Ubuntu default wallpaper


on 1 September 2010

So, the default wallpaper…

My initial vision:

Seeing so many screenshots of the Ubuntu desktop during the second to last release all sporting identical backdrops, made me wonder: wouldn’t it be amazing if all our users received (or evolved) subtly different wallpapers – not radically enough to dilute the intent but just enough to become an elegant addition to the OS and give a sense of personalisation.

Ideally they might not even notice at first but would become aware and pleasantly surprised by catching the differences out of the corner of their eye, double-taking the position of a particularly prominent graphic in relation to another, a subtle hue shift over the course of hours/days/weeks or wondering why their desktop image wasn’t the same as either their friend’s or someone who’s screenshot they’d just seen in a recent blog post.

If nothing else it would be a relatively inexpensive experiment that could offer the start of something new and would be a great celebration of the individuality and diversity of our user base.

The reality:

With the advent of the new visual identity and my involvement therein, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to look into this idea in more detail. The Lucid wallpaper was specifically designed with this purpose in mind. It deliberately used little more than simple radial blurs layered to give an impression of light and depth – where the position of elements would not act negatively against the composition and that we imagined would be easy to animate and move programatically without causing rendering/artefacting issues across a wide range of screen sizes – it was always going to be a fine balancing act but worth it in our opinion.

There are a number of ways we could have done this. We decided to look at having a matching screensaver that would re-write the default wallpaper whenever the user woke their machine from sleep, this seemed like the easiest way to avoid unnecessary processor cycles or unexplained delays (possibly at startup/shutdown). This would also allow us to do a very clean crossover effect between desktop and screensaver where open windows, etc. would elegantly fade away and visa versa.

Sadly we have been unable to allocate the time to get this built internally. I discussed it in a session at the last UDS and there is an open blueprint relating to it. I am still one hundred percent behind pursuing this idea and am actively seeking people to help me make it a reality.

If you’d like to help please get in touch.

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