Mar 10 2017
Most people don’t know much about Linux. The few that do associate it with high-level power users and computer nerds. They are surprised when an author like me, who writes primarily in non-technical subjects, has been using it for years. Why do I do it?
The primary reason is Compiz. What is it? You’ll find a bunch of definitions in Wikipedia and many web sites, but most of them are full of technobabble and make no sense to the average person. It’s basically a piece of software that taps into the power of your computer’s graphics hardware to enhance the on-screen desktop.
Compiz can create many fancy effects, but I use it only for productivity, not for eye candy. Specifically, I use the Compiz Cube. It turns your computer’s desktop into a one face of a cube, and you can rotate from one to the next to focus on different tasks. I make my Compiz Cube transparent, so when I switch away to work on something else, I can still see the backside of application I switched away from, and it is still being updated in real time.
This factor alone makes Compiz superior to the virtual desktops built into Mac OS X and Windows 10. Due to the lack of visibility in those systems, more than once I found myself forgetting that I have something else running in the background.
With Compiz, not only are the background applications visible, but they are visbly active. For instance, if I switch away from a video that is playing, when it is in the back of the cube, I’ll be able to see that the video is still playing — it has not been paused or suspended in any way.
People have attempted to bring the cube into Mac OS X and Windows. On the Mac, you can switch from one user to another with a cube roration animation, and there is a commercial application called DeskSpace for Windows. So far, nothing is quite as smooth and effective as Compiz.
There’s also imitation within the world of Linux. KDE has a plug-in for its own animated cube. Unfortunately, it cannot be transparent like Compiz, so for now as it has been since 2006, Compiz is the only game in town. As long as that is the case, it will remain my primary reason for using Linux.