Ubuntu 21.04 and the expanding Wayland Wasteland

It's not really Power-specific to be disenchanted with Wayland; there are lots of people who don't like it even on majority platforms like x86_64. I also think that, much like the residual disdain for systemd, a fair amount of the backlash comes from some profoundly unwarranted scope creep in the project. X11 has a lot of historical cruft in its lower reaches which deserved at minimum a solid refactor and I do appreciate Wayland's engineering improvements, but Wayland throws the baby out with the bathwater by putting way too much on the back of the compositor, and as far as claims over security and network transparency are concerned one man's security hole is always another one's convenience. Most of the Wayland developers just throw up their hands when confronted with some functionality that was fine in X11 and say "patches welcome" and "don't expect us to scratch your itch," and then wonder why people get cheesed off when stuff quits working. It would be less aggravating if the process were less headlong but such is the state of Linux desktop development where only established players with their own priorities have traction.

That said, the problem is somewhat more acute on OpenPOWER because of the lack of a libre GPU. Right now, if you don't trust AMD or Nvidia, your solitary choice is the on-board ASPEED BMC and that gives you a 2D framebuffer, period. (Even Kestrel won't fix that.) Performance used to be abysmal under Wayland and now is tolerable, though there are still various problems, and even performance with a GPU seemed to regress a little in Fedora 33. I still don't use it anyway because no current Wayland compositor will tell you what the front window is, nor does it seem any of them care about that, even though X11 facilitated this for literally decades. Again, why not run everything through XWayland by default, let Wayland-friendly apps opt out, and get the best of both worlds for (nearly) free? Why intentionally p*ss everyone off by telling them their working edge cases don't matter?

Nevertheless, the Wayland Wasteland expands with Ubuntu 21.04 "Hirsute Hippo" (release notes), which now also makes Wayland the default as it has been in Fedora for many versions now. Fedora allows you to opt out by either running startx manually (as I do) or for those of you running gdm to set WaylandEnable=false in /etc/gdm/custom.conf, and this functionality will probably remain for as long as X is supported in Red Hat (I'm guessing end of support for RHEL 7, maybe 8). In Ubuntu currently you can do the same thing, but the file is /etc/gdm3/daemon.conf instead (or use the cog on the login screen, though the login screen would still come up in Wayland unless you set that flag). As before little-endian OpenPOWER systems (which Ubuntu calls ppc64el) are officially only offered a Server build for download, but you can then convert it to Desktop.

Should you upgrade? If you're happy with X11 on your OpenPOWER system and the performance is good, maybe you should just stick with 20.04, which is a Long Term Support release (21.04 isn't) and will get updates until 2025. But if the future really is the Wayland Wasteland, at least getting more people stuck in the sand will mean some of these rough spots could get smoothed over, and a better software-only rendering pipeline would at least improve the firmware-free use case. In the meantime, hello, X11: you may be ugly and everyone says you smell bad, but you've never gotten in my way.