Getting the most out of KDE 4: a quick guide

KDE logoI know it’s been quite a while since my last posting, but between being sick and being busy, I haven’t had much time or energy to continue posting. Before I fell ill, however, I had worked on a quick guide to getting the most from KDE 4.

KDE 4 was released on the 11th of January, ushering in a new era of desktop environments. I’ve followed the development of KDE 4 ever since it was mentioned shortly after the release of Xgl. Whew! That’s been quite a while, hasn’t it? It’s been in the works for roughly two years now.

One of the coolest features of KDE 4 is the inclusion of compositing natively via Kwin. This was originally intended to help enable Xgl, Beryl, or (the latest) Compiz-Fusion to take over the rendering responsibilities. This idea has since dropped a bit of momentum; however, I find the compositing effects on KDE 4 to be much smoother and require less system resources. Sure, you don’t get the wobbly windows or the nifty little cube effect (KDE devs, I’m looking at you!).

The upside of KDE 4’s compositing engine is that, unlike Xgl, etc., my Xvideo does not fragment into a million little pieces, breaking one of the main reasons I use Linux on a day to day basis. My particular video card is a little on the aging side now. I have an nVidia GeForce 4200 ti with 8x AGP. It was the first 8x card available, and is still quite a solid little graphics card. There’s just some bad mojo between my video card and Xgl, and I’m not planning on upgrading for quite some time still.

The KDE developer team have been working hard at banging out the remaining bugs left over from the 4.0 release. I’ve been running KDE 4 as my main desktop for a couple months now, and I’m pleased to say that there’s been significant improvements to overall performance in both speed and stability.

There were, however, some additional steps I had to accomplish before the desktop effects ran at a sufficient quality for my enjoyment. These additional steps are exactly what I intend to help you do, ladies and gentlemen.

Enabling Desktop Effects:

Presuming you’ve successful installed KDE 4 and successfully booted into your lovely new desktop environment, you must have Xephyr and Xvfb installed before you can enable those shiny new effects. In openSUSE, you can find the needed packages within the xorg-x11-server-extra rpm.

Next, you will need to do a bit of manual configuration within your Xorg.conf file, located /etc/X11/xorg.conf. You’ll need to open this using your root account. Perhaps the easiest way to do so is to open Konsole and type in “kdesu kwrite /etc/X11/xorg.conf” (but without the quotation marks) and enter your administrative password.

You’ll need to add a couple lines within your xorg.conf file. For users with nVidia cards:

Section “Screen”
Option “AddARGBGLXVisuals” “True”
EndSection

You will also need to enable the XComposite extension:

Section “Extensions”
Option “Composite” “Enable”
EndSection

Additional step for Nvidia users: A noticeable performance gain may be obtained by opening your ~/.profile (located either in /home/username/.profile, or /etc/.profile) using kwrite and adding:

export KWIN_NVIDIA_HACK=1

Make sure to save your changes before closing. KDE’s complete guide can be found here. KDE 4 release notes can be found here.

You’ll need to restart for the changes to take effect. Now, proceed to the K Menu. Notice its lovely new facad, thanks to openSUSE’s contribution of the Kickoff menu, resulting from usability studies. Within “Favorites,” there should already be “System Settings” (wasn’t that thoughtful of them? πŸ˜‰ ). Once within settings, under “Look and Feel,” go to “Desktop.”

In “Desktop Effects,” there should now be an option to enable desktop effects. You’ll want to check that box if it hasn’t already been checked off for you.

Now, click the Advanced Options button, where you can tweak and fine tune several other various settings. It’s recommended to keep the compositing type to the default OpenGL, since XRender is currently known to cause issues. There are three items here that will maximize your speed: 1) deselect Keep thumbnails of hidden windows up to date, 2) set the Texture filter to Nearest (fastest) and, 3) deselect Direct rendering.

That should be all. Happy tweaking! πŸ˜‰

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One thought on “Getting the most out of KDE 4: a quick guide

  1. Over 18 months later and this still works for my brand new OpenSuSE11.2 installation like a charm – despite the card being picked up correctly during install, I was having a few issues with the vanilla install, and seems to have fixed them (so far so good). Also nice to know some else with the GeForce 4200, its an oldie but a goodie too!

    Thanks a lot,

    Cheers
    Jim

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