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Linux Magazine: XFree86 4.0: X Grows Up

Aug 27, 2000, 20:41 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jason Perlow)

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"Everyone wants to see Linux grab a bigger share of the desktop-computing market. Well, with the release of XFree86 4.0, one of the biggest obstacles to Linux's acceptance as a desktop platform has just been overcome. XFree86 is a free, open source implementation of the X Window System (often referred to as 'X' for short), and it provides the graphics and windowing infrastructure that forms the foundation of GNOME, KDE, and all the other GUI (Graphical User Interface) applications that we know and love. Although many Linux advocates will tell you that the most important advancement in the operating system's development to date is the new 2.4 kernel, from the end user's perspective the kernel is of relatively little interest -- it just needs to work, period. Just like under Microsoft Windows, it's the GUI environment and the applications that run under it that make all the difference in the world."

"XFree86 has been around for several years now, but until the advent of XFree86 4.0 it was for the most part a hodge-podge of graphics drivers and code that was very difficult to install, was abysmally slow, had lackluster font support, and was a chore to maintain. Worse yet, it wasn't well-integrated with the open source 3D OpenGL subsystem, Mesa3D, which provides the crucial 3D support layer for our favorite games (like Quake) and professional 3D graphics programs (like Alias). Finally, adding insult to insult, XFree86 support by third-party manufacturers was tepid at best."

"But now that Linux and the companies surrounding it have become almost household words and the darlings of Wall Street, virtually every graphics-chip manufacturer has XFree86 drivers in development, and we've just started to see some very good 3D graphics applications and games come sprouting out of the woodwork. And if it's any indication of what else is to come, the crown jewel of computer-graphics companies, SGI, has staked its entire future on Linux. For a great many people in the Linux and open source communities, 2000 will be remembered as the year XFree86 and Linux 3D support finally grew up."

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