Playing with fire? Painting with fire!

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Or snazzy Ubuntu Linux with AWN dock and Compiz-Fusion

Beryl, the compositing window manager I’ve been using since I migrated to Ubuntu Linux in April, is now merging with the project it forked from, Compiz. The new project is called Compiz-Fusion and the initial work is great, a few notches above Beryl in some aspects.

compiz-fusion ring switcher RING SWITCHER. Compiz-Fusion’s ring switcher is really a great and eye-catching way to switch between applications. For more Compiz-Fusion features, check out my short video clip below. Click on photo to view larger image.

For a Linux newbie, discovering the extent of customization possible with the operating system is a productivity trap: you decide to tweak one part of your desktop and then you’d read about another cool software or tweak and so you decide to try it and the next thing you know, you’re spiraling in an endless trial of tweaks that you miss several project deadlines.

I was determined to avoid that.

After I installed Beryl and configured it to my liking, I made a pledge to limit customization of my desktop appearance to changing wallpapers and the configuration of my panels.

I failed.

Dock hunt

The road to productivity hell is paved with insatiable curiosity. Mine started with an itch to install a dock in my Ubuntu laptop. I love docks. I love the quick access to the applications you frequently use and the eye candy of it. When I was still with Windows, I used RocketDock.

I’ve read about and watched videos of Kiba dock and Avant Window Navigator (awn). I tried installing awn once and made it run for a few sessions but ran into some problems so I removed it.

After a few weeks, I wanted to give it a go again. The default Ubuntu panel was working fine but a del.icio.us bookmark pointed me to Treviño’s repository of various Linux eye candies, including awn.

The repository makes it easier for non-geeks like me to install the software, unlike the multiple steps you have to take compiling it yourself. The make I know does not involve executing a terminal command and usually comes before love.

I installed awn using the repository and have not encountered problems with it since. You need either Beryl or Compiz to make it work. If you spot just a black screen, chances are you don’t have either window manager running.

Playing with fire?

Seeing how easy it was to install awn using the repository made me braver and more daring.

If you are like me, a non-geek and Linux newbie, you’d do well staying away from development versions of software. They can crash and cause problems for your system.

But what can I say? I’m a daredevil.

I kept on stumbling upon blog posts and video clips of Compiz-Fusion in action and I was drooling over its visual effects. There are several guides on how to install Compiz-Fusion using Treviño’s repository and I’d go over them once in a while, always asking myself the question (use Clint Eastwood impression here) “Do I feel lucky?”

For several days, the answer was “not today.”

Compiz-Fusion will be included in the next Ubuntu version due out in October. I told myself to wait until then. But last Thursday, I couldn’t hold back. I read someone describing the version of Compiz-Fusion being worked on is already about as stable as Beryl. That did it. I went to the Ubuntu forum thread on how to do it and proceeded with installing Compiz-Fusion.

It took me just a few minutes and I encountered no problems at all. When I started Compiz-Fusion, the rotation of the desktop cube was slow, way slower than it did with Beryl. I fixed it by turning off transparency. My hardware, it seems, can’t handle that much additional load.

I also added two commands, mentioned in the guide, in the start-up script. I encountered no problems for several sessions. But then the system upgrade my compiz installation. My desktop suddenly wouldn’t load. I decided to change sessions to log into the system via a terminal. I removed Compiz-Fusion and then rebooted. I was able to log into my laptop.

I then reinstalled Compiz-Fusion, but I deleted the two commands (compiz --replace and emerald --replace) from the start-up script. What I do now is just manually run the command after I log into my system.

Everything seems fine (cross my fingers) since. But I’ve decided that if I encounter one more problem, I just might as well use Beryl and wait for Compiz-Fusion to be officially released.

In my experience, Compiz-Fusion is really better than Beryl and has more visual effects. But I love Beryl’s desktop zoom more than Compiz-Fusion’s. Maybe it’s just because I still have to familiarize myself with its keyboard shortcuts. As you can see from the video clip below, I’m still not familiar with a lot of its features and shortcuts. In the middle of the clip, the part when I suddenly created a new folder, I was checking one key combination after another because I forgot the shortcut for painting with fire.

Here’s the short video of my Ubuntu Linux laptop running awn and Compiz-Fusion:

Here’s a short video of my Ubuntu Linux laptop running awn and Compiz-Fusion:

Compiz-Fusion from Max Limpag and Vimeo.

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3 Comments

  1. glad to see you using ubuntu! i’m an OS butterfly, switching from fedora, to opensuse, to ubuntu, to PClinuxOS. i was discontented with all of them, all because i couldn’t get my daily dose of counterstrike:source. so i’m back to using winxp(home). now i’m setting up another box that can run xen paravirt. then i’d be so in heaven.

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