Xwinwrap + Xmonad = Less Deadness

If you use Xmonad, you’ll notice that there is just a dark, black screen for the background on any unused workspace. I must admit, it didn’t bother me much at first, but after a couple of months it got really boring. My computer felt very quiet, and very… dead. I then considered setting up a wallpaper or something to make my desktop look more engaging. Though it is certainly possible to spice it up with a simple background image/wallpaper, it is also possible to put up a movie or screensaver (or any other program). How, you say? With Xwinwrap.

I actually use shantz-xwinwrap-bzr from the AUR (Arch Linux User Repository) to set up a screensaver in the background. Specifically, I use the following call:

xwinwrap -ov -fs -ni -- /usr/lib/xscreensaver/cubicgrid -root -window-id WID -delay 10000 -speed 0.5 -ticks 35 &

This displays the “cubicgrid” screensaver, which is part of the xscreensaver package. The beauty of xwinwrap is that you can use not just a screensaver, but any other program with it. For example, you could, if you wanted, play a movie (or a playlist of movies) in the background, constantly. Though your monitor would then resemble a PC from BestBuy or Costco, playing movies in the background is certainly possible. The only cons are:

  • Uses 5-10% of your CPU, depending on what program you are running.
  • If you are using a standard Desktop Environment like KDE, Gnome, or XFCE, all of your desktop icons will not be displayed, as they will be underneath the xwinwrap window (although you could still see them via transparency — though I have not done this myself).
  • “Cool” effects become a bit boring after a while (the xmatrix screensaver, for example, looks cool for about 5 minutes, but then gets annoying — maybe this is just me though).

I guess a more traditional approach to this technique would be to set up a slideshow of your family’s digital photo album, if you have one. The possibilities are endless.