Entertainment Software

[#games]: Games
Board games (and variants)
[#scrnsavr]: Screensavers

While screen blankers were designed to prolong screen life, and placing monitors to sleep mode (using DPMS) may be another way to effectively get the result of a blank screen, most options for screensavers are designed to be eye-catching. The most clear reason for screensavers to be so flashy is for no real purpose other than the one clear obvious one: to entertain. (Other possible reasons may be to simply visibly show that the monitor is turned on, and possibly helping to verify that a video signal is working well. A reason, other than entertainment, for wanting to capture people's attention may be to communicate a message. Such a message may for the purposes of commercial marketing, or to focus some other motivation, like re-enforcing safety concerns.)

Power saving features may, or may not, be integrated with the screensaver software and/or the interface that is used to configure a screensaver. (If so, such features may use a technology described by the section about electrical power: power APIs. Specifically, DPMS.)

[#xsetblnk]: xset
The xset command may come with X, and can provide some screen blanking functionality with xset s. However, instead of just blanking the screen with xset s, it may be preferable to save electrical power by instead using one of the command line parameters that include the word dpms. For details, see the Unix-related information in the section power reduction (and more specifically, the subsection about screensaving).
xidle and xlock
The xidle command can run a program when there is inactivity. The xlock command is designed to help lock a graphical terminal, and has support for some graphical effects.
Screensaving in Microsoft Windows
Microsoft's screensavers

Screensavers are basically executable files that typically fit a *.SCR filespec. Screensavers should take some specific command line parameters in order to comply with MS KB Q182383: Info about Screen Saver Command Line Arguments.

To determine which screensaver is run, and when:

Graphically editing screensaver settings
Access page #1 of the Desktop control pannel applet. (There is also a page number zero.) To do this:
  • One method is to run: rundll.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL desk.cpl,,1
  • In Win Vista: Start, Control Panel, (if in classic view) Personalization. Or, right-click on the desktop background, and choose “Personalize”. Either way, then choose Screen Saver.
Installing a new screensaver

Note that for some third party screensavers, the installation method may involve using an installation program that is distributed with the screensaver.

To install a new screensaver, make sure the relevant *.SCR file is located in %windir%\system\ command. Then use:

rundll32.exe desk.cpl,InstallScreenSaver %windir%\system\filename.scr

(Web page called “Windows Control Panel Commandline provides this syntax and suggests that the control panel applet module APPWIZ.CPL is related.)

Other options

In the days of 16-bit Microsoft Windows 3.x, options may have included After Dark and some shareware offerings. At least some such offerings may have had features such as a “hotspot”: by moving the mouse to a specific area (like the upper-right corner of the screen), a person could instantly initiate the screensaver.

Portable screensaver packages
[#xscrnsvr]: XScreensaver

The XScreenSaver package for Unix contains dozens of screensavers. Taste will likely vary: Sproingies, Flipflip, Polyominoes, Squral, and Pinion tend to be implementations of patterns. Others, like Queens (which may show one or more solutions to variations of Chess's Queen's Game), may have more of a special interest.

Many may be configurable. For instance, the “Sproingies” screensaver shows 5 participants, which look like bendable tubes that climbing down a series of cube-steps (reminiscent of Q*bert) in a fashion similar to a Slinky/“Lazy Spring”. The screensaver can increase the number of participants to a much larger number, like 48. At that amount, most participants manage to climb down a large number of steps before ending their run, although there's also enough sprongies that there will be a large number of collisions. (Having substantially more Sproingies than that may result in most Sproingies being destroyed early on.)

This software has been known to generate a buggy map, where PacMan gets trapped in a fairly small square along with all four ghosts. Fortunately for PacMan, the ghosts all move at the same speed, and because (or perhaps if?) they all go in the same direction, the result ends up being that PacMan can survive indefinitely, although since PacMan never stops and PacMan moves faster than the ghosts, PacMan keeps needing to run around. This has been personally witnessed, by the author of this text, on a computer that was likely ignored, so that doesn't seem to be a forced/faked situation. This has also been known to be caught on video, but unfortunately the video which was at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HG29EMhCXbE seems to no longer be distributed at that location.

