Beryl

In my continuing saga with Linux, I recently upgraded my motherboard and CPU. They’re not state of the art, by any means, but an athlon-64 (2.4 gHz) and 1 gig of memory at least gets me into the second half of this decade, architecture-wise.

The only really antiquated part remaining in my rig was the old ATI graphics card. So I went to ebay and replaced it (inexpensively) with something that had Linux drivers available and would let me see what 3-D graphics were all about. Nvidia is very good at supplying Linux drivers (ATI is not, but the default, bare-bones Linux driver provided by most distributions allows the basics to be done painlessly).

The replacement operation wasn’t completely pain-free. Installing drivers on Linux is really no more difficult than in Windows, but sometimes seems that way. It feels like every device needs drivers that are installed differently. Worse, each new version (of either the driver or of the distribution) seems to require yet another, new installation method. Sigh. RTFM becomes not just a mantra, but a requirement which is not always met, unfortunately, because the creators of the Ms are often idiots not knowledgeable in the ways of writing helpful documents.
But installing the Nvidia driver wasn’t too bad, all in all. The next step was to turn on 3-D capabilities. Once I did this, I installed a neat little package called Beryl which provides some great 3-D effects.

Beryl is not 100% complete, and is not a polished product just yet (the current version is 0.2, which is way early). But many of its capabilities are in place, and pretty cool. I like the cube idea, which is sort of like making your flat screen into a cube, with different desk-top views available on each. The theme manager has some great looking themes, more than I will be able to investigate in months of looking, and some cute effects that I like, like shading and controllable transparency.

The down sides (so far) is that Beryl does not work and play well together with KDE if you use more than one desktop, and the controls are not obvious. Beryl doesn’t seem to be using excessive resources, but it feels ‘sluggish’, if only because the fades take time, intentionally. I haven’t found how to control all the effects yet (like the time-to-fade out), but they’re buried there somewhere.

Oh, and starting Beryl is not obvious. And it appears that there’s no clean way to bring it down, except by rebooting (and if you bring down the beryl-manager then you can’t reboot either except by brute force. Quite a bug!). I expect those problems to be gone by the time version 1.0 is released.

All in all, it’s not a bad little package for such an early release.

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