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OpenGL Becoming a Requirement For the Linux Desktop 229

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the economic-stimulus-plan dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Modern Linux desktops like Ubuntu's Unity and the GNOME Shell have placed a requirement on OpenGL 2.0+ support for handling their compositing window managers and desktop effects. Wayland's Weston also needs OpenGL ES 2.0 support. Now with modern Linux distributions like Ubuntu 12.10, rather than falling back to a 2D unaccelerated desktop if you don't have a sufficient GPU or graphics driver, users are being forced to run LLVMpipe as a CPU-based software rasterizer. LLVMpipe works fine if you are on a new PC with a fast x86-64 CPU, but the OpenGL-based Linux desktops are causing growing pains for ARM hardware, virtual machines, servers, multi-seat computers, and of course all older hardware. LLVMpipe is a Mesa Gallium3D driver that uses LLVM for run-time code generation as an attempt at accelerating graphics faster on the CPU. So much for Linux being good for old computers?" The KMS based graphics stack is already effectively unusable on AGP systems (if you have SMP + AGP, there are race conditions somewhere leading to really hard crashes that appeared a couple of years ago and dozens of years old open bugs with no resolution other than "use PCI mode" which cuts bus bandwidth by 4 or 8 times, and still doesn't work with SMP), but for those with older PCIe/IGP systems you could always runs Window Maker, Sawfish, Enlightenment, Open Box, or one of many other window managers without a compositor. Of course then you lose compositing, and there aren't any usable external compositors for some reason. The flipside to this is that moving to OpenGL as the primary interface to the GPU means one fewer driver that has to be written, and will probably lead to an overall improved experience for those with supported hardware given the limited resources Free Software drivers authors have.
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OpenGL Becoming a Requirement For the Linux Desktop

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  • Fluxbox (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @09:23AM (#41751085) Journal

    Still no OpenGL required for Fluxbox. Still snappy on old hardware too.

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      Or KDE 3.x, XFCE, or Gnome 2.x

      You don't need to have the latest and best, as long as it does what you need.

      • Re:Fluxbox (Score:5, Informative)

        by Windwraith (932426) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:42AM (#41752087)

        Let's keep people educated. KDE 4.x (Kwin) doesn't require GL either, it's completely optional and can be disabled, "live", via a keyboard shortcut or setting an automatic window property (like launching a game > disable compositing".

        It's important that people knows KDE doesn't require GL to run, so they:
        A) Keep maintaining it.
        B) Others see it as an example of how to do things right.

    • While I don't understand the summary at all, I am quite happy with running openbox and xcompmgr. All I ever want is konsole transparency, anyway. Couldn't care less for other eye-candy.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        I don't care about the candy either and run fvwm on Ubuntu. But it's a hack, because more and more the graphical desktop is tied into things like mounting removable media and hardware administration GUIs. So, my wife and kids can't use USB sticks or check the printer queue any more. Sure, with enough effort I can hack around all that, but it amounts to maintaining a mini-distro.
      • by jbolden (176878)

        What he is saying is KDE and Gnome and their associated stacks are starting to be designed in ways that are unusable if you can't support OpenGL 2. OpenGL 2 requires semi beefy CPU or hardware graphics acceleration. So the lowest end systems won't be able to run KDE or Gnome.

        Why anyone would want to run a heavy GUI on very low end hardware wasn't explained.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        How often do you need to read what's behind your console? And how often does what's behind your console interfere with reading what's on it? I can't imagine any circumstance where the former would happen more often than the latter.

      • konsole transparency? why? Don't you read the console?

    • Agreed, some one will brew up a distro that is back compat, doesn't have OpenGL reqs, etc...
  • Servers? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ynot_82 (1023749)

    This ain't Windows, boy.

    go back to your remote desktop, everything-has-to-interact-with-the-GUI-scripting, and other such nonsense...

  • alt+shift+F12 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @09:35AM (#41751207)

    KDE (Kwin) has one of the most advanced compositing window managers around. You can toggle compositive off with alt+shift+F12 and go back to a 2D desktop. If it detects that it cannot run with compositing due to hardware limitations, it will do that by default, or you can configure it not to if you just don't like that.

