X11R6.4 (Broadway) Architecture for X: A Book Review

by John Kacur

More and more Linux distributions are switching to the X Window System architecture X11R6.4, code named Broadway. The New X Window System, written by Charles F. Bowman, a former editor of The X Journal, is one of the first books available describing X11R6.4

This book presents a high level view of Broadway. Its fairly short; the first 64 pages, comprising the five chapters of the book, can easily be read in one sitting. The second half of the book consists of three appendices describing the application group extension to the X protocol, the low bandwidth X extension and the RX document. The RX document describes how remote applications can be run from an internet browser.

The New X Window System is written to appeal to a variety of readers, including IT managers, developers and administrators. Chapter 1, "The Future of Computing", discusses distributed computing in the age of the Internet and how the prevalence of the network changes the design goals of X. Chapter 2, "The Story of X", presents an interesting history of X from its inception. Chapter 3, "Broadway: The Nickel Tour", is one of the highlights of the book. In this chapter we learn about the new features included in X11R6.4, such as low bandwidth X and how it improves the performance of X applications on wide area networks. It also explains how Broadway can be used to integrate legacy applications and older computers running various operating systems into one network.

Chapter 4, "X on the Web", provides us with some of the details for using Broadway. Contained in this chapter is a very interesting screen shot of Excel, embedded in a Netscape browser. The browser is made aware of the X extensions via a plug-in provided with a standard X11R6.4 distribution. This chapter also includes a complete working example using xload. Chapter 5, "Broadway's Interoperability", describes Java and the MS Terminal Server, comparing these technologies with X.

After reading this book, I felt I had a better understanding of X's past as well as the motivations and improvements leading to X11R6.4 On the positive side, this book will inform IT managers, administrators and developers of the many advantages and possibilities that Broadway offers. Programmers, however, might feel the book is a little sparse on details.

John Kacur works for IBM Canada in Toronto as a Java-JIT developer.

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