Wandering Thoughts archives


I'm worried about Wayland but there's not much I can do about it

In a comment on my entry about how I have a boring desktop, Opk asked a very good question:

Does it concern you at all that Wayland may force change on you? It may be a good few years away yet and perhaps fvwm will be ported.

Oh my yes, I'm definitely worried about this (and it turns out that I have been for quite some time, which also goes to show how long Wayland has been slowly moving forward). The FVWM people have said that they're not going to try to write a version of Wayland, which means that when Wayland inevitably takes over I'm going to need a new 'window manager' (in Wayland this is a lot more than just what it is in X) and possibly an entirely new desktop environment to go with it.

The good news is that apparently XWayland provides a reasonably good way to let X programs still display on a Wayland server, so I won't be forced to abandon as many X things as I expected. I may even be able to continue to run remote X programs via SSH and XWayland, which is important for my work desktop. This X to Wayland bridge will mean that I can keep not just programs with no Wayland equivalent but also old favorites like xterm, where I simply don't want to use what will be the Wayland equivalent (I don't like gnome-terminal or konsole very much).

The bad news for me is two-fold. First, I'm not attracted to tiling window managers at all, and since tiling window managers are the in thing, they're the most common alternate window managers for Wayland (based on various things, such as the Arch list). There seems to be a paucity of traditional stacking Wayland WMs that are as configurable as fvwm is, although perhaps there will be alternate methods in Wayland to do things like have keyboard and mouse bindings. It's possible that this will change when Wayland starts becoming more dominant, but I'm not holding my breath; heavily customized Linux desktop environments have been feeling more and more like extreme outliers over the years.

Second, it seems at least reasonably likely that a lot of current tray applets and notification systems will stop being general and start becoming tightly bound to mainstream desktop environments like Gnome 3, KDE, and Cinnamon. We've already seen this with Gnome 3 and Cinnamon, which have 'applets' that are now JavaScript extensions that run in the context of the Gnome and Cinnamon shells and simply can't be used outside them. In a Wayland world that focuses attention more than ever on a few mainstream desktop environments, will there be any equivalent of stalonetray and things for it like pnmixer?

(The people writing tiling Wayland window managers like Sway will probably certainly want there to be, because it will be hard to have a viable alternate environment without them. The question is whether major projects like NetworkManager will oblige or whether NM will use its limited development resources elsewhere.)

So yes, I worry about all of this. But in practice it's a very abstracted worry. To start with, Wayland is still not really here yet. Fedora is using it more, but it's by no means universal even for Gnome (where it's the default), and I believe that KDE (and other supported desktop environments) don't even really try to use it. At this rate it will be years and years before anyone is seriously talking about abandoning X (since Gnome programs will still face pressure to be usable in KDE, Cinnamon, and other desktop environments that haven't yet switched to Wayland).

(I believe that Fedora is out ahead of other other Linux distributions, too. People like Debian will probably be trying to support X and pressure people to support X for years to come.)

More significantly, there's nothing I can do about all of this. How Wayland in general and Wayland environments develop is far beyond my ability to influence; in practice I'm a far outlier in window manager and desktop land, and so I'll have to make do with whatever is available. If I'm lucky it will be something generally comparable to my current environment; if I'm not, well, I can use Cinnamon and it will probably survive in a Wayland-only world. I might even learn enough Cinnamon shell and JavaScript to customize it a bit.

(If I had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, perhaps I would be trying to write the stacking, construction kit style Wayland window manager and compositor of my dreams. I don't have anything like that energy. I do hope other people do, and while I'm hoping I hope that they like textual icon managers as much as I do.)

linux/WaylandWorries written at 01:33:05; Add Comment

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