Randomly choose an “interesting” flickr photo for desktop wallpaper
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flickpapr — Randomly choose an “interesting” flickr photo for linux desktop wallpaper.

Flickpapr will periodically pull a new interesting wallpaper to your Linux desktop. There is no account setup. Works well even with multiple monitors.

About Flickr Interestingness

Flickr’s interestingness heuristics generate some lovely images. People visit every day and just click “Refresh” to see page after page of these. BUT… it’s much better to just have these delivered every few minutes right to your desktop as a wallpaper. Well, maybe you should just have pics of your cats going there, but these can be a little more inspirational. The cats shouldn’t get too jealous; they’ll love all the birds and bugs! This little script recipe just puts an image at random onto your desktop every so often. It also puts a desktop notification describing the photo and location.

Flickpapr Screenshot

Some key information is part of each pic. You’ll want to know its original URL, who took it, and sometimes you’ll be able to find geo-location info. This is displayed and stowed away in extended filesystem attributes, which can later be queried.

I presently run Flickpapr on i3 on Arch Linux and CentOS, but used to run it in Gnome (hopefully it still does), and want it to work with any DE.

I recommend going through the saved archives once a month or so to select some faves for future, more permanent desktops BGs. There are several file managers (photo browsers) to consider. There are also photo editors, such as shotwell if you don’t do gimp.


Arch package

Use something to get it from AUR; e.g., yaourt:

% pacgem nokogiri # temporary; see note below
% yaourt -S flickpapr
% aurvote -v flickpapr
% systemctl --user enable flickpapr
% systemctl --user start flickpapr

(2017-10-16: Note that the AUR Nokogiri package is presently broken. I've emailed the maintainer to get the trivial version-fix updated. For now, you can uninstall ruby-nokogiri, run pacgem nokogiri to install an updated/fixed version, then install flickpapr as per above.)

Or, from source

Dependencies (handled for you in Arch):

  • Ruby (v1.8.7+)
  • Nokogiri gem (just made it too easy to not depend on flickr API).
  • ImageMagick, to identify/discard/shrink large/malproportioned images.
  • libnotify-bin, for notify-send popup (but could use alternative)
  • ffi-xattr, ffi gems, for creating xattrs database (optional)
  • Dunst notification daemon (optional)
  • xsel to add image url to clipboard (optional)
  • feh to set the wallpaper

Git it:

% cd src
% git clone github.com/MicahElliott/flickpapr
% cd flickpapr


% yum install ruby rubygem-nokogiri ImageMagick feh libnotify xsel


% aptitude install imagemagick libnotify-bin ruby
% gem install nokogiri ffi-xattr feh


Once, just as a test:

% flickpapr

As daemon, non systemd:

% flickd

With systemd, permanently, as user service:

% alias scu='systemctl --user'  # add to your shell rc!
% scu start flickpapr
% scu enable flickpapr

Advanced usage

Later on, you can visit your local collection to query and browse them.

% cd $TMPDIR/flickr
% getfattr -n user.location *.jpg
# file: 6667763073_e3271a96e6_o.jpg
user.location="Velence, Fejér, HU"
# file: 6672593991_b0cf581e34_o.jpg
user.location="Kijkduin, The Hague, ZH, NL"
% nemo .
% mv {x,y,z}.jpg ~/Photos/wallpapers

BTW, You’ll probably want to have semi-transparent terminals to get the most out your wallpapers.

Present shortcomings

  • Just dumps a file into $TMPDIR with no cleanup.
  • Image gets stretched to desktop width, so top/bottom sometimes cut off.
  • Assumes JPG (99% safe).
  • Uses feh as background setter (used to use gconftool). Could use nitrogen or some other more general wallpaper tool.
  • Doesn’t use Flickr API, so DOM/CDNs susceptible to change (but hasn’t changed in several years).
  • No way to “like” a pic in real time; have to visit dir to select faves.
  • Not obvious which image file corresponds to the current wallpaper.

New feature ideas

  • Use Zsh’s attr module to make clean query interface
  • Use Zenity (or some other popup/shell-gui tool) for clickable URLs
  • Haven’t researched what “screensaver” apps (cf. “wallpapers”) are out there that could also use these images.
  • Use Instagram POTD
  • Unicode support
  • Cycle through to grab another image if dimensions unsuitable
  • Determine proportions (check for non-panoramicity) before downloading
  • Darken/mask image to give less attention
  • Better logging


Why not just use the flickr API? Just wanted to minimize dependencies, and the scraping via nokogiri is really simple.

Why not just use EXIF metadata for storing pic info? EXIF data is noisy, mostly not wanted, and difficult to query. Flickr doesn’t do much (anything?) with storing the real geolocation data there anyway.