Saturday, July 14, 2007

Compiz fusion - compositing window manager

Last week I bought a new Video Card primarily for the benefit to make use of hardware acceleration on the desktop and as such run Compiz. Its a Nvidia GeForce FX5500, its several years old now but it plays nice with Linux and I have all the drivers to make it work. The driver installation was flawless on my latest Ubuntu gutsy, I then went on to install Compiz fusion. I pulled the latest development package for Compiz and the extra plugins which showcase some interesting effects on the desktop. Now comes the interesting part, the amount of features that you can change in compizconfig-settings-manager are astounding, you can customize just about anything to suite your liking. There are more than a dozen effects you can choose from for closing or opening a window, beam up, domino, fade and horizontal fold to name a few. You can add wobbly windows and my favorite 3D rotation. I increased the number of desktops under General Options>Desktop Size>Horizontal Virtual Size to 6, now when I go into 3D mode I see a hexagon with transparent view onto other desktops.

The only thing I was not able to get to work is the Group and Tab windows, but compiz is still in heavy development and I can't wait until they release a stable version.

One more thing I should mention is that Compiz is not just a toy with eye candy desktop and cool effects, many of the features actually make it a very productive environment to work in. I was a bit pessimistic when I first heard about it but once I had a chance to run it I loved it. Certainly the ability to have multiple desktops and to freely move windows across desktops as well as grouping windows would improve productivity and it feels like an organic way to do work on your desktop.

The long anticipated year of the Linux desktop has surprised everyone. Compiz may be the killer app on Linux desktop now but there have been many improvement on Gnome and KDE in terms of usability and adaption. No wonder Dell has finally decided to ship Ubuntu preinstalled on their laptops and PCs. I hope other hardware vendors take the same direction as Dell and allow Linux to prosper in the coming years. For now Microsoft and Apple don't even come close to what Linux has to offer on the desktop, what a great turn over because only few years ago everyone was saying that Linux would never go mainstream for having a poor interface. Way to prove these people wrong.