Compiz Rocks!

I transplanted fnord (my desktop system) into a new body yesterday. He now has an Intel Core Duo instead of an AMD64 Athlon, 4 Gig of RAM instead of 2, and 2 shiny new Samsung 22″ LCDs screens driven by an NVidia card with dual DVI out. It’s very nice.

I know I said previously that I wouldn’t buy NVidia again. I actually bought a Gigabyte card, which has an NVidia chipset in it. There wasn’t much more choice in the shop for dual-DVI output, and it is at least a known quantity. I was pretty sure that the driver would work under Linux. It turns out they’ve done quite a bit of work since the earlier drivers.

You can now run an NVidia setup application from within X that will actually save the configuration settings to xorg.conf. No more hand-editing the file to add obscure card configuration settings so you can do more exotic things with their hardware. TwinView (the dual head setup) is now easy enough to turn on, and you can tweak all kinds of other parameters through the GUI. There’s always the hand-editing mode if you need it, but it Just Worked when I clicked the appropriate buttons. Well done there, NVidia.

Now that I have a more modern graphics card, I wanted to check out the new Compiz fusion window manager that can do all the funky screen effects. I’d seen other people do these funky sliding transitions and whatnot, and I wanted to join in, dammit! Well, now I have. And my is it pretty.

To be honest, there are a bunch of effects that are pure eye-candy, but that really hurt usability for me. Like the Wobbly Windows thing that deforms the windows as you move them around. That makes it really hard to line them up nicely where you want them to go. But my major finds so far are a couple of window management effects: Ring Switcher and Scale.

Ring Switcher is like Alt-Tab for changing windows, but instead of them being a single line across the middle of the screen, little icon versions float up and you scroll left and right around the 3D ring effect to find the window you want. This is quite neat, and better represents what’s actually happening, I think.

Scale is way cool, though. Alt-Shift-Up brings up a icon grid of all the windows in the current desktop, making it really easy to find the window you want, with mouse or keyboard. This is awesome for someone like me who runs multiple xterms in a desktop while coding and testing. I’ll now be able to flip more easily between different xterms to find what I want. Woo!

There’s a bunch more stuff to explore, and I haven’t even tried booting into GameOS to find out what Half-Life 2 and Spore look like with this new card.

Do you have a favourite Compiz feature?

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