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X11

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Overview

X11 is a graphical user interface system. Unlike most other GUI systems, X11 is built on an advanced concept of layers, similar to the OSI model in networking. In its base lies standard transport protocol that can communicate client requests (of GUI applications) to the X server (which operates the output device) and back over reliable medium (TCP network, Unix socket, shared memory). This protocol is augmented with libraries and extensions that allow one to add new types of primitives for client and server use (for example, GLX extension allows communication of OpenGL commands in addition to standard 2D drawing primitives of X11).

Pitfalls and Fallacies

X11 is ugly 
In fact X11 by itself has nothing to do with "ugly". It does not mandate the use of a specific widget library or windows management software. Most of the traditional "ugliness" of X11-based desktops has to be contributed to the Motif widget library once in wide use.
X11 is slow 
It is not slow at all. In fact in some benchmarks and with good drivers it can easily beat its competitors. Perceived "slowness" of some applications is caused by X11 architecture - an application that has nothing to do and gets no user events can "forget" to repaint its screen in time.
X11 is hard to program for 
modern widget libraries like Qt or Gtk solved this problem a long time ago.
X11 is missing fancy eye-candy 
thanks to the good people of freedesktop.org and no thanks to the evil hardware vendors the matters are constantly improving. And because of the open nature of X11 development everybody can help.

Advantages

The most important advantage of the X11 is its architectural concept. User can easily have applications from dozen of different machines displayed on his screen just as if they were local apps. Some local app can have its GUI displayed on more than one display and even split-up for use in truly enormous video walls (see DMX, a part of Xorg X11 implementation). And there is a plethora of nifty ideas that can (and will be) implemented upon X11 basis with a relatively small effort.

Given the fact that X11 is one of the oldest windows systems in continuous use (more than 16 years if I recall correctly) and shows no signs of slowing down I'll bet it will be with us well until the end of the epoch (0xffffffff Unix time) and beyond.

See Also

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Last modified: Thu, 08 May 2008 13:55:00 +0000 Hits: 18,974