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Thread: The Composite Manager Guide: How to Get Vista-ish Effects in (K)(X)Ubuntu.

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    The Composite Manager Guide: How to Get Vista-ish Effects in (K)(X)Ubuntu.

    The Composite Manager Guide: How to Get Vista-ish Effects in (K)(X)Ubuntu.

    HUGE UPDATE -December 23, 2005

    You MUST get the new Nvidia drivers people. With the newest drivers, I HAVE STABLE COMPOSITE!!!!!!

    The logout bug is gone. The artifacts are gone. Its all gone. 2005 ends and I get what I want- a modern desktop!


    Do you like drop shadows? Do you want a faster feeling desktop? Have you seen screen shot of Vista and wished Ubuntu could do the same? Then you might want a Composite Manager.

    It adds these effects that users would want:

    1.Drop Shadows -OSX style. Almost all fast computers can do this.
    2.What I call “the fading trick”- as windows are minimized they fade into the windows behind them or the desktop. Needs an Nvidia card. Vista does this. (note: the XFCE Composite Manager does not do this)
    3.Windows that are more responsive to commands. At 100% CPU use I can still move windows with no ugly trails or jerkiness.
    4.Transparent windows

    These effects can not be given justice in a here is a video

    That Jannol provided. Thanks.

    Who can use a Composite Manager? I hate to say it, but only people with Nvidia cards, an ATI 9250 card (or lower) and Dapper, or a fast enough computer.

    PEOPLE WITHOUT SUPPORTED CARDS: You are not left out if your machine is fast enough. I do not know what fast enough is. Read my guide and be sure that you do the steps that are in bold and you use the command I suggest.

    What do you need to use a Composite Manager?

    1.Nvidia Card, a supported ATI card (a 92xx model or lower) or a fast CPU (just for drop shadows)
    3.The official Nvidia drivers installed if you have Nvidia card
    4.Universe repo is accessible
    5.Internet Connection


    Composite Managers as they are now are a toy. I can promise that if you use one, it will crash on you. It will. One day it will crash your xserver and take everything you are doing with it. I will talk about ways to deal with that in the guide, but I can promise it will happen. Xcompmgr is an ACTIVE project with a new release recently. Please don't ask if Ubuntu or its developers can provide better support and don't hope for it to get better magically the next release or something (unless you use XFCE or KDE). The Linux desktop is going in a different direction than this. This is a “band aid” to get there. I tolerate its quicks and live with it maybe you can too. Now on to the guide.


    Steps to Use a Composite Manager


    Open a normal terminal (applications, accessories, terminal) and put this in the terminal:

    sudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

    A file will come up. Add these lines to the end of the file:

    Section "Extensions"
            Option  "Composite" "Enable"

    For Nvidia Cards:

    FIRST INSTALL NEWEST DRIVERS!!!!! Directions here:

    Now look through the file. Find the part called “device.” Add these two lines to that section:
            Option          "RenderAccel"           "true"
            Option          "AllowGLXWithComposite" "true"
    Make it look like this:

    Section "Device"
    	Identifier	"NVIDIA Card"
    	Driver		"nvidia"
    	BusID		"PCI:1:0:0"
        	Option 		"RenderAccel" 		"true"
    	Option 		"AllowGLXWithComposite" "true" 
    For Supported ATI Cards (ATI 9250's and below) in Dapper (as soon as Dapper gets Xorg 7):

    Make it look like this:

    Section "Device"
    Identifier "Generic Graphics Card"
    Driver "radeon"
    Option "AccelMethod" "EXA"
    Option "AGPMode" "4"
    Option "EnablePageFlip" "true"
    Option "DDCMode"
    Option "RenderAccel" "true"
    Option "SubPixelOrder" "NONE"
    Option "ColorTiling" "false"
    Save the file. The hardest part is done. If it does not restart type the command “startx “ Save all the work you are doing, and restart the xserver by pressing the CTRL, ALT, and Backspace keys at the same time. I put these two sentences backwards for a reason.


    If you use KDE or XFCE you can stop now. For XFCE just log in and its native composite manager will now work by default ( I find this one crashes less than xcompmgr) and for KDE go to

    System Settings -> Desktop -> Window Behavior->Transparency

    To configure KDE's built in composite manager. But be warned, just like Xcompmgr, both the XFCE and KDE Composite Managers have crashed on me. You are still a very early adopter.

    If you are a gnome user, then log back into Gnome.

    For Gnome we have to use Xcompmgr to get the effects.


    Open a terminal and put this in:

    sudo apt-get install xcompmgr transset
    Tell apt-get yes if it askes something and wait till its done.

