January 29, 2004 3:09 AM   Subscribe

xplanet is a powerful and free app that lets you display an earth view on your desktop, with highly configurable degrees of realism. available for multple os's, you can even configure it to periodically download recent (within 3 hours) cloud cover maps, as well as your local weather forecast, satellite paths, recent earthquake or volcanic activity. be sure to check out the gallery.
posted by crunchland (27 comments total)
admittedly, it's not the easiest program to use. In fact, aspects of the windows port are downright clunky.

for what it's worth, I've configured my system so that it updates the night/day shadow every couple of minutes, runs a cgi-script that will download the most recent cloud map every 3 hours, and I've got the camera hovering directly over where I live. The configuration command for this is start /min xplanet.exe -lon -77.0612 -lat 38.9032 -quality 100 -wait 150 -config overlay_clouds. Here's a screenshot if you're interested.
posted by crunchland at 3:17 AM on January 29, 2004

[This is GOOD]

I hope I can find some minutes/hours today to get this running on my linux machine.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 4:03 AM on January 29, 2004

I can get the basics too run and this is v.nice but I can't get into the default file as windows won't recognise what program created it. Any suggestions on what I can do? (Besides not use windows - that is out of my hands, and yes indeed I am hopelessly non-techie).
posted by biffa at 4:13 AM on January 29, 2004

Been using it for a while (gratituous self link). It really is great and quite versatile.
posted by PenDevil at 4:14 AM on January 29, 2004

PenDevil- what is that OS/Shell? LiteStep?
posted by kahboom at 4:31 AM on January 29, 2004

It's Gnome 2.4 running on Gentoo Linux. Mist theme for Metacity window manager and BlueCurve theme for GTK and desktop icons.
posted by PenDevil at 4:41 AM on January 29, 2004

Since I work on Mars Express, a picture of Mars as my backdrop is quite appropiate. Thanks for the link!
posted by salmacis at 5:01 AM on January 29, 2004

PenDevil: How the devil did you get those (I assume) gkrellm system status monitors with transparancy?
posted by metaxa at 5:32 AM on January 29, 2004

Crunchland, what's that messenger window in the upper right corner? Also, what's up with Crazy Browser? Do you like that better then Firebird?
posted by PigAlien at 5:49 AM on January 29, 2004

metaxa: The theme I'm using for GKrellM is called Invisible.
posted by PenDevil at 6:02 AM on January 29, 2004

Crunchland's messenger seems to be Trillian with the Aikon skin.

XPlanet seems pretty cool. There is a reference on the page to a tray applet that will help configure your settings and do automatic updates (cloud cover, etc.). I'm not sure how well it all works, but I'm going to go try it right now.
posted by ringmaster at 6:11 AM on January 29, 2004

PenDevil: thanks very much chap. :)
posted by metaxa at 6:15 AM on January 29, 2004

Another home run. Thanks, Crunchland.
posted by keithl at 8:49 AM on January 29, 2004

Well, I started out with the xplanet window running minimized, and having it wait 150 seconds and refreshing, even if the tab at the bottom looks unsightly. And I tried using Windows XP scheduler to download the updated cloud graphic every 3 hours, but for some reason, it's not running the way I expected it to.

I found a Windows port for CRON, but that just doesn't seem to work very well... well, it works fine, but the window popping up every 3 minutes to update the screen would steal the window focus away from whatever I was working on, and not give it back.

I then tried something called XplanetXP, but it's completely buggy and kept crashing on me.

So I'm back to square one, I guess. If anyone knows of a good scheduler which will wrap command line processes in the background, I'd be happy to hear about it.

And, yeah, salmacis, I didn't explicitly mention it, but there's no reason why you have to focus on the Earth. The program lets you view a whole bunch of celestial objects. If anyone comes up with some really cool views, how about posting the config line here and letting us try it?

