by June 30, 2004 0 comments

When it comes to graphics and user interface, Mac OS undoubtedly stands out. With the Mac you get not just a working experience but also a graphics experience. The most recent Max OS X, Panther, comes with many new features of which ‘fast user switching’ is worth a mention. Panther’s fast user-switching facility is the same as that of Win XP, in which two users can log into one system at the same time, without logging the other off. What is striking about Panther is the smooth 3D transition of the desktops while switching users. It is worth every bit of envy for a non-Mac user. Check out fast user switching in Panther at macosx/features/fastuserswitching/. 

You can almost replicate the Mac’s amazing 3D fast user switching in Linux. Known as 3D-Desktop in Linux, it cannot be used for user switching, but for something that you do more frequently-switching between virtual desktops. The virtual desktops on Linux’s X Window systems provide more than one desktop to work with. 

Linux desktop users
3D experience when switching between virtual desktops 
On CD:

We’ll see how to set up 3D-Desktop on PCQLinux 2004. It is simple to set up; all you need is the required software from this month’s PCQ Essential CD.

Install 3D-Desktop
Mount this month’s PCQ Essential CD and change to the directory system/cdrom/unlimited_oss/ linux/3d-deskto. Install the RPM named using the following command.

rpm -ivh

Next issue the following command.

rpmbuild –rebuild 3ddesktop-0.2.6-1.src.rpm

3ddesk –mode=carousel


The second command will produce an RPM file named 3ddesktop-0.2.6-1.i386.rpm in the directory
/usr/src/redhat/RPMS/i386. Change to this directory and issue the following command to install the RPM.

rpm -ivh 3ddesktop-0.2.6-1.i386.rpm

See it working
Switch to X Window (Gnome or KDE). Before starting to use the 3D-Desktop for switching between the virtual desktops, you must start the 3D-Desktop daemon by issuing the following command (on a Linux console or a terminal window in X).


Next, issue the following command for the 3D-Desktop to parse and acquire screenshots of the virtual desktops for display during the 3D transition. 

3ddesk –acquire

Now comes the fun part. Issue the following:

3ddesk –mode=cylinder –nozoom

This will show up a number in green at the top. This is the number of your current desktop. 

3ddesk –mode=flip

3ddesk –mode=linear

Now, to switch to other virtual desktops, press 1, 2, 3 and so on depending on how many virtual desktops you have. By default, PCQLinux 2004 has four virtual desktops. So, you can cycle through the desktops by pressing the keys from one to four. After switching to a virtual desktop, press Enter to make it your current desktop and start working on it. 

After impressing your friends and foes with 3D-Desktop, you may like to shut down the daemon, which can be done by issuing the following command.

3ddesk –stop

Cool, isn’t it? But, don’t stop here. 3D Desktop provides more such effects to cycle through your desktops. The screenshots accompanying this article show a glimpse of some of these effects along with the command to activate them. Note that you can append the
–nozoom to each of these commands (expect for –mode=flip) to disable the zooming out. 

You can get more goodies, modes and add-ons from


The flip side
Although 3D-Desktop is eye catching, it is not a great idea for performance-sensitive users. The moment you launch the 3D-Desktop daemon by issuing ‘3ddeskd’ you will see things slowing down. Though it looks soothing to eyes, you may not want to use it when you want to quickly hop across the virtual desktops to get work done. 

Shekhar Govindarajan

No Comments so far

Jump into a conversation

No Comments Yet!

You can be the one to start a conversation.