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From Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon:

The background of his [X] screen happens to be a uniform indigo at the moment, but it could be an image. Theoretically you could use a movie ... You can, in fact, take any piece of software and make it into your screen background ...

How would you set a program as the desktop "wallpaper"?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

You just run a program on the root window. Most screensavers allow you do do that, e.g.:

/usr/lib64/misc/xscreensaver/sundancer2 --root

However, most modern Linux environments run a "desktop" program that covers the whole screen and covers the root window. So you won't see it unless you kill the desktop program.

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