had other limitations known for long which didn’t really hit me, ex.: cursore movement is lost at screen edge, affecting game developers; total number of keyboard key codes is limited (can’t use some special buttons on keyboard); problems with programs taking cursor focus for good, taking the whole screen for good; clipboard problems continue to exit (maybe 100% application toolkit problem). This is totaly from memory and I may have to stand corrected very easily.

4.Video drivers. Word of mouth says that everyone except NVidia has big problems on Linux. I know it’s true for Ati, FGLRX seems to work without crash only for a minority, I have no hope to see performance from Radeon/Radeonhd. It’s been very low when I first saw Linux 5 years ago, it’s the same today. Playing with 3D modelling tools is less and less fun.

5.ALSA – integrated speakers never mute, specific to some laptops. I didn’t see any help from any developer for half a year ( + plus bugs at Debian and RedHat). Yes, I looked at ALSA drivers code. I may have to say I’m not smart enough to solve this without days of looking through code. And the lack of *any* suggestion made me feel extremelly frustrated, after begging for attention times in a row.

I have to thank KDE developes for making wonderfull programs available for other platforms, to make the possible transition less painfull. I won’t have KWin and middle click paste for example, but who knows, maybe these will get solved.

If anyone may be asking how I help: I took the time to report and try to provide steps for lots of bugs (>50 at Debian, tens at KDE and some in other places) and then follow them, these days I actually worked on some KDE stuff and I hope to come with more patches.
I actually looked at ALSA and X.Org code, but it may be that I’m not smart enough for that.


5 gânduri despre &8222;Giving up Linux because of X.Org? – with the help of other Linux quirks, maybe yes&8221;

  1. 1. Configuring the Synaptics (and on some newer, bleeding-edge-oriented, distros such as Fedora and Ubuntu, even ALPS ones) touchpad works mostly out of the box, at least in KDE. The only thing that needs to be done is enabling SHMConfig for the Synaptics driver in /etc/X11/xorg.conf. It is true, unfortunately, that neither gsynaptics, nor ksynaptics show (and, subsequently, are able to configure) all options currently supported by synclient (the official configuration tool).
    This has some prerequisites, most notably: (1) your kernel must see your device as a Synaptics („Generic PS/2 Mouse” or even „Microsoft IntelliMouse Compatible” is not good enough – that’s just a Synaptics playing dumb to get along with your system) – see dmesg and (2) you must be using the Synaptics driver in X11 („IntelliMouse on /dev/input/mice” is not good enough). On Fedora there is another quirk as there is no xorg.conf by default – you have to create one from scratch or you may ask system-config-display to list one for you instead 😉
    2. I cannot comment, I have always been using three layouts in KDE 🙂
    3. I have succesfully used the external monitor output (and even outputs – I owned an IBM ThinkPad R50 which had VGA & S-Video and now I own a Dell Latitude E6400 which has VGA and DisplayPort) using the hotkeys on the keyboard (Fn-F8 on my current laptop) and anything from CentOS4 onward; on both Intel and NVidia. Hell, it even worked on an Apple MacBook Pro without doing anything special! It was always as simple as plugging the external display in (with my laptop running, of course) and the hitting Fn-F8 to cycle through external, both and back to just internal display.
    Furthermore, I have been playing Quake III on each and every machine that I laid my hands on (and was OpenGL-capable), in full screen, with a mouse and experienced no problems – and the same applies to dragging windows from a desktop to the next one, again no problems. I have never had any clipboard problems and I could always make my multimedia keys work in X11 using standard Linux tools such as setkeycode.
    4. You are right, but since NVidia is the best, why would you care what the others do? (joking!) After NVidia, I would award a very special mention to Intel since it has always worked out of the box and has even managed to suprise me with OpenGL capabilities good enough to play Quake III @ 90fps 🙂
    5. I have heard about this problem but never experienced it myself. I have been using ALSA for a long time now and managed to make it do a bunch of nice tricks, otherwise regarded as „vodoo” on Linux such as: (1) SP/DIF output for watching AC3 movies while sound decoding is done by an outside box, (2) full duplex operation such as in VoIP, in-game commentary and live recording studio operation, (3) low latency, low buffered recording and playback (and both at the same time) using nothing but settings available in an unpatched kernel and a normal user account (no root), (4) combining more than one soundcard in a would-be multi-channel virtual soundcard for use with DJ/radio programs and/or JACK, (5) combining local and remote soundcards, of various kinds (USB, PCI etc.), to get a multichannel infrastructure similar to what Xdmx does for X11.


    1. Do like I do: get a Mac for Desktop stuff. I’ve used Linux on the desktop for 8 years before moving to MacOS and I’m not looking back.

      CSDexter: 1) OOBE (Out of the box experience). Xorg should by design expose an API for configuring HID devices. I can’t understand the reason for which a driver needs its own SHM configuration method. Furthermore, if Xorg doesn’t provide such an API, and the synaptics driver needs it’s own API, why on earth is that not enabled by default.
      3 and 4) Quake ]I[ is not a benchmark for OpenGL anymore, and it stoped being one about 8 years ago. Just like glxgears is not a benchmark. Today shading power is what sets the pace.
      5) Alsa blows, so does OSS. If they were that good, we wouldn’t need PortAudio, Jack, ESD ARTS or other Toys.

  2. I have problems with also. It’s eating 600MB of RAM for a 1920×1200 desktop resolution. That’s a lot! The video card is ATI and I’m using Ubuntu 8.10

  3. @Dexter
    1. Currently nothing works on my computer, except for the limited GSynaptics using Synclient. Enabling SHMConfig will only break things further. Probably another X11 bug, I’ll try to do some good report someday.

    3.The perfect functioning of external output is interesting. I was always getting the video projector correctly recognized, but never having it started. Anyway, the audience won’t die because of 1 minute of bootup scrolling.

    I am more surprised by the lack of clipboard problems, I have them from time to time with skype, aptitude-gtk for example.
    About full screen games, as far as I know if some game locks up, kwin/others are quite unable to give you the desktop back at alt+tab.

    4.I wouldn’t care about Ati if I didn’t have one :P. I have fallen in the RadeonHD open sourcing marketing trap.

    @Mihai Brehar
    Are you talking about virtual memory? Then I guess 600 MiB is a normal value. Here xorg has 634 MiB virtual and 159 MiB resident on a smaller resolution, but I don’t consider this exagerrated.

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