Karl Herrick

A technologist and web developer | Posts about technology encountered along the journey.

Gnome background changer

Gnome 2.3 on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx) doesn’t appear to have an automatic wallpaper changer built in. While it appears there are many ways to accomplish this, I decided to write my own little script to get some time in with bash… alternative ways I have found include using Wallpaper-tray (which doesn’t appear to be in 10.04), Desktop Drapes, or a variation of the script below using things like gconftool-2.

To use this script, do the following:

  • Right-click on the desktop and choose Change Desktop Background
  • Look through the backgrounds, and make sure the ones listed are the ones you want to have the script randomly select
  • Open up a text file using gedit, and add the contents of the script:
    while read line; do
       data=`echo "${line}" | grep -i filename`
       if [ "$data" != "" ]; then
          filename=$(echo $data | cut -b11-$filenameCutLength)
          if [ "$filename" != "(none)" ] || [ "$filename" !=
          "random.img" ]; then
             extension=$(echo ${filename,,} |
             cut -b$(expr ${#filename} - 2)-${#filename})
             if [ "$extension" == "jpg" ] || [ "$extension"
             == "png" ] || [ "$extension" == "svg" ]; then
                fileArray[$i]=$(echo $filename)
                i=$(expr $i + 1)
    done << EOF
       $(grep deleted="false -A7 ~/.gnome2/backgrounds.xml)
    fileArrayLength=`echo $[ ( $RANDOM % ${#fileArray[@]} ) ]`
    cp "${fileArray[$fileArrayLength]}"
  • Save the file as gRandomBackground.sh in a directory (this example uses: “/home/$USER/Pictures/backgrounds/random”, if you install it elsewhere, be sure to change the $installedDir variable in the script)
  • Open Terminal and enter the command: crontab -e If you haven’t used crontab before, stick with the default, nano
  • Paste the following as one line into the editor: 0 */3 * * * bash ~/Pictures/backgrounds/random/gRandomBackground.sh This will change the background every three hours, on the hour. “Ctrl+O, and then Ctrl+W” should get the crontab saved and also get you exited out of nano. For more information on how to use cron, see Google.
  • Open up the Appearance Preferences dialog again, by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting Change Desktop Background
  • Click the Add… button and browse to the directory that gRandomBackground.sh is installed to
  • Select the random.img background, click the Open button, and then the Close button

Your background should change every three hours.