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XFree86 Core Team Disbands 448

mumumu was among the many to write with this news: "XFree86's release engineer David Dawes has announced that "a majority of the XFree86 core team has voted in favour of my proposal to disband the core team". XFree86's News Headline has a short message about it. Why, all of a sudden? What is the successor of the XFree86? Xouvert?"
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XFree86 Core Team Disbands

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  • Why a successor? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __past__ ( 542467 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @09:41AM (#7844481)
    Why would a successor for XFree86 be needed? As I understand it, this is only a change in the "political" structure of the project, not its end.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      That's what I think too.
      I think Xfree86 will remain the X11 implementation of choice.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @09:45AM (#7844510)
      Because, basically, every software project needs to evolve or it will die. And there is a lot of room for improvement in X11 ! Apple has developed a very nice system (Quartz) and even Microsoft is constructing a very modular and IMO quite interesting Avalon system. There are some good techniques in there that will benefit the entire X11 community.

    • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @09:53AM (#7844561) Homepage
      Yes, and when it says, "the core team was no longer representative of the active, experienced and skilled XFree86 developers," it actually sounds like they might be opening up the project a little more, rather than disbanding it. Given some of the negative comments I've heard in the past about the rigidity and bureaucracy of core team, this could well be a very good thing for XFree86 overall.
      • by cshark ( 673578 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:14AM (#7844661)
        I really wish these kinds of announcements were a little less ambiguous. Judging by the post, we know the core team is disbanding. Great! Now what?

        There is nothing in it about the future of X86, which would be mine and many others big concern.

        It's all Slashdot speculation right now. Unless someone can provide us with more information on the subject.

        Any Xfree86 developers out there?
        • by hankaholic ( 32239 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:32AM (#7844767)
          There is nothing in it about the future of X86, which would be mine and many others big concern.
          Did you read the post? It basically said that the people involved in the "core team" aren't the ones driving XFree86 development.

          Given that statement, why would you ask them to describe the future of XFree86, which is something over which they explicitly announced that they don't have control?
        • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @11:08AM (#7845050)
          There is nothing in it about the future of X86, which would be mine and many others big concern.

          Don't worry - Intel, AMD, etc have far too much money invested in x86 to kill it off anytime soon
        • by Stinking Pig ( 45860 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @11:57AM (#7845474) Homepage
          > Great! Now what?

          Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
          Mayor: What do you mean, biblical?
          Ray: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor... real Wrath-of-God-type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies.
          Venkman: Rivers and seas boiling!
          Egon: 40 years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanos.
          Winston:The dead rising from the grave!
          Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats, living together... mass hysteria!
    • Re:Why a successor? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AndyElf ( 23331 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:41AM (#7844830) Homepage
      Of course it is -- anyone claiming this to be the end of fxree simply don't understand the difference b/w "core team" and "developmetn team" -- the former is like a board of directors, if you wish, while the latter is what makes or breaks the project.
  • Core Team Disbands (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @09:41AM (#7844482)
    Sounds more like the "core" team weren't actually doing the development anymore, and that they felt it was unfair to be the "core" team when they weren't doing the work.

    Nothing to see here folks, keep moving.
    • by GAVollink ( 720403 ) <gavollink&gmail,com> on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:00AM (#7844592) Homepage Journal
      "keep moving" aside, I actually do believe this to be a bad thing. While the core team was not active in the development they did still help steer direction. These are the folks that would say, "that will break things" - when it otherwise may not be obvious that "n" change could break things. This is a loss of experience, but the core team obviously feels that there is enough checks and balances to keep things from breaking.
      • by Firehawke ( 50498 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:51AM (#7844908) Journal
        Personally, I'm a little more cynical about the core team-- overall core team competency has been questioned of late, resulting in several branches of the code. I'm not so cynical to call them incompetent outright-- I've no experience with them directly, so how could I say such, but in either case they've decided to let things go in the direction they have.

        Now we just need to see how the structure holds up and see where the actual 'power' in the organization is going to be. In plain english, to see who's going to be OKing the executive decisions now.
      • by Nothinman ( 22765 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:53AM (#7844932)
        From what I've seen it appears they were slowing development more than steering it anyway, do you have any idea how many patches the Debian X package maintainers had to maintain because the X team was so slow at accepting patches?
      • by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) * on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @01:15PM (#7846144)
        The thing is XFree86 ALSO has a Board of Directors. The Core Team was like a Board of Directors, only they didn't do anything but add bureaucracy and private list discussion of issues that would then be cited as authority for decisions made. These are the fuckers that attacked Keith Packard for being "low class" because he set off to work on X outside of the XFree86 organization because they simply couldn't adopt their bureaucracy to accept innovative new patches and extensions to X.