    There is no requirement for OpenGL in any reasonable window manager.

  • Mesa? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @09:36AM (#41751231)
    Why does Mesa even exist? It was supposed to be a software implementation of OpenGL, but it never had good enough performance for much of anything. Instead it became some sort of wrapper for OpenGL drivers. They said it could be used as a fallback for any features not implemented in the hardware drivers (but with terrible performance). And now with the LLVM pipe driver it's not even used for software rendering any more. Somehow it just keeps sticking around. What's up with that?
    • Re:Mesa? (Score:5, Informative)

      by pavon (30274) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @09:55AM (#41751413)

      From what I understand, there hasn't been a single piece of graphics hardware ever that implemented every single OpenGL call in hardware. The point of Mesa was to provide reference code that driver implementers could build on, replacing calls that their hardware did support with the appropriate driver hooks, and leaving the rest as is, while providing a consistent ABI (at least per-distro) to applications that need to link against libGL. It serves the same purpose today as when it was first written.

      • New nVidia cards fully support OpenGL 4.2 either in hardware or in their drivers (if there's something they are missing, let me know I've not encountered it). Mesa is only up to 3.1. So what does Mesa get you, over a regular video card driver?

    • by adri (173121)

      Because it's an open GL -reference- implementation.

    • by caseih (160668)

      Isn't LLVM a backend for the Mesa3d library? Without Mesa, there is no interface to the LLVM pipe engine.

  • An alternative "external compositor" can be found here [github.com]. Was fairly trivial to prepare deb packages and it is on the wishlist in debian. Looking now, I see they just tagged the first version of it two days ago so maybe it's time to update the deb package and submit.
    • This is why I keep reading slashdot.

      Thanks for this info. Better than xcompmgr and proves the point I was trying to make in another thread that tear-free window dragging works just fine with a compositor.

      Now, mack to uncomposited FVWM :)

  • KDE? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by devent (1627873) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @09:48AM (#41751347) Homepage

    Does KDE requires OpenGL support now as well?

    you could always runs Window Maker, Sawfish, Enlightenment, Open Box, or one of many other window managers without a compositor.

    I think I can just disable the compositor on KDE and re-enable it if I wish. Or does the author have a bias against KDE that he/she is not mentioned one of the most used Linux desktops?

    • Re:KDE? (Score:5, Informative)

      by brennanw (5761) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @09:58AM (#41751451) Homepage Journal

      KDE doesn't require a compositor, and you can toggle compositing on and off pretty easily if you want.

    • You can see most of the comments here neglect to tell about that kwin feature, apparently slashdot as a whole is biased against KDE as well. I can kind of understand because of things like akonadi and activities...., but the window manager is way too good to be ignored, and someone should show a minimum of praise for a work well done. (and remember kids, you can use kwin without all of kde4)

  • by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @09:51AM (#41751377)

    No reason to use what some distros (that apparently have gone off the deep end) offer as defaults. Stay with x.org, use a sane window manager like fvwm, xfce, etc. where the developers actually remember what the role of a window manager is, and this stupid discussion does not need to concern you at all.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I use Unity. When it works, I like it. It was always a bit flaky for me in 12.04, as was nVidia and Firefox. Now these problems are solved. However, update-manager crashes when I click the icon, and ubuntu-bug crashes when I try to submit a bug report. Maybe they just got tired of hearing from me.

  • by janoc (699997) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:05AM (#41751527)
    Ubuntu isn't the only Linux here and Gnome isn't the only desktop available. Some people do forget this and then this sort of sensationalism arises.

    There are plenty of other choices - both for Linux distros and desktops, many specifically targeted towards the old hardware. Furthermore, if you are running so old hw that has AGP or some ARM devices, you probably don't want to run a full-blown Gnome/Unity on that anyway.

