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First off, I am new to Ubuntu. I come from a Windows background (DOS before that) and am loving it so far. I installed it on an older Dell laptop that I wanted to get another year out of. I set this machine up primarily as a LAMP development machine for a project I am working on.

The machine is a Vostro 1500 and it has 4GB RAM (maxed) and an upgraded hard drive. I can't watch YouTube videos for long before it starts to overheat and start acting sporadic. I can live without YouTube but every so often the application switching (alt-tab) gets slower and begins not showing all applications and the Dash home quits displaying properly. I am sure I am asking a lot of this old machine. What I really want to know is: are there any settings in Ubuntu that allow me to lower the graphic effects (fade-ins, transparencies, fancy transitions, etc) that would be less taxing on the video card?

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You can try if you are able to use unity2d instead, otherwise try MATE, either on ubuntu or linux mint. –  Karthik T Dec 12 '12 at 1:56
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For an old machine, Xubuntu is probably a better option then disabling desktop effects. –  mikewhatever Dec 12 '12 at 4:05
    
Does anyone want to put in an official answer so I can mark it? Otherwise I will post an answer to my own question. –  zkent Dec 12 '12 at 17:17
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migrated from unix.stackexchange.com Dec 12 '12 at 3:29

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

There apparently no settings in the standard Ubuntu Gnome GUI to disable or throttle graphics effects. Instead you can install alternate GUIs. Xubuntu was suggested and it is uses the Xfce GUI.

In Ubuntu (I have 12.10), go to the Software Center and search for "xubuntu-desktop" and install it.

Now when I log in, I can select what GUI I want to use. This uses significantly less resources and allows me to work longer without having to reboot.

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