Saturday, February 06, 2010

My Linux Desktop--Compositing or Composting?

Whenever I figure out how to do something with Linux, or with other open source software I use, like the Gimp or Drupal, I write out what I did and post it here so I'll be able to find it when I (inevitably) have the same problem again. I have assumed that most blog readers skip these posts, so I was really surprised this week when I got a lovely email from a homesick West Virginian Linux expert in the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area. Hi, Andy and Tricia! If you're dreaming about a drive through Pocahontas County today, you'd better have really good imaginary snow tires!

By the way, I'm still fiddling with my computer. I've had Kubuntu 9.10 installed for almost a week now, and it solves the problems I was having with Lenny--mostly, incompatibility with new software I wanted to try--Calibre, Miro, Openoffice 3.x, and the latest greatest Web browsers.

Of course, whenever you try to change something in Linux-land, something else you didn't expect starts to cause problems. (Perhaps I should say "presents challenges." Doesn't sound so whine-y.) Some of this I chalked up to changes in the 4.3.5 version of the KDE desktop. However, as I poked around with the settings, I began to suspect that "something wasn't quite right." The "System Settings Desktop" menu informed me that "Compositing has been disabled." Once I realized it wasn't talking about mulch, I had to learn about Compositing Window Managers. Now, for the most part, desk-top compositing is eye-candy, and I can do very well without it. However, I needed to know "why" is was disabled, and couldn't be enabled. I also had some issues with embedded videos crashing something somewhere. Restarting Firefox usually fixed it, but a couple of times it took a reboot.

I found these two forum threads helpful:

These discussions made me think I had incompatibility between my video chip set, whatever driver the Kubuntu installer had picked out for me, and, perhaps, Xorg. Poking around in the "System Applications Menu," for information, I opened the "Hardware Drivers" program, which told me that there was a proprietary driver, "ATI/AMD proprietary Driver FGLRX graphics driver" that might work better than the open source version already in use. I installed it, restarted the computer (as directed), and looked with horror at a badly messed up display. I was able to shutdown -r now, and the second restart cleared up all the problems. I'm playing with the eye-candy settings now, and I haven't yet been able to make Firefox and Miro crash by playing formerly problematic embedded videos.

The lack of the right video card driver for this computer may well have been the root of my Debian Lenny problems, too.

No comments: