Thursday, February 01, 2007

Real-time Earth Desktop with xplanet-gnome

Ok, I found a really cool GNOME tweak that enables you to have a real-time background of Earth. You could see where it's night and where it is day. I think it's really cool. Well, it uses a very simple script available here. Now, the original web site has installation instructions, but it took me a couple of days to finally figure out how to do it.

Install Gnome2: It comes with all supported version of Ubuntu. I think it comes with the latest version of Debian, not too sure about previous versions.

Install xplanet: In Ubuntu and Debian, you need to install both xplanet, and the xplanet-images

apt-get install xplanet xplanet-images

Now, download the script. Put it somewhere easy, I put it in my /home directory. Now, make the script executable. This can be done by

chmod a+x

Now you have the script. The xplanet images are usually put in /usr/share/xplanet/images. In order to keep from having to run the script as root (never run a script you don't know as root), I made a copy of the xplanet images folder in my home folder (I'm not sure if this is necessary, but if someone manages to do this, please comment).

cp /usr/share/xplanet/images ~

Now, you have to change the script. Look for this line in the script (line 7 for me) and change it (in bold).


Make sure you use the path to the images folder, don't copy and paste this.

Ok, the script is now ready to go. Now, look at the OUTPUT variable (for me, this says xplanet.png), this is the file that your Desktop will be based on. First, run the script by typing


Now, you want to set your Desktop to get this file. Just right-click on your desktop and click "Change Desktop Background". Press "Add Wallpaper" and look for the file that was made (it should be at /home/yourfolder/images/xplanet.png). Voila, there's your Desktop. Now, if you want, just set it to run whenever you start. It is explained in detail on the original web site, but a quick way on Ubuntu is to go System>Preferences>Session->"Startup Programs" tab>add. Just enter "/home/yourfolder/". Now, next post, I'll give some ways to customize your script.


Larry said...

Great insightful tutorial, GNOME is alright,but KDE is better. KDE for the win!

cactaur said...

Hey, GNOME is versatile and awesome because of these tweaks. Although you could probably achieve the same results in KDE by tweaking the script a little bit, GNOME is still more awesome. And plus, Sun Microsystems officially supports GNOME for the win!

Larry said...

Yeah yeah ok... You and you're obsession with Sun Microsystems. I'll probably get you one of their shirts with a logo for your birthday ..soon

Ian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ian said...

um the script link is broken. I am using the latest Ubuntu version and I am keen to get this going with real time cloud maps, earthquake markers, etc like the GUI does in XP.

uhvo said...

There's always time machine :)

Ian said...

thanks but I seem to be entering the wrong URL as it is showing up invalid in the archive.. are you sure it's available, and have others got XPlanet working okay?

cactaur said...

Ian: Uhvo's posted link works for me, but you'll probably have to double-click the text to select it ALL. But just to make things simpler, I'll put the code on this web site since the old one is down. Keep a watch on the sidebar.

Ian said...


Ian said...

I feel a little silly now, I double clicked the link and it works now.

Ian said...

nice one! It's working now, so now need to work out how to automatically download earthquake / weather, etc data and any other options. For example it is spread across my desktop and TV as a second monitor but I guess that's an Ubuntu issue to work through (using Nvidia binary drivers).

Anonymous said...

the link to the script appears to be dead. Anyone know an alternate link?