This is a summary of the most important parts of the discussion so far.
SDL changes the user's display power management settings without
permission from the user and without telling the user.
The interface that it uses to do so is DPMSDisable/DPMSEnable, which
should only ever be used by configuration utilities like KControl, never
by normal application programs, let alone by the libraries that they
use. Using an interface that is not at all intended for what SDL tries
to achieve means that it will not work as it should. Firstly, the power
management is completely disabled during the whole lifetime of the SDL
program, not only when it should be. Secondly, it makes SDL
non-reentrant, meaning that things will break when multiple SDL programs
are clients of the same X server simultaneously. Thirdly, no cleanup
mechanism ensures that the setting is restored if the client does not do
that (for example if it crashes).
In addition to that, this interface is broken on xorg,
[http://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=13962], so what SDL tries
to do does not work at all on that implementation of the X Window
System. (The reason that the DPMSEnable works in KControl is that it
calls DPMSSetTimeout immediately after,
The problems that the current behaviour causes
1. Information leak. When the user is away, someone might see what the
user has on the display when the user counts on the screensaver
preventing this. This does not even require physical access to the
workstation, it is enough to see it from a distance.
2. Draining battery. An SDL program that runs on a laptop will quickly
drain the battery while the user is away. The system will soon shut down
and require recharging before being usable again, while it should in
fact have consumed very little energy if the user's settings would have
3. Wasting energy. Even if battery issues are not considered, energy as
such is wasted.
4. Display wear. The display may be worn out.
The problems that the current behaviour tries to solve
1. Preventing screensaver while playing movies.
Many SDL applications are media players. They have reasons to prevent
screensavers from being activated while a movie is being played. When a
user clicks on the play button it can be interpreted as saying "play
this movie, but do not turn off the display while playing it, because I
will watch it even though I do not interact with the system".
2. Preventing screensaver when some input bypasses X.
Sometimes SDL uses input from another source than the X server, so
that the X server is bypassed. This obviously breaks the screensaver
handling. SDL tries to work around that.
3. Preventing screensaver when all input bypasses X.
There is something called Direct Graphics Access mode, where a
program takes control of both the display and the input devices from the
X server. This obviously means that the X server can not handle the
screensaver alone, since screensaver handling depends on input handling.
SDL does not do what it should to help the X server to handle the
screensaver. Nor does SDL take care of screeensaver handling itself. SDL
simply disables the screensaver completely.
How the problems should be solved
The correct way for an application program to prevent the screensaver
under X is to call XResetScreenSaver. This was recently discovered and
implemented by the mplayer developers,
[http://svn.mplayerhq.hu/mplayer?view=rev&revision=25637]. SDL needs to
wrap this in an API call (SDL_ResetScreenSaver) and implement it for the
other video targets (if they do not have a corresponding call, SDL
should do what it takes on that particular target, for example sending
fake key events).
1. When a movie is played, the player should reset the screensaver when
the animation is advanced to a new frame. The same applies to anything
similar, like slideshows.
2. When the X server is handling input, it must handle all input
(keyboards, mice, gamepads, ...). This is necessary, not only to be able
to handle the screensaver, but also so that it can send the events to
the correct (the currently active) client. If there is an input device
that the X server can not handle for some reason (such as lack of Plug
and Play capability), the program that handles the device as a
workaround must simulate what would happen if the X server would have
handled the device, by calling XResetScreenSaver when input is received
from the device.
3. When the X server is not handling the input, it depends on the
program that does to call XResetScreenSaver whenever an input event
occurs. Alternatively the program must handle the screensaver countdown
internally and call XActivateScreenSaver.
What should be done in the current stable version (1.2)
Apply the patch that was posted. It makes the current power management
disabling configurable. Then those that depend on the current behaviour
can choose to build it into SDL and those who do not need to deal with
the problems it causes can leave it out.