This is the original text which was eventually edited, translated and published in the April 1994 issue of iX Magazine, the German "Multiuser, Multitasking Magazine". This article was a joint effort with Kersten Auel of iX Magazine and Susan Liebeskind of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Only my portion of the article is presented here.

The X Technical Conference (XTC) is put on each year by the X Consortium

X Technical Conference 94 (Frischer Wind)

Overall, this was one of the best X Technical Conferences I have attended. Most of the talks complemented the papers quite well. The vast majority of the talks had accompanying papers in the proceedings this year (Bob Scheifler's talk on the Consortium and R6 being the most notable exception). As usual, the emphasis was on real research, future directions, and work in progress.

This was also the first XTC in several years where no major bashing of any vendor or the Consortium seems to have occured, even in the BOFs. (This may have been attendance-related.)

This was also the smallest XTC in years. With only about 600 attendees (down from a peak of about twice that) only those who really, really wanted to be there were present. The main reasons for the small turnout, according to informal surveys by the Consortium and myself seem to be a tighter economy and more conferences from which to chose. The fact that X is now mainstream, and far more information is available, is also a likely culprit. (The inevitable whining about holding a conference in Boston in January was also heard, and properly laughed at.)

Highlights From the Talks

Extending Xt to Support CORBA-Based Embedding

Charles A. Price, SunSoft, Inc.

Chuck described an experiment at SunSoft involving both making Xt widgets CORBA-aware and constructing Intrinsics-aware CORBA objects. While the experiment did not go terribly deep, the results were very helpful in identifying the problems for anyone considering a real implementation. The presentation struck an excellent balance between introductory material for the uninitiated and the details of the experiment. As usual, one of the prime culprits identified as a potential problem spot was resource management. It appears that geometry management and concurrency may be less problematic than might initially appear.

Xvan: A True Multiple Screen X Server

Peter C. Jones, Sun Microsystem Laboratories, Inc.

Peter described an attempt to provide a logical screen consisting of multiple physical screens, in an effort to bypass restrictions imposed by X in a multi-screen environment (windows are normally restricted to one screen). He described the approaches tried and the problems encountered in each (primarily speed-related). The final solution was general, produced neglible loss in server performance, and is transparent to X clients. Peter noted the server areas requiring rework, and indicated that the code will be made generally available.

Experience with XIE: Server and Client, Past Present and Future

Ben Fahy, PhD, AGE Logic, Inc.

This brief overview of the X Image Extension (XIE) was thorough and informative. Ben explained how the image engine works, and gave examples of using the basic API. Just how well this talk was done may be seen in the fact that the primary question from the audience was why the team left the "w" off the end of "Photoflo".

Design and Implementation of LBX: an Experiment Based Standard (Pushing an Elephant Through a Straw)

Keith Packard, Network Computing Devices

Keith did his usual excellent, entertaining job (assisted by quips provided by Jim Fulton). Beginning with an overview of extant enabling technologies such as PPP, the talk moved quickly into the real requirements for LBX, with practicality in the current network environment a high priority. Problem areas were identified, and approaches verified experimentally. The presentation included plenty of results showing what worked, what didn't, and what remains to be determined. An implementation of an LBX server was briefly described.

New X Font Technology for X11R6

Nathan Meyers, Hewlett-Packard Company

One of the most long-awaited extensions to the capabilities of X has arrived. Since the release of X11R2, programmers and users have been clamoring for more sophisticated font support. Nathan's talk struck another excellent balance between theory and practicality, with plenty of example font capabilities demonstrated. The limitations and potential problems inherent in a flexible font description scheme were also well covered.

Kerberos Authentication of X Connections

Tom Yu, student, MIT

Tom was late, so Stephen Gildea began with a functional overview of how kerberos was integrated into the X security mechanisms. When Tom arrived, he described in detail how the new scheme was implemented. This is provided primarily as an alternative to SUN-DES-1, which requires not only DES access (as does XDM-AUTHORIZATION-1), but Sun's secure rpc product.



This was primarily another review of what would change in Motif with X11R6 and with Motif 2.0, other OSF/Motif news, and a time for questions and answers. Nothing of earth-shaking import was unveiled, and for once the audience seemed, if not thrilled, then at least supportive rather than hostile.


The primary focuses of the X toolkit BOF chaired by Donna Converse, who has had primary responsibility for Xt for some time, seemed to be related to threads, failsafe X and requests for specialized hooks of use to limited audiences. Additional issues raised related to documentation (most people in attendance wanted the the Consortium to provide both specifications and man pages for the X toolkit, and to work closely with O'Reilly to make sure the documentation is available as soon as possible after a release. (There is a group of people who persists in believing the O'Reilly documentation buggy, apparently related to the fact that early O'Reily manuals included some of the same bugs as the Consortium's early documentation.)

Donna also raised the question of how people would feel about OSF taking over maintenance of the X toolkit. The general consensus among the BOFfers was a resounding, "No!" The primary motivations of this reaction were (1) fear that OSF would (again!) modify (break) Xt for its own ends, and (2) fear that Xt might one day no longer be freely available. Daniel Dardailler of OSF responded that (1a) OSF's Motif is the primary user of Xt (this is true in a commercial sense, but ignores the freely available widget sets and applications built on them), (1b) there is no guarantee that the X Consortium won't break Xt (although history shows they work very hard not to), and (2) X isn't really free, anyway - we all pay for it through increased fees from vendors who support the Consortium.

Last updated: 10 July 1996

Copyright 1994 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

Miles O'Neal <> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514