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One of the things that Linux users switching to a Chromebook might miss is the general flexibility of using Linux, compared to Google’s more locked-down approach. Chrome OS is really nice, but in terms of utilities it has a lot of limitations, due to the limited pool of developers producing apps for it. One small feature that Chrome OS lacks is the ability to create photo-cycling backgrounds on the “desktop” – a basic aesthetic touch that would go a long way towards making the relatively sterile Chrome OS interface seems a little more homey. You could swap them out yourself, by hand — but what are we, savages?
The good news is that there’s a new Chrome extension called “Bing Background Wallpaper” out that automatically sets your background to be Bing’s image of the day. Be aware that this won’t work on Windows, Mac, Linux, or any of the mobile platforms: This tool is for ChromeOS only (though there is a similar app for those on the latest versions of Windows).
The bad news is that it only works on Chrome’s developer channel for now, which is potentially buggy.
Bing’s image of the day is drawn from the backgrounds for the Bing search page, which are polled from a variety of sources, change daily, and are often very attractive. Check out some of their previous images for an idea of what you will see. Typical images include landscapes, aerial photography of cities, macro shots of plants and insects, and various nature photos. You’ll need an internet connection to update reliably, but, since you’re using a Chromebook, presumably that won’t be an issue.
Microsoft exposes an API which allows Bing’s images to be accessed by web apps, which is handy for this sort of thing. The Chrome extension under discussion simply talks to the API periodically, fetches the latest image, and sets the Chrome wallpaper to it at the appropriate resolution and aspect ratio.
Get Chrome’s Developer Channel
The developer channel allows you to access experimental builds of ChromeOS, which haven’t been fully vetted. The good news is that switching your Chromebook to the developer channel is really easy, and gives you access to a lot of neat software and updates not otherwise available (like Google-now-style voice search). Plus, since most of your Chromebook data is already backed up to the cloud, if anything goes wrong, you can scrub it and start over without too many tears. We’ve covered the process of switching release channels before, but we’ll go over it again briefly.
To switch to the developer channel, all you have to do is go to the system tray (lower right-hand-corner), go to settings, then go “help”, “more info”, and, finally, “change channel…” Select ‘Developer-unstable’ from the menu and click ‘change channel.’ It should look like this:
After downloading the update, the interface will close. You’ll now see a line on the page indicating that it’s downloading the update.
When this finishes, you’ll see a button on the page giving you the option to reboot. Save anything you’re working on, and move any downloads you want to keep in the event of a crash to your Google Drive, then reboot.
If all goes well, your Chromebook should boot back up in a minute or so. If, after an hour or so, it shows no signs of returning to the land of the living, try to power it on manually. If that doesn’t work, you may need to reset your Chromebook to factory settings. This is also a good option if a future developer update bricks your device or breaks something important enough that you can’t switch back to the stable build normally.
Get Bing’s Backgrounds
After the reboot, all you have to do is run the Bing photo app, and you’re good to go! The app will now fetch Bing’s photo of the day automatically, and set it as your desktop background. Congrats!
Will You Try It?
Will you be switching to developer mode to try this? What do you think of the app? Do you know of any other good developer-mode features you want to share? Let us know in the comments!