I can't imagine needing these effects long term (call me conservative and stingy), but having managed to get it work well (with some hints from our current resident whiz-kid, Lubo), I thought I'd document the process.
You need the graphics card capable of 3D acceleration, of course, but most contemporary cards will do. Beware, some machines require proprietary drivers, so you may need to do more prep work.
Ubuntu 8.04 comes with the main Compiz package already present and installed. You can recognize its presence by the slightly different feel to windows manipulation actions: different transparency, transitions, etc. But to get the full benefit of Compiz, so that you get to convert your screen into various shapes and bounce them on your terminal whilst the applications they display continue running, you need to install and enable a bit more.
Step 1 - only required if you are sitting behind a proxy (if not, move to step 2). If you use proxy, the likelyhood is that all you have configured so far is your browser. I.e. firefox can access the world through the proxy, but no other application. There are several ways (as always) of allowing other applications to get to the proxy, but for the purpose of this exercise, we will only instruct package management tools (apt) ...
First of all, identify what proxy address is being used on your site, and which port. Edit the apt configuration file: /etc/apt/apt.conf by running the following command (substitute proxy-address shown below for the proxy address and XX for the port number, often 8080) :
$ sudo echo 'Acquire::http::Proxy "http://proxy-address:XXXX";' >> /etc/apt/apt.conf
You may need to extend the stanza, if you use proxy user name and password. The entry would then look similar to this:
Step 2 - assuming you repository file (/etc/apt/sources.list) has been set up, which in 8.04 is done during installation, you should be able to continue with the Compiz install.
Rebuild the database of available packages, the check for compiz packages, and install the front-end tool for it:
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-cache search compiz
compizconfig-settings-manager - Compiz configuration settings manager
$ sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
Once done, follow the path:
System --> Preferences --> Advanced Desktop Effects Settings
for all your 3D setting delights!
Happy playing... (I'm moving to other things) ;-)