Compiz Fusion under Debian Lenny on my home desktop

I recently wrote (actually, my last post, 12 days ago), a howto of sorts with my experience installing Compiz Fusion on my laptop. Yesterday I came back from my vacations, and repeated the feat with my destop computer at home.

The setup is quite different:

CPU: AMD Athlon 2800+
Graphics: nVidia FX 5700 (256MB)

And the effort is also quite different: it took me much less! Partially, this was because of my previous exprerience, but mainly the reason is that the graphics card here is nVidia. Yes, let the world know that ATI cards suck on Linux.

The problem is that ATI cards need XGL to have Compiz running, but nVidia cards make use of AIGLX natively, so the installation has only two steps: (1) installing the nVidia driver, and (2) installing the Compiz Fusion packages.

Installing the latest nVidia driver

As with the ATI card in my laptop, I decided to use the proprietary drivers from the nVidia site. The choice-making interface is so similar, actually, to that of ATI. I had to go Graphics Driver->GeForce FX series->Linux x86->Go!, and download this installer.

BIG WARNING: before actually installing anything, remove a previous installation of the nVidia drivers, if you installed them "the Debian way". For that, do:

% aptitude purge nvidia-glx

I have a friend who did not do so and... Ok, ok, it happened to me. If you do not do the above, everything seems to work fine, but everytime you reboot the X server will crash, and you might get incredibly annoyed by that.

To perform the installation, simply run, as root:

% sh path-to-file/

Then, just modify your xorg.conf file to contain the following:

Section "ServerLayout"
  Identifier     "Default Layout"
  Screen       "Default Screen" 0 0
  InputDevice    "Generic Keyboard"
  InputDevice    "Configured Mouse"
  Option         "AIGLX" "true"


Section "Extensions"
  Option         "RENDER" "true"
  Option         "Composite" "Enable"
  Option         "DAMAGE" "true"

Installing Compiz Fusion packages

The procedure is exactly the same covered in my previous post. In short:

1) Add the Shame repository to your /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb ./

2) Get the signature for the repo:

% gpg --keyserver --recv-key 11F6E468
% gpg -a --export 11F6E468

3) Update and install:

% aptitude update
% aptitude install compiz-fusion-all --a

Any time you want to run Compiz, just execute:

% compiz --replace -c emerald

Shorter than the ATI thing, uh?

Compiz Fusion under Debian Lenny on my laptop

I have a previous post with what I've done to my laptop, and in that post it's not mentioned, but I managed (quite a while ago) to make Beryl work under Ubuntu Dapper Drake. Dapper is getting older, but I am not having good experiences installing Edgy and Feisty on the laptop. I have managed to install Debian Etch with no problem, but the wireless driver was not working properly (for me, a showstopper) until Lenny.

So now I have a Debian Lenny partition, plus three other: the original WinXP, the Ubuntu Dapper I am still using as "main" OS, and a Fedora 7 I installed just because it came in a DVD with a magazine I bought for a train trip I had not brought any reading material with me :^)

Since I am on vacation, and I have plenty of time (although I don't want to spend all of it on my comp), I decided to give Compiz Fusion a try, mostly after seeing what it its capable of.

First things first, the specs of my laptop are:

Fujitsu-Siemes Amilo PI1536
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 2x2.0GHz
RAM: 2x1Gb
HD: 120Gb SATA
Display: 15.4 WXGA
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 (128Mb dedicated/512Mb shared)

The only relevant parts above are that it has an ATI graphics card (which, under Linux, sucks), and that it has Core 2 CPUs, which are amd64-capable (which is both great, for performance, and sucks, for drivers and software compatibilities). So, my second step was:

Installation of ATI drivers

If you want to take the best out of your ATI card, you have to tell your graphics server to use the fglrx driver, and not the default vesa one. You can install this driver from the official Debian repositories, but for me those packages (fglrx-driver and related ones) didn't do it.

So, I googled a bit, and followed the most widespread recommendation: to install the latest non-free (sigh) driver from the ATI site. For that, I chose the options: Linux x86_64 -> Mobility Radeon -> Mobility Radeon X1400 -> Go, reaching this page, and downloading this 38MB binary (for the record, the 32bit version of the drivers is exactly the same .run file).

Next, I followed the remaining information in this excelent thread in Namely, I downloaded the needed packages (the code is copy-paste-able):

% aptitude install module-assistant build-essential dh-make debhelper debconf libstdc++5 linux-headers-$(uname -r) ia32-libs

Beware that the ia32-libs packages is not mentioned in the thread (assuming that you already have it installed), but it is required.

