Pictures of earth from space are the coolest. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get the latest images of what the earth looks like straight on our desktops? Die.net offers just such a service. They provide the latest computer generated image of what the earth might look like at the moment. Things like the cloud formations and the sunlight are taken into account. The result is a pretty up to date and stunning looking image, available to you and I for free. We can use some Ubuntu magic to bring that image down to our desktop and set it up as a rotating wallpaper. Let’s take a look at how to go about setting it up.
Scheduling a task can be done directly from the command line if you are familiar with how to do it. For users who are not very geeky, there is a simpler option in Gnome Schedule. To install the gnome task scheduler launch a terminal window and execute the following command:
# sudo apt-get install gnome-schedule
After the installation is complete Gnome Schedule will be available in your Ubuntu menu. Go to Applications -> System tools -> Schedule tasks. In Gnome Schedule click on New. This will launch the configuration window for a new task. Enter something like Moving Wallpaper in the Description: section.
In the Command: section, enter:
wget -r -N http://static.die.net/earth/mercator/1600.jpg
If you’re not familiar with wget, it is a very powerful command line download tool. The URL we feed it here is where the most up to date image of the earth is made available by the fine folks at die.net. They make a new image available every three hours.
Next is the Default Behaviour drop down menu. Select the Suppress Output option here.
After this you will need to schedule the task. As you don’t want to flood the die.net server it might be a good idea to download the image from their server once a day. To do that set the scheduler to Every day. You can set something more specific if you like by going to the Advanced section and setting up a higher frequency. Note that the image is updated once every three hours, and not with a greater frequency. So if you set it to download the image every few minutes, it will download the same image again and again – wasting both your bandwidth and die.net’s. So at a very minimum, set the update frequency to every 3 hours. Once you are done hit the Add button to wrap things up.
In the last step what we did was to setup a task to download the latest image. This image is by default saved to the home directory of the user that set it up. The image goes into a path like this /home/username/static.die.net/earth/mercator/1600.jpg. This is where all the files that are downloaded will get stored. The old image will be replaced by the new one.
Now we need to setup our Ubuntu box to pick up the image as the wallpaper. To do that right click on your desktop and pick Change Desktop Background. Click on the Add option in the Appearance Preferences that opens. Now navigate to /home/username/static.die.net/earth/mercator/1600.jpg and hit Open. Click Close on the Appearance Preferences window.
Here’s the final result. My Ubuntu Lucid Lynx machine with the stunning view from the sky.