Refining Desktop Effects

I’ve written a couple of times before about desktop effects and the how to set them up. I won’t cover that again but will add a couple of things I have learned since then.

There are options

First is Compiz Options. These are found by right clicking on the Fusion Icon in the Panel. There are two options and one I use is Loose Binding. Not sure how it works but it does make a difference to performance, at least with my nVidia card. When it wasn’t selected performance was slow and X was working flat out, taking up around 30% of the cpu. With Compiz using about 15 – 20% that was quite a load. Now compiz is about 25 – 30% and X rarely over 1%.

There were other benefits too. I often found the screen totally messed up when resuming from Suspend. The only fix was to reload Window Manager, again using the Fusion Icon. Now that problem has disappeared.

I guess the lesson here is test the options, the other one is indirect rendering, and see if they improve Compiz on your computer.


The second thing is the pager. I use KDE 3.5 on Fedora 8. That is the bar that shows the number of desktops you have and allows you to click on one to bring it to the front. The standard pager refused to show the four desktops, it was stuck on one. I removed it and installed the KDE one designed for compiz, kicker-compiz. After adding it to the panel I had four desktops showing again.

As an aside there is a great option in Compiz called Window Preview. You will find it in ccsm under Extras. It shows the contents of a window in the Pager as well as when you hover over the application name on the Taskbar.


Using Desktop Effects

I wrote earlier about enabling desktop effects in Linux. Desktop effects provided by Compiz-Fusion have a universal wow factor. They add a little fun to using your computer. There was a lot of interest in that post so I thought I would add a little more info you may find useful.

Be the Boss

It is one thing to enable the effects but what about making them yours. That involves trying out the options and finding effects you enjoy and find useful. For that you need the Setting Manager CCSM. Unfortunately it is not always installed. If you don’t have it you will need to find it in our distro’s repository and add it. I won’t give instructions here as it will differ for each distro. Some of the links in the original article showed how to do it though.

Once installed it is a simple matter of looking through the various options and enabling whatever takes your fancy. If you would like a little more info on the options check out the C-F site, there is detailed documentation on each option. Of course the options in your system may differ from what is in the documentation as C-F is changing rapidly and new effects are added regularly.

One thing that confuses new Linux users a little is mention of the Super Key. It is used a bit in C-F to activate various effects. It is the key with the sysmbol of that other operating system, you know the one that starts with “W”!

So have fun and experiment with Desktop Effects they are something special and great for showing people just how great Linux is.

Enabling Desktop Effects

Here are some notes on enabling and using Compiz Fusion to add desktop effects in Linux, more specifically Fedora although most comments will apply to other Linux distros.

Why would you want too?

It goes without saying that desktop effects have a real wow factor. When you first start using them you may find yourself just playing, sorry experimenting, just for the fun of it. However if you need a further reason see this Lifehacker article on the efficiency gains you can achieve. You may even make up for the time you spend “experimenting”.

Some Useful Information

For some interesting details on installation and operation of Compiz Fusion on Fedora 8 including keyboard shortcuts to make the best use of your new features see here. The same page has links to HowTos for other distros including Ubuntu. However don’t install the packages listed there. They are from the Fedora repositories and have some problems and some features are missing. The Fedora forums have a link to updated packages which don’t have those problems.

Update: One of the problems referred to above seems quite common. That is the titlebar disappears after enabling effects. The updated packages solve this problem.

A search on Google for your distro and Compiz will probably turn up many more pages. However view quite a few to make sure you are getting the right information. Initially I was under the impression that my low end video card wouldn’t work. I have an ATI Radeon 9250 which was recognised by Fedora and uses the radeon driver. Following the above links I was able to get it working in KDE and Fedora 8. No doubt it would work on other distros and with Gnome.

Starting Fusion Icon on Reboot

Actually this will work for any application you want to start automatically when your system starts.

Fusion Icon starts Compiz as well as putting an icon in the System Tray that has options for changing the Window Manager, setting Emerald and Compiz options. Once you have it set up you will want it to start each time you log in. In Gnome this can be done in the Sessions Manager. Type fusion-icon as the application to start.

In KDE open Konqueror and select Go from the menu bar. Go to Autostart, this puts you in your Autostart folder. Anything in here will be run when KDE starts. Right click in any blank area and select “Create New”“Link to Application”. Under the Application tab enter fusion-icon in the “command” field. When you leave that screen a new entry will appear. Restart to make sure everything is working.