How to Setup Xscreensaver as your Animated Desktop Wallpaper


I am a desktop customization freak. I am always looking for new ways to tweak out my Linux/Unix desktop. If anyone has some cool suggestions, drop me a line. As Xscreensaver evolves, more and more screensavers are included. My three current favorites for an animated desktop wallpaper are GLmatrix, Strange, and Endgame. I am doing this exercise on Fluxbox-0.9.6. I have done it on WindowMaker, Blackbox, and Enlightenment. In Gnome, you have to stop Nautilus from drawing the desktop, and with Gnome 2.2 I have yet to get it working, but I know it can. I haven't gotten it to work on KDE either, though as soon as I do, I'll update this document. Here is what I did...

A Few Easy Steps

1) Download the latest version of screensaver
    I grabbed the current (as of this writing) xscreensaver-4.13.tar.gz

2) Untar the file
    tar -zxvf xscreensaver-4.13.tar.gz

3) Compile it
    cd xscreensaver-4.13;

I had some trouble with this step because I didn't have a few of the required libraries installed. Just watch the paragraph(s) printed out after the ./configure. It may tell you exactly what is missing. For example, I was missing libxml.h (or something reeeally close), so I installed libxml*-devel-*.rpm, ran ldconfig; and ran ./configure again.

    make install;

4) Running the screensaver as your wallpaper

If you have multiple versions of Xscreensaver, make sure you know where each is installed. I ran /usr/local/bin/xscreensaver-demo; and browsed through the available screensavers. When you find one that you like, click "Settings", then "Advanced >>". Look at the "command line" box to see what is actually executed. In my case, I decided on Strange. I messed with the settings until I like how fast it moves and how it looks. Then, from a terminal execute what is printed in the "Advanced >>" command line box.
I typed: ~/xscreensaver-4.13/hacks/strange -root -delay 15000 -ncolors 255&
I minimize the terminal window and sit back to watch. When you close some terminals, the screensaver is killed with it, but you can just start up your screensaver from ~/.xinitrc (or ~/.xsession) when X starts.
Example ~/.xinitrc:

~/xscreensaver-4.13/hacks/strange -root -delay 15000 -ncolors 255&
wmcpumon &
wmnetmon &

Simple Enough, Eh?

Well.... hopefully. But if you have some trouble, the first thing I always recommend is a quick search on Google. Type in the error or problem you are having in a manner you would expect others who had the same problem to have posted the question. If you don't find an answer on the first 2 pages of Google, check for FAQs or Documentation on the project homepage. And last, your and my favorite, read any "README" files you find within the root directory where you installed the software. If you are still having trouble, let me know by email and I'll see if I can offer some assistance.

Well, that's it for this HowTo, hope you learned something cool :)