Problems with and incompatibilities with in-house software

Richard Brown rbrown1445 at
Sun Feb 28 14:48:50 PST 2010


I work for a large corporation which has used X Window System in its 
internal systems since the 1980s. We have code going back to since the 
mid 80s which has used X which are a critical part of our corporations 
internal infrastructures and information systems. We have dozens of 
applications written using xlib involving millions of lines of code. We 
have significant investments on in house applications written with Xlib 
and have used at various times, dumb terminals, then XFree86, and now on the display end. is now the standard server on Linux 
systems which we would have liked to use. We make extensive use of X's 
network transparency as we run major server farms which run applications 
which are displayed over our networks to terminals throughout our office 

Recently, however, we have been shocked and dismayed at what we consider 
extremely poor design decisions made by which show indifference to 
backwards compatibility and the needs of many users.

We have always depended on the high degree of backwards compatibility 
that X provides, as we have applications directly tied to xlib and to a 
number of extensions and as well clients which run on older server 
systems using older versions of X connecting to new and more recent 
Linux X servers.

Our applications make extensive use of a large number of X extensions, 
these include, but are not limited to, MIT-Sundry-Nonstandard (many of 
our oldest programs from the early days use this) ,TOG-CUP, Xtrap, 
Xfree86-Misc, XEvIE, EVI, PEX, (for many of our 3D modelling and CAD 
applications), Appgroup, Xprint (many of our apps use this to print out 
forms, documents and schematics), and Ximage (we use this heavily to 
display images). Xlib is very much intergrated into all of our programs 
and we make extensive use of every single feature in xlib. and of every 
extension. I do not believe that there is an extension anywhere or any 
feature of xlib that we have not utilised in some way.

To our much dismay we have recently found after attempting to install 
new Linux boxes that these extensions no longer appear to be available. 
This has caused most of our internal applications to blow up and to be 
completely ruined and unusable in the process. Dozens of applications 
have now blown up and are not able to be used, involving millions of 
lines of code. Thousands of dollars already invested in upgrade to new 
Linux systems appears to be completely useless now, as none of our 
applications can be used on these new systems.

This has caused great harm to our company and a loss of vast investments 
we have made of millions of lines of code written over a period of over 
22 years, heavily interlinked with these X extensions and dependent on 
them have been rendered completely non functional due to's bad 
design decisions.

It is well past time that your organisation make backwards compatibility 
with core X11 and all extensions to it a primary principle of your 
organisation. To many have invested too much money into developing 
software to utilise these extensions than to have them mindlessly 
removed and thus blowing up dozens of our internal applications.

We have decided that we will probably move to an entirely Win32 platform 
instead of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into an extensive 
rewriting of our existing X applications, as it seems like, from what we 
have already seen, it no longer seems as though we can count on this 
platform to provide the backwards compatibility we need. We have been 
talking to Microsoft extensively about this issue and they have indeed 
provided us with huge resources and have iron clad commitments to 
maintaining compatibility with their older interfaces, so we can rest 
assured that with them that code we write today will still work years 
and years from now.

It is very sad that it has come to this, and that X no longer seems to 
be taking the need for backwards compatibility seriously. Backwards 
compatibility is ESSENTIAL! We used to find X the perfect platform, but 
it seems those days are gone.

Needless to say we have been burned badly by and its lack of 
concern for its users applications and their need for backwards 

I feel very badly that a once sound platform such as X has resorted to 
such shoddy, ignorant, and poorly thought out actions and behaviours. I 
am sure your platform will suffer greatly as a result.

Richard Brown

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