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Revitalise your desktop with Compiz

by Kunal Deo

Not more than two years ago, 3D graphics would only mean either something to a gamer or a CAD engineer. Now, 3D has entered into mainstream computing. Learn how the power of 3D graphics can help you make your desktop more beautiful and useful

Advisor:Kunal Deo
Kunal Deo

Kunal Deo is a veteran open source developer. Currently he is leading two open source projects: WinOpen64 and KUN Wiki. He is also a KDE developer and has contributed to many open source projects, including KDE-Solaris and Openmoko. He has written numerous articles on open source, Solaris and Linux related technologies for various technical magazines around the globe. In his free time he loves playing games on his Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Not more than two years ago, 3D graphics would only mean either something to a gamer or a CAD engineer. Now, 3D has entered into mainstream computing. It has essentially reinvented the way we use our desktops. It has not only made our desktop more beautiful but also more useful. In this article, we will talk about an open source solution that has brought 3D to every Linux desktop: Compiz.

Compiz is one of the first compositing window managers for Linux. It uses the hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to create impressive effects, speed and usefulness. In recent times, the Compiz project has undergone numerous changes. These changes have caused a little bit of confusion in the community. To clear those up, let’s look at exactly what has happened…

1. First was Compiz.
2. Beryl, another compositing window manager, started its life as a fork of Compiz.
3. After one year, Beryl was merged back with Compiz to make Compiz Fusion. Note that, at this time, Compiz and Compiz Fusion were different projects with their own set of goals.
4. Around the fourth quarter of 2008, two separate branches of Compiz were created: Compiz++ and NOMAD. Compiz++ aimed towards the separation of compositing and OpenGL layers of the window manager. NOMAD was geared towards remote desktop performance of Compiz.
5. In February 2009, Compiz, Compiz++, NOMAD and Compiz Fusion were merged into a single project with the name Compiz.

Installation
Each Compiz distribution has its own way of installing. Many still go by the name of Compiz Fusion, but will always install the latest package

System requirements
Regardless of which Compiz distribution you elect to use, it is important to have a hardware-accelerated graphics card installed in your system. For Nvidia- and
ATI-based graphics cards it is recommended to have the proprietary drivers rather than the open source ones, since proprietary drivers provide the best hardware-accelerated 3D support.

To find out if your system supports hardware-accelerated graphics, perform the following command…

$ glxinfo | grep direct
direct rendering: Yes

If the result given is ‘direct rendering: No’, then you will need to install the proper drivers for your graphics card. Intel graphics chipsets support 3D by default. For Nvidia drivers go here; for ATI drivers go here.

Installation on openSUSE
Installing Compiz on openSUSE is a fairly straightforward process, thanks to openSUSE’s one-click installer.
On openSUSE 11.2: go to the following link to start installing Compiz.
For KDE Desktop
For GNOME Desktop

Installation on Mandriva Linux
Mandriva Linux has its own way of installing Compiz. Open Mandriva Menu>Tools>System Tools>Configure Your Computer. Select Hardware under the Configure Graphics section, open ‘Configure 3D Desktop Effects’. Select Compiz Fusion on the next screen and click OK. This should install all the necessary packages except Simple-CCSM. Install this package using the package manager software.

Installation on Ubuntu Linux (or any other Linux)
Ubuntu installation is generic and can be applied to other Linux distributions as well. Just keep in mind that the package management commands would need to
be respective to whatever distribution you are using.

Perform the following command to install Compiz Fusion and plug-ins:

$ sudo apt-get install  compiz compizconfig-settings-manager  compiz-kde compiz-fusion-plugins-main compiz-fusion-plugins-extra  emerald librsvg2-common

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    • Ron

      I agree that Compiz is a nice enhancement to the Linux desktop. While I have friends who eschew all such “eye candy” as a waste of processor time, I think eye candy makes for a more engaging computing experience. However, I’ve had to turn Compiz completely off on all my Ubuntu computers (4 of them, all running Ubuntu 9.10). I have grandchildren, and all of them have Club Penguin accounts. Firefox and Flash on Ubuntu works fine with Club Penguin until Compiz is enabled. Then, it doesn’t work at all. They can’t even log in.

      I’ve not seen any other mention of this on the Web, and I’m not clever enough to fix it myself. So Compiz just stays off. Does anyone else who might see this know how to get it working?

    • Michael

      Wow, talk about late to the party. I never thought I’d see another article pushing compiz. Considering right now it’s pretty much default on every distro known to man and likely to be phased out of distros as gnome 3 hits later this year.

    • Harry D

      @Michael You really think Compiz will phase out. It wont. Of course its name will change but what Compiz has started will never go away. This article also discusses real 3D using Compiz. Did you try that ?