    Here are the commands for xcompgr:
    -d display Specifies which display should be managed.
    -r radius Specifies the blur radius for client-side shadows. (default 12)
    -o opacity Specifies the translucency for client-side shadows. (default .75)
    -l left-offset Specifies the left offset for client-side shadows. (default -15)
    -t top-offset Specifies the top offset for clinet-side shadows. (default -15)
    -I fade-in-step Specifies the opacity change between steps while fading in. (default 0.028 )
    -O fade-out-step Specifies the opacity change between steps while fading out. (default 0.03)
    -D fade-delta-time Specifies the time between steps in a fade in milliseconds. (default 10)
    -a Use automatic server-side compositing. Faster, but no special effects.
    -c Draw client-side shadows with fuzzy edges.
    -C Avoid drawing shadows on dock/panel windows.
    -f Fade windows in/out when opening/closing.
    -F Fade windows during opacity changes.
    -n Normal client-side compositing with transparency support
    -s Draw server-side shadows with sharp edges.
    -S Enable synchronous operation (for debugging).
    Yeah it hurts my brain too. So if I as was you, I would stick to only a few simple commands.

    the command:

    xcompmgr -cC & killall gnome-panel
    will give you drop shadows and window acceleration. The command:

    xcompmgr -fF & killall gnome-panel
    Will give you the fading trick and window acceleration.

    The command:

    xcompmgr -cCfF & killall gnome-panel
    Will give you both. The command:

    xcompmgr -a & killall gnome-panel
    will just give you the window acceleration without the two tricks. This command is the most stable one by far. Its worth it to try it even if you don't like drop shadows and fading just to feel what an nice accelerated desktop feels like.

    Advanced Commands I use (you should try them too- recommended):

    xcompmgr -fF -I-.002 -O-.003 -D6
    That one just does fading in a fashion thats much better than the default.

    xcompmgr -fF -I-.002 -O-.003 -D6 -cC -t-5 -l-6 -r5
    That one does fading in the best way and has drop shadows that look much better overall- especially with drop down lists such as the Applications menu. This could be called "The Perfect Setting." (I know its not for everyone)


    xcompmgr -cC -t-3 -l-5 -r5
    That setting gives sane drop shadows that work well with the Gnome menu's. It should be possible to use this command by itself if you add the composite lines to your xorg and you computer is fast enough (who knows what fast enough is- just try). This is where xcompmgr is useful for most people.

    But try what you can try and if it crashes just restart the xserver and don't use that command again. If you want to stop xcompmgr, hit CTRL and the C key at the same time.

    If you want xcompgr to start when Gnome starts, the go to “System, Preferences, Sessions.” Click the last tab called “Startup Programs.” Click “Add.” Type in what command you liked best or worked best for you. Then for order pick “41” Then click “close,” log out and log back in.

    This part (actually most of this guide) I credit to arnoct:

    Using Transset for transparent windows in Gnome:

    This is just an extra little command. If you want to set certain windows as transparent, then run the command "transset" in the console. Your mouse will turn into a crosshair; simply click on the window you want to set as transparent. The transparency value can be anywhere from 0 (completely transparent) to 1 (opaque.) It defaults to .75, and back to 1 if the window is already transparent.

    For example, if you want to make a window half-transparent:

    transset 0.5
    Tricks To Deal With Composite Manager Bugs.

    After prolonged use of xcompmgr, I have come across many bugs that can be quite annoying. To get around these, here are some tricks I have found.

    **Most Important Trick and why I use Gnome and xcompmgr over any of the others**

    As I said before, all the Composite Manager's crash. One advantage of xcompmgr is with this script you can turn it off and on easily. Credit for this goes to frodon.

    Put this command in the terminal:

    gedit toggle_xcompmgr.bash

    Copy this into the empty file:
    a=`ps -aef | grep -i xcompmgr | awk ' {if ($8 == "xcompmgr"){printf "2"}} '`
    if  [[ $a = "" ]]
    	yourcommand &
    	killall gnome-panel
    	kill -9 `ps -aef | grep -i xcomp | awk ' {if ($8 == "xcompmgr"){printf $2}} '`
    	killall gnome-panel
    See The part I bolded? Thats where you need to put the xcompmgr command that works best for you. Here is a good default one:
    a=`ps -aef | grep -i xcompmgr | awk ' {if ($8 == "xcompmgr"){printf "2"}} '`
    if  [[ $a = "" ]]
    	xcompmgr -fFcC &
    	killall gnome-panel
    	kill -9 `ps -aef | grep -i xcomp | awk ' {if ($8 == "xcompmgr"){printf $2}} '`
    	killall gnome-panel
    Now save the file to your home folder. Close gedit. Put this command in the terminal:

    sudo mv toggle_xcompmgr.bash /usr/bin/
    then this command:

    sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/toggle_xcompmgr.bash
    Then right click on gnome panel and add a shortcut, choose custom shortcut in the menu and add

    in the command field. You can make a desktop launcher by right clicking on the desktop, choosing “create launcher” then use the same command.