Next, run the ATI binary inside a dedicated directory (I did it as root, but it is not compulsory):

% mkdir /root/fglrx
% cd /root/fglrx
% mv wherever-I-downloaded-it/ .
% chmod +x
% ./ --buildpkg Debian/lenny
% rm or mv the .run file wherever you want

This generates a bunch of .debs in the /root/fglrx dir. Next, install them, and compile the driver (for this, you do need to be root):

% dpkg -i fglrx-*.deb
% cd /usr/src
% m-a prepare
% m-a a-i fglrx

The thread mentions modifying the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file in two ways. First, disable compositing, adding:

Section "Extensions"
Option "Composite" "Disable"

to it, and then running:

% aticonfig --initial
% aticonfig --overlay-type=Xv

For me, both were superfluous, because I made a copy of my Ubuntu xorg.conf, and them made minimal changes (if at all). However, the first change (disabling compositing) was straightforward wrong. If I want to use Compiz Fusion, I need to have it. Relevant excerpts from my xorg.conf:

Section "Module"
  Load  "i2c"
  Load  "bitmap"
  Load  "ddc"
  Load  "dri"
  Load  "extmod"
  Load  "freetype"
  Load  "glx"
  Load  "int10"
  Load  "type1"
  Load  "vbe"


Section "Device"
  Identifier  "aticonfig-Device[0]"
  Driver      "fglrx"
  Option      "VideoOverlay" "on"
  Option      "OpenGLOverlay" "off"


Section "Screen"
  Identifier "aticonfig-Screen[0]"
  Device     "aticonfig-Device[0]"
  Monitor    "aticonfig-Monitor[0]"
  DefaultDepth     24
  SubSection "Display"
    Viewport   0 0
    Depth     24
    Modes    "1280x800" "800x600" "640x480"


Section "DRI"
  Mode         0666

Section "Extensions"
  Option "Composite" "1"

After all this fuss, and to ensure you have it all running OK, try to insert the module as root:

% modprobe fglrx

Then, make sure it loads everytime you reboot (include it in /etc/modules if necessary, but it shouldn't be).

Next, reload the X server, and check that now it is running the fglrx driver, by doing the following (as user is fine):

% fglrxinfo

It should display something like the following:

display: :0.0 screen: 0
OpenGL vendor string: ATI Technologies Inc.
OpenGL renderer string: ATI Mobility Radeon X1400
OpenGL version string: 2.0.6650 (8.39.4)

If, instead, it says something about mesa3d, it didn't work.

Now, the second step is...

Installing Xgl

With the standard server we have a problem. We can load the fglrx driver, but we can not activate compositing (see last three lines of my xorg.conf file above). If we activate compositing in the xorg.conf file, the ATI driver will not be loaded (don't ask me why, it just seems to happen). If we deactivate compositing, the ATI driver gets loaded, but without compositing, we can not use Compiz.

The solution is to install Xgl which is an X server (or, I think, a kind of layer that runs on top of the server) that allows for the above trick. There seem to be two "ways" of getting proper compositing: Xgl and AIGLX. The general agreement on the net seems to be that the latter is "better", but only the former seems to work with ATI cards (read the "AIGLX with AMD (ex-ATI) Proprietary Drivers" section in the AIGLX Wikipedia article, because it hits the problem dead-on). With Xgl I can make use of the fglrx driver and have compositing at the same time.

We are lucky here, because there are Debian repositories for Xgl. I found out about them in this howto in Most of the info there is mostly... ehem... useless (for me), but reading it I found a repo for Xgl. I just have to add the following line to my /etc/apt/sources.list (beware that the original mention in the page says "binary-i386", and I had to change it to "binary-amd64"):

deb binary-amd64/

I then had to do aptitude update, and I (of course) got an error telling me that some signatures couldn't be verified (read my own article about secure APT and/or the wonderful Debian wiki to know more). I think the key is 11F6E468, and it corresponds to Francesco Cecconi (mantainer of the repo). It is downloadable from (follow instructions on my previous post, or the ones in the Debian wiki). If you want, do not skip reading the parent page of the repository.

After the keys are OK, it's just a matter of doing (as root):

% aptitude update
% aptitude install xgl

Now you are done installing, but will have to actually use Xgl. This gave me some headaches, not because I didn't know where to put things, but because I didn't know exactly what to put. I read, and followed, the instructions in, and (after all, the blog seems to be useful for someone: myself) a previous post of my own.

I am using GDM, so my final setup was the following: first generate a suitable entry in the GDM menu, by creating a file named /usr/share/xsessions/xfce4-xgl.desktop (or whatever, but in the same dir, and ending in ".desktop"), and putting the following inside:

[Desktop Entry]

The string after "Name=" is the one that will appear in the GDM menu, and the one after "Exec=" what will be executed when selecting that entry.

