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How to get RGBA support in Ubuntu

Jack Wallen takes a break from his soap box to hand out some instructional information on how to enable RGBA support on the Ubuntu 10.04 desktop.That means full blown GTK+ transparency!

Figure A

RGBA stands for Red Green Blue Alpha. When applied to the computer desktop it means a whole world more. It means full-blown transparency with the ability to control the transparency like never before. This feature was supposed to make it into Ubuntu 10.04, but because of some show-stopping issues, it was pulled. It is now slated to make it into 10.10 and, judging from how well it is working now, it will do just that.

If you're curious as to what an RGBA-enabled desktop will look like, take a gander at Figure A. This is Ubuntu 10.04 with GNOME and RGBA support installed and enabled.

I'm sure there are many out there who are saying, "Who cares? It's just eye candy!" But there are plenty of others saying, "Me too! I want!" (or some variation of that theme). Well, in this installment of the open source blog I will stand down from my soap box and show you how you can have this delicious eye candy on your Ubuntu 10.04 desktop as well.

What you will need

Outside of the necessary software, you will need a graphics card that will support full Compiz features. So if your desktop will not allow you to enable Extra features for compiz, either don't bother with this or go get a new card that will. You will also need to enable Compiz with at LEAST Normal effects. With that set, you are ready to install.

Installation

Open up a terminal window and issue the following commands:

  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:erik-b-andersen/rgba-gtk
  • sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
  • sudo apt-get install gnome-color-chooser gtk2-module-rgba
  • sudo apt-get install murrine-themes
That's it from the command line and the installation.

Enabling RGBA

Figure B

There are a few steps to undertake in order to enable this feature.

  1. Click System | Preferences | GNOME Color Chooser. In this window, scroll until you see the Engines tab.
  2. Click the Global check box and then select Murrine from the dropdown.
  3. Now click on the Preferences button; scroll down until you see "Configuration of Enable/Disable RGBA support" (see Figure B), and make sure both check boxes are checked.
  4. Click OK and then click Apply in the main GNOME Color Chooser window. You can now dismiss this window.

The next step is to select an RGBA compatible theme. You installed these themes with the commands above. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click on your desktop and select Change Desktop Background.
  2. Click on the Themes tab.
  3. Click the Customize button.
  4. From the Controls tab scroll down until you find a Murrine them.
  5. Select a Murrine them and click Close.
  6. Close the Appearance Preferences window.
Now all you have to do is log out and log back in to enjoy full-blown RGBA support on your Ubuntu desktop!
Final thoughts
Will RGBA support on the Linux desktop make you a better user? No, it won't. Will it make your machine run better? No, it won't. It's like having a pretty girl or handsome man at your side. Would a less attractive person serve the same purpose? Sure, but everyone always wants to be by the side of the pretty people. And so it goes with the desktop. Give this a try and see if you think RGBA is the future of the Linux desktop.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

23 comments
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heres_johnny
heres_johnny

Do you see a way for this to improve productivity? I'll probably give it a whirl because I'm a sucker for eye candy, but you've played with it more. Is there a way to tweak it to give useful information/allow you to work faster? Just asking...

deviantshoe
deviantshoe

Well... this was pretty crap... it made my system un-responisve

jaomadn
jaomadn

RGBA it doesn't work on my Nvidia Geforce 310M CUDA.

seabird23
seabird23

I set this up and now all I get is a white screen with icons on it, and cannot get out of it. gnome colour chooser will not load so i cannot disable it. I am new to this linux thing.

Rodo1
Rodo1

This is one of the main reasons I'm not going to go beyond XP with Microsoft. Windows 7 is a bunch of BS "features" and eye candy. I'm currently evaluating Ubuntu and using as much as possible on a daily basis. I still need XP and will for the foreseeable future, but I was hoping to be able to go to Ubuntu full time at some point. Please don't tell me they are going to go in the direction of MS!

lastchip
lastchip

It doesn't work in Linux Mint - Compiz works beautifully, so it's not the problem. I've no idea what the problem is, but it just seems to freeze when trying to execute any of the engine options. It may be tied up with the SuSE style menus that Mint uses, but that's only a guess and I admit to not knowing enough about how the graphics engines work, to produce an informed post. It does look great though from the screen-shot and I hope it'll come to Mint in due course. The art is going to be, to get these graphics enhancements working, without a great big hit on performance, particularly on laptops. After all, the trend seems to be migrating to longer and longer battery life and if these options shorten the usage period, then I can see them having a enthusiastic but short life.

alzie
alzie

I agree with your pretty people analogy, and OSS is all about choice, right. You dont want it - dont enable it. None of us are being forced to take it like windoze. Personally, it not a high priority for me, but I like it and will give it whirl with 10.10

joel.bates
joel.bates

What about RHEL-based distros, SUSE, etc? Looks interesting!

Slayer_
Slayer_

I remember my Windows 95 supporting transparancy and alpha channel? Please tell me that Ubuntu isn't 15 years behind in technology and this article is just terribly titled.

Jaqui
Jaqui

had full transparency for a while, first thing to do is TURN IT OFF. it really does interfere with workflow.

wolsonjr
wolsonjr

Sure, I don't care if I can't read what I'm working on, just make it cool. There better be an off switch. Why do we worry about this stuff when there are real issues to solve?

lastchip
lastchip

Just go back to the command line and use; sudo apt-get --purge remove gnome-color-chooser gtk2-module-rgba This will remove those files and you should then boot into your original configuration.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Provided the distribution is GTK+ based like the article's distribution, you can probably port the concept over. You may need to track down config files in slightly different places though when going between major distribution branches (eg. Debian/Ubuntu -> Red Hat/Fedora).

ssj6akshat
ssj6akshat

The RGA talked about here only applies to GTK+(Yes that includes native GNOME apps).Think it as the same way as Windows Aero in Vista.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

For different reasons though; the Intel Mobile GPU drivers need to be improved so until then My X201 will be running Squeeze/Xorg through the generic Vesa driver; no transparencies for me when not under the win7 bootup. Granted, I usually mute sound and turn much of the graphics off. transparency looks pretty if your doing a "look at my desktop" setup but doesn't make Metasploit run any faster.

billyg
billyg

In and of itself as a desktop-wide feature to turn on and off... not so compelling. Selectively applying varying alpha to convey context information, say change alpha while dragging a window, or as a means to "fade" inactive windows, or as a means to stack entire desktops and show layers below to give access to elements "below" current layer a view that could be triggered rather than remain on... But presently it has the feel of an immature feature that a keen designer will put to good use...

jlwallen
jlwallen

first and foremost, i didn't assume anyone would be doing this on a mission critical workstation. i use it on my main machine at home and it hasn't hindered my work one iota.

seabird23
seabird23

Will try that. get abit stuck sometimes.

Jaqui
Jaqui

even kde 3 had full transparency capabilities on a p3 system with a no acceleration graphics card. it really is just a looks thing, doesn't do squat for performance improvement. it does kill performance. turning transparency off frees up cpu cycles and ram for the work you need to get done.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

John won't make use of multiple processors after all. ;)