small flightless bird

Friday, October 21, 2005

how to see the world from your desktop has this awesome selection of nearly-live planetary desktop images. They show the entire earth, the current positions of all the clouds, and which parts of the world are in darkness (with lit-up areas around cities). The image to the right is an example.

This is pretty cool. What's even cooler is that you can easily set up your computer to automatically download the latest image and set it to be your desktop background. Click here to read the rest of this post, where I explain how to do this (for WinXP users).

1. Download and install the Microsoft .NET Framework (it's a kinda big install, but you'll need it eventually anyway).

2. Download WpWebChanger.exe from this page, which was written by Michael Zehrer. He also provides the C# source code, in case you know what to do with it. Note where you saved the file to, but don't open it.

3. Open up the Control Panel, through the Start Menu. Open Scheduled Tasks, and double-click the "Add Scheduled Task" icon. This will open up a wizard.

4. Click "Next", then Browse to the place where you saved WpWebChanger.exe (from step 2). Choose to perform this task daily, every day. Don't worry about the start time - we'll fix that later. Your user name should pop up automatically; enter the password you use to log onto Windows (if you don't use a password, just leave it blank).

5. Once you click "Finish", a new scheduled task will appear in the folder (probably called "Wpwebchanger.exe"). Right-click it and choose Properties. In the "Run:" box, copy-and-paste in the url of the satellite image corresponding to your screen resolution (from this page), after the program path. The box should now say something like this:
6. Make sure the "Run only if logged on" box is checked, as well as the "Enabled" box. Under the Schedule tab, choose a start time (e.g. midnight). Click "Advanced". Choose how often you want to update the image (the website only updates the images every hour). If you wanna get fancy, you can now click the "New" button and schedule the task to also run every time you start your computer. Under the Settings tab, you can decide if you only want the task to run after the computer has been idle for a few minutes and other such options.

7. Press Ok. Right-click the task icon and choose Run. If your desktop has not changed after a few minutes and you don't use a password to log on to Windows, make sure the "Run only if logged on" box is checked (see step 6).