Windows Live FrameIt and RSS powered Windows 7 desktop slideshows
Earlier today Long Zheng published a blog entry called RSS-powered Windows 7 desktop slideshows where he shows how in Windows 7 it is possible to create RSS powered slideshows for your desktop using Windows 7 Themes. He provided 3 examples, each of which took an RSS feed of photos from Flickr and displayed those photos at 30 minute intervals on the Windows 7 desktop.
Pretty cool stuff, but I figured I could use Windows Live FrameIt to do something a lot more useful than just show photos. For those that don’t know, Windows Live FrameIt enables you to display photos from the internet on a digital photo frame in your home although at its core all it does is output an RSS feed of visual content so there’s no reason why it can’t be used in other places as well.
I live near London so I have created a London themed FrameIt collection which you can see at http://london-info.frameit.com/; it currently incorporates up-to-date Weather information and a BBC London news feed (I’ll be adding more later I’m sure) and this results in a collection of pictures showing London-related information.
Once you have your RSS feed the trick is to incorporate it into a Windows 7 theme. This is done by building a .theme file (instructions are here for the tech savvy people that can be bothered to read it) and including the following section within it:
The interval is measured in milliseconds; here I’ve set it to be 60000ms which means the image on your desktop will change every 60 seconds. “Shuffle=1” means it will pick an image at random and the RSSFeed property points to the URL of my Windows Live FrameIt feed. For those that are interested in seeing London-related information on their desktop I have made the .theme file available on my Skydrive at http://cid-550f681dad532637.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/BlogShare/20090125/london%20info.theme
Download that file and double-click on it to install the theme. Bear in mind what Long says at this point:
The first time you double click to install the theme files you might find yourself enjoying nothing more than the default “beta fish” wallpaper, this is due to a number of bugs related to this feature. First of all, this feature utilizes the Windows RSS Platform which automatically refreshes and download feed enclosures in the background. Because this is a background process, it will take considerable time to download the high-resolution photos within the feed. But once the photos are downloaded, the theme does not automatically refresh to queue the new photos in the slideshow. A logout/login should be sufficient, but more simply you could open the theme control panel and toggle between two themes to force a manual refresh.
Once you’ve done all of that then, voila, you’ll have the latest BBC London news and the local up-to-date weather displayed on your desktop:
If you want to use a different Windows Live FrameIt feed in there all you have to do is open the .theme file in Notepad and edit the RSSFeed property as appropriate – you’ll probably want to change the DisplayName property to something more appropriate as well.
The really cool part about this is that if I want to go and see something different on my various desktops I don’t have to go and change the theme on each machine, I just have to head to http://frameit.live.com to make the change and it will automatically flow to all of my devices. Software plus services in full effect!
Now, just think of the possibilities here – literally anything that is available as an RSS feed (currently with a few caveats – as pointed out by Long) can now be displayed on your Windows Desktop. I’m not even leveraging the full power of Windows Live FrameIt either which is far more feature-rich than I’ve talked about here. Talk about bringing the information to you! I’d love to see this available on Windows Mobile as well!
Do you think this as cool as I do? Let me know if you create your own FrameIt feeds for your desktop and share some screenshots on your own blog as well if you have one.
UPDATE: I’ve added London traffic updates to http://london-info.frameit.com!