Recently I’ve read an essay which left a strong impression on me, titled “Make Tiny Weird Software, Please! (all about desktop pets, old computer eras, and virtual toys)”. As the title suggests, the essay is a look back at “desktop pet” software. Desktop pets are programs that create small creatures in the computer desktop. These creatures are aware of the desktop windows, so sit on them, walk on top of them, sometimes even interact with the icons. The purpose of desktop pets, usually, was just to decorate one’s desktop.
Back in 2004, I discovered xpenguins, a desktop pet application for linux window managers. At the time, I spent a week or so creating a xpenguins skin that showed megaman and snakeman (from Mega Man 3) playing around in your desktop. It was quite fun.
Reading the post, I got very nostalgic about my xpenguins skin, and decided to check the internet. Around somewhere between 2010 and 2013, xpenguins stopped working on Gnome based window managers, because Gnome would draw everything on top of a “gnome window”, which would lay on top of the X root window. Back then I looked very briefly at trying to fix the problem, without success. However, it turns out that around 2019 someone published a fork of xpenguins (and several other similar linux desktop toys) that fixes that problem! It works like a charm, and I’m really thankful for that!