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Monday, December 18, 2006

"Beryls" of Fun and Other Optical Ubuntu Confections

Alright boys and girls, what is your favorite kind of candy? Some like snickers some like taffy, but my favorite kind is eye candy! Delicious! The last couple days I have been hard at work rebuilding my Ubuntu system. After a poorly performing upgrade from Dapper Drake to Edgy Eft (the AMD64 version upgrades pretty crappily), and a trip to the warranty repair shop for some hardware fixes, I decided it was time to rebuild from scratch.

After such a lame experience with the Edgy upgrade, I decided to stick with Dapper, which I installed forthwith. However being one to sometimes push the envelope, I delved into the world of graphical gratification and soon rediscovered Beryl. I had seen it before, but never got around to trying it out. Basically, it is a heshin' sweet piece of desktop graphic rendering sweetness, that adds some snazzy graphical effects such as zoom, animations, etc. right into the desktop software (in the case of my Ubuntu install, Gnome). Well, once I realized what it can do, I knew I had to taste of its sweet nectar, so I set about installing it into Dapper. Soon however, I discovered that again the support for the AMD64 kernel and software was kinda basic, so I was forced to make the upgrade to Edgy. By that point however, I had discovered that my mishaps with the previous upgrade (the installation of a not-64 bit kernel, the horribly slow graphics rendering when scrolling in Firefox, broken drivers, etc.) were the result of poor support for upgrades in the AMD64 branch.

I set about to install Edgy, and to my surprise thing are working relatively well. The fresh install from the live CD worked beautifully, and so the remainder of this post will detail how I was then able to install Beryl and get some new themes setup to take advantage of the graphics capabilities of my nVidia GeForce 440 Go graphics card. So, once I had the basic install done, the following is a list of steps I took to get Beryl up and running. Most of these steps were found on

1. The first step is to get the graphics drivers installed since Beryl takes advantage of OpenGL to render graphics in the GPU. Since I have an nVidia card, I needed to install the nVidia beta driver. I decided to do this by pulling down the drivers from the mirrored repository. To do this, I added the repository by putting the following in the top of /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb edgy stable

2. Next, I added the GPG key for the location by running:

wget -O- | sudo apt-key add -

3. Updated the package list and installed the driver by running:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linux-restricted-modules-$(uname -r) nvidia-glx
4. Next I had to make some changes to /etc/X11/xorg.conf to use the new driver ("nvidia"). I first made a backup in case there were problems:
Section "Device"
Identifier ...
Driver "nvidia"
BusID ...

5. After modifying the xorg.conf file, I rebooted the system. When it loads, it now shows the nVidia splash.

6. To insure that the nVidia driver and graphics card are actually being used, I call the OpenGL gears program (pretty much on most X systems). If the gears turn smoothly and there are no errors, the driver is working fine. Type the following in a terminal:


7. Next I added the beryl repository to /etc/apt/source.list with the following entry:

deb edgy main

8. After that I added the GPG key by issuing the following:

wget -O- | sudo apt-key add -

9. Then I made sure my system was up to date:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

10. And finally issued the command to install beryl and emerald (the theme manager):

sudo apt-get install beryl emerald emerald-themes

11. Once this was done, I made a couple more changes to /etc/X11/xorg.conf:
Added the following Option line in the "Screen" section:

Section "Screen"
[...your configuration...]
Option "AddARGBGLXVisuals" "True"
Added this to the bottom of the file:

Section "Extensions"
Option "Composite" "Enable"
And at the expense of more graphics RAM usage I added the following to help smooth the performance:

Section "Device"
[...your configuration...]
Option "TripleBuffer" "true"

12. To finalize these changes I then rebooted to make sure that X and Gnome would start properly with the new xorg.conf file.

13. After a successful restart, I logged in and opened a terminal before typing the following to fire up beryl:


14. At this point, I was not getting any borders on my windows, so I went into /etc/X11/xorg.conf and changed the "DefaultDepth" to "24" in the "Screen" section.

15. Once I was sure that was working properly (you'll know if its not), I added it to the startup script so that it will launch at login. This is done by going to "Preferences->Sessions" and then clicking on the "Startup Programs" tab and clicking "Add". In the dialog, I entered "beryl-manager" (without quotes) to be run at login.

15. At this point, I decided to go out and find some a new theme and login prompt to go with the my new 3D graphics. There are alot of awesome graphics and theme related configurations (including many for beryl) at
I have to admit I am pretty stoked about the sweetness of this new install. Now all I need to find is a code monkey program to write some code for me and I'll be set. My system is a Compaq Presario R3040US with an AMD64 processor and an nVidia GeForce 440 Go graphics card, so if you have a similar setup, this should work for you as well. There is also a pretty useful wiki setup at, that also had alot of helpful info. If you get in a bind, feel free to get in touch with me and I'll be glad to help if I can.

Stay tuned for some more info on Ubuntu configuration as I finish rebuilding my machine. There's more to come in future posts.


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