Wayland Display Server on openSUSE Tumbleweed in 2021

I became aware of the Wayland Display Server project in 2012 when I was playing with using DisplayLink on openSUSE. I was told that when Wayland is released, it would fix my woes. Nine years later, it was time to give Wayland an honest go with openSUSE again. The impetus behind it was curiosity since it is in the news a lot and I have heard so many good things about it.

Making the switch on openSUSE running KDE Plasma was as easy as selecting a drop down on the login screen and using the “Wayland” session instead of the X11 session. For the most part, the experience looked the same to my non-picky eyes. Though, I can say, there was something subtly smoother about the interface. Making sure I wasn’t crazy, I went back and forth between X11 and Wayland and sure enough, there is a kind of smoothness to Wayland.

Benefits

The obvious, immediate, benefit you will initially notice is a whole new level of smoothness in the display. X11 has been fairly smooth and I was happy with it but you could tell, it wasn’t as smooth as it could be. There is some occasional glitching, especially when you put pressure on it. For the most part, it is totally acceptable and fine but when you run Wayland, it is like a whole new experience.

Issues

Using Wayland with KDE Plasma is very smooth. Nearly everything behaves as expected but there are some issues. For most users this is not likely to be an issue. For me, however, it is a “show stopper” for a few of my systems.

OBS Studio Window capture Lacks Cropping

The PipeWire system is integrated into OBS Studio as such that you can capture windows and pipe them into scenes. The issue is, the way I crop windows down to hide borders and superfluous bit of the window is not a possibility. If I didn’t crop windows down, specifically with Zoom, this would not be an issue.

Synenrgy / Qsynergy / Barrier Is not Usable

One particular application I use all the time is Synergy. I did purchase a license key to that product some time ago and the application Qsynergy is in the openSUSE official repositories so it is an automatic install for most of my systems. Currently, this will not work with Wayland, it is a planned feature but no time table as to when it is going to be incorporated. This is a pretty huge blow to my adoption of Wayland at this point. I wish there was some kind of shim to make it possible but I haven’t found any way to do so.

No Task bar Notifications for Applications

On X11, the Taskbar will show notifications of the application in the surrounding are color of the application if you have any changes. For example, when I open a web page in another application, the background of Firefox will glow green indicating something has happened there. Telegram will glow an orange-ish tint if I have any direct messages sent to me and Firefox will indicate it has opened a new tab or some other notification.

Yakuake Drop down Terminal Loses Functionality

Yakuake is a drop down terminal that I call up using F12 to have quick access to the terminal. The nice thing is it’s persistence above the workspace so I can quickly copy paste or type things in that window and just as quickly roll it away when necessary. Wayland doesn’t seem to play nice with it and it either doesn’t stay in front of other windows, as expected, or doesn’t roll away as I would like. The result is having to press F12 twice to get it reappear.

Middle-Click on Touch pad Doesn’t seem to work

This isn’t a huge deal and not something I use all the time as I mostly use a mouse but when I am away from my desk and working in a more informal setting, that middle click feature on the button-less touch pad of my EliteBook comes in handy. Not a show-stopper by itself, but does put a few heaps in that X11 bucket.

Overall Assessment

When I am using my computers at my home, where I actively use things like Synergy, and the Yakuake, I am- going to have to use X11 as the display server. I suppose when I am in a purely mobile state, not using Synergy, OBS and I just work around the lack of middle-click, I can most certainly use Wayland, especially if I am on battery only and want to squeeze out a few extra minutes from my battery.

I am very happy with the direction of Wayland and I hope, very soon, all the applications I regularly use are going to be Wayland accepting so I can enjoy the visual and performance benefits of this fantastic new Display Server full time.

What I Like

There is something incredibly smooth and silky about Wayland. I can also tell that there are fewer “hiccups” in the interface as well with Wayland. Not that hiccups are abound in X11, that is not the case but there are instances were X11 does have a moment of hesitation when you are becoming rather demanding on it.

I like that the whole Display Server system is being modernized which ultimately will push forward a lot of the Linux and open source technology into more hands. It appears that Wayland is most certainly the direction that Linux Desktop needs to go, especially as mobile devices are more common.

I am happy to report that if you are on a Wayland client, you can X forward from other machines. I haven’t tested if such a thing in terminal will work from Wayland machines but I am sure that there are going to be other, more efficient, methods with Wayland and I’m good with that.

What I Don’t Like

Pretty obviously, the few applications that do not function as expected is what is keeping me with the slightly less performant X11. I do appreciate all the work that has been done on Wayland but the promise of an X replacement “next year” has been dragging on for quite some time. I will say, when it is ready, it will be absolutely fantastic. X has been great and I am hoping that Wayland will be even better for all.

It seems like window placement is a little funny on startup with Wayland sessions in Plasma. The openSUSE Welcome Window pops in different places on the screen that just seem a bit odd. That is a little thing but yet another papercut with Wayland.

Final Thoughts

Wayland is so close to being ready for personal prime-time on my Linux Desktop machines. It’s looking better, behaving better and I am very excited to see it become the standard display server for everything. There are, obviously, some issues to yet work out but when those issues are worked out, all users of Desktop Linux will benefit. I am very appreciative to all those putting so much effort into making this a reality and making our computing experience better.

References

Get openSUSE Tubmleweed
Qsynergy from software.opensuse.org
Yakuake | Drop-down Terminal Emulator on openSUSE
X.org Foundation

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