Title text: Thomas Jefferson thought that every law and every constitution should be torn down and rewritten from scratch every nineteen years--which means X is overdue.
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It is a computer software system and network protocol that provides a basis for graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and rich input device capability for networked computers.
The X11 stacks are usually implemented using a display server. The reason that it is called a display server is that the actual viewer and the server do not need to be on the same system - X11 always runs over a network connection. This adds considerably to the complexity of the mechanism.
Most UNIX-based operating systems, including Linux and the BSDs use X11 as their base graphical subsystem and thus always use a display server and a display client. MacOSX has built-in support for X11, but does not use it for normal applications. For Windows, commercial and free solutions implementing an X11 display client exist.
Until 2004, for Linux the default display server was XFree86. This project required a variation of the config file that Randall mentions. It was forked into Xorg due to disagreements over the development model.
Xorg is nowadays the default display server: X.Org Server (commonly abbreviated to Xorg Server, XServer or just Xorg) refers to the X server release packages stewarded by the X.Org Foundation, which is hosted by freedesktop.org, and provides an interface to the standard X Window releases for the use of the free and open source software community.
Every aspect of XFree86 and Xorg can be modified in numerous ways, all the way down to tiny behaviors such as the default window size, window-border snapping, mouse button maps or how a touchpad is used. All of these settings can be found in the xorg.conf file, a massive file with hundreds upon thousands of individual settings that have accumulated over the lifetime of the Xorg project. The full documentation for xorg.conf contains all the settings contained within the file. When a problem arises in the graphical portion of a desktop using the X server, the solution is often to edit the xorg.conf file. The soul-crushing prospect of having to open and look up the correct parameter out of thousands that is causing issues is enough to destroy a person's satisfaction with their life.
The Wayland project aims to replace X11 and not include any of the cruft that built up over the decades. It was started in 2008, way more than 19 years after the aforementioned config file turned into a hell.
- [The comic is a graph, with the x axis labelled "Time since I last had to open Xorg.conf" and the y axis labelled "General satisfaction with how my life is going". A curve starting at (0,0) snakes toward the upper right of the graph.]