Over the past few months, working at Collabora, I have helped Mozilla get rid of Xlib surfaces for content on Linux platform. This task was the primary problem keeping Mozilla from turning OpenGL layers on by default on Linux, which is one of their long-term goals. I’ll briefly explain this long-term goal and will thereafter give details about how I got rid of Xlib surfaces.
LONG-TERM GOAL – Enabling Skia layers by default on Linux
My work integrated into a wider, long-term goal that Mozilla currently has : To enable Skia layers by default on Linux (Bug 1038800). And for a glimpse into how Mozilla initially made Skia layers work on linux, see bug 740200. At the time of writing this article, Skia layers are still not enabled by default because there are some open bugs about failing Skia reftests and OMTC (off-main-thread compositing) not being fully stable on linux at the moment (Bug 722012). Why is OMTC needed to get Skia layers on by default on linux ? Simply because by design, users that choose OpenGL layers are being grandfathered OMTC on Linux… and since the MTC (main-thread compositing) path has been dropped lately, we must tackle the OMTC bugs before we can dream about turning Skia layers on by default on Linux.
For a more detailed explanation of issues and design considerations pertaining turning Skia layers on by default on Linux, see this wiki page.
MY TASK – Getting rig of Xlib surfaces for content
Xlib surfaces for content rendering have been used extensively for a long time now, but when OpenGL got attention as a means to accelerate layers, we quickly ran into interoperability issues between XRender and Texture_From_Pixmap OpenGL extension… issues that were assumed insurmountable after initial analysis. Also, and I quote Roc here, “We [had] lots of problems with X fallbacks, crappy X servers, pixmap usage, weird performance problems in certain setups, etc. In particular we [seemed] to be more sensitive to Xrender implementation quality that say Opera or Webkit/GTK+.” (Bug 496204)
So for all those reasons, someone had to get rid of Xlib surfaces, and that someone was… me 😉
So problem was to get rid of Xlib surfaces (gfxXlibSurface) for content under Linux/GTK platform and implicitly, of course, replace them with Image surfaces (gfxImageSurface) so they become regular memory buffers in which we can render with GL/gles and from which we can composite using GPU. Now, it’s pretty easy to force creation of Image surfaces (instead of Xlib ones) for just all content layers in gecko gfx/layers framework, just force gfxPlatformGTK::CreateOffscreenSurfaces(…) to create gfxImageSurfaces in any case.
Problem is, naively doing so gives rise to a series of perf. regressions and sub-optimal paths being taken, for example, to copy image buffers around when passing them across process boundaries, or unnecessary copying when compositing under X11 with Xrender support. So the real work was to fix everything after having pulled the gfxXlibSurface plug 😉
First glitch on the way was that GTK2 theme rendering, per design, *had* to happen on Xlib surfaces. We didn’t have much choice as to narrow down our efforts to the GTK3 branch alone. What’s nice with GTK3 on that front is that it makes integral use of cairo, thus letting theme rendering happen on any type of cairo_surface_t. For more detail on that decision, read this.
Upfront, we noticed that the already implemented GL compositor was properly managing and buffering image layer contents, which is a good thing, but on the way, we saw that the ‘basic’ compositor did not. So we started streamlining basic compositor under OMTC for GTK3.
The core of the solution here was about implementing server-side buffering of layer contents that were using image backends. Since targetted platform was Linux/GTK3 and since Xrender support is rather frequent, the most intuitive thing to do was to subclass BasicCompositor into a new X11BasicCompositor and make it use a new specialized DataTextureSource (that we called X11DataTextureSourceBasic) that basically buffers upcoming layer content in ::Update() to an gfxXlibSurface that we keep alive for the TextureSource lifetime (unless surface changes size and/or format).
Performance results were satisfying. For 64 bit systems, we had around 75% boost in tp5o_shutdown_paint, 6% perf gain for ‘cart’, 14% for ‘tresize’, 33% for tscrollx and 12% perf gain on tcanvasmark.
For complete details about this effort, design decisions and resulting performance numbers, please read the corresponding bugzilla ticket.
To see the code that we checked-in to solve this, look at those 2 patches :