        Keith for those of you who don't know, wrote the Xft/XRender extensions that do anti-aliased font rendering and is generally the leading force pushing X (kicking and screaming, I might add) into the 21st century. The Core Team was one of the leading forces doing the kicking and screaming, next to the Board of Directors. I would be happy to see them go to, replaced by a more forward thinking, less bureaucracy-minded group of leaders.

  • From the link... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BoneFlower ( 107640 ) <`george.worroll' `at' `'> on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @09:42AM (#7844490) Journal
    "core team was no longer
    representative of the active, experienced and skilled XFree86 developers"

    That leads me to suspect it isn't XFree86 that is dying, just the current core team is giving up their posts- and probably to be reorganized with new members from among the referred to "active, experienced... developers"

    I wouldn't panic yet.
    • Not just the software, but I mean the development. It's development by committee. Look at the rapid pace of the Linux kernel--headed by one guy.

      Compare to XFree86 and its Board of Directors, Consortium, Core team, etc. And then people wonder why there is frustration at the slow pace of development. I'm not even talking about retardedly simple things like RandR (a feature even Windows 95 had close to a decade ago).
  • Just a formal thing. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @09:42AM (#7844492)
    This has nothing to do with XFree developement. In fact the non-relation between XFree 'core team' and Xfree development was the actual reason to dispand.
  • Is this related to the Cygwin/XFree86 blowup a few months back?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:08AM (#7844626)
      I think it's related to the "firing" of Keith Packard from the core group, when he was one of the few people trying to move X11 into the 20th century.
  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @09:43AM (#7844501) Homepage Journal
    Here is the email:
    I'm very pleased to announce that a majority of the XFree86 core team
    has voted in favour of my proposal to disband the core team.

    I believe that this is an acknowlegement that the core team was no longer
    representative of the active, experienced and skilled XFree86 developers,
    or a place where technical discussion happens.

    Happy New Year to all!

    David Dawes
    developer/release engineer The XFree86 Project
    So, this means that XFree86 is not disbanding, simply that the core group has recognized it was not really needed anymore.

    That is a relief, as I almost thought for a second that XFree86 was going to disappear... *eek*
    • I am glad someone read the story ( email ) instead of just reacting to the poster's notes. I think this is a case of Slashdot editor's testing to see who reads the article before posting a reply. So, those of you who posted "no what are we going to do!" and the "sky is falling!", please note the sudden decrease in your karma. - The Management

      Another possibility is they wanted a sensationalist post to get more page hits from the story. No way, even Slashdot is above that...
      •'s website was the only source I could find for this news. It didn't clarify anything:
        Core Team Disbands

        [30 December 2003]

        The XFree86 core team voted to disband itself, effective 31 December 2003.

        Not exactly informative. I think we can say Dawes and friends are the real source of "the sky is falling" syndrome, due to the information vacum.

        You can't blame people from freaking out when there is a lack of information and context!
  • A lot of big companies still use COBOL, and COBOL is over fifty years old, which means we can keep using X even if it's not being developed anymore. If something is worth using, then it must have a good solid base which can be used for many years to come. We don't need to worry at all for another fifty year or so, when we'll probably need a new system. Why panic now?

    Many systems have lived beyond their original development schedules. Financial software written in COBOL, for example, which has caused no pro
    • True. Flip side: more than one Fortune 50 company has been thrown into years-long turmoil by replacing thirty-year old Fortran code that "just plain worked" with SAP, whose motto must be "Change your business model to fit our software..." If you hear of a company switching to SAP, you might consider shorting their stock.
      • Any switch can blow up if a transition isn't well-planned or done with the right expertise. In my experience, major shifts like that require a lot of training of existing staff while bringing in a number of consultants that are fluent in the new tech.

        True, choosing a product that is a poor fit will make it blow up in your face, but that doesn't mean that sticking with the old code forever is the answer.

        Besides, we use SAP at my place of work and are pretty damn successful.
      • by aled ( 228417 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:32AM (#7844760)
        False. Enterprise financial apps don't depend on changing hardware every year like graphics applications. And "just plain works" doesn't mean is maintainable. And I would doubt very strongly that someone knows 30-year-old-multi-million-lines-apps of financial code in Fortran well enough to be sure that it does what it is supposed to do...
    • In other news, Eskimos in arctic wasteland discovered to be using stone knives and bearskins. When their grunts and gestures were translated, they claimed that "it was good enough for my grandfather!"
  • Don't overreact (Score:5, Informative)

    by Carnifex487 ( 732920 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @09:45AM (#7844513)

    Read the message:

    I believe that this is an acknowlegement that the core team was no longer representative of the active, experienced and skilled XFree86 developers, or a place where technical discussion happens.

