Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NASA Image of the Day Desktop Slideshow for Windows 7

Using the information I compiled and posted previously, and in honor of today's scheduled shuttle launch, I made a Windows 7 Desktop slideshow theme file that uses NASA's Image of the Day (large) feed to decorate your desktop wallpaper with daily-updated pictures of Space and NASA operations.

Unfortunately, due to how NASA runs their image feed, you can't download previous days' images into your slideshow...so the first day you load the theme, there will only be one picture. The next day, it'll flip back and forth between the new day's image and the previous one, etc. After about a week, it'll have a good number of images to draw on for your slideshow.

To control how many images are kept for the Desktop Slideshow, open up Internet Explorer 8 after having loaded the theme. Open up the "Feeds" tab of the "Favorites" window, and right-click on the feed called "http://www.nasa.gov/rss/lg_image_of_the_day.rss" choosing "Properties" in the context menu that pops up. Under the "Archive" section of the properties sheet, you can set the number of attachments (pictures) you want to keep.

The nice thing is, you can install the theme, causing IE to subscribe to the feed, then go back to whatever theme you'd been using before. Even though the theme isn't active as your Desktop Slideshow, IE will continue to download each day's picture in the background (keeping a default of 200 max). So you could come back a week later and set the Nasa Image of the Day theme as your background again, and it'll have a far greater number of pictures available to shuffle between.

One final note: it took my computer 5 minutes or so to download the picture, during which time my desktop was a plain black background. Once it downloaded, it just faded in, nice 'n pretty.

Enjoy!

NasaIotD.theme

Edit: I found a way to "seed" the feed with previous images so that you can have more pictures than just the number of days you've had the theme, and it's not horrible a horrible process, either.

Once you're subscribed to the feed, right-click it and choose "Properties", as documented above. In the "Update Schedule" section, there's a checkbox that'll be checked to "Download Attachments", and next to it, a button labeled "Show files". Click the button, and you'll see all the pictures already downloaded from that feed (probably only one picture, if you've just subscribed to the feed). Copy that folder's path to your clipboard, then you can close that window, as well as the feed properties dialog. Now go to NASA's Image of the Day page. Grab the large versions of any past pictures you want to include, and right-click on the link offering to download the full-size version, choosing "Save target as...". When it prompts you for a path, paste in the feed-specific path you just copied, and save the picture there.

Now your slideshow has many more pictures available to rotate between! (If you want to make sure it worked, go back to your Personalize menu from the desktop, and re-select the Nasa Image of the Day theme. It should rotate to one of the new pictures you just added).

Note that you don't HAVE to use only NASA's Image of the Day pictures to seed the feed; you can put any pictures from any source you want to into that folder, and it'll get included in the rotation. It just kind of makes more sense to use something from the same feed :)

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