Saturday, August 19, 2006


I saw my friend using XGL/Compiz on his laptop the other day and was instantly hooked. This technology enables really, really (Vista-like?) pretty graphics and some cool cube-virtual-desktop-switching functionality. Trust me, it's awesome, and once you see it in action, you'll never go back (compiz in action on YouTube). Unfortunately, it's really problematic to install and in heavy development. Needless to say, it's not the most friendly program(s) ever. I'm still trying to get it working on mine, but here's some info in case you want to check it out for yourself:


Keyboard shortcuts (once everything works...):
  • CTRL + ALT + Left/right arrow key. Switches to the new side of the cube for me.
  • CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + Left/Right arrow key- Takes the in focused app around cube.
  • CTRL + ALT + Left Click on Desktop - allows you to use the mouse to rotate cube.
  • F12 - uses the Expose like trick
  • Alt- Tab - switcher Vista-style
I'm using a Compaq Presario x1000 laptop with a Mobility Radeon 9200 Graphics Card. I start up and then it flickers between the line that says it's running the script /etc/rc.local in the terminal and the ubuntu login screen and a white screen. I also hear the ubuntu drums at the very beginning of this process. Eventually it tells me that there's a problem with the x server (not the garbled, usual problem with the X server output), I hit OK, and it takes me to the Ubuntu login screen. This is all very strange, since /etc/rc.local only has an "exit 0" in it and everything else is commented out. I guess it's not all that big of a problem since I can still log in and use my computer, but it's pretty annoying.

Update: Following these instructions gives me a bit better results, but still doesn't work. At least my computer doesn't go through the whole flickering screen dance but it still starts up with the checkered background while loading and the "X" for the cursor and only allows me to logout and not shutdown. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I know it means something is funky with the X server. It's also really, really slow with graphics. Perhaps the next walkthrough I run across will be better? John also tried it on his IBM ThinkPad and he failed in his quest as well.

Second update: IT WORKS!!!! Check this unofficial guide out for the instructions I followed. I gather that theses ones are somewhat "safer" than others (no customization that I can find...) which is why it is on this authoritative page.

Third update: check out the sweet video below for a taste of compiz (no, the instructions that worked for me don't have some of the functionality shown, but it's still absolutely sick):

Fourth update: Compiz is installed, but not enabled, by default in Ubuntu 7.04. Enable it by going to the System->Preferences->Desktop Effects menu. There is a great guide to configuring compiz here.

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