Summary - SS2 GX accelerator, when is it used ?

From: Bill Hart (
Date: Mon Mar 11 1991 - 13:39:34 CST

Here is my original question :-
> We have had some SS2 GX's for the past few weeks, and I have started
> fiddling around with some visualization software on them (apE2.0), I
> used to run the X11R4 X server, but since getting these machines have
> started using OpenWindows, as I understood this used the GX hardware.
> It still doesn't seem blindingly fast (even in X11ONLY mode). Last
> night while running the apE software I ran into some compatibility
> problems between R4 software and the OpenWindows (R3) server, so I
> switched back to the R4 server, I was amazed at how much faster X
> seemed to run (I don't think I was imagining it).
> My question is, is the GX hardware used for all graphics stuff, or is
> none of the stuff (OW, X, apE) using it ? Do I need to recompile things
> to make use of the hardware ? and if so how ? (I was going to recompile
> anyway for fortran 1.3.1 compatibility and to use -cg89).
> The machine is a SS2 GX with 19" sony screen, 16 MB memory and 4.1.1 OS.

Thanks to all those who replied, although the issue still seems a bit murky
to me, some people asked me if I was using OW 1.1, because I said it had
a X11R3 server, and setenv X11_ONLY has no affect under OW 2.0.
I am running OW 2.0 which is supposed to be a X11R4 based
server. I assumed it was a release 3 server because of some of the error
messages I was getting ( 11003 v's 11004 widget mismatch when starting
up an xterm (compiled and linked with the mit X11R4 src), and various
'X bad colour' errors when using some graphics programs). So I'm not
convinced it's a complete R4 server.

The GX board is only a 2D vector accelerator, so it only helps with drawing
lines not areas and stuff.

The consensus (althought some disagreed) appears to be OW does not directly
use the GX hardware, although the GX is a faster dumb fb than a dumb fb,
and scrollbars and things like vi work better with a GX. You definitely
can't make use of the GX with the mit X11R4 because Sun wont release the
hardware info to utilize the GX because some one might reverse engineer it
(Whats the point of producing the thing I ask myself if you can't use it ?,
why not license it out like they do with the rest of the hardware ?)
like that work much better with a GX.

In fact the only bits of software that actually make use of the GX are
Sun's software offerings based on their XGL such as SunGKS, SunPHIGS,

This was all pieced together from snippets, so please correct me if any
of this is wrong.

My solution will be I think, to use the Mit R4 server as it is smaller,
seems faster, and use the OW clients. This should fix my compatibility
problems. For postscript rendering I can always use ghostscript which is
suppossed to be twice as fast as pageview anyway.

Bill Hart CSIRO Division of Oceanography

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