[Lazarus] The Problem with the Linux Desktop

Kostas Michalopoulos badsectoracula at gmail.com
Tue Mar 31 17:36:54 CEST 2020

IMO the problem of Linux desktop (or at least "a" problem) is the lack of
backwards compatibility for pretty much anything above the X server (and
now with Wayland some people want to compromise that too). If you stick
with the X libraries, the C library (glibc is generally very good when it
comes to backwards compatibility and one of the very few userland projects
that do so) and kernel interfaces, you can have many years of stability. As
an example check this screenshot:


This shows binaries from a GUI toolkit i wrote some time ago in C that only
uses the Xlib (it can also optionally use Xft but it isn't required). The
binaries were compiled in a (32bit, of course) RedHat Linux distribution
from 1997 and worked just fine in a 64bit Debian distribution from 2018
showing more than two decades of binary backwards compatibility. Note that
those binaries were *not* statically linked (which is what some suggest as
a "solution") - they linked against the system provided C and X libraries.

But that is by only relying on X and C. Anything above that has the long
term stability prospect of a sandcastle during a thunderstorm.

You can see that clearly with Lazarus' backends: the Gtk2 backend became
stable long after the Gtk1 library was obsolete and the Gtk3 backend is
still not capable to use the IDE itself when most Gtk development is
already on Gtk4. Back in late 2000s, the Gtk1 backend used to be very
stable and the Win32 backend used to be quite buggy but nowadays the Win32
backend is by far the most stable because over the years there wasn't any
need to throw away all the work that was done since the Windows API is
always backwards compatible whereas the Gtk library drops compatibility
every major version.

The only big toolkit i can think of that remained stable over the years is
Motif, but i think this is largely due to it not receiving any major
updates. Well, Tk is probably also ABI stable, but i'm not sure if it is
possible to use it without Tcl (Python bundles both just to access Tk).

It might be interesting to see if a backend for any of those can be made
since they are likely to exist and be updated for the foreseeable future.

On Sun, Mar 29, 2020 at 11:41 AM Anthony Walter via lazarus <
lazarus at lists.lazarus-ide.org> wrote:

> Teresa, thank you for your considered opinion.
> I agree with most of what you said, but with regards to the option of
> moving back to Windows, for me that is a non starter. I don't use Linux
> rather than Window because of some technical benefit. The primary reason I
> use Linux because I don't want to worry around my privacy being
> compromised, either from malware or viruses which are a big problem with
> Windows or from software vendors themselves be it Microsoft telemetry or
> other spying features that now a days so commonly bundled with 1st, 2nd,
> and 3rd part software on Windows. These problems are pretty much non
> existent on Linux.
> I also value the efficiency of Linux. I have all processing speed and file
> system the room I need on a 2008 Core2Duo, 4GB or RAM, and a 60GB SSD using
> Linux, even with the newest distros. On the latest Windows 10, not so much.
> Just getting the OS installed is about 30GB. And yes this is a big deal for
> me because I always have 10 or more of these laptops on hand and use them
> to teach my students basic computers usage, online safety, and programming.
> Even if I wasn't using these machine for teaching, they still make for
> great everyday computers when running Linux. Using them with the most
> recent Windows, not so much.
> My complaints, as you expanded upon, center mostly around the fractured
> nature of the Linux desktop ecosystem. Even popular distros such as Ubuntu
> break things from release to release. Windows seems to always try to
> protect that backward compatibility, at least since they made the move to a
> true 32 bit OS. Of course with Windows upgrades some hardware is no longer
> supported (I can't use the Canon photo capture system on other than XP),
> but most of the time everything still works.
> Thanks again for your considerate thoughts.
> Anthony
> --
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> lazarus at lists.lazarus-ide.org
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