Neil Coetzer ncoetzer at
Thu May 8 15:00:19 BST 2008

Hi all,

Since many people seem unfamiliar with compiz-fusion, I thought I'd give
a little background info and a quick how-to. It is actually a "fusion"
of compiz and beryl and is probably the best option to go with for
desktop "bling" since beryl is no longer supported. It might be useful
to note that compiz and compiz-fusion, although obviously related, are
not the same project.

Compiz-fusion is included by default in Ubuntu (since the release of
Gutsy) and is what actually runs the desktop effects that can be enabled
in System->Preferences->Appearance. However, what most people don't know
is that these effects can be customized with the addition of an app
called compizconfig-settings-manager. Although a lot of users aren't too
concerned with things like desktop effects, I think it can have a huge
impact on non-Linux users and can help win a lot of Linux vs. Windows
arguments (e.g. "Vista looks so cool!").

After a Hardy (or Gutsy) install:

      * Enable universe packages in System->Administration->Software
      * sudo apt-get update
      * sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
      * System->Preferences->Advanced Desktop Effects Settings

>From here you can enable the desktop cube, rotate cube, edge flip
pointer features, expo, scale, shift switcher and a whole lot more.
Those are just my personal favourites. You can also customize screen
edges/corners so that flicking your mouse pointer into a certain corner
invokes a certain effect (particularly useful for expo, scale and shift
switcher). There are also a number of totally useless but fun effects,
like paint fire and water effects. And of course you can customize the
animations used for events like open, close, maximize, minimize, etc. or
you can apply random effects to all of these. You can make your cube
transparent, add cube caps, etc. And of course it doesn't have to be a
cube. It can have just about as many sides as your hardware can handle.

There are also a number of useful shortcut keys (which can also be
customized), for example: 

      * Ctrl+Alt+Left/Right - Rotates cube in either direction
      * Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Left/Right - Rotates the cube, taking with it the
        currently active window (i.e. moving it to another side of the
      * Super(Win button)+E - Invokes expo effect if enabled
      * Ctrl+Alt+Left mouse drag - Rotates cube (and you can set how far
        it zooms out during cube rotation).

On the down-side, some hardware won't be able to handle desktop effects.
You just have to try it by trial and error. Some points that might help
though, if you can't get effects to work:

     1. Make sure you're using the right drivers for your hardware
     2. From terminal, run "compiz --replace" so that you can see what
        the error is. If necessary, search for the error on the net
        ( is a good place to start). If compiz
        crashes and you lose your window border/decorations, use
        "metacity --replace" to activate metacity as the window
        decorator so that you can continue working.
     3. When enabling desktop effects, compiz-fusion checks first to see
        if your graphics driver is white-listed for compatibility. If
        not, then it won't enable the effects. Now in some cases, even
        though it's not white-listed, effects might still work fine. You
        can disable the checks by creating the file
        ~/.config/compiz/compiz-manager. The file should contain the
        line "SKIP_CHECKS=yes". However, this is done at your own risk.
        In most cases this has worked well for me, but on some hardware
        the users eventually experienced random freezes. Once again,
        just depends on the hardware.
     4. If your effects are working but it has slowed down your machine
        badly, do a "top" to see what is chewing your resources. If you
        see "Xgl" featuring at the top of the list, then you can try
        disabling it, and in most cases effects should still work fine.
        To do this, create the file ~/.config/xserver-xgl/disable. Just
        an empty file. Restart the machine and try re-enabling effects
        if necessary. Xgl is a 3D accelerator but in some cases, your
        effects will run better without it.
     5. If you still can't get it to work, try the forums. Unfortunately
        sometimes you will just have to face the reality that your
        hardware is not going to handle it.
     6. If you're running Gutsy, an upgrade to Hardy could also help get
        it working as the new release offers wider hardware support.

Hope that will be useful to those who weren't familiar with
compiz-fusion. Have fun :)


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