I get bored with my desktop wallpaper pretty easily, especially in Ubuntu Linux, where it’s nearly the only thing on my desktop. Until recently, that meant scouring theming sites for great artwork, opening the Appearance tab and re-scaling and choosing background colours for each picture, and just general unproductive knob-twiddling. Digging through the Ubuntu Forums, however, I came across a few tools that can rotate customised background images with a shortcut, on a timer, or based on the time of day. Let’s take a look at how any GNOME-based Linux user can use rotating backgrounds to keep better track of time, keep your desktop looking fresh, and inspire all kinds of coffee shop conversations.
My inspiration for finding a way to rotate my desktop was stumbling across DJMattRick’s Vplants 8 collection, which is a huge collection of mostly macro plant shots. Any of them go nicely with the gOS theme and icons, but I didn’t want to settle on just one and then rotate it three days later.
So I found UbuntuForums user DoctorMo’s changer script, and this slight fix for it, and now I had a means of switching between the background with a tool I could schedule. To try it yourself, download this patched Changer script:
Un-zip the package and place the “changer” file somewhere in your home directory—like a “Scripts” folder. Open up a terminal, head to where you put “changer,” and run this command, which makes it executable:
chmod a+x changer
Now for the fun part. If you’re familiar and comfortable with the Cron tool, go ahead and plug the changer into it. The rest of us can use a tool like Gnome-Schedule, which makes cron a bit less opaque, to choose when our backgrounds get switched. Ubuntu systems can install the software from this link—gnome-schedule—but most everyone else can install it from their repositories.
Launch gnome-schedule from System-> Preferences-> Scheduled Tasks, or hitting Alt+F2 and entering
gnome-schedule. Once it’s up, choose New, then Recurrent Task. In the window that comes up, give this task a name like “Background Changer,” then enter the path to where you put the changer script, ending with
./changer—see the example at right. Make sure “No output” is checked, and now we’ll set up the timing.
You can get as simple—like my “every 20 minutes” scheme at left—or obtuse as you want with this handy tool. Want your background to change at 9 a.m., noon, and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday? Totally do-able. Hit the “Edit” buttons next to each field and check out the options. I like to use mine as a peripheral gauge of time. Since I don’t let maximised windows cover my bottom AWN dock, I can see the patterns change, and realise I’ve just blown 15 minutes on Flickr—again.
Now comes the pretty part. Head to System->Preferences->Appearance, or run
gnome-appearance-properties. Click the “Background” tab, and use the “Add” and “Remove” buttons to arrange your pallette. The images you “Remove” aren’t actually deleted, just taken out of GNOME’s pallet (in Ubuntu, they’re stashed in /usr/share/backgrounds). Changing the framing and background colour for each will stick when they’re rotated in and out.
One idea that caught my eye was a set of wallpapers that reflect the changes of the day, as with this Dawn of Ubuntu slideshow set. There are certainly lots of inspiring pics on Flickr and elsewhere to inspire, so get to downloading and scheduling.