Retro Future Electrics

A page about retro electronics, from the introduction of electricity until 1970-something. We refit old gadgets with new tech, and wonder at the makers who came before us.

Decorating you Mac desktop for Christmas in Catalina

It’s Christmastime 2019 and I want to decorate up my Mac and Linus machines with a little Christmas cheer. Computer desktops haven’t been around all that long, but back in the 90’s there were a lot of desktop customizations for Mac and Windows. Over the years a lot of these have fallen off and are no longer supported by the developer, or the OSes. Oddly back in the 90s I didn’t want to run many graphical decorations as they bogged the system down, now I almost always have a few cores doing nothing, but you can use the terminal command “nice” to ensure that they don’t cause so much as a hiccup to your other work.


A favorite of mine has been iSnow, it makes it snow on your screen, it has a little Santa clause and polar bear that wander around and get blown about by wind storms. It’s a nice little program. I was scared that it would be lost in Catalina, as it was 32bit and hadn’t been updated in years, but just in the Nick (hah!) of time it was released on the App Store with full 64-bit Catalina support! I’m glad to see it still being supported, it’s a near to an original Mac App as you can get, with the first version being released in 1984! You can view it here: iSnow Mac App Store Link

It does what it says, as you can see in the App Store it has a lot of customizations for kinds of snow, if you don’t like Santa Clause You don’t need him, or you can pick some other representations. It performs well, the author has quickly made fixes on Catalina so it runs very well

iAnoq screenshot
iSnow in Action


One of my favorite programs, MacLampsX puts little twinkle lights around the border of your desktop. As of today the public program is still 32-bit, but I’ve been in contact with the developer and a 64 bit version is coming soon! When it’s ready I’m sure he’ll put it up on the MacLampsX website


Dress up your terminal

You holiday decorating doesn’t have to end on your desktop, the following items work on the Mac terminal (I prefer iTerm over the built in terminal), and will work on most Linux/Ubuntu terminals as well! My favorite is ChristBASHtree, which is a BASH shell script that creates a nice tree. No Perl, no other code, just shell scripting. It’s really amazing. You can see all the details at github or download & run it directly in terminal with:

wget -qO- | bash
A BASH Christmastree

Still looking for lights

There were two great programs for the Mac that unfortunately haven’t been upgraded for 64 bit, MacLampsX (Update! 64 bit coming soon) and treetoplights. Neither are open source or I would try and get them compiled. I used MacLampsX for years to add a nice string of twinkle lights around the border of my monitor. They were the perfect colors to not be distracting, but just look nice. If anyone hears of a replacement let me know!

Nightlights Desktop

This is an ok program, it puts lights around the side of the screen and has a happy little message, but it’s full screen only (as in, it’s the only application you can see, you can’t draw the lights around the screen with your normal work in the foreground. It’s available on the app store, and its icon is the featured image for this story.

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