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!