Wallpaper Juggler: Downloads are not available from InterfaceLIFT

After Wallpaper juggler was described as cool at lifehacker, there has been a lot of download activity on the project page at codeplex. It seems after getting the app, everyone started downloading high res wallpapers from InterfaceLIFT which created tremendous load on their site. This apparently made folks at InterfaceLIFT mad and they block access to the site after downloading 10 or so wallpapers from the tool. You get following response once you are blocked.

Your access to InterfaceLIFT has temporarily been suspended due to misuse of our servers. Please review our Terms of Service for more information. Access will be restored in a couple days. To ensure that you access is not suspended again in the future, please disable any download accelerator plugins or software you may be running.

If you believe you have not violated the Terms of Service, please contact jeff [at} interfacelift {dot] com
Error code: xx.xxx.xx.xx

Ironically, even the “Terms of Service” page doesn’t come up once you are blocked. 🙂

Personally, I agree with this. There are costs associated to hosting a site like InterfaceLIFT and ads are one good way to support that which doesn’t happen when Juggler pulls those pretty images from the site. But hey, we still have another source right in juggler and we will find more. Only until other sources don’t treat us the same way.

Enjoy!

Anand

New version of Juggler: Wallpaper Changer for Windows (Updated)

UPDATE: Wallpaper downloads are not available from InterfaceLIFT anymore. Read details here.

Even though the first basic version of Juggler pretty much did what it was supposed to do, there were few ‘nice to have’ things which were missing. So I updated it as soon as I got some free time. 🙂

Feature set:

Here is the list of features (existing + new) which are now included.

  • Its coded and tested to work on Vista and XP SP2 with .Net 3.5. It should work (not tested though) on Server 2008/2003 as they borrow UI code base from Vista/XP. No words for any other OS.
  • It runs in background and can be controlled from System Tray.

  • It can be configured to:
      • start with Windows.
      • look for wallpapers in multiple folders including/excluding sub-folders. Best results when used with matching resolution wallpapers.
      • change wallpaper once every preferred duration between 1 min and 500 hrs. It will understand “000 Hrs/Mins 000 Min” format. It can interpret M/Min/Mins/Minutes and H/Hr/Hrs/Hour as Minutes and Hours respectively.
      • confirm before changing wallpaper
      • adjust image positioning for odd size wallpapers.

  • You can also change wallpaper manually by clicking ‘Juggle Now’ menu or by double clicking the icon.
  • It allows only one instance at a time.
  • It also displays the last updated wallpaper and the time stamp when the next change will occur.
  • It displays a confirmation dialog before automatically changing wallpaper. Its configurable to show a confirmation dialog and for how long the message should be displayed.

  • “Active” option to enable/disable wallpaper juggling while program is running.
  • Last changed wallpaper is a clickable menu which opens the wallpaper in windows explorer.
  • You can download stunning wallpapers from interfaceLIFT.com and WallpaperStock.com using “Download Wallpapers” screen right within juggler.

Downloads:

This version uses .Net 3.5. Also, the downloads are posted at codeplex.com.

  1. Download and install .Net framework v3.5 if its not installed already.
  2. Navigate to Juggler release page at codeplex to download application and/or source code. The downloads are in Files section.

Uninstall

To uninstall, just remove the files from your PC. There are no special steps required to uninstall this.

Implementation:

Most of the stuff is pretty straightforward. It uses Timer class to invoke code to change wallpaper. The invoked code then uses Win APIs to do the job. But there are few things which may interest you.

  1. There are all kinds of anonymous method illustrations. You can also find basic as well as complex lambda expressions which, I think, are nothing but fancy anonymous methods invented for LINQ.
  2. It also demonstrates how to use System.Threading.Mutex to find and avoid if user is trying to run multiple instance of same application. This is the simplest and most accurate approach to create single instance application in C# (VB has some out of the box functionality). There is a catch in this approach which may disqualify this in certain cases.
  3. While implementing single instance functionality, I needed to warn user that the application is already running. Simplest way is to just display a message box. But I thought if the already running (first) instance can get a notification from second instance then it can show a balloon tip which will tell user where exactly the application is running. This may sound simple but it’s not.
    1. As both instance are separate processes, we are talking about inter process communication (IPC) here.
    2. There is no other way than remoting in .Net 1.0-2.0 for IPC. And opening a tcp(forget about http) port seems overkill to me in this situation.
    3. So I chose a self hosted simple wcf service with named pipe binding. May be I’ll post about using named pipes in WCF for IPC later some time.

As always, please use it at your own risk. Feel free to rant in comments. 🙂

Enjoy!

Using hosts file to block Online Ads

Online ads are annoying but they make a lot of content free on web. At times I feel like I am browsing just the ads though.

There are plug-ins for Firefox and IE to block ads but I use Opera. Opera has inbuilt content blocking but that is too much to do as there are a zillion ad servers out there. At times I have to use FF or IE too and this leaves me managing three different applications to block ads. On top of that, putting a plug-in in the pipeline is again adding one more step before you can see the content. And then you have to keep updating them for new releases. Not a good idea, I’d say.

