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Is it possible to change the GNOME desktop background during some period of time by just a random phrase from the list on black screen? Will is seriously load the CPU and consume battery life?

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Could you be more specific what you mean by "just a random phrase from the list on black screen"? –  matthias krull Aug 29 '11 at 11:21
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This could be easily done by using Scalable Vector Graphics in Inkscape. Draw a black box, add a text element with desired color and size, type REPLACEMENT into it, save it as /path/to/template.svg.

Then, in your script do

sed 's/REPLACEMENT/your text/' < /path/to/template.svg > /tmp/background.svg
gconftool-2 --type string --set  /desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename /tmp/background.svg
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