Ubuntu 11.10: Be wary of Compiz Config Settings Manager (ccsm)

Have you recently installed Ubunty 11.10 and are you marvelling at the Unity Desktop? Not many are. Marvelling at the desktop that is, but it’s growing on me. I said that last time too so we’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, the point of this little rant is to tell you to avoid or be very careful with CCSM, or “Compiz Config Settings Manager” as it’s known to it’s enemies. This little app allows you to edit practically everything related to Compiz settings. Literally everything!

Unfortunately it can also lead to a world of pain. After fiddling around with it I went into the preferences and clicked on the “Plugins” link at which time my desktop froze and I couldn’t even CTRL-ALT to a different session. Forced reboot was the other of the day.

When I finally got back in my external monitor wasn’t detected and I was left with a 1024×768 display. I spent a few hours trying to figure out what the hell had gone wrong. I deleted .config/monitors.xml and tried editing it but nothing worked. Eventually I rebooted a few times and suddenly my monitor was recognised again!

Then it was on to the workspace switcher. It didn’t work the way it used to. I hesitantly fired up ccsm and dug into the settings in Viewport switcher, then in Rotate Cube, then Desktop Wall. It was then I discovered I couldn’t deselect “Desktop Cube”. ccsm would segfault every time. Switching workspaces using the cube was painful as my hardware just isn’t up to the task. Open windows would flicker slightly after I rotated the workspace. Eventually I discovered that I could take drastic action to restore normality. First I had to login as a different user and then go into my home directory and then move some configuration directories out of the way.

mkdir bak
mv .gconf .gconfd .gnome .gnome2 bak/

After logging in again I fired up ccsm and Desktop Cube was disabled! I usually switch between workspaces using CTRL 1-4 and I was able to configure Viewport Switcher to do just that with a minimal sliding animation.

After looking in the bak directory it appears that Compiz stores it’s configuration data in various compiz directories in .gconf/apps/. I suspect it’s enough to remove them rather than all the Gnome configuration files.

I like Ubuntu 11.10 so far, I’m getting used to Unity but the top menu bar feels to me like it’s crowding out the screen. The lack of Unity themes included is troubling too as there are only 4 (2 of which are for visually impaired users by the looks of things). I’ll have to go look for some more.

45 thoughts on “Ubuntu 11.10: Be wary of Compiz Config Settings Manager (ccsm)

  1. Well, Ive been using CCSM since 8.10 and its wonderful. Sure, if you disable something critical to something else, youll end up frozen and youll have to make your way (possibly in another session), to deleting some folders from your users home dir. But still, compiz made my ubuntu setup BEAUTIFUL… but now, im forced to use Unity (or Gnome3, which is just as bad), and it makes me feel childish… ive also tried fedora 15 (gnome3-based.. so its the same crap), and openSuse (gnome)… just as bad…

    I suppose ill have to try Kubuntu or something… cuz i really dont like gnome3 nor unity…

    1. If you don’t like the new interface, there’s not much you can do about it, unless you want to risk completely screwing up your system and installing the old gnome…

      I advise to simply switch to another window manager. That’s what I did.

  2. I’ll vouch for the cautionary warning. After installing Ubuntu 11.10, I opened CCSM to look at the Unity settings. CCSM froze without even making any changes. I was left with no choice but a hard power down. Upon reboot, Unity was non-existent. So far I’ve rebooted about 4 times with no recovery. I’m left to fish around for answers on this too. I liked it okay prior to this crash, but I’m wondering about this stability factor now. This was a system upgrade and not an original install, so I may give it another shot as an original install. This is a bit disconcerting though. As usual, newer is not always better.

    1. You can enable Unity again by enabling the “Unity Plugin” in ccsm, if you trust it that is! Good luck with sorting things out. I’d try moving the directories I mentioned above (the ones in .gconf/apps/) out of the way while logged out as your main user. I did it by logging in as root at the console.

      1. You didn’t mention anything above. Plus I have already spent 30 minutes just to try to understand what gconf is without success. Is it a directory ? Where is it ? Please give more details, sometimes typing just 5 more words in your sentence can save 5 days for a noob.

  3. What is the command to restore ccsm defaults? If there isn’t one, how do we force re-detection and original configuration?

    Would there be a way to do this by default is ccsm is not responding or otherwise hosed?

    1. prof_braino – see what I said about moving various configuration directories out of the way? That will restore the default settings for ccsm. You’ll probably want to login as a different user too. (Try pressing ctrl-alt-f1)

  4. thank you so much! have been tearing my hair out!!
    my problems started when I installed tint2 and it stole the icons from the top bar (including the startup programs!), then unitiy vanished leaving me with a useless desktop.
    using ccsm via the terminal worked a treat!
    I though from what I have read that compiz had been replaced with mutter, but this would not seem to be the case as I don’t even have mutter installed!