    In effect, nothing is going to change. There are still active, experienced and skilled XFree86 developers out there, who will continue to work just as they always have.

    • Re:Don't overreact (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Talinom ( 243100 )
      or a place where technical discussion happens.

      IANAP (I Am Not A Programmer) by any stretch of the imagination and have absolutely no idea about the nature of the core team, but a phrase like this makes me wonder if it was self destructing. Were I to hear this phrase in a business environment it would indicate to me that it turned into a political quagmire and that direction was defocused and derailed by hard lined vocal factions.

      Could it be they just decided to disagree and split up because it just w
  • by Esekla ( 453798 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @09:46AM (#7844522)
    then perhaps it's a good thing as there has clearly been a fair amount of rankling lately.
  • So Keith won? (Score:5, Informative)

    by eddy ( 18759 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @09:48AM (#7844526) Homepage Journal

    Wasn't this what Keith Packard [] wanted []?

    • Re:So Keith won? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Deusy ( 455433 )
      Wasn't this what Keith Packard wanted?

      And from where did you draw that conclusion?

      Keith wanted XFree to be more organised in respect to pushing new development horizons and bringing in new developers. He only started his own X server because he was forced to do so.

      Keith wants to hack on an advanced X system. He would have been quite happy to do so under XFree only they didn't let him. When you have Windows users (literally) dictating the direction of a primarily *nix project, then you know ther
  • by mcbridematt ( 544099 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @09:50AM (#7844540) Homepage Journal
    Face it.

    "Core Team" Development models are out-dated and sound more M$'ish than Open Source'ish.

    While several projects continue to use the "Core Team" model, like FreeBSD, in my opinion, the politics involved ain't worth it.

    For XFree86, it's time for change. Hopefully, in years to come, we will see a more efficient graphics subsystem for Unix (MacOS X may be an example) weather it be by a XFree86, XF86 Fork, or some other system (NOT framebuffer because fb doesn't work well with some hardware)
    • by Mr Smidge ( 668120 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:20AM (#7844685) Homepage
      (NOT framebuffer because fb doesn't work well with some hardware)

      Purely out of interest, what kind of hardware does the framebuffer not work well on?
      • I've had problems with random screen corruption (that was not always alleviated with a "reset") with both Radeon and Voodoo cards while using the framebuffer.
      • The framebuffer console kernel project has too few developers for the variety of available hardware, and the developers are (from my reading of the mailing list) not especially well organized in their interactions. So a lot of hardware seems to lag behind in API changes and get subtly broken in various ways. That might give this impression.

        Also, it's relatively difficult to specify a 3D API, so that you can use hardware rendering, particularly because it means that you have to do 3D in software in the same
    • by stienman ( 51024 ) <.adavis. .at.> on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:58AM (#7844971) Homepage Journal
      "Core Team" Development models are out-dated and sound more M$'ish than Open Source'ish.

      While several projects continue to use the "Core Team" model, like FreeBSD, in my opinion, the politics involved ain't worth it.

      Uh, say again? Are you saying that open source software favors one political structure over another?

      So if a core team is bad, what about Linux with essentially a technical dictator^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hdirector? And do you believe the MS uses a core team to direct development of their software? They have a simple hierarchy, like most succesful businesses.

      While it may be warm and fuzzy to say that open source == no core team, the simple fact is that different political structures are good for different projects during different phases of their life. Linux has gotten too large to be developed by a single developer, so Linus has changed the political structure to fit his needs.

      Furthermore, this doesn't mean the end of the core team for XFree, only the end of a core team. They haven't spelled out a change in structure, only a change in personel.

    • "Core Team" Development models are out-dated and sound more M$'ish than Open Source'ish.

      What do you propose as a replacement? If politics is the issue, I guess you can have a single maintainer (ala Linux). Or are you seeing the corporate control of open source (ala MySQL) as a better alternative?

      If democracy is what you are looking for, are you advocating public CVS commit privilages? I certainly hope not!

