Wayland is So Close | Back on X11

I don’t ever like to talk negatively about a project as I never want to demotivate anyone with their labor of love. I also don’t want to ignore when something isn’t ready and Wayland isn’t ready, for me. I very much want it to be for the obvious performance increases in certain areas but there are just a few too many performance degradations that have caused me to switch away. Thankfully, on my openSUSE Tumbleweed machine, I can easily select X11 or Wayland session for Plasma. I do believe this is the norm for all Linux out there running Plasma.

Video Editing

I use Kdenlive to edit video for which I really enjoy the interface. On X11, the interface is smooth, the playback is smooth, moving clips around and real-time processing of effects is smooth. When running Kdenlive on Wayland, the interface slows to a crawl, playback is choppy with any effects applied and worst of all, moving groups of clips can take several seconds to update. This issue alone is enough to go back to using X11.

I don’t know if this is a Plasma, Kwin, Qt or Kdenlive issue but it is an issue that is painful enough to make the experience so miserable that editing video moves from being a joy to a dreadful chore. The fact of the matter is, spending any longer on editing video, especially waiting for the application to think about your request doesn’t make fora good time.

Regardless of this issue, I stuck with Wayland on Plasma because it is the future, like it or not.

Dragging and Dropping Files

Another challenge in using Wayland was that the drag and drop onto OctoPrint would sometimes just suddenly appear when I wasn’t dragging and dropping anything. I would have to frequently refresh the browser window or “fake it out” by dragging a file over and pulling it away to get the interface back to a state where I could interact with it.

This too wasn’t enough to call it quits on Wayland (for now) but it was rather aggravating. My work around to get the web interface usable again worked and I could use anything to make it come back to life but it was happening rather often and I didn’t know what was triggering it.

xLights Light Sequencer

xLights is an application I use throughout the year to change the appearance of the lights on and around my home. The big time of use is as I approach the Christmastime season where I do a lighting sequence to music. The application worked mostly well but my biggest issue I kept having was when copying and pasting a lighting effect. I couldn’t actually paste the effect until I selected where I wanted it to go. I would click many times over to get a select to register on the element’s timeline before I would get a successful select. It became very annoying.

I am just grateful that xLights works on Linux so no complaints ultimately. This was a user experience issue that wasn’t exactly a show stopper but certainly felt very buggy. This too, by itself, wouldn’t stop me from switching to Wayland.

Zoom Video Conferencing

I do a weekly video “podcast” called Linux Saloon every Saturday night. Under X11, the experience is not flawless but certainly something that is not taxing to any computer I run it on. Under Wayland, I would have such incredible interface issues where it would be slow to bring up menus, writing in the chat would be slow and would register multiple key-presses when typing and the video feed would lock up or slow and speed up occasionally. This can be clearly seen in some of the published videos.

Although annoying, this too didn’t keep me from using Wayland. I was going to stick with it.

VirtualBox

Virtualbox would just not display guest systems while running Wayland. My workaround was not to use VirtualBox and just use VirtManager / Libvirt / Qemu / KVM (whatever we are calling it today) as my virtualizer. This too was not enough to walk away from Wayland.

Synergy / Barrier

The virtual Keyboard Mouse application called Synergy and it’s fork Barrier still doesn’t work with Wayland. This is by no means a show stopper for Wayland for me, I can do without but it is rather annoying to lose functionality. I have done without for a while so I could get used to it but being able to seamlessly move your mouse to another display, point, click and type is such a fantastic thing. I do hope this can come to Wayland soon but it is certainly NOT a shop stopper for me to not use Wayland.

Plasma Crashing

Plasma is not something that crashes so hard it requires user intervention. Sure, Plasma can hiccup but it usually restores itself without losing any work. Suddenly, with Wayland, I would look away for a moment and there would be nothing on my desktop. No applications, sometimes not even a panel at the bottom. It would just be dead. Sometimes Krunner would be unresponsive. The only thing I could do was jump to a TTY and force the computer to reboot.

If this happened only occasionally, I would have largely ignored it but its frequency dramatically increased and so did my frustration. I searched for other individuals having the same difficulties but nothing seemed to be fitting and I needed to use my computer. Being frustrated by my computer is an unacceptable situation and as a consequence, that was it. I could not use a system that would not work reliably. I can deal with slow user interface issues, occasional hanging and even strange behavior of Firefox now and again but outright system crashing and loss of work was the end for me, for now.

Final Thoughts

I have great hope in the potential of Wayland. I enjoy how smooth the experience is with more normal tasks. I enjoy the way the desktop environment doesn’t tear, the individual monitor scaling and the perceived reduced power use while on battery. I truly believe that this is a better architecture than what X11 is. Unfortunately, it also means it is incomplete. I do believe, for most people, Wayland is fine, it is ready and should be used. For me, I will have to stick with yesterday’s display server. It saddens me because I like to use the new shiny but the new shiny isn’t ready for me.

Wayland will get there. Sure, I am a bit discouraged but I still have hope in the future of the Linux Desktop experience. There have been great strides in the last few years but work continues and I will try it again very soon. I can’t wait for future me to scoff and yesterday me about Wayland.

References

Wayland Display Server on openSUSE Tumbleweed in 2021

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