  5. Im stumped… I did the same thing in CCSM went the plugins tab and comp froze. Forced rebooted, when it came up Unity was gone and the top menu bar was replaced with File Edit View Go Bookmarks Help

    Auto login is enabled, when I get to he desktop there are 5 sets of 3 lines going across the top and there blinking. Pressing Enter takes me to he login screen :/ so I can get there Lolz

    When I try to logout it crashes. I can get to the terminal by using CTRL Super F2 if there’s any way to fix this that would-be awsome I’m a noob with Linux so please explain in detail thanks. I’ve had this same issue with 11.04 a few times and had to reinstall… But my computer is dumb so I had to install 10.04 and upgrade every IME which takes hour’s.

      1. Lifesaver! Had exactly the problem – installed Compiz, clicked preferences and ended up with no Unity. Logged in with Unity 2D (option on login screen) and that’s fine. Phew!

  6. Thanks, this was a big help! I tried to turn on the Desktop cube on 11.10 running Unity, and it borked everything up good and proper. Opening a terminal, running $ ccsm and enabling Unity again saved the day.

    Not particularly happy with 11.10 so far. Lots of problems.

  7. Same thing – Didn’t like the size of the icons, so I installed CCSM, and frozen like a rock. Hard shutdown, and rebooted to blank desktop – alt-f2 didn’t work etc. Finally, reimaged the laptop. I am definitely waiting til this one gets patched before trying again.

    Unity looks like a Fishers Price distro of Ubuntu – I feel like my kids should be using this desktop, not me. So, I am waiting to customize it to make it a little more appealing and useful to me.

    1. Totally agree – The icons are far too large – I’m 63 but even I don’t need them that large!
      11.04 allowed you to leave Unity – I would still like this option

  8. I truly agree with you!
    Be wary of Compiz Config Settings Manager (ccsm)
    CCSM make my day a hell.
    Thank you for let me a clue.. Opening a terminal, running $ ccsm and enabling Unity again saved lots of time.

  9. This is a very important post for anyone thinking of tinkering with CCSM on Ubuntu 11.04/10. I did not even change anything, just clicked on Preferences in the left sidebar and the desktop froze and after a hard reset there was no launcher and not much of the menu bar. Fortunately, I had AWN installed and it was set to startup automatically so I was able to get things back to normal. My advice is to install AWN or a similar alternative before opening CCSM just in case. If the worst happens, from its Awn Terminal applet you can type ccsm and this will bring up the culprit. You have to then re-enable the Ubuntu Unity Plugin. You can also use a different DE at login or launch Terminal by pressing ctrl-alt-T/F2 (+F7 to close) to fix things.

    If you really want the cool desktop effects (which should be there by default in my opinion), strictly follow the right procedure with using CCSM taking all necessary precautions.

  10. I have encountered this trouble two times. Compiz sucks. I think the best thing to do is to keep yourself away from that incompatible soft. Why does anyone want to install it in order to face troubles? 😀

    1. I wonder how you can actually call this incompatible piece of frozen bullcrap “software”? I would think twice before calling this thing a “soft” because it is not soft. They should patch CCSM!

  11. Same problem … loading CCSM from the software deposit is different from loading CCSM from the terminal … perhaps its an older version?
    anyway use terminal sudo apt-get update / sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager but dont open it!!!!!
    use alt+f2 and open from the blue colored icon for CCSM …make sure that the plugin is enabled and you can then ajust the icon size etc from the expermental tag.

  12. heres my solucion …
    remove CCSM from the software center (themes and tweaks)
    open terminal and sudo apt-get update.
    next ..sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
    press alt+f2 together (may require several times) and a blue colored round shaped icon will appear named Unity. note .. this icon will not appear if one downloads CCSM from the software center? the software center option must be an older version.
    open CCSM from here and tick the box for unity plugin.
    click the experimental tab and I set the following …
    icon size to minimum at 32.
    panel opacity to 0.42 and the same for the launcher panel
    exit and reboot
    note … use this alt+f2 option always to open CCSM because using the icon located within your installed software section will freeze your computer.

  13. Have you tried creating a new user when your tweak your system beyond control? It works for me a lot. Also CCSM has a reset to default option that may help.

  14. I have the same problem. I navigated Compiz just a little bit and it always hangs. Can’t Ctrl + Alt + Delete, only Power button accepted! This is a damn thing Ubuntu developers need to fix ASAP.

  15. Only just read this thread some hours after tweaking Compiz resulted in disappearing desktop furniture. I booted into 2D, deleted all things .compiz (in home directory and .config) and to my relief sanity was restored. I shall not try to tweak Compiz to enable easy moving between desktops again.

