1995 X Technical Conference Review


Per usual, conference attendees were able to choose from a number of specialized tutorials prior to the actual start of the conference. Rather than introductory tutorials available at other X Window System Conferences, these tutorials were focused on more specialized aspects of X usage and development, and were geared towards more experienced developers. Such topics as OpenGL programming, using command languages to program in X, Fresco and programming large applications with Tcl/Tk were presented, and well-received.

Perhaps the most heavily attended tutorials dealt with the Common Desktop Environment (CDE), the X Window cross-platform answer to the standard Microsoft Windows environment. A morning session dealt with a basic marketing-style overview of CDE components, while the afternoon session dealt more directly with application development under CDE.

CDE, developed jointly by Sun, HP, IBM and Novell, is a set of management, customization, development and productivity tools bundled on top of different vendor flavors of Unix. While the CDE technology is not new (it is based on a merge of different existing desktop systems) what *is* new is the integration of these technologies into CDE, providing an environment which will not vary from vendor platform to vendor platform. As touted by its developers/presenters, CDE provides benefits to all classes of desktop users, be they application developers, system administrators, or application users.

For the application developer, a common API is provided to develop X/Motif applications. The basis for this API is X11R5 and Motif 1.2.3, with additional functionality added. The developer support also provides a common runtime environment, I18N internationalization support and a suite of development tools, such as dialog tools, scripting tools (including support for visual scripting using a KSH-93 based shell with extensions to invoke X Window APIs), and an application builder (basically Sun's Devguide tool ported to, and modified for, CDE). Wrappers for existing binaries can be created to make the older programs compatible with CDE.

For the system administrator, CDE provides tools to install applications, and to easily distribute applications across a network of (heterogenous) machines. With a consistent set of management tools, knowledge of system administration on machine A can be more easily brought over to machine B, since the basic tools are the same.

For the end user, CDE brings a consistency of interaction that users are already familiar with from experience with the Windows and Macintosh desktops. Users have at their disposal a common file manager, window manager, session manager along with the familiar X/Motif interface guidelines. The goal of CDE is to allow the user the ability to carry his or her environment from machine to machine without having to be concerned about hardware dependencies or OS differences.

While CDE 1.0 will be deployed in the near future, work is already underway for the next revision of CDE, called CDE Next. CDE Next, an amalgam of X11R6 and Motif 2.0 features is in the planning stages today. The players (Digital, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard, Hitachi, IBM, Novell and Sun) have contracted with the vendor-neutral X Consortium to produce a project plan. Once the plan is approved, the X Consortium will be the prime contractor for the project.

Last updated: 10 July 1996

Copyright 1995 Susan Liebeskind, Atlanta, GA, and Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

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