The last post I laid out the story of me with wayland. Technology is fascinating isn’t it? Every once a while, there are plenty of new projects that aim to start an revolution, getting people excited. Projects like systemd, Wayland, Vulkan make us think how come we did not think of those before, they seemed perfect at the moment. Technologies always work like a rush of hot wave, our sights are limited at the moment we are in, maybe 5 years from now, even vulkan is not sexy anymore. For ten years, community has been urging everyone to jump on the boat of wayland. Some major platform adopted it, just there is no money in it. Major platforms like GNOME and KDE are not even mature yet, KDE developers also worries about the future of the wayland, will it last 30 years like X window?
One of the truth that almost nobody talks about is that we all try to advertize the vague new technology as easy-to-learn, benifits and ignore all the learning curves. Is it really so? How many simple ideas out there that can rock the world? I cannot judge, in the context of wayland project. I cannot really use the word facile. The knowledge required for a wayland compositor is far more than what presented in DWM. Wayland is merely a IPC protocol library, all the work such as mapping hardware to logic devices, rendering and compositing has to done by a compositor writer. Even with the library libweston, programmers are still exposed by all those concepts. If you step on the path to do it all yourself, you will need quite a massive knowledge under the belt, I’d say. But let’s not discourage everyone. Let’s talk about all the goodies of wayland tech, especially the libweston could offer.
The first thing that I started with the libweston is actually learning
xkbcommon(xkbcommon itself has the concepts like
keysym and so on). I was trying to implement a complex keyboard mapping,
supporting sequence keybindings. It works a bit like what is available in emacs,
only I have to hack around the
libweston’s flat keyboard handler. After
registering the keybinding callbacks, compositor will route the key events to
the clients when they are in focus.
Another idea exposed is the seat, it is presented in the wayland core
protocol as well. Unix system has this concept called seat. A seat is a set
of input device like keyboard, mice or controller, it means adding a seat for a
user to user, how to discouver and group input devices into seats is transparent
in the libweston, what programmer has is a signal handler. once a new seat
discovered, compositor can setup the
keymap and other things.
The view and surface
view and the
surface are the core concept in the weston
weston_surface contains the buffer, but
determines where you will show the surface on the screen. In the current weston
architecture, at every frame, weston will build up a list of views and render
them on top of each other. You can play all kinds of tricks with view, like
rotations and scaling.
The next concepts is the layer, this is idea when you want to futher seperate compositing into layers of cake. For example, on the top of your layers, you would have your cursor, then you may have some ui elements. futher downwards, you may have your regular windows section, then at the bottom, there is the wallpaper. If your GPU supports multiple planes, you can take the advantage of it to composite only certain layers and leaves the rest unchange, your wouldn’t want to redraw everything just for the small motion of cursor, right :p?
weston_output? Output is the monitor, but technically it is a view
of your entire framebuffer. If you have two monitors side-by-side, one
output (monitor) occupies a chunk of that framebuffer. In this design, we only
need to composite one framebuffer, and you can move the windows from one monitor
to another at ease.
Other wayland concepts
Wayland object is not easy to work with, first challenge is double buffer
state. Manage the state is quite lines of code actually. Many other objects like
wl_seat are easier and usually done with a
common routine (I guess that is why you would want Qt/GTK instead of barebone
But The most confusing concept I’ve had is the
wl_surface_frame. By reading the
wayland docs. Firstly I thought it was compulsory to do a buffer swap, once you
have your frame callback, you can do a rendering and commit. But if you really
do that, you would not be able to draw anything since
frame only issues after
commit. So you need to do a
wl_surface_frame, then commit, then why do
you need the
wl_callback later? Just to delete it? This was how I drive my
wayland client for a long period. In turned out
wl_frame is only useful for
the animations, but even though, you still need to have a first commit to drive
the next frame. If you are work with typical GUI element where you only need to
redraw at input events. The
frame callback is totally unecessary. I only
realized it after reading through the libweston rendering pipeline.
So if you need to work on a wayland client, there are some traps like this. Designing UIs under wayland is really far from easy, I would maybe write another article about that part of the story.
So after all, is it all good
In the end, I have to say this. With help of libweston, the implemention of a
compositor is indeed much easier, it setup the
gbm, and implements
most of the core protocols like
wl_buffer on the sever side. What
it offers the compositor designer is a feature-rich apis to manipulate wayland
object, you can do almost everything you want. Only if you have a strong grasp
of all the concepts, so you can avoid all the traps that I as in. And
libweston has absolutely no documentation at all.