Monday, January 30, 2006

Current Earth image wallpaper

When I'm using Windows, I use WeatherPulse to display the current satelite picture on my desktop (the "GOES E on Color" option). I'm very happy with it and wanted something similar on my SuSE Linux KDE desktop. To do that, I used XPlanet. Below are the setup steps I followed:

  1. Install xplanet RPM if not already installed.

  2. I made a .xplanet directory in my home directory in which I copied the config file from /usr/share/xplanet/config

  3. In the [earth] section of the config file, I added the lines:


  4. To get the dynamic cloud map, I downloaded the Perl script from to my .xplanet directory. Note: you may wish to change this line in the script to suite your preferences:

    my $MaxDownloadFrequencyHours = 1;

  5. I then added this line to my crontab

    0 * * * * cd /home/username/.xplanet; perl > /dev/null

    to update the cloud information once an hour

  6. To get the topography and enahanced coloring maps in my config, they can be purchased from J.H.T.'s Planetary Pixel Emporium (though a Google search for earthmap4k may reveal other sources).

  7. If you want to track a satelite, such as the Hubble telescope or International Space Station (ISS), download the lastest tracking data with either:

    wget -O science.tle

    for scientific satelites (Hubble) or:

    wget -O stations.tle

    for space stations (ISS). In the resulting science.tle file, you will see a section with the header "HST" (Hubble space telescope), place those lines in a file named hubble.tle which will then look like:

    1 20580U 90037B 06008.34262361 .00000587 00000-0 33114-4 0 5098
    2 20580 28.4688 11.8178 0003636 285.4875 74.5312 14.99943058661070

    If you also want to track the IST, also add the "ISS (ZARYA)" lines from the stations.tle file. These lines will look something like:

    1 25544U 98067A 06009.46434028 .00013978 00000-0 10043-3 0 1177
    2 25544 51.6445 283.5661 0010748 133.7206 217.3373 15.73896465408147

    Then, create a file named hubble in your .xplanet directory that contains:

    20580 "" image=hubble.png transparent={0,0,0} trail={orbit,-10,0,5} color=green

    for tracking the Hubble and/or:

    25544 "" image=iss.png transparent={0,0,0} trail={orbit,-10,0,5} color=green

    for tracking the space station. Finally, add this line to the [earth] clause of the config:


  8. Finally, set it up in KDE. right click on the background.

  9. Select Configure Desktop.

  10. Click on Background in the left hand panel.

  11. In the Background group box, I have No picture selected.

  12. Click on Advanced Options.

  13. I have Use the following program for drawing the background checked.

  14. Select XPlanet in the list.

  15. Click on Modify.

  16. My Command entry is:

    xplanet --config /home/username/.xplanet/config
    --geometry %xx%y --num_times 1 --output %f.jpg
    --latitude 27.96 --longitude -82.48 --radius 60 &&
    mv %f.jpg %f

    (the latitude and longitude is for where I live -- adjust to suit)

  17. My Preview cmd entry is the same as above.

  18. I have my Refresh time set to 5 minutes if I'm tracking satellites, and 30 minutes if not.

  19. Enjoy a dynamic updating picture of the earth such as:

Update - December 19, 2007

First off, I want to point out that XPlanet is an option for Windows as well. See XPlanet on Microsoft Windows. You can use the same Perl script to download the latest cloud cover image using ActivePerl. When you run XPlanet use the -fork option to have it periodically update the background.

Secondly, the instructions above were for KDE, but if you use Gnome, here are the instructions to get XPlanet to work with Gnome2.

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