HOWTO: Ubuntu desktop visual effects on Dell D630

The Dell Latitude D630 comes with a number of different video cards but if you use the Intel chipset you may be frustrated when trying to activate the visual effects eye candy of Compiz:

Ubuntu Visual Effects

Checking either of the lower two options brings up this alert saying, “Desktop effects could not be enabled”.

Ubuntu Visual Effects

I didn’t bother trying to fix it for ages and put it down to using Ubuntu on exotic hardware. Fortunately it’s simple to get working. I just needed to install the xGL server:

# aptitude install xserver-xgl
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
Reading extended state information
Initializing package states... Done
Building tag database... Done
The following NEW packages will be automatically installed:
  libglitz-glx1 libglitz1
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  libglitz-glx1 libglitz1 xserver-xgl
0 packages upgraded, 3 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 0B/1843kB of archives. After unpacking 4854kB will be used.
Do you want to continue? [Y/n/?]

Once I logged out (and rebooted, for some reason my external monitor doesn’t always “catch” when I restart X) and back in again xGL was loaded and I was able to enable desktop visual effects. Despite my misgivings about using an embedded graphics chip it actually works really well. Windows bounced around, bent out of shape and did lots of nice animation stuff.

Then I removed the whole lot by uninstalling the xserver-xgl package again. Why? Unfortunately it conflicts with other openGL apps. In a toss up between fancy desktop effects and decent SDLMame performance, SDLMame wins hands down. It’s nice to know the visual effects work though!

Author: Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Google+ and Twitter.

6 thoughts on “HOWTO: Ubuntu desktop visual effects on Dell D630”

  1. “Fortunately it’s simple to get working” and then later “unfortunately it conflicts with other openGL apps” made me laugh. I tried the same on my ThinkPad T42p some time ago, wasn’t successful, and I still haven’t gotten around to properly clean up after myself — which will likely mean a clean install.

    On my Dell Dimension E520 running Ubuntu 8.04 (Beta) which I have for a couple of weeks, there are some new effects on by default, but I’m not sure I find them to be an improvement. I’ll try them until the final 8.04 release, and then consider disabling them.

  2. Neither do I. I could’nt enable visual style on Ubuntu and OpenSuse. Couse my notebook (HP nx6315, AMD64X2, ATI Radeon) is’nt suported by Linux :(( I’ve read it on OpenSuse official website. On Ubuntu my sound card can’t detected, on Suse VGA not supported :((
    So, Windows may be better for me right now. Next time I’ll try MacOS 😀

  3. Forgot where I found this tip (probably but simply creating a file ~/.config/compiz/compiz-manager containing “SKIP_CHECKS=yes” allowed me to turn on the effects (no reboot necessary as well).

    I’ve been using Compiz for almost 3 months now – no problems (bit of a memory hog though 😉 …

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