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xBack 3.3

Gideon Softworks
Rating: (four burnt toasts)

xBack is a utility that allows you replace your desktop picture with a screen saver. With xBack, you can bring your desktop to life. [sic]

Download: 722,777 bytes
Collateral Damage: $10, overheated CPU

>> $10.00

  Gideon Softworks
  David J Clark
  12 Newport Dr
  Hainesport NJ

As the Gideon site is quick to point out, xBack is mentioned in David Pogue's Missing Manual for Panther OS X 10.3.

What is not pointed out is exactly what David Pogue writes.

The Famous Animated Desktop Trick

It was one of the first great Mac OS X 10.2 hacks to be passed around the Internet: the classic 'screen saver on the desktop' trick. In this scheme, your desktop shows more than some wussy, motionless desktop picture. It actually displays one of the Screen Effects animation modules.

Start by choosing the screen saver module you prefer, using the Screen Effects panel of System Preferences. (The one called 'Flurry' makes a good choice.)

Then, in Terminal, type:

/ScreenSaverEngine.app/Contents/MacOS/ScreenSaverEngine -background &

... and then press Enter. (Note that there are no spaces or returns in the command, even though it appears broken into more than one line here.)

Presto: The active screen saver becomes your desktop picture! Fall back into your chair in astonishment.

Once you've regained your composure, look in the Terminal window again. The number that follows the [1] in the following line is the process ID of your background desktop program.

You'll need that number when it comes time to turn off the effect, which is a good idea; the desktop/screen saver business drains a massive amount of your Mac's processing power. The whole thing is a gimmicky showoff stunt you'll generally want to turn off before conducting any meaningful work.

To turn off this effect, type kill 496 (or whatever the process ID is) and then press Enter.

And if you get tired of typing out that long command, download xBack...

Of course, you could have made a shell script file with that command line too, and you could have called it 'xb', and all you would have had to do is type 'xb' in the future - and press Enter of course: always press Enter. And you would be ten US dollars and 700 KB richer.

And isn't it a source of constant amazement, that a command line the very David Pogue has in his Mac book should take a fast powerful computer seven hundred kilobloats to accomplish?

Yes, amazing, truly amazing: there's no other word for it. We humans are obviously a lot smarter and a lot faster than these bulky slow inefficient computers.

Bob 'Dr Mac' LeVitus wrote that xBack 'beats the pants of using the terminal' [sic]. It's therefore fairly easy to conclude 'Dr Mac' is anything but a doctor. It's also fairly easy to conclude several other things.

  • Parents shouldn't be in a hurry to remove drool bibs from their children.

  • If your child shows any propensity for playing with a Mac, make it permanent: weld the drool bib on. Your child's life is at stake.

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