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How To Show The xkcd “Now” Live World Clock On Your Desktop

3 comments

If you haven’t come across it before, xkcd is, to quote the site itself “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language” and it’s highly entertaining (my personal favourite is this one about security). Anyway, a recent comic, titled “Now” shows what is effectively a world clock that live-updates so you can see, anywhere in the world, if it’s a good time to phone a friend or colleague. At the time of writing it looks like this:

xkcd-now-23h30m

Now what if you wanted that clock on your desktop, live updating so that all you need to do is look at your desktop and know if phoning your friend in Bora Bora will wake them up from their peaceful slumber? If you’re a Windows or Mac user then it’s easy with the use of my beloved John’s Background Switcher, and it’s simple to set up.

Just head over to the download page and install it. Then when the settings dialog comes up just choose “Add” then “RSS photo feed” (stick with me, it’ll make sense). Then copy and paste the following URL:

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/now.png#1

Do the same again, but this time copy the following URL instead (note the 2 instead of 1):

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/now.png#2

If you have more than 1 monitor, add some more feeds, just change the number at the end of the URL accordingly. In case you’re wondering why, it’s that JBS doesn’t want to show you the same picture twice in a row, but this tricks it into treating them differently each time. Note to self: fix that in a future version.

Next set up JBS so that it centres the picture and switches every 15 minutes like so (the Mac version is slightly different, but you get the idea):

jbs-for-xkcd

If you’re already a JBS user and on Windows, go to “More” then “Picture Sources” and make sure you uncheck “Save all full-sized downloaded pictures” (so that it won’t cache the pictures). JBS will automatically pick a complementary background colour (usually white here) but if you want to hard-wire it to a particular colour go to the “Picture Handling” section and choose “Use a custom colour for picture borders” then pick white.

Since you patiently looked at the screenshot above you’ve already set JBS to change every 15 minutes and centre the picture, so that’s it, the world clock will always be up to date! How cool is that?!

Thanks to JBS user Mårten for suggesting the idea in the first place!

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Scotsman, footballer, software developer, bounty hunter, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

3 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Thanks for posting this John. I have it working but was wondering if there is a way to make the image size smaller. I exported the settings as I saw suggested for other tweaks, but didn’t see anything obvious to change.

    Reply

    • Unfortunately there’s no way to shrink a picture other than to scale it down if it’s too big to fit your screen (which it will do by default). I’ll have a look for a future version of JBS thought.

      Reply

  2. All I have to say is – you are awesome. And your app is awesomer. Thanks from a fellow programmer/geek who stares at multiple screen the whole day.

    Reply

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