RedHat Bugzilla entry about PacMan mentions concern about Namco's copyright over the character.

(On a side note, the xlock command may support using any one of -mode sproingies or -mode pacman or -mode tetris.)

There is also a MacOS X version available from the XScreensaver official download page.

NMap Movies: section about “The Matrix Reloaded” mentions an Easter Egg (running “ xmatrix -small -crack ”).

Screensavers from XScreensaver, in Microsoft Windows

For Microsoft Windows, there is no official distribution. As for an official release for Microsoft Windows, don't get any hopes up. The XScreensaver official download page states, “There is no Windows version of xscreensaver, and there never will be. Please stop asking. Microsoft killed my company, and I hold a personal grudge. I don't use any Microsoft products and neither should you.” Netscape was the famous company that Jamie W Zawinski worked for. (Jamie W Zawinski, who worked on Netscape and was the person behind XScreensaver, had the jwz.org domain name.)


An unofficial release has been located in the form of Darren Stone's WinXScreenSaver + MetaSavers at http://www.engr.uvic.ca/~dastone/winxscreensaver/ (although that site has since gone offline). Mirror of Darren Stone's WinXScreensaver ( + MetaSavers) 1.1, WinXScreenSaver screensaver. The MetaSavers package supports rotating from one screensaver to another.

This package may not contain all of the same screensavers as XScreensaver. (As at least one example, the one called “pacman” may not exist.)

The WinXScreensaver and/or MetaSavers package does not seem to fully support multiple monitors well. The results can even be a bit inconsistent: sometimes both monitors are saved, but often one monitor continues to display its image. (Since Microsoft Windows may hold off from “locking” the computer console until the screensaver exits, this means that even a system that “locks” the system may not blank the image while a screensaver runs.) It has been witnessed that on a multi-monitor setup, one monitor's image was unsaved while another monitor actually showed the Windows task bar (and the screensaver ran above the task bar). That was only once out of many times, but the basic summary is: don't expect anything quite close to perfection. (Do expect a wide variety of widely-enjoyed screensavers.)

See: info at TOOGAM's Software Archive: Multimedia page.

Also, a newer port of XScreenSaver to Microsoft Windows has been made available.

Really Slick Screensavers

These open source screensavers are available for Microsoft Windows, Solaris, and most are also available for Linux and Mac OS X. Really Slick Screensavers's main web page at ReallySlick.com does reference the RSSavers: “Really Slick Screensavers” section on SourceForge.net. For X (especially at least for Fedora/RPM), a GPLv3 variation is at rsxs (Really Slick XScreenSavers).

We also have Really Slick Screensavers Port to GLX (rss-glx), available for not only Linux (Debian/RPM), but also both binary executables and source code for a version for Microsoft Windows.

Other screensavers

Surely there's tons of other screensavers. Many of them are platform specific.

Fireflies (Eye Candy) screensaver has the distinction of being hyperlinked to from the “Links” section of Really Slick Screensavers Port to GLX (rss-glx).
Screensavers for Unix

In addition to those above, most especially XScreensaver (of which others may be based), there may be: xscreensaver-data, gnome-screensaver, KDE Screen Saver. Similar in nature, ChBg (“About” page) changes the background, and can act as a screensaver or a “hack” for use with xscreensaver.

Screensavers for Microsoft Windows
[#wnssvsld]: Slideshow screensavers for Microsoft Windows
Some versions of Microsoft Windows may come with a screensaver called “Photos”. Another option may be a third-party solution that is downloadable, FreewareSite's “Slideshow” for Win95/NT-XP.
  • (Maybe for nVidia cards only?): Screensavers from nVidia.com (by nVidia and by 3PlaneSoft), nVidia SLI screensavers
  • There are some other screensavers available. The most famous commercial offering may be an old collection called “After Dark” for Macintosh (Mac OS) and later for Windows, most famous for the “Flying Toasters” screensaver which showed toasters with feathered wings, as well as pieces of toast. Some of the free screensaver offerings should not be downloaded due to having side effects, including malware.