Next, we have to create the string we promise above (/usr/local/bin/startxgl_xfce), and put the following inside:

# Start the Xgl server:
Xgl -fullscreen :0 -ac -accel glx:pbuffer -accel xv:pbuffer -fp /usr/share/X11/fonts/misc & sleep 5 && DISPLAY=:0
# Start Xfce:
exec xfce4-session

As you can see, I am telling Xgl to load a font (with -fp) that was giving me headaches, because the server would die saying that the font was missing when I didn't include that option. Your mileage may vary.

Now, everytime we select the entry labeled "Xfce-Xgl" in the GDM menu, we will have the Xgl server running.

Installing Compiz Fusion packages

I think the aforementioned repo has compiz packages, as well as the default Debian Lenny repos. But net consensus seems to be that they are not the way to go. Everyone praises two repositories: Treviño's and Shame's. I chose the latter, adding the following line to my /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb ./

I think I went through the same chores as above for key verification, Shame's key being A42A6CF5.

After that, I installed the following package (it installs all of the needed packages):

% aptitude install compiz-fusion-all

After that, and inside my "Xfce-Xgl" session, I just did the following, as some googling revealed:

% compiz --replace

But... it didn't work :^( It complained in the following manner:

Fatal: Failed test: texture_from_pixmap support
Checks indicate that it's impossible to start compiz on your system.

I found a lot of pages, threads and howtos in the net stumbling upon this same problem (for example, this one at, but none with the answer. Really. None. The most enlightening tips where the use of the -v, -h and --help switches for compiz. The first one requests verbose output, the second one help about "short" options, and the third one help about the "long" options. With the latter I discovered the --force-fglrx switch, which saved the day! Yes, I now use the following command to start Compiz:

% compiz --replace -c emerald --force-fglrx

I have two things to say at that point. First: this Compiz Fusion is visually astonishing! It is full of great ideas, and has a lot of settings to play with. The second thing is not so nice: some glitches are present. For example, my Konsole windows get transparent background for no reason, and the refresh is horrible (when text reaches the bottom on the terminal, it starts to overwrite itself. One must hide and un-hide the window for proper refreshing, which is unacceptable). The latter also affects other windows, which, all in all, makes it unsuitable for much comfort.

However, Compiz Fusion is new, hot and experimental. I love playing with it, but right now it can not be relied upon. On the bright side, in the three days from my installation, the packages have been updated three times! I suppose some aptitude upgrade cycles will fix the issues eventually.

And that's it, dear reader.

App of the week: PDF Cube

I just found this little app browsing for PDF software in my Debian aptitude repository contents.

In short, PDF Cube displays PDFs in full screen, adding Compiz-like cube transitions from slide to slide if we want. The following YouTube video shows how it works:


You can notice the mixed regular/cube transitions, as well as the five zooming options used in slide 4.

By the way, I have started the Wikipedia article for PDF Cube. I think this little program deserves to be in the Wikipedia.

Incidentally, the above is the first video I upload to YouTube! :^)

Don't try this with Windows

I found out in FayerWayer about the things you can do with the Wiimonte (the remote of the console) and a GNU/Linux computer with Beryl.


Yes, it seems rather useless... but I looks great! Besides, think of the possibilities. And still some people will keep on saying that Mac and Windows lead the desktop innovation!

Xgl with Xfce

I previously posted about running Xgl under GNOME. Well, it seems that the Xgl/Beryl duo can be run smoothly under any other desktop environment, e.g. Xfce.

To attain that (after you have GNOME/Xgl running), just create two files:


Xgl -fullscreen :1 -ac -accel glx:pbuffer -accel xv:pbuffer & sleep 2 && DISPLAY=:1
# Start Xfce
exec xfce4-session



[Desktop Entry]

The latter inserts a "Xfce-Xgl" entry in the GDM xsession list, which will call the former. That one actually startx Xgl and opens Xfce. Nice, uh?

What I've done to my laptop

OK, this entry is just a reminder for myself.

Install ATI drivers

I followed the instructions at this wiki. For the record, I used method 1, and it worked.

Update: The link above seems dead. Read a a more recent post about Compiz Fusion under Debian Lenny for info on ATI drivers instalation.

Install a SMP kernel

My CPU is an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200... I want a SMP kernel, otherwise I am wasting one of the two cores!

Problem is, the friggin Ubuntu has no 2.6 kernels labeled "SMP". Why, oh why!? OK, I found out: all 2.6.*-686 kernels are actually SMP, even if they don't say anything. If you have 1 CPU, fine. If you have more, they'll be detected at boot time. No more "-smp" in the kernel names.

Wireless with 686 kernel

The default 2.6.15-686 supports the wireless just fine, but installing a 686 kernel (required for SMP, see above) seems to break the wireless. However, the solution is easy. As stated in this Ubuntu forum thread, one just needs to install the "restricted" kernel modules corresponding to her kernel (in my case 2.6.15-27-686):

% aptitude install linux-restricted-modules-2.6.15-27-686

After that, reboot. I guess that the new module is loadable (try modprobe ipw3945), without having to reboot... dunno. Also, if you want to have the restricted modules package upgrade automatically, install linux-restricted-modules-686.

