Is it Vista? Is it a Mac? No it’s Linux

May 28, 2008

There a lots of great ways to improve your desktop experience in Linux. If the default stylings of GNOME or KDE just aren’t your cup of tea, or you really want a Mac but can’t afford one like me, then read on.

Vista, really?

I’m first to admit, and rather shamelessly, that I really like a bit of eye candy in an OS, especially 3D candy. For all it’s underwhelming glory, I do quite enjoy the shinyness of Vista. If I was really going to make the total conversion over to Linux once and for all, I was really going to miss those effects. Unfortunately for Vista, and consequently the reason I’m trying Linux, is that it’s a bit like a photo of a hooker; looks good, but doesn’t do much. But I digress.

Turning on a bit of visual flair in Ubuntu requires that you have a graphics card with some form of graphics acceleration available. My faithful laptop has an absolute clanger of a video card, an ATI Radeon Mobility X1400 to be precise. I can almost hear you stifling a yawn – it really does suck that much – or so I thought…

Driver dramas

Being OSS, Ubuntu doesn’t include proprietary drivers in the distribution due to the license restrictions many of the EULAs impose. This means that by default you’re using an open source equivalent driver for your hardware. This is fine for every day 2D office related tasks. This won’t do with what we’re proposing however as they don’t support many of the advanced features your graphics card offers – we’re gonna need those. Now before you break out in a cold sweat and start fretting about compiling, editing X config files or anything silly like that, take a deep breath. EnvyNG is a great tool that takes care of all the driver updates for you. It detects and installs the correct proprietary video card driver for you in a matter of minutes. Easy huh?

Mac on a mortgage

Mac4Lin Desktop

After a reboot you should now be ready to turn on advanced desktop effects (Compiz-Fusion for those in the know). This will enable all kinds of funky effects on your desktop like wobbly windows, 3D cube desktop selection etc.

Impressive eh? Well this is where it gets really fun. Head on over to SourceForge and grab all the latest files from the Mac4Lin project. This should include everything you need, including instructions on how you tweak your desktop till it’s damn near unrecognisable as Linux. I’m not real sure how Steve Jobs would feel if he saw this.

One thing I’m really impressed with is the speed at which all these effects run. Under Vista one could have been forgiven for thinking that Dell had given me the worst graphics card known to man. In fact I’ve always been slighly disappointed with my laptop’s performance until now. Ubuntu runs like a scalded cat on a hot tin roof, and I’m smiling from ear to ear about it.

Sorry Vista, looks like another nail in your already sealed coffin.

Click here For a more in depth look at more things you can do in Hardy Heron.


5 Responses to “Is it Vista? Is it a Mac? No it’s Linux”

  1. David McGregor Says:

    I’m glad to hear you had a good experience with your linux install, so far I’ve installed linux about 5 times over the last few years (first one was in 2000!), and each time I was disappointed by the support of hardware of both my desktop and laptop. My longest linux install lasted about 3 months. I’ll have to give Hardy Heron a go on my new box!

  2. Peter Says:

    Isn’t the only reason to use Mac is for the graphics applications? What is the state of running the Adobe Suite on Linux

  3. David Kuhn Says:

    Hi Peter, thanks for the feedback. Yes I suppose that’s one reason why people use Macs, there are many others however such as it’s purported ease of use, the elegance of the hardware and the OSX operating system user interface to name a few.

    I quite happen to like the user interface bits on the Macs especially the latest release of OSX Leopard. I also thought it would be a bit of fun to set my Linux laptop up to look like a Mac and see how many people could tell the difference. It fooled quite a few! Not to mention it pissed off a whole bunch of my mates who went out and bought Macs lately.

    As for the graphics software, most of the Adobe suite, so I’m told, will run just fine under WINE. For me I just use the GIMP and it’s great for what I need.

  4. Compiz fusion makes Linux awesome. Just try it man. I invite you to 3D Computer experience. 🙂

  5. infra_red_dude Says:

    I’m very happy to announce that Mac4Lin has been declared as one of the finalists at Community Awards 2009 in the Best Visual Design category. The final phase of voting began today and will run till July 20th 2009. Please vote for Mac4Lin, if you feel it deserves to be voted. To vote click on this image:

    Optionally, you can also click on the first box in the right frame on my blog ( You do not need to login id. All you need is a valid email id. Each vote is associated with an email id, which needs confirmation that you actually voted (you will get an email giving a confirmation link, so all you need to do is click it). The whole voting process takes just 3 clicks.

    I urge patrons to vote for Mac4Lin if they feel it should win. I once again thank everyone for their continued support, feedback and appreciation. Mac4Lin exists today because of you all 🙂 Do spread the word around about this.

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