I wrote a little program in Ruby (and I do mean little, Ruby continues to impress me with ease of getting things done) to get a semi-random picture from Flickr (checks for anything new from Stuck in Customs first, then gets a random picture tagged with “landscape” if there aren’t any), then set it as my desktop. I set it to run every half hour as a cron job. Then I set up GeekTool to get the current picture displayed (the ruby program writes it to a log file, I have GeekTool get the last line of that file) and display the title and user at the lower right of my desktop.
I figured there would already be several other programs way cooler than mine, but if there weren’t I figured I’d package it up with a few more options and release it. Turns out, you can already do most of that without downloading any software at all. You can subscribe to photo RSS feeds in iPhoto (news to me!) and you can then use photos from those feeds as desktop backgrounds directly from the Desktop preferences panel. OS X and its packaged applications are just really impressive sometimes.
On the other hand, the randomly select a picture every X minutes feature doesn’t work with photo RSS feeds, so it doesn’t actually do everything my little program does. I bet Leopard will. But I’ve got at least a narrow window where I can release an app that does it and maybe someone will actually want it Plus I can be a little more flexible – I don’t think you can do the trick I’m doing where a particular user’s pictures always go up when there’s a new one, but that depends more on how sophisticated you can get with Flickr’s RSS feeds. I haven’t really looked at that.
It’s all mainly for my own education anyway, and I think I’m going to use it as an excuse to learn about RubyCocoa and then maybe release something when I have a “real” standalone Mac app that normal Mac users can use. (IE Requiring crontab editing is RIGHT OUT.) But if anyone reads this and wants the ruby script sooner than that, send me a note. It was fun to write and fun to get all these great pictures on my desktop all the time!