      The core team's job is to design and develop the next version *with the help and feedback of the
  • Given the tenor of many comments it seems not everybody has read this seminal text! Mind you, some of the politics is pretty much off the wall - especially in the post-bubble world. The other issue is that the model highlights the extent to which we are all dependent on a few good citizens to give up their time and life to make this happen. Core teams work when people are being paid to do the job, but not when whn you are relying on the generousity of a few talented individuals.
  • by sinergy ( 88242 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:17AM (#7844670) Homepage
    with NC-17?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is are opputunity, to Kombine, Konquer and rise to a new age in GUI design!

    Look at the projects such as KDE 3.2 beta, Cairo, Looking glass, Karamba for example. They are researching new and innovative GUI's, but there is one problem, the X11 limitations are hurting them. Some of them are pushing X11 to the limit, looking at some sourcecode gives me nightmares!

    Xouvert, KDE, Gnome and all other interested parties should join up to make it happen.

    We need to update and break the current X11 protocal sin
    • We are all looking forward to your patch. Just post it to and a maintainer will get right on integrating it. Do you think you can have it done before the KDE 3.3 string freeze? The translators need some time to do their work. Oh, and make sure you don't break any of the Qt themes --- the theme developers have enough work to do as it is, dealing with the new KWin API, and Qt 3.3 API changes. At least, don't break Plastik, because that'll probably be the default in 3.3.

  • I'm going to forego the opportunity to use my moderator points today on this story because every odd-numbered post in the list is already "Score:5 Insightful". There's just a wealth of wisdom here, and I have precious little to add.

    In all fairness to those who questioned the future of X, I was momentarily confused by the announcement, too. It appears this little group of developers has finally just gotten out of the way. I'm hoping there's still a person or two to moderate code additions while the rest
    • Indeed. Hopefully this will remove the roadblocks which have characterized the slow development of XFree86, and fostered the creation of projects like Xouvert [].

      However, will this affect XFree86 4.4? In that vein, how will the removal of this mysterious core team, blamed for the glacial pace of XFree86 advancement, affect the development of this project?
  • by boog3r ( 62427 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:28AM (#7844739)
    A good example of hope for the future that a group can decide it is no longer required. Look at this hypothetical email in comparison:

    I'm very pleased to announce that a majority of the United States House of
    Representatives and the United States Senate has voted in favor of my proposal to
    disband the United States Congress.

    I believe that this is an acknowlegement that the United States Congress was no longer
    representative of the active, experienced and skilled population and local governments,
    or a place where meaningful legislation happens.

    Happy New Year to all!

    Dennis Hastert
    Speaker of the House of the United States Congress
  • by NanoWit ( 668838 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @10:48AM (#7844888)
    How will XFree maintain control without the bureaucracy?
  • XGGI ? (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Foske ( 144771 )
    If someone is looking for alternatives, look at XGGI, part of the the GGI project []. Together with directfb or KGI [](currently focussing at BSD, but the Linux core is there too) it's really powerfull.
  • by plcurechax ( 247883 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @11:47AM (#7845382) Homepage
    The disbanding of the current XFree86 core team does not mean an end to the continuing development of XFree86, it means a change of people recongised as being key players.

    The biggest remaining question IMHO is whether there will be a expansion of cvs commit access. I think the former core team realises that new up and coming developers need to be added to the project to subtain the continuing improvement and work with others groups such as, and To say nothing of expanding access to video card manufacturers so they can maintain and improve open source drivers for their cards (Most companies are at least partial supportive of 2D drivers, the real issues occur over 3D accelation).

    I expect it will end up being a good thing.
  • by Error27 ( 100234 ) <error27@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @11:56AM (#7845466) Homepage Journal
    Back in the day Xfree86 needed to be a corporation to trademark the term "Xfree86" so they created this weird organization with a constitution and everything. There was the board and there was the core. Later another group was added, people who had commit access to the CVS repository, but weren't on the core. Then at the bottom there were regular developers.

    The problem is that no one really new what the core does except that it had a private email list. Even people on the core didn't know. (I'm not making this up).

    Historically XFree86 has had closed developement. If you wanted to read the developers emails or look at the development code you had to apply and be approved. A couple years ago they openned up the CVS repository to the world. Then earlier this year they openned up all the development email lists.

    But once in a while when during code discussions people would say, "Oh that. We discussed on the core email list and we decided it sucked. Case closed." That kind of thing gets annoying.

    Some people said that the core email list should be destroyed, but the answer was that, "Why do you care? All the development discussion is on the developers email list." This was probably true in theory if not in real life.

