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Lucky you: An X11 Apologist Tries Wayland

September 22, 2022

I think it's only fair to call me an X apologist. I get incredibly frustrated when people talk about dropping support for X11. I fight back against the notion that some day X11 will be dead and unmaintained, a curiosity of a time before. I've spoken to people in my circles at-length about the accessibility tools that Wayland simply hasn't been capable of supporting that X11 has. A lot of times, I've ended this conversation with "Maybe 5 years from now it'll be good". Well it's 5 years in since I first said those words, and you know what, I'm actually pleasantly surprised.

Source: An X11 Apologist Tries Wayland

That's funny, because my experience hasn't changed at all: Wayland doesn't work well for most of what I do, and it's the same problems it's always had.

My main computer is a portable, powerful gaming laptop with an Intel integrated GPU, a discrete NVidia GPU, and the ability to switch between them to limit power consumption - a feature called NVidia PRIME. It's great, under X11 - I can run my entire desktop on the Intel chip, leaving the Geforce 2070 Super powered down for maximum battery life, or, if I'm connected to the wall outlet, run the system full-blast, for running graphically-intensive games or stable-diffusion on the CUDA cores. I can run Slic3r and generate 3D prints visually, and I can use hardware video decoding to watch Twitch via Streamlink. Best of all, if I've ssh'd into a work server and want to run a graphical app, all it takes is a single extra parameter.

(X11 WAS the original cloud-server remote access mechanism, by the way. You'd have a cheaper workstation on your desk, ssh into a big muscular server usually shared by several people, and run your GUI over the network, for doing things like designing microchips, or accessing mainframe databases.)

Under Wayland, NONE of that works correctly.

First off, there's no simple way to tell Wayland not to use the Intel for the desktop. If I want maximum performance, I'm screwed there. The Wayland devs say this is the compositor's problem, the compositor devs don't really care, so it's left to the interested student to figure out the correct udev incantation to move the window server to the NVidia card, and I'm not interested. :P

Secondly, quite a few apps don't actually work at all under Wayland - Slic3r, for instance, uses a component that does not support Wayland's protocol - and you're forced to run them explicitly under xwayland, because the app isn't smart enough to figure that out itself. Then there's mpv - which has had an annoying bug on Wayland for a while now, and it simply crashes if you try to render video with the discrete GPU.

Then there's games. Oh my god, the gaming situation on Wayland is horrific. Some games have issues with misrendering frames and leaving garbage from the previous frame behind; others pipe themselves into Xwayland, which has a massive diagonal tear right across the center of the screen. You can try to use gamescope, but given that you'd have to add it as an option to literally EVERY game, there's no point.

Sorry, but Wayland is not good enough for daily use, and you can blame NVidia for part of it, but not ALL of it. The lack of simple configuration on Wayland is a major problem and, until the documentation catches up with X (or better, they create a configurator tool like X has for setting things up), it's just not worth switching.

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