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The Wall is Broken

Drawing tablet is offline. FreeBSD and Linux sometimes bite pretty hard.

I had my tablet working to the point that all that was wrong with it was:

  • Pen lingering/drawing near the edges gave free jitter
  • I had to turn off the Laptop's LCD before using it (so xrandr would cause the pen handler to know the tablet's dimensions rather than the LCD's)
  • Some black magic that gnome-settings-demon was doing caused it to not properly initialise until g-s-d started. Before that, it displays, but does not line up well with anything
I only spent a few hours fighting with X to get it to this point.

Today I upgraded my laptop to FC10beta, hoping that the newer wacom driver would get rid of that jitter, and maybe hoping that the newer version of X would make the black magic done by g-s-d unneeded. Nope. Some direct rendering manager driver now insists that my tablet runs at some resolution it's not capable of (and won't be overridden by anything I've tried yet), g-s-d doesn't do anything at all useful there, and xrandr cannot help. Result: until I get more time to fight with it, the tablet is useless (Maybe I'll hook it up to my windows "games" system for the time being - I'm sure the install will be easy and take less than 10 minutes of real time and 20 seconds of brain time).

Is it Xorg's fault? Maybe. Xorg/XFree86 have always been incredibly unpleasant to configure. Perhaps it's all the crappy GNOME stuff - gnome-settings-demon is so lousy it doesn't even have a manpage, documentation on what it is supposed to do is scant, and starting it or not starting it has led me to different types of lossage over the years, relating to things as diverse as suddenly changing the fonts of most of my running applications (often causing them to crash), sound not working, etc. Maybe it's ugly driver stuff.

I've had to install FreeBSD recently on a box at work, both reintroducing me to its loathsome installer and reminding me of its lack of interest in helping configure X. Otherwise, I like it. Oh, except for the fact that UFS is a terrible filesystem unless you really like to run fsck often while trying to configure X (which will make your box hang a lot).

I keep joking about getting a Mac - I don't think I ever actually can because I'm deeply attached to the X Window system and overall like many aspects of more traditional Unices. That said, I would love it if:

  • X were magically intelligent, doing sensible things with any device attached to it without mistakes, without occasional graphics glitches, etc
  • GNOME would ditch gnome-settings-demon or at least make it where people running non-gnome window managers don't need to think about it, with all programs working fine without it, without programs deciding to cleverly launch it if its not running, with no magical undocumented stuff happening when it launches, etc.
  • The system were more cautious about trying to do things automatically, and when it does it always works. GNOME NetworkManager should never decide I'm offline when I actually am online and never lost a network connection. etc etc etc
  • SCIM were more intuitive - it has a lot of knobs and switches, but they're poorly labeled enough that I don't even know if something that doesn't work as I think it should is my trying to use it wrong or a bug.
  • I didn't need to stick so much "software duct tape" around everything to keep things working.
  • Everything has a manpage. If it's a binary on my system, it should have a manpage, even if it's hiding in /usr/libexec. An info page will *not* do.
  • No mono
  • Wireless NICs just work (although this is mostly the fault of hardware manufacturers being stupid and repeating the "softmodem" mistake to some degree)

sigh. Despite all the stupid fighting with hardware, Linux/X11 is quite nice when things are configured well enough. I'd say that maybe it's like a relationship, but my last one was long enough ago that I don't really remember, and I never was the sort to fight anyhow.



Wait, GNOME? What happened to the NeXT-ish stuff you were running?

And why not try KDE or something more basic?

(Of course, when I went to two monitors recently, bare X worked great, then KDE messed it up and I had to add some xrandr duct tape.)


I run gnome-panel, as well as a few GNOME apps, all of which really seem to want gnome-settings-demon running, sometimes launch it themselves, and thus use the random number generator to decide my font settings. I still run WindowMaker though.

It's actually kind of cute - I've had times where g-s-d starts, it sets all my terminals to some very large font, I've killed it and started it again, and it gives me a much smaller font (causing a good third of my (mostly GTK) apps to die randomly). I deduce that my system has at least 3 sets of settings - no_g-s-d, with_g-s-d_1, and with_g-s-d_2.