  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by aglider (2435074) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:08AM (#41751573) Homepage
    Do you think GNOME (and Co.) is the Linux desktop?
    Ah! Have you ever heard about KDE, LXDE, XFCE etc. etc.? They seems not to require OpenGL at all! You insensitive Gtk-clod!
  • Of course then you lose compositing

    Oh the humanity! Think Of The Children!

    Seriously though, no non-technical end users whom the desktop is being aimed at (why?) know what compositing is. Need to describe it in terms of what it looks like. You need to explain that its, um, well, you know those useless decorations that make the computer seem slower than it really is? Yeah its them. Oh you mean my computer will run faster? Cool!

  • One of the main reasons I switched to Linux was to avoid having to buy a bloody gaming computer just to render the desktop animations while working.

    LXDE/XFCE all the way. Compositing was invented for people with more spare GPU cycles than they can reasonably use.

    • As lots of people already said here, KDE does not need it.

      Also, it is indeed getting harder and harder to find (or build) a computer that doesn't come with 3D acceleration.

    • by Microlith (54737)

      One of the main reasons I switched to Linux was to avoid having to buy a bloody gaming computer just to render the desktop animations while working.

      So now any system with an Intel GPU is a gaming computer? Well fuck, you might as well just go into hiding now.

      Compositing was invented for people with more spare GPU cycles than they can reasonably use.

      Yes, so what should they do? Be forced to give it up and do things The Right Way, As Determined By True Linux Users?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      One of the main reasons I switched to Linux was to avoid having to buy a bloody gaming computer just to render the desktop animations while working.

      LXDE/XFCE all the way. Compositing was invented for people with more spare GPU cycles than they can reasonably use.

      Amusingly, Canonical provides not just Ubuntu, with its snazzy composited-only desktop, but also Xubuntu with your beloved XFCE, and Lubuntu with the even slenderer LXDE. And you can get to any of them starting by debootstrapping ubuntu-minimal, which is how I generally perform a new install of Ubuntu. Or for that matter, you can build a GUIless server from that point, too, or you can just install matchbox and a couple of other packages which I've also done before, for the ultra-super-minimal install.

  • by dennism (13667) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:32AM (#41751929) Homepage

    $20 can get a decent PCI-e video card that can be used for accelerating desktop compositing. Resourceful people can probably even find suitable cards for free if they look around.

    We are way beyond the point where a 3D accelerated video card is a luxury item in a PC.

  • by Windwraith (932426) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:32AM (#41751947)

    Kwin can work without OpenGL and it's damn snappy. Not everything is gnome.

  • Ubuntu, Mint etc users: You can add another older window manager using apt-get. XFCE etc are lightweight. Just because your distro pimps one WM over another doesn't mean jack. Come to think of it, why didn't anyone mention Xubuntu or Lubuntu or one of the other Ubuntus? This post is so n00b.

    Your WM is just one software package in your Linux distro. Your Linux distro is just one of many. Pretty much any Linux distro can be re-installed completely from source (and necessary binary blobs) to -BE- another
  • So much for Linux being good for old computers?

    No. Slackware. Gentoo. You Name It.

  • I have found compositing to be problematic in day to day use on LINUX and up until Ubuntu moved to the Unity platform I kept it disabled (right after the initial luster of Compiz Fusion wore off). This is one of several issues that drove me away from Ubuntu and I now prefer Debian Squeeze. Usability is my primary selector in a LINUX distro, whether I'm browsing the web, developing, editing an image, running a 3d Windows game in Wine, or rendering a video. If my 7 year old laptop becomes sluggish and unre
  • It's really weird to say this, but Windows 7 seems to be friendlier to older hardware now; I've certainly run into less trouble putting Windows 7 on older machines; that includes an old PIII Dell C610 I used to have, albeit without Aero support but with general 3D. I wonder how a modern Linux distro would have treated it?

    The kids use an ancient Dell P4 with Nvidia 5200 AGP card and 2GB RAM which runs Win7 just fine, perfectly well for the kids schoolwork (incl MS Office) and simpler games (including Flash w

  • So what? I can think of no reason I would want it, let alone need it.

Real programs don't eat cache.

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