Open Source Screen Saver (Hack away friends)

I know many readers of this blog are space fans. Look at other blogs on Mozilla and Open Source software and it’s very evident. If you are, your in luck. I’ve just put together somewhat of a mess of scripting that will give you semi-modern video of space as your screen saver.

Looks like the Green one in this image, though moving. Could easily change to get the others.

The inspiration is this Slashdot article. I love the video of the sun, and thought it would make a good screensaver. But I wanted it to update periodically. So I decided to make it do just that.

Because everyone shares so much information with me, I feel inclined to do the same, so this is rough documentation. Feel free to hack it up more, make it pretty, new video source, etc. Share and lets make this a decent product. My way of saying thank you. Isn’t Open Source loving in that non-sexual sort of way? Can’t get a VD from Open Source, but it feels good.

Note: This is for Windows 98,ME,2000,XP… though this should easily be adapted for Mac OS X, Linux users. I’m sure someone will do it quick. I’m short on time, but at some point, will be hacking this up for OS X, provided I can find the means to do video screen savers (perhaps someone will help, don’t remember if QuickTime SS is provided with Jaguar and later).

One last note: There are of course other ways to go about this. This method is an attempt to use as much free software as possible, with minimal coding. CURL is free open source, Scheduled Tasks comes with Windows (Crontab is free on UNIX, as well as unix itself). Media players are free downloads, or even open source.

Anyway. Here we go…

1. Download

The first thing your going to have to do is download a package:
Low Bandwidth (RECOMMENDED)
High Bandwidth

I’m going to strongly recommend the low bandwidth, but if your on a T3, feel free to use High bandwidth. I will warn you it’s an 11MB video each download. So be prepared for that.

2. Unpack

Unzip the download. You should have a folder named “OpenSourceSS”. Place this folder in the WINDOWS directory.

3. Schedule an update

We need the downloader to run on an interval and download our video (that’s the point of this little project). So we download video

On UNIX you have crontab, which creates automated processes for you. On Windows, we have to deal “Scheduled Tasks”, which is good enough.

Go to the Start menu, select “Control Panel” and select “Scheduled Tasks”.

Pretty much follow the wizard for the obvious. It will ask for the program you want to run. Click “Browse” and navigate to the batch file we created (C:\WINDOWS\OpenSourceSS\downloader.vbs). Then tell it how often you want to perform the task (I choose daily). And the time to perform it. Choose a time your computer is typically on, and you don’t use it. Lunch may be the best time. Remember it will be downloading, and sucking some bandwidth.

Now you will be asked to enter your username and password. Just enter it. The process will run under your username. No worries here.

You will now see your configs entered into the config panel.

You can also change it now to “when idle” (if you know what your doing). I like this better, as it’s a bit more practical. If your not really sure how/if to do this… don’t.

You can right click on the process in your scheduled tasks list, and have it “Run”. A few minutes later (depending on your connection) you should have a video file in your OpenSourceSS folder. All is good.

4. Make it your ScreenSaver

This is one thing Microsoft makes somewhat easy.

What we have is a downloaded movie. We want that as our screensaver. Microsoft’s free “Power Toys” download adds this functionality. Microsoft doesn’t give it with the OS (unlike IE sadly).

You can find that here. Download and install the Full PowerToys.

Now go into your “Displays” control panel. and go into the Screen Saver tab Select “XP Video Powertoy”. Now Click on “Settings”.

You want it to “Loop Forever”, “Mute Audio” (check those boxes). Playback Full Screen, and Speed at 1.0 (most likely, you can play with that).

“Manually Select File” to use.

Set it to:

C:\WINDOWS\OpenSourceSS\runtime.asx

in the box below.

Click OK. Then preview.

That’s it. Apply.

Conclusion

If you did this all right, you now have video that updates on an interval you specified, and playing as a screensaver. Not to tough right? Just a lot of typing on my behalf. But anything for you. Your my favorite visitor. Of course if you love me and want to pay me. Feel free. ;-). I always love cash for new tech toys.

Caveats

Some anti-virus programs, such as Norton AntiVirus will bark when the downloader is run. Because it’s a VBS file (to hide it from your view). There should be an option to allow the script. Don’t disable your virus scan. You can ensure my script is not going to harm your computer by opening the downloader.vbs file in Notepad and viewing it for yourself.

Again. Freel free to package, mess around, enhance and toy with this. Get it working on other platforms. It’s really cool.

  • CURL is available on most (if not all) UNIX .
  • Crontab can replace Scheduled Tasks.
  • Quicktime for OS X (?)

Let me know what you come up with. Try different video’s at NASA. I’d love a Moon, personally (celestial body, not a bare ass).

Go have fun 😉

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