Of course, just the thought of manually editing xorg.conf in this day and age shouldn’t even have crossed my mind. Especially on Ubuntu. But (as my Twitter followers might have observed) I recently acquired a new Lenovo Thinkpad at work–specifically, a T61p widescreen Thinkpad which, unfortunately, has an NVIDIA graphics card (really really bad open source support under Linux because NVIDIA won’t open up their drivers). NVIDIA, however, do provide proprietary Linux drivers which are far far better than the ATI drivers of my previous Thinkpad T41p (under either Linux or Windows).
Fortunately, while not a freedom-hater, I’m not averse to using proprietary drivers if I can’t make my laptop work any other way. And as this is my work machine, I need it to Just Work (or as close to as I can). So I installed EnvyNG (envyng-core, envyng-gtk) and ran that to install the proprietary NVIDIA graphics drivers. Incidentally, enabling the NVIDIA proprietary drivers listed in System > Administration > Hardware Drivers screwed up my graphics – I assume the drivers that Ubuntu thinks are right for my graphics card aren’t actually the right ones. EnvyNG, however, got it spot on–the widescreen display resolution (1920×1200) was automatically detected and worked straight off.
Ubuntu Desktop Effects (aka compiz)
This works pretty well. I had to look up how to enable, for example, the rotating cube (which is the ultimate desktop bling) which seemed to me to be a pretty bad Out of Box Experience (OoBE) – before installing Ubuntu on the Thinkpad, I’d booted once into Vista to check that the memory I’d installed was detected. In my brief visit, I noticed that things like the pretty semi-transparent sidebar and thought it’d be nice if Ubuntu did that without any effort on the user’s part (though, to be fair, someone else had installed Vista and, presumably, ensured it worked before shipping the Thinkpad – it would be possible to do the same for a pre-installed Ubuntu machine).
My general opinion of the Desktop Effects is that while the effects themselves are amazing and a real step-up for Linux desktops, the Advanced Desktop Effects Manager, where you enable/disable the effects you want, is not incredibly easy to use. It’s often not clear what a given effect will do if you enable it. Nor is it clear what all the many many options for each effect will achieve. Really, we need a much simpler interface that has advanced options hidden away – something I’ll take a look at at some point…
The effects that I’ve enabled for now, and found useful/interesting/pointless-but-fun are:
|Effect Name||Description||How to enable|
|Desktop Cube||Places each of your desktops on the side of a 3D cube.||See this very useful blog post about enabling the rotating cube|
|Rotate Cube||You can rotate the 3D cube in a very funky way.||See this very useful blog post about enabling the rotating cube|
|Scale||Apparently similar to Mac OS X – you can set up so that when you move your mouse pointer to an area of the screen (eg top-right corner), all the open application windows are displayed on-screen as thumbnails.||Scale > Bindings > Initiate Window Picker for All Windows then click the top-right corner of the little graphic to specify where you want the mouse point to trigger the effect.|
|Show Desktop||I configure it so that when I move my mouse pointer to the bottom-left corner of the screen, all visible windows minimise; repeat mouse movement to get them back.||Enable it. Then General Options > General > Show Desktop then click the bottom-left corner of the little graphic to specify where you want the mouse pointer to trigger the effect.|
|Water Effect||You can drag your mouse pointer around with CTRL+Windows key to make a water effect – at least, that’s what I think is the result of enabling that effect.||Just enable it.|
|Reflection||When you CTRL+ALT+Down, and all the desktops line up for you, you get a reflection of each desktop underneath.||Just enable it.|
|Cube Reflection||I think you just get a reflection of the cube while it’s rotating.||Just enable it.|
|3D Windows||When you rotate the cube, each window is arranged on its z-axis so that they stand away from the surface of the cube.||Just enable it.|
By the way, Wobbly Windows are enabled by default. If you’re interested in knowing more about how Wobbly Windows came to be, here’s an interview with Red Hat’s Senior Interaction Designer (in 2005), Seth Nickell (PDF).
Enabling an external projector/monitor
Coming soon (as soon as I get round to taking some screenshots)…