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I have a .sh script that downloads a photo from Japanese satellite's server and sets it as a background picture. I've put it into startup list, but how do I run it every, like, 5 minutes, automatically?

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Try out , there you can make cron-expressions and put it with crontab -e – We are Borg Feb 23 at 16:09
Does the picture even change every 5 minutes? Try using an interval that creates less unnecessary load on the target server. Or make sure you only download if the file is really changed. – til_b Feb 24 at 10:55
By the way, what's the url for the space backgrounds? – bohdan_trotsenko Mar 1 at 9:58
up vote 13 down vote accepted

The lazy option

If you want the easy way, and avoid having to find out which environment variable to set:

  • Make sure your script includes the shebang
  • Make it executable
  • Add the following to Startup Applications:

    /bin/bash -c "sleep 15 && while true; do <> ; sleep 300; done"

    Dash > Startup Applications > Add. Add the command:

    /bin/bash -c "sleep 15 && while true; do <> ; sleep 300; done"


If you run the script from your own environment (e.g. from a terminal window or from Startup Applications), a number of environment variables will be set. cron however runs your script with a limited set of environment variables.
Since your script no doubt uses the gsettings command:

gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.background picture-uri <wallpaper>

to set the wallpaper, almost certainly the command will break when run from cron.

The downside of "the lazy solution" is purely theoretical. A command that sleeps practically continuously means nothing to your system.

Additional info; alternatively

Reading this post, and from experiences in the past, I am pretty sure the DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS environment variable needs to be set.

To do so, add the following section at the beginning of your script (below the shebang):

PID=$(pgrep gnome-session)
export DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS=$(grep -z DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS /proc/$PID/environ|cut -d= -f2-)

Then you should be able to successfully run it from cron.

You could however very well save the hustle, and choose the lazy option.

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Well, that works. Thanks! – Aleksander Mahnyov Feb 23 at 16:46
It's so much better to use a cron job. – Luka Ramishvili Feb 24 at 7:01
@LukaRamishvili Thanks for the comment. However: a. And why is that? a sleeping command means nothing to your system. b. I even included the option. – Jacob Vlijm Feb 24 at 7:06
Otherwise, nice research about the gnome session variables, it would help the OP a lot, since that would be required either way. – Luka Ramishvili Feb 24 at 7:43
I Just looked: cpu 0.0% What tax are we talking about? – Jacob Vlijm Feb 24 at 7:44

Put it in your crontab.

Open your cron table by:

crontab -e

Now add:

*/5 * * * * /path/to/

Don't forget to make the script executable beforehand.

As your script depends on X, probably will be a good idea to add the DISPLAY to the script's environment:

*/5 * * * * DISPLAY=:0 /path/to/

Replace :0 with your actual DISPLAY (can be found by echo $DISPLAY from interactive session).

If needed, you can add the XAUTHORITY environment variable too:

*/5 * * * * DISPLAY=:0 XAUTHORITY="~/.Xauthority" /path/to/

Again you can find the value by echo $XAUTHORITY.

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Not sure if it works with limited environment variables of cron, but let' s see if OP mentions it works :) – Jacob Vlijm Feb 23 at 16:12
@JacobVlijm If any additional variable is needed, OP can define those in the script, no neeed for cron.. – heemayl Feb 23 at 16:15
Absolutely, but it can be tricky, and not so straightforward to set up (find out) sometimes. – Jacob Vlijm Feb 23 at 16:16
@AleksanderMahnyov Please edit your question to add the script, hard to say without seeing the contents..possibly a DISPLAY (and/or XAUTHORITY) issue.. – heemayl Feb 23 at 16:29
@Kartagis Cron can not handle seconds, also you are trying to do for hours which is still syntactically wrong.. – heemayl Feb 24 at 12:24

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