Screensavers today are in a sad state—either you’re stuck with the mindbogglingly dull defaults that came with your operating system, or you walk through a minefield of spyware and gaudiness. There hasn’t been an After Dark release in over a decade. Our thirst for satisfying imagery for our idle computers will leave us dehydrated.
Or will it? Enter Electric Sheep, the open-source lovechild of Scott Draves and thousands of computers worldwide. On the most basic level, it’s a distributed computing project like Folding@Home, but instead of curing diseases, Electric sheep renders animated fractal light shows. With an Internet connection, you can swap these animations (called “sheep”) so that the show never gets old.
Video of some sheep (transitions are more fluid in screensaver, this is just a demo):
For PCs that are Internet-impaired, you can download premade sheep from elsewhere and simply throw them into the right folder. The amount of premade sheep available is staggering—ArmoredCavalry casually told me that he had downloaded eight gigabytes of the critters. Just be sure to set your cache to the amount you download. If your cache is smaller, it will automatically delete the excess. For music lovers, electric sheep can be used as a Windows Media Player visualization with a free plugin.
One cool little feature is that the sheep can “evolve.” By pressing up or down on your keyboard when a sheep is running, you say that you like it or dislike it, respectively. The most popular sheep will “mate” and develop new sheep that have characteristics of both their parents. If you aren’t scarred by the suggestion that love is a popularity contest, you can be treated to some pretty cool images.