Relocation of X

James Wilkinson fedora at
Fri Apr 28 12:01:56 UTC 2006

Tim wrote:
> I can understand the move away from /usr/X11...  but why didn't it go
> to /usr/share/X11 or something like that, rather than straight into the
> root trees?

 * Why shouldn't it? Why shouldn't X be considered a normal part of
   Unix, rather than something strange that has to be kept away in its
   own directory tree?

 * It does use appropriate subdirectories (including /usr/share/X11) for
   files that can reasonably be put in those places. (Remember that the
   FHS standard says /usr/share can be shared between x86, x86_64 and
   PowerPC machines, so you can't put *everything* there).

   Run something like rpm -qfl /usr/bin/X : the commands are in
   /usr/bin, but the modules are tucked away in subdirectories under
   /usr/lib or /usr/lib64.

 * Back when /usr/X11 was invented, it came from MIT, was *not* the only
   windowing system for Unix (think X1 to X10, and NeWS from Sun), and
   had ambitions to be the *complete* graphical interface. These days,
   we don't use Athena widgets (much), we don't use twm (much), and the
   scope of X has effectively fallen to being a low-level networking and
   graphics subsystem.
 * Rpm and other packaging tools mean that mixing X in the same
   directories as the rest of the system is no longer a problem for
   system administration.

 * Directories containing a large number of files used to be a lot more
   inefficient than they are now. So there used to be some pressure not
   to expand directories too far.

   So the reasons (independence, scope, convenience, performance) why X
   was separate in the first place no longer apply.
 * There are other subsystems (Gnome, KDE, and arguably OpenOffice,
   Java, and the Mozilla camp) that can be just as large, wide-ranging,
   and could argue that they deserve their own directory tree.

Hope this helps,


E-mail address: james | "My aunt's camel has fallen in the mirage."  |     -- "Soul Music", Terry Pratchett.

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