Secretary, X.Org Foundation
February 20, 2010
Abstract: 2009 has been a year of consolidation for X.Org. Software is now being released on a predictable schedule, with predictable improvement.
Note: The Bylaws of the X.Org Foundation require the Secretary to prepare and deliver a State of the Organization report within 60 days of the start of the calendar year. It is my pleasure to discharge that responsibility by preparing this report. While I have prepared this report in close consultation with the X.Org Foundation Board of Directors, all views contained herein are ultimately my own.
Six years ago, the X.Org Foundation was re-formed and its first officers elected. Since then, approximately one X Window System major release has occurred per year. The mission of the modern X.Org Foundation Board is to support this work through raising and allocation of funds, through recruitment and support of Foundation members, and through initiatives in community development, education, and support, and by providing a computing and communications infrastructure; in short "to develop and execute effective strategies that provide worldwide stewardship of the X Window System technology and standards." [ 1 ]
In the next two sections of this report, I first review X.Org Foundation activities during 2009 and report on our successes and challenges; I then suggest something of the goals, needs, and plans for the future of the X.Org Foundation in 2010 and beyond. Finally, I draw some conclusions.
X.Org Foundation 2009
In 2009 X.Org development proceeded at a steady and reasonable pace. The Foundation did not make major changes in operation in 2009.
In keeping with the X.Org goal of about one release per year, Release 7.5 of the X Window System occurred on October 26, 2009. This release featured the first official version of Multi-Pointer X, "E-EDID support", improved pointer acceleration, an XACE-based SELinux security module, and RandR version 1.3. It also included the kernel modesetting support developed over the last several years, with the goal of moving parts of X better handled by the host operating system into it.
Based on the limited ability to raise funds in the 2009 economic climate, and on the limited capacity of conference organizers, the decision was made in early 2009 to cut back from two conference events per year to just one. The Board felt that alternating between North America and elsewhere on alternate years would provide sufficient developer contact worldwide, while cutting costs even when extra travel subsidies were taken into account. This appears to have been a correct decision.
The 2009 X Developers Conference was held in Portland, Oregon September 28-30, immediately following the Linux Plumbers Conference there. The conference emphasis was on smaller projects and preliminary work; there was no strong unifying topic. The 2010 X.Org Developers Summit is planned for 16-18 September in Toulouse, France. Discussion is proceeding on possibly holding the 2011 X.Org Developers Conference in conjunction with BOSSA in Brazil.
The Google/X.Org Summer of Code 2009 was successful, with three of four accepted projects completing and contributing to X.Org development, as well as helping to bring new developers to X.Org [ 2 ]. The X.Org Endless Vacation of Code was established in 2009 to provide opportunities similar to Summer of Code to selected students on an ad hoc calendar. Only a couple of students have shown interest to date, and the one student that submitted an accepted proposal later withdrew. This is probably due to the lack of promotion of the program.
The X.Org Foundation funded a video hackfest held at the Collabora offices in Barcelona in November. The event was reportedly highly successful [ 3 ], and was held at a modest cost. It is hoped that other X.Org projects will take this example to heart and seek funding help when needed.
The Board had hoped to complete the legal transition of the X.Org Foundation from a US LLC to a US 501(c)3 Educational Non-Profit Foundation in the first few months of 2008. A large number of delays culminated in the completion of this transition in early 2009, when the State of Delaware granted us corporate status. However, it turns out that some IRS documents still need to be filed by the Treasurer. This work is underway.
The 2009 Board election was once again delayed, and completed in mid-February 2010. This is unfortunate, and further work needs to be done to ensure that the 2010 and ongoing elections can be held in a timely and regular manner. This election was the first in quite a while in which the restriction in the X.Org Bylaws that only two people from a given organization can be on the Board simultaneously was an issue. The issue was resolved by Keith Packard stepping down from the Board, leaving only two Intel representatives.
The attempt to improve coordination and throughput of the Board continued in 2010. The Board established a wiki that it experimented with as an internal communication mechanism, but it saw only modest use. The regular bi-weekly IRC meetings begun in 2008 continue to date, and e-mail continues to play a crucial role.
Membership in the Foundation is currently at about 145 active members. Work continues on encouraging X.Org participants to join the Foundation.
Communication between the Board and the Membership has continued to be an issue in 2009, culminating in a bit of drama during the 2010 Board election. As a result of this, I am stepping down as Secretary, in the hope that someone else on the Board can do a better job of facilitating this communication.
2010 And Beyond
No substantial work was done in 2009 in finding recurring sponsors for X.Org as a whole, although conference sponsorships and other kinds of directed sponsorships were strong. Many on the Board still believe that this may be the future of funding for the organization, but funding options undoubtedly will be explored again in 2010.
Good improvements have been made in the X.Org / Freedesktop.org shared infrastructure, in particular more sysadmin support. Emphasis for 2010 will be on cutting infrastructure costs, and on continuing to improve infrastructure reliability and responsiveness. There was some work done in 2009 on expanding build and tinderbox facilities; this work will likely continue in 2010. Traffic volume and spam problems on the xorg email list and on X.org wikis became an issue in 2009. The wiki spam problem is particularly bad on auxiliary X.Org wikis that do not have the same amount of regular attention from their maintainers as the main X.Org site. After careful consideration, the Board failed to come up with any ideal resolution to these problems.
The heavily-hacked legacy members.x.org PHP codebase has been increasingly a thorn in the side of conducting membership business, and is due for replacement. The Board should consider how to proceed on this issue as early as possible in 2010, with the goal of having the replacement in place and verified in time for the next Board election.
Attempts were made to straighten out X.Org banking issues in 2009, but as of this writing the banking situation is mostly unchanged.
There is ongoing concern among the Board about the trademark situation of X.Org. It is not at all obvious what trademarks, if any, are currently registered. There is also a friendly lack of consensus among the Board members about what needs to be registered; the various costs and benefits make for a complex engineering tradeoff. In 2010, this issue needs to be resolved one way or the other. As an ancillary issue, the question of what, if anything, to do about changing out the old X.Org "halo" logo should once again be considered.
The state of the X.Org Foundation is strong. The X Window System continues to succeed.
Each year that I have prepared this report I have confidently predicted that the following year will be the Year of the Linux Desktop. However, I do not believe that 2010 will be the Year of the Linux Desktop, due to decreasing interest in desktops and laptops. I am quite sure that 2010 will be the Year of Mobile Linux.