Another way is to use hosts file. Description of hosts file from wikipedia:

The hosts file is a computer file used to store information on where to find a node on a computer network. This file maps hostnames to IP addresses. The hosts file is used as a supplement to (or instead of) the domain name system on networks of varying sizes. This file is (unlike DNS) under the control of the user who is using the computer.

There is a lot of information available on internet which you can use to make it work. In a nutshell, here is what you need to do:

  1. Download a hosts file which has updated lists of ad servers. I’m using one from here and added few missing servers. Can you believe this list has around 6000 entries already? And if you follow the link, please don’t try those shock sites. 😦 More hosts files can be found here.
  2. Create a backup of your existing hosts file. (just give it an extn say .old.) On Vista, hosts file can be found in [System Drive]:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc. See this to locate on other systems.
  3. Copy the downloaded hosts file in the etc folder. If you are using the site which I did then create another hosts file in etc folder and paste the contents from browser. See this if you are trying to edit the hosts file on Vista when UAC is enabled.
  4. And that’s pretty much it. Try some ad plagued site like engadget and you should see blank space instead of ads.
  5. Also, don’t forget to update the hosts file as frequently as you can as more and more servers will be popping out every now and then.

Here are few links to learn more:

Enjoy!

PS: The hosts file I am using and gave the link above has entries for known malware, trojans and user tracking sites too. It also has entries for ad servers like yahoo, msn and others which can make some sites behave unexpectedly. Please see inline comments on the site.

Juggler : Automatic Wallpaper Changer for Windows

If you have followed previous posts, you should already have a huge collection of wallpapers. If you don’t, go to previous posts to get details on how to download high quality wallpapers.

Vladstudio Wallpaper Collection
Spectacular Wallpapers from InterfaceLIFT, Tool to download them all

Now the next thing is to use these wallpapers. Going back to “Personalization” settings every time is really not something I’d prefer. So again, I coded up a small and handy app which can do this for us.

  • It runs in background and can be controlled from System Tray.
  • It can be configured to
      • start with Windows.
      • look for wallpapers in a specific directory. Best way to use this is to dump all wallpapers matching your resolution in one folder and configure to use that folder.
      • change wallpaper once in half, one or two hrs.
  • You can also manually change wallpaper by using Juggle menu or double clicking the icon.
  • You’ve got the source. So, change it if you want more features. 🙂

And that’s pretty much it. I’m using it on Vista. It will NOT work on XP (or anything other than Vista for that matter) as XP doesn’t support JPEG images as wallpapers and that’s what I am using. I may update it later if I could spare some time. You can get a tool which may work with XP at Coding4Fun. And if you want you can always change the code [link below]. Updated to work with Vista and XP.

Remember, it’s not fully tested or final app. I just coded and left it when it started doing what I wanted. So, no negative testing. 🙂

Juggler.exe.zip [Independent Executable]

Juggler.source.zip [Source Code, VS 2005]

Links disabled for outdated app. Follow the link below for updated links.

Enjoy!

UPDATE: I’ve updated this app with fixes and more features. Please navigate to the detailed post for description and download.

Spectacular Wallpapers from InterfaceLIFT, Tool to download them all

InterfaceLIFT is one of the best source for high resolution wallpapers out there. A lot of artists post their work on this site. Thousands of wallpapers are available to browse and download but it’s annoying to click on each one of them and save manually.

I though it would be good if I can automate this or some kind of tool that can do this for me. So yesterday night, without wasting anymore time, I decided to code one up.

Its simple. Choose the resolution you want, choose the location to want to save images to and hit “Search and Download Wallpapers”. You may also want to change the sorting to Ratings or Downloads to get community rated wallpapers first.

And here is how it works: On the website, interfacelift uses javascript to prepare the links for actual images. I checked the HTML source and thought I could exploit that approach.

  • It gets the HTML markup for first page.
  • Search for javascript method calls and get the unique identifiers for wallpapers on current page and prepare a list of actual image names.
  • Loop through all images on current page.
  • Download one at a time and save to local disk.
  • Get markup for the the next page.
  • Go to step 2.
  • Keep doing this until user hits Stop or we run out of pages.

And that’s it. Its pretty simple. I ran it on Vista and XP against .Net 2.0. You can download the independent executable and/or source (C#). See update below to download.

WallpaperCrawler.exe.zip [Independent Executable]

WallpaperCrawler.source.zip [Complete Source Code, VS 2005]

I know it can be enhanced or made more robust. But hey I just coded it in couple of hours for the functionality I needed. I haven’t even tested it properly but it did what I was looking for.

Enjoy!

PS. By no means its a tested and final app. I don’t take any responsibilities for the issues you may run into by using this.

Update: This program is now part of Juggler (another app I created for changing wallpapers). Please navigate to the description page to download the latest version.