    To be on the core you had to be selected after coding for 3 or 4 years. It's not worth it really because as I said, no one knows what the core does and all the real power is held by the people with CVS commit access anyway.

    The whole idea of a core group was stupid and pointless. The reason it stuck around for so long was that XFree86 developers are stubborn people. Everyone (often not developers) was telling them to change and have elections and so they said, "Screw you. We'll do whatever we want." Another reason was that some people on the core group weren't active developers and didn't follow the lists closely. They didn't realise how frustrated people were.

    I've been getting more and more upset as I write this post thinking about how XFree86 used to be, but I started out just wanting to say that it was a good thing. I believe it is a good thing for XFree86. It's a sign that the project is becoming more transparent and responsive to developers. It takes humility on the part of the core members to give up the extra privileges.

    This is a good thing for everyone.
  • by penguin7of9 ( 697383 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @12:09PM (#7845564)
    I think we really need a new X server, dedicated to desktop use. It looks like the RENDER model is going to be the primary graphics model these days and applications expect both multithreading and lots of bitmap storage from the X server.

    Yet, the existing X server originated out of a code base that highly optimized the traditional X11 graphics model and assumed a completely different mix of clients and applications. That means that a lot of complexity in the existing server is devoted to optimizing things few people still care about.

    A new implementation could replace that code with simple, generic implementations and focus on making the stuff that everybody uses these days efficient.

    It may also be worth using C++ for such a new X server. That's not because C++ is "object oriented", but because C++ standardizes a number of facilities that big software systems need, like exceptions and resource cleanup, but for which C has no single standard.

    Actually, at the same time, it might also be good to create a second, minimal X server from scratch that is aimed at handhelds and machines with very limited resources. Some existing work on such servers is based on XFree86, but I suspect one might be able to cut things down to an X server that gets by with 100-200k of code and data with careful coding and choice of features.
  • Congratulations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by johnos ( 109351 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @01:12PM (#7846127)
    I think we should congratulate the core team for doing the right thing. Its pretty rare for any institution to volintarily disband no matter how irrelevant it becomes. I can think of a few institutions a lot less relevant than this group that have continued plugging along for generations.

    These people are showing maturity and class usually missing in the software industry. Just by taking this action, the team has refuted one of the more subtle FUD points out there, that projects will eventually peter out or be consumed by internal bickering.
  • (Score:5, Interesting)

    by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @01:17PM (#7846172)
    The fdo.o X server is most likely going to be the successor to XFree86, even if development of XF86 continues. They fd.o X server project is led by Keith Packard, who did a lot of the work on Render and Xft, basically bringing XFree86 into the 20th century. He is also getting help from people who really know what they are doing, like Jim Gettys. They are working on the following features:

    - A core X server based on the lightweight kdrive codebase (formerly TinyX).
    - Back-buffering of all windows, like OS X. This will enable OS X-style fancy window effects like shadows and whatnot.
    - OpenGL accelerated 2D rendering. This is a big step up from Apple's system, because it will accelerate actual drawing via OpenGL, not just window compositing. As a result of this, there is a lot of talk about seperating OpenGL from the X server, and allowing the X server to be just another OpenGL app running on top of a low-level OpenGL acceleration layer.
  • X Replacements (Score:3, Insightful)

    by localman ( 111171 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @01:34PM (#7846335) Homepage
    It seems that the tone of this article is misleading; X development will continue on in good health.

    However, I always find myself thinking about Y as an X replacement []. It's certainly not the most mature option out there, but reading throught the PDF [] is a pleasure, as the author seems to have struck a great balance of power and simplicity.

  • by master_p ( 608214 ) on Wednesday December 31, 2003 @07:03PM (#7849321)
    I don't understand why people want to ditch X-Windows. The X-Windows system is a fine window system. It's not slow, it's extendable, it's networkable, and it runs in every Unix system/clone.

    The problem lies with the layers above xlib: the toolkits. Actually, not the toolkits themselves, but how they are used. For example, the Linux GUIs suffer from bad fonts and bad font sizes, bad placement of text, bad placement of buttons, too much info on the screen, improper colors, and usability issues like cut-copy-paste etc.

    To those that they request a new window system based on accelerated 3d graphics, I have to say this: it does not fit with the Unix mentality. Unix can run in minimal hardware. I can run TWM on a 486 and the machine will just fly. But if a new window system comes along that is based on new 3d accelerators, lots of old systems will be left out...and not forget other unix systems that might not have 3d acceleration at all. And the truly impressive effects that Quartz can achieve are just eye-candy...most professionals will turn them off anyway.

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.