Libinput integration in KWin/Wayland

Today I pushed my outstanding branch to get libinput support into kwin_wayland. Libinput is a very important part for the work to get a full Wayland session in Plasma which means we reached a very important milestone. As the name suggests it allows us to process input events directly. KWin needs to forward the input events to the currently active application(s) and also interpret them before any other application gets them. E.g. if there is a global shortcut KWin should intercept it and not send it to an application.

Why libinput integration in KWin?

KWin/Wayland already supported input handling by being a Wayland client and connecting to a Seat. But especially for pointer events this was not sufficient at all. We have quite some code where we warp the pointer and Wayland doesn’t support this (and shouldn’t). Warping the pointer is normally considered evil as it can introduce quite some problems if applications are allowed to warp the pointer. E.g. it can create security issues if you start typing your password and a malicious applications warps the pointer to trick you entering your password into a password field of the malicious application. Also from a usabililty perspective it can be problematic as it makes the system behave in an unpredictable way.

On the other hand if the application is a window manager/compositor the need for warping cursors arises. For example the screen edge handling pushes the cursor slightly back which needs cursor warping. Or you can move a window with the cursor keys (hold Control key to have very precise moving) and in these cases we need to warp the pointer. With libinput this is possible again as KWin gets put in control of the input events directly. It completely bypasses the currently used Wayland compositor.

Libinput is also an important piece in the puzzle for a full Wayland session which does not rely on another Wayland compositor. So far KWin/Wayland can only be used in a nested scenario – which is important for development and interesting new possibilities like the idea for a SoK project – but we also want full support without the need for a Wayland session. This means we need to handle input (which libinput does) and need to interact with DRM directly. DRM support is still missing. This could be an interesting GSoC project next year 😉

The merged implementation does not support all of libinput yet. Most important touch screen support is omitted as I don’t have a touch enabled device. I plan to sit down with fellow KDE developers who have a touchscreen enabled device and implement that part together. Also I will contact the VDG to define some global touch gestures to interact with the system (I’m quite interested in having a touch gesture to activate Present Windows). There’s lots of work to be done here and I would welcome any helping hand.

Security challenges

Processing input events directly comes with a slight problem, though: one needs to be root to read the events. And that’s obviously an absolute no-go for KWin. KWin may never ever be executed with root privileges and also not an suid which drops privileges again (which also wouldn’t help in that case but so what). The application has not been designed for running as root. The same is the case for Weston and obviously I looked at how it’s solved there and there is a very neat solution to support the use case we have in logind. The session controller can ask logind to open devices and logind provides a file descriptor to the opened device. In addition logind automatically takes care to close the file descriptors when a VT switch happens, which is extremely convenient for the use cases of Wayland compositors. So obviously I went for this solution as all it needs is connecting to very few D-Bus calls. This means the libinput integration in kwin_wayland will have a runtime dependency to a logind D-Bus interface. Of course this does not affect kwin_x11, neither does it affect kwin_wayland without libinput integration, but of course without libinput you won’t get support for all features. There is one caveat though: logind will blank the VT when the session controller goes away. So make sure to not run kwin_wayland with libinput support on your primary X session. Because of that libinput support must be explicitly enabled with the –libinput command line switch of kwin_wayland.

Current state and downsides of libinput and logind

As libinput does not yet have a stable release, the dependency is still optional and it’s possible to build kwin_wayland without libinput support. This is currently very important for the non-Linux operating systems, which might want to provide kwin_wayland, as libinput only supports Linux.

I hope that libinput will become available on other platforms. At XDC during the BSD presentations I heard at least one presenter touch the topic. So I’m optimistic that in the long run this will happen as we also see that DRM and KMS is nowadays in quite a good shape on the BSDs. For KWin development it’s of course important that we have only one library to interact with. Otherwise it means platform dependent code which is hard to develop and extremely difficult to test for the main developers not using such a platform. So if you want to get kwin_wayland on non-Linux, please consider putting the energy into getting libinput working (challenge is udev) as that will help all systems and not just KWin. After all we want to stand on the shoulders of giants 😉

Logind is in a similar situation. It is developed as a component in systemd, which isn’t available on all systems which run KWin. Luckily we don’t depend on logind directly but only use a subset of a well defined D-Bus interface and that interface can be provided by other tools as well. Something like that is already being worked on for the BSD’s.
Like with libinput, I would much prefer to keep KWin lean and efficient and not complicate the code base and development by including libraries for specific platforms or having security relevant code around. As written above: using suid wrappers is very much a no-no to me. But of course it would be possible to implement the subset of the D-Bus in an independent project and provide it. KWin would happily use it, it just needs someone to write the code. So if enough people care, I’m quite sure that there will be a developer stepping up and writing the code.

I decided to put out a small FAQ here for those who have questions about the implications of the above:


Does that mean KWin (and Plasma) depend on systemd?


But it depends on logind?

No. It uses one D-Bus interface provided by logind. It doesn’t care which program is providing this D-Bus interface. It can be logind or logind-shim or the implementation being worked on for the BSDs. Even a small binary just providing the used D-Bus interfaces would work.

You should not use logind, there must be a different solution!

I’m sorry I did not find any solution which was as efficient and secure as the one provided by logind. Of course there are solutions like weston-launch, but they introduce a lot of complexity – both on the coding side and on the installation side. As such a solution would need to be suid, I’m very reluctant to the idea. We shouldn’t introduce such possible security risks, if there are better solutions available. Logind is simply providing a feature which is needed by kwin_wayland.

Does that affect KWin on X11?

No, that only affects kwin_wayland.

But there is no logind for the BSDs! So I won’t be able to run kwin_wayland on BSD systems?

Unfortunately the fact that logind is missing is least of your problems on BSD. Logind support is only needed for libinput which right now is not available on BSD. The kwin_wayland binary on BSD will not try to interact with logind. I’m sorry I don’t have a solution for the input stack on BSDs. I really hope the BSD developers can come up with a solution for this as we don’t have the resources to build a separate input solution for one platform.

How can I change KWin to not use logind?

As I noted, it is important to me that KWin is secure and that the code base is as easy to understand as possible. I don’t like the idea of having ifdefs all over the place and multiple solutions as that results in bitrot. When I pushed the libinput change it directly failed to build on the CI system as the ifdefs introduced a variation which I couldn’t test on my system. Each ifdef and each platform-specific solution increases the development and maintenance costs significantly. This means that I will only accept patches which don’t introduce the above mentioned problems. Preferrable a small wrapper binary could provide the needed D-Bus interface for KWin and other applications which need this functionality. This would not need changes in KWin at all and would be from my perspective the perfect solution.

Why won’t you implement such a wrapper binary?

Honestly there are a million things I would do if I had time, but a day has only 24 h and I have to prioritize my work. Just check the Wayland TODO list for what we all need to do to get KWin/Wayland ready. Why don’t you open your editor and get some work done? 😉

But if KWin uses logind, Slackware will drop all of KDE!

Yes, I have read that (see comments). Luckily the situation for Slackware is similar to the BSDs: it doesn’t matter right now. Slackware doesn’t provide Wayland packages yet, so the logind support won’t be used as there is no kwin_wayland binary which could be built. And if enough people care, as I said, one or more of them can write the wrapper binary and KWin and other compositors will work just fine.

How can i help?

Best by writing code 🙂 See the TODO list I linked in an above answer. Also it would be good if someone documented the steps to get kwin_wayland running and how to develop on it cough.

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