Yes, PigAlien. Ringmaster is right. The im client is Trillian Pro with the Aikon skin. And I do like Crazy Browser. It is a mod to MSIE that allows for tabbed browsing, link groups, and popup blocking, without the crashes and failures to render websites the way some of the newer browsers sometimes seem to suffer from.
posted by crunchland at 9:28 AM on January 29, 2004

Can someone explain to me, a person with almost no programming experience, how to make this run on Mac OSX 10.2.8?

Thanks in advance.
posted by BlueTrain at 9:32 AM on January 29, 2004

I love the idea of this, just wish it wasn't for programmers only :(
posted by evening at 9:59 AM on January 29, 2004

Curse you, crunchland! I have officially lost an entire half-day's productivity!!!

A trick for you guys -- set up the 'config' file and magnify the earth and moon about 250 times ('magnify=250') and on the command line, give yourself a field of view of around 50-75 ('-fov 67'). You'll get lots of stars in the background (and occasionally the sun) and the moon will loom large.

I set up wincron to download the cloud map every 3 hours (there's a perl script on one of the websites) and I just keep the ugly app running on the taskbar. I would also be open to suggestion on any means to run it as a background service.
posted by PigAlien at 10:49 AM on January 29, 2004

Very cool! And for those who are asking about a windows version of cron, doing some google searches yields a few results: 1 2 3

All three of those are capable of running as a windows service. I haven't tested them or anything, but my guess is that it won't suppress the perl script window from popping up every time you run it.
posted by escher at 11:46 AM on January 29, 2004

It's not quite as pretty, but it's easier to use ... xEarth.
posted by crunchland at 12:21 PM on January 29, 2004

BlueTrain, I'm running 10.3 here and haven't had a problem with the OS X version. On that page, there's a link to this one, where you can download a version of xplanet with a GUI wrapped around it. I'm unsure if you mean you're having problems getting it to run under 10.2.8, or if you just want to know how to get started.
posted by emelenjr at 1:40 PM on January 29, 2004

Has anybody tried xplanetcontrol? It's supposed to be a windows interface, but I can't download it.
posted by muckster at 6:40 PM on January 29, 2004

Tried xplanetcontrol, maybe the link is broken? I email Mario Franzbonenkamp to let him know. Meanwhile, I'm back to tinkering with the sucker and trying to get it to display...
posted by alumshubby at 7:01 PM on January 29, 2004

emelenjr, I just wasn't sure how to setup; thanks, I just installed the software and it's absolutely spectacular.

Nice post crunchland.
posted by BlueTrain at 8:35 PM on January 29, 2004

Hey, so someone over on the AskMe Screenshot thread mentioned a little windows utility to hide apps automatically called WATCHCAT. So I'm using that in conjunction with the scheduler to update the clouds overlay.

The syntax for the rule to hide the xplanet.bat command is w/xplanet.exe/i, and I have it hide the window automatically, the 'Yes, hide' button clicked, a timeout of 0 and the hide active window checked. Make sure the Timer Operations button is clicked when you right click on the cat in your systray.

posted by crunchland at 10:11 PM on January 29, 2004

er ... update the clouds overlay, and hide the tabbed dos batch file that updates the wallpaper, I meant to say.
posted by crunchland at 10:22 PM on January 29, 2004

This looks so cool, and is so frustrating. Can somebody please help me? I'm trying to install this on to a computer running Windows 98. I've tried 3 or 4 times, and all I can get is a black screen that reloads every so often. I'm not even sure where to type in stuff. I even tried xplanetcontrol, and that didn't help either.
posted by stoneegg21 at 12:55 PM on February 2, 2004

What I did was create a batch file (xplanet.bat) in the xplanet subdirectory, with the contents :

start /min xplanet.exe -lon -77.0612 -lat 38.9032 -quality 100 -wait 150 -config overlay_clouds

Read the readme.txt for information on how to edit the file more to your liking.
posted by crunchland at 2:58 PM on February 2, 2004

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