tuesday, 15 march 2016

or customizing one’s computer desktop is more than just changing a desktop wallpaper or GUI theme for *nix users, though, it often begins with such.

Ricing commonly includes matching the terminal colours and desktop information panels to the desktop background image or colour, choosing default fonts, mouse pointer styles, etc. Many desktop environments or DE’s provide utilities for tweaking these parameters.

However, if you like to change your desktop background with regularity, the effort can be prohibitively time consuming. That is where some scripting rules can assist one’s enjoyment of the computer screen we stare at all day.


i use tiling window managers exclusively, of which bspwm and herbstluftwm have been written about extensively on this site. Window border colour is easily configured on the fly with these window managers through shell commands.

The other notable desktop components of my configuration are the conky system information panel and status bar which are themed in a consistent fashion through scripts.

Various applications have been written to configure the .Xresources file terminal colours based on the colour palette of the desktop background image. These work (IMO) with varying degrees of success. As a coder, I find the narrow terminal colour range that can often be generated personally inadequate for source code editing. For this, I prefer my own persistent set of terminal colours. YMMV.

Background wallpapers offer interesting textures but I find that blurring yields the best results for distraction free work. Wandering eyes can be attracted to beautiful images. Herbstluftwm classically installs with a default eye burning lime green solid background. That is quickly changed or discarded in favour of wallpapers. In that spirit, however, I discovered that random solid background colours generated with..

randcolor() { echo “$(od -An -N3 -x /dev/random | sed -e ‘s/ 00//’ -e ‘s/ //’)” }

are quite palatable with my ricing algorithms. And introduce a pleasant boot up session surprise.


colour shades are applied via scripts to the conky panel and status bar. This allows allow automatic generation of textual and graphical elements for solid background colours and manual generation for background images. For the latter, the script is run with a suitable colour which can be selected off the image with a colour picker.

Scraping colours from a hexadecimal colour site eases selecting a set of usable colours..

palette() { curl –silent -L “https://www.colorcodehex.com/$1/” } hexgen() { default_color=$1 hex=$(palette $default_color) color0=$(echo -n “$hex” | grep ‘Monochromatic’ | cut -d/ -f10) color9=$(echo -n “$hex” | grep ‘Complementary’ | head -1 | cut -d/ -f6) colorA=$(echo -n “$hex” | grep ‘Monochromatic’ | cut -d/ -f6) hex=$(palette $color0) color6=$(echo -n “$hex” | grep ‘Monochromatic’ | cut -d/ -f2) color7=$(echo -n “$hex” | grep ‘Monochromatic’ | cut -d/ -f10) color8=$color0 hex=$(palette $color9) colorI=$(echo -n “$hex” | grep ‘Monochromatic’ | cut -d/ -f6) }

which can then be applied to the configuration files and scripts for the conky panel and status bar. In this example, colour variables corresponding to their conky variable counterparts are assigned the scraped colour codes which are subsequently updated in the .conkyrc file.

Using a script to generate the colour palette provides a consistent mechanism or generating or regenerating colour profiles—or applying a new set of colour rules. And applying the complementary colour to window borders provides a simple means to distinguish the active window.


with dynamically changing background colours and images, text needs to be adjusted to have adequate contrast. Determining whether a colour is dark or light allows choosing contrasting white or black text..

brightness() { rgb=$(echo “$1” | tr ‘[a-z]’ ‘[A-Z]’) R=$(echo “3 k $(echo $rgb | sed -r ‘s/(..)…./\1/’) FF / 255 0.299 * * p” | dc) G=$(echo “3 k $(echo $rgb | sed -r ‘s/..(..)../\1/’) FF / 255 0.587 * * p” | dc) B=$(echo “3 k $(echo $rgb | sed -r ‘s/….(..)/\1/’) FF / 255 0.114 * * p” | dc) [ $(echo “$R $G $B + + 0 k p” | dc | sed ‘s/..*//’) -lt 128 ] }

This function returns TRUE if the passed hex colour code percieved luminance is dark (i.e. in the range 0 to 127 out of 255).

Visual preferences are highly subjective. The outlined procedure here works out pretty well for my setup. As per usual, the dotfiles can be found here where examples of the conky panel and status bar update scripts, as well as, desktop background management, may be found.

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