Cambridge theme for PIXEL

Raspberry Pi is based in Cambridge. (Just to be clear, that’s the one in East Anglia, UK, not the one in Massachusetts, USA.)

When we say “based in Cambridge”, that suggests (correctly) that our offices are here. But the connection between Raspberry Pi and Cambridge runs a lot deeper than mere geography.

A bridge over the River Cam

Raspberry Pi was founded with the aim of increasing the number of applicants to study computer science at the University of Cambridge. The processor core which powers the Raspberry Pi was developed in the city by ARM, the hugely successful microprocessor company which itself grew out of Acorn, one of the original pioneers of the 1980s home computer revolution, and another Cambridge success story. The original VideoCore graphics processor was designed by staff at Cambridge Consultants, one of the first technical consultancy firms in the UK. They spun out a company called Alphamosaic to sell VideoCore; that company was subsequently acquired by Broadcom, and it was the engineers at Broadcom’s Cambridge office who updated and improved it to make the version which provides the multimedia for Raspberry Pi.

King's College Chapel from above

It was those same engineers who put together the out-of-hours ‘skunkworks’ project which became the Raspberry Pi alpha board. When Raspberry Pi was founded as a charity and a company in its own right, we decided that Cambridge was where we would be based. Most of our staff live in or around Cambridge, and many of them are graduates of the University. Cambridge runs deep in the DNA of Raspberry Pi: our chairman David Cleevely is fond of saying that Raspberry Pi couldn’t have happened anywhere else, and while that may not be entirely true, it’s certainly the case that Cambridge provided the conditions for it to flourish as it has. We’re very proud of our connection to Cambridge, and we’ve decided to celebrate it.

A few months ago, Eben and I were looking at the beautiful city flyover videos that Apple offer as screensavers on the Apple TV, and we thought that it would be great if we could do something similar for Raspbian, with Cambridge as the subject. So we enlisted the help of Cambridge Filmworks, who are experts at filming from drones, and asked them to put together a video showing the best of Cambridge’s architecture. They did, and it’s gorgeous.

Cambridge from above

We also thought that it would be good to get some matching desktop wallpapers that showed off the best views of the city and the University. The best photographs I’ve seen of Cambridge were from Sir Cam, who takes photos for the University; they have very kindly allowed us access to their archives, from which we’ve chosen some scenes that we feel capture what is so special about this place.

Today we are launching the Cambridge theme pack for PIXEL: a video screensaver of Cambridge architecture and a set of desktop wallpapers. (We should point out this is entirely optional: it’s just some extra eye-candy for your PIXEL desktop if you fancy it.)

To install the wallpapers

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install cantab-wallpaper

To install the screensaver

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install cantab-screensaver

Or to install both

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install cantab-theme

Note that the wallpapers will be installed in the same /usr/share/pixel-wallpaper directory as the standard PIXEL wallpaper images. You can use the Appearance Settings dialog to choose the wallpaper you want.

Note also that the screensaver is quite a big download – it’s 200MB or so of high-resolution video – so you may not want to use it if your SD card is full or your network connection is slow.

Once you have installed the packages, you’ll need to configure the screensaver. Go into Preferences > Screensaver from the main menu, and select the screensaver called ‘Cantab’.

If you want just the Cambridge screensaver, set Mode to the ‘Only One Screen Saver’ option. If you do not do this, you will get a random selection of others as well. You can also configure how many minutes before the screensaver activates in the ‘Blank After’ window.


Raymond Mercier avatar

Having never been to Cambridge, I really enjoyed the arial footage of the campus. I can only say, (please read in a Monty Python voice)”Beautiful shrubbery”. Nice canal also.

Alex Bate avatar

I worked on the tour buses as a teen. People would come to me and ask where the University campus was, to which I would laugh as the entire city is pretty much one big campus. We’re A LOT of colleges here in the Cambridge.

James Hughes avatar

The canal is actually the River Cam, but pretty nevertheless!

Radix avatar

At first, I read “River Cam” in the same sense as “dashboard cam”, etc. Maybe someone can come up with a 10bars Raspberry Pi housing, so we can enjoy a river cam in River Cam?

Simon Long avatar

I don’t think you’d want to see what’s under the surface of the River Cam – in addition to the traditional shopping trolleys, it’s doubtless full of old bikes and empty champagne bottles… ;)

Neil avatar

Good lord. I thought Australia was the only place where boguns dumped shopping trolleys in the local waterways.

Simon Long avatar

No, I think that’s pretty international – anywhere there are shopping trolleys, they will be stolen and chucked in rivers…

AndrewS avatar

Near where my mum lives, there’s a tidal river inlet right next to a supermarket. Whenever the tide goes out there’s always at least half a dozen trolleys sticking out of the mud flats :-/

Neil avatar

Yeah, ok. But the River Cam? Is nothing sacred?

Dex avatar

@Simon – Definitely international! The Makino Stream here in Feilding, nowhere near as decorative as the Cam, gets its fair share.

John avatar

Any chance of posting the video to watch on your website?

AndrewS avatar

I wondered the same… you can download and then find a cantab.h264 file inside the screensaver/video/ directory, which you can then play with something like VLC.

Alex Bate avatar

I’ll get it uploaded to YouTube for you all. Hopefully today. If not, tomorrow. But it’ll definitely go up.

Andrew Oakley avatar

We do something similar, but much less ambitious, at Cotswold Raspberry Jam. Ours is limited to one new desktop wallpaper per event, highlighting a historic or country scene from here in the Cotswolds.

We create a custom Raspbian image for each event which includes all the workshop files ready-to-go.

Whilst the Cotswolds are undeniably picturesque, my real reasoning for the custom wallpaper became apparent at our January jam – two Pis were showing Broadway Tower from November’s event, instead of Gloucester Cathedral for January’s event.

This made it very easy to spot which Pis had got outdated SD cards and were thus missing the required workshop files.

AndrewS avatar

“This made it very easy to spot which Pis had got outdated SD cards and were thus missing the required workshop files.”

That’s a neat idea :-)

Tim avatar

Where can we see the aerial video of Cambridge? Thanks

Richard Sierakowski avatar

Puts a really excellent shine on the PIXEL experience. Nice:)


Scott Love avatar

I really appreciate the ongoing improvements and enhancements to the overall user experience. It makes me all that more excited to share my passion for the Raspberry Pi with friends and family. Having grown-up on the Apple II experience, the Raspberry Pi community is truly amazing and energetic. Thank you for your dedication to creativity and innovation. It’s such a cool platform and Pixel takes it to another level even for old Unix guys like myself. Love the Cambridge wallpaper images and the drone video. Bravo!!

RS Love
Palo Alto, CA (USA)

Larry Azlin avatar

Not working for me:

sudo apt-get install cantab-wallpaper
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
E: Unable to locate package cantab-wallpaper

Simon Long avatar

Did you do a sudo apt-get update first?

Chas avatar

How do I make my own theme pack? ?

Peter Stevens avatar

It’s lovely! More pictures of Clare needed though.

Andy Baker avatar

And Catz too please!

Simon Long avatar

Not until you get a bridge! ;)

beta-tester avatar

nice pictures, but the third (from top or bottom – or the middle one – all the same picture) is not the best quality – there on the left top corner it is overexposed / has sun glare.

Simon Long avatar

That’s a still