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Unity works very fast but pretty unstable on my PC (with Intel GMA X4500HD video card). For example the Ubuntu purple-black splash screen is stuck as the desktop background (changing it in the settings changes nothing) and occasional UI hangs (while switching to a console with Ctrl+Alt+# still works) are frequent.

I would gladly sacrifice fancy GPU-accelerated effects if possible. Are there such tweaks available?

Please don't suggest using another DE - I know of them but would like Unity if possible.

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This is why I'm annoyed that they removed Unity 2D. –  handuel May 7 '13 at 19:58

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You can use the Compiz Config Settings Manager to change the behavior and effects of Ubuntu. If you are really adventurous you could look into this to tweak some things. Just be aware that it is a pretty advanced tool. Changing the wrong options can leave you with an unusable desktop. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of experience with this tool so I can't give advice on which settings you could change..

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Looks like my problems are almost solved, @Gladen, thanks. By the way I have never seen a computer where Compiz would work stable. Even on very cool HP Elite Desktop PCs it produces visual artefacts and general faults. –  Ivan May 7 '13 at 20:51

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