    It occurs to me though that the concept of desktops is no longer really valid. They are not discrete and independent in the sense that they were but bound together by the wretched left launch bar.

    Far from this being an improvement over the Classic menu driven system it is something that will cause me to hang on to 11.04 on my mother’s computer for as long as possible because it is far from intuitive.

  16. If you’re seeing a huge slowdown on your desktop logout and switch to Unity 2D. It disables all the fancy 3D and graphical tricks. It also makes my desktop nice and fast again!

  17. I have really tried with Compiz. I have lived with it for 6 months and tried to find its beauty. However I don’t have a verbal mind. I like a menu to search through categories. Just now I wanted to edit a svg file. I can’t remember what the editor is called. I typed in “svg editor”. NOthing useful came back. It has caused brain pain to recover the word Inkscape.

  18. To enable the cube very easily is quite simple. first, get the compiz program if you dont have it and run it.

    UNCHECK UNITY PLUGIN – your screen will go crazy, ignore it and wait a second.
    goto general settings->desktop size, set horizontal to 4, vertical to 1, and # of desktops to 4.
    THEN select the cube, and tell it to stop using the wall or w/e.
    select rotate cube.
    re-enable unity plugin, tell it to ignore conflict.

    (you may have to, but usually not if you wait a second or two, open a terminal window\run command and type unity –replace)

  19. Switching to 2D is the simple solution. It at least gives you access to more easily solve the problem.

    It’s a bit disappointing that Ubuntu still offers the version in question of CCSM in their Software Center. I innocently installed it last night to help with a video problem I was having, and, like so many others, had it freeze on me despite not having done anything before killing Unity. Thus my coming across this site/post.

  20. How does one contact the evangelists, purveyors and ubuntu incorporators of Unity to make gentle but heard suggestions about the way forward?

  21. I didn’t face any problem. CCSM works fine for me in Ubuntu 11.10. Maybe it’s a hardware issue. Or maybe I installed an updated version from the Ubuntu Software Center (latest as on 12/16/2011).

  22. I’m an Ubuntu Noob. Started with 11.10 a month ago. CCSM killed my system too. I barely had it open. I had to delete the ~/.config folder from another window manager to restore Unity. I already found out how to disable the global menu. Now I want to do 3 more things:
    1. Stop unity from docking my apps to the top left corner of the screen.
    2. Turn off the screen hotspots (corners and edges).
    3. Stop that maximize thing when your apps fill up alot of your screen. HEY UBUNTU! …. NOT ALL OF US USE NETBOOKS!!!! I have a 23″ monitor and this is a total pain … especially in the neck!

    Can I do this WITHOUT CCSM? All I can find on the web is how to use CCSM.


  23. Well I’ve used MyUnity and dconfig editor but they leave a lot untouched. I’m not using the global menu integration so does anyone know if there is a way to get an application to cover the Unity panel.

  24. Just wanted to let anyone who comes looking know that the bug to which this post refers is this: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/oneiric/+source/compizconfig-backend-gconf/+bug/874799 and it has been fixed. I just installed CCSM on my fresh 11.10 install and it worked fine.

    @nigeldodd: you’re referring to Unity, not Compiz. Compiz is just the system that provides the 3D effects and window management and has been in use for quite a while. Also, you don’t have to know the name of your app to find it, you can still browse for it by going to your dash, clicking on apps and then clicking “filter results” to browse by category. I imagine you could have easily found Inkscape by browsing to “graphics.” Finally, a quick Google for “Ubuntu feedback” will lead you to plenty of ways to share your thoughts, requests, and bug reports: http://www.ubuntu.com/contact-us

  25. If you have important work going and can’t reboot, press ctrl-alt-f1 to get to the login prompt.
    Type apt-get install unity
    Type unity
    Press ctrl-alt-f7 to return to GUI
    Open ccsm and click preferences-reset to defaults.
    Normally, even with a frozen desktop, this will work without rebooting.

  26. You can easily correct the problem in compiz. Disable the Alt+Tab combination in the Unity plugin and use the ring switcher which uses super+Tab (or one of the other swap options). Works fine for me an allows the continued use of Compiz and Unity together in 11.10

  27. still need a solution ? here is mine:
    $rm -R .gconf .gconfd .gnome .gnome2
    $apt-get remove unity compiz*
    $apt-get install ubuntu-desktop
    $apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
    – enable unity plugin, and when it ask you say desactivate anything that pop up
    – then disable Viewport Switcher

    that’s all folks !

  28. Thanks Xakiru for your clear instructions,
    I just had the same problem, followed your exact steps (instead of rm I did mv to some bckup folder)
    and didn’t even had to reboot, everything works again !!!

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