WPA encription for WiFi

Update: Read a more recent article: WPA under Ubuntu/Debian.

Install a 64-bit kernel

OK, installing the mainstream 32-bit Ubuntu was a success. Now I have given Ubuntu amd64 a try (amd64 is for both EM64T (Intel) and AMD64 (AMD)).

Everything went smooth, except installing the ATI drivers (as explained above): the screen froze black when loading GDM. To solve this, I read the troubleshooting section in the link above, and found out that I could either add:

Load "extmod"


SubSection "extmod"
  Option "omit XVideo"
  Option "omit XVideo-MotionCompensation"
  Option "omit XFree86-VidModeExtension"

to the Section "Modules" of /etc/X11/xorg.conf (beware, it's one OR the other, not both). For me the Load "extmod" did not work, but the SubSection "extmod" did.

Now, for the Xgl thing in 64-bits...

Xgl for 64-bits

I followed the instructions in a previous post, but I found out that some packages were missing, so I manually downloaded them from the Xgl.compiz site. Namely, I downloaded them from the "Edgy" section. However, it didn't work for me :^(

Update: Compiz Fusion under Debian Lenny in a more recent post.

Xgl with GNOME, under Ubuntu Dapper Drake

OMG!! Xgl is so pretty!!

First things first, I have to say how I've made it run. I say in a previous post (that I actually wrote some minutes ago), that I have given a try to Ubuntu, to test how good that Xgl thing is. And man is it good!

Xgl is a graphics server, something that interprets data and displays it on the screen (as XFree86 and It basically allows for 2D effects of a Desktop Environment to be rendered with the powerfull engine of the Graphical Card, which untill now only accelerated the 3D effects, as e.g. games. However, one needs a window manager that takes advantage of these capabilities to create effects. The first such a wm was Compiz. Sadly, I was not able to install it, but I did install Beryl, which is a fork of Compiz.

I mostly followed the instructions in Fred.cpp's blog[es].

It basically boils down to:

As root, or with the infamous sudo:

aptitude remove compiz compiz-gnome cgwd cgwd-themes xserver-xgl csm

Add to /etc/apt/sources.list (the last line only if you have a 64-bit CPU):

deb dapper main
deb dapper main
deb-src dapper main
deb dapper main main-amd64

Get the GPG keys for the repositories:

wget -O - | sudo apt-key add -


aptitude update && aptitude upgrade

Install Xgl, Beryl and Emerald (the theme manager for Beryl):

aptitude install xserver-xgl libgl1-mesa xserver-xorg libglitz-glx1 beryl beryl-core beryl-manager beryl-plugins beryl-plugins-data beryl-settings emerald emerald-themes

Now everything is installed, we need to create 2 files:

/usr/local/bin/startxgl, our startx replacement. Its contents:

Xgl -fullscreen :1 -ac -accel glx:pbuffer -accel xv:pbuffer & sleep 2 && DISPLAY=:1
# Start GNOME
exec gnome-session

/usr/share/xsessions/gnome-xgl.desktop, a new entry for the GDM session menu. Its contents:

[Desktop Entry]

Then chmod +x them both.

We then need to enter GNOME as a regular user (if we are not already in it), and go to System/Preferences/Sessions/Autostart programs, and add beryl-manager to them. In the next GDM login, we will have an gnome-xgl option for a session. Choose it, and there you are.

Second, the screenshots (click to enlarge):

A window being minimized, fading away.

Two windows being shown as with MacOS exposè.

Two semitransparent windows. You can see my blog through a terminal :^)

A video, being played at the edge of a cube (the faces of which represent different desktops).

A video being played semitransparent. We can see an icon below it!

The video in the corner, plus it is raining all around!

Xgl with Xfce under Debian Etch


d/l .debs from


add "/usr/share/fonts/X11/misc/" to the Xgl command in, otherwise it gives "could not open default font 'fixed'"

Windows eye candy sucks

There was a time when Windows users would say there weren't games that run under Linux.

There was a time when Windows users would say that Linux was technically inferior.

Later they would end up accepting that it was indeed technically superior, but that it would not catch on people because it was difficult to install and use.

Now, with distros like SUSE or Ubuntu, which are easier to install than Windows, they resort to saying that Windows does and will reign in the desktop, because they have had years of development, whereas Linux "consists on sucky black terminals with fosforescent text".

OK, check about XGL on Linux. Both Linux and Windows (Vista) are able to move and resize windows with transparencies, shades, and elasticity effects... now, you can read here (Spanish), how a guy opened 17 simultaneous High Definition videos with transparencies and real time shades on his Linux Box, while Windows would barely cope with one or two. Check the videos in that page, and think again about Linux and his "sucky black terminals".