    Now each time you click on the icon xcompmgr is toggled on/off! This is essential and its the only way around many bugs.

    First Bug: Media Players Crash or Have Artifacts When in Full Screen Mode

    The solution to this problem was gvien to us in the new release of Breezy, and is enough to warrant praise as the was the most annoying bug before Breezy.

    Totem-xine was upgraded in Breezy a lot. Its way better to use and IT IS VERY STABLE WITH XCOMPMGR! Sorry I screamed but it makes me happy. Full screen, no problem. Any type of file, no crashes. So just use totem-xine for all video files. All the audio players I tried work already, but only Breezy Totem-xine works for video everytime. The second best by far the is VLC, and then all others trail by a lot- even other xine's like xine-ui, gxine, or kaffine. Don't use them.

    Second Bug: When you try to logout in Gnome, it seems to crash!


    Third Bug: Games don't work or are slow

    Turn off xcompmgr for all opengl games.

    Fourth Bug: Open GL screen savers crash my computer!

    This is a bad one. Only way around it is to use a screensaver that does not use opengl. Luckily Ubuntu comes with many, unfortunately they are not the default. To fix this, turn off xcompgr, and go to “System, Preferences, Screen Saver” Choose the blank screen option, or pick a screensaver that looks SO old school (like Windows 95 old school) that you know it does not use opengl.

    Fifth Bug: Xcompmgr crashes when using Firefox

    Easy solution is to use Epiphany. It crashes way less. Like it might end crashing almost completely for you. And when you install its pluggins it has an automatic session saver. But we all can't do that. For those like me who are Firefox addicts, use this extension:

    Sixth Bug: Xcompmgr Crashing when you are doing important things.

    This is one area where Breezy is a lot better as well.

    The problem is that xcompmgr crashes. I can go weeks without seeing one, then boom one will hit one day. Its annoying if you are typing a big rant in Firefox or on GAIM, or whatever else you are doing.

    Best way around this it to use the first trick to just turn xcompmgr off when you are doing important things. It can turn on and off without crashing things, so even if you remember half way through a email or project click that icon and turn it off!

    Another thing is to do all writing beyond a few lines in OpenOffice.org2 writer. It has GREAT crash recovery “skills” and does a wonderful job of getting you right back where you are if any of the composite managers act up.

    Seventh Bug: Problems with Flash in Firefox

    Credit goes to varunus for this one.

    First, open up your firefox launcher file with the following:
    sudo gedit /usr/bin/firefox
    Find the part that looks like this:
    ## Variables
    Add a line, making it look like this:
    ## Variables
    ##Added for composite extension to work
    Flash will no longer have any issues. This makes firefox ignore the extra alpha channel that xcompmgr gives it for color. Because the application itself doesn't do anything with the alpha channel, all of the effects still work, and flash will no longer complain.

    Eighth Bug: You get addicted to using xcompmgr and can't go back

    I still have not found a solution for this one!

    Well I wish you luck in your hunt for eye candy and I hope it goes well. In the future new technologies will come about to further modernize the Linux desktop. Till then the Composite Managers allow us to live on the edge and have the future today. If you have and suggestions, please make them!

    New additions:

    I have included my xorg.conf file, because at one point I discovered the magic that allowed me to use xcompmgr with two screens and I want to share it!

    Also I have included the newest xcompmgr that I personally compiled. All you (should) have to do in untar the file into....say your home folder...and the use the "cd" command to get into the fold made then use all of the xcompmgr commands as I indicated above.

    HUGE EDIT!!!!!!

    Ok, I have a GUI for you xcompmgr fans. Download the deb file I attached to this post:

    to your home folder and extract the deb file there (forum won't let me attach a deb file). First use apt-get to get the dependancies you need:

    sudo apt-get install libgtkmm-2.4-1c2
    Then install the deb file in the terminal with this command:

    sudo dpkg -i gcompmgr_0.21-2_i386.deb
    To use it, run the command:

    I hope you enjoy, it makes messing with Xcompmgr more fun!
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by poofyhairguy; February 19th, 2006 at 01:14 AM.
    Those folks who try to impose analog rules on digital content will find themselves on the wrong side of the tidal wave.
    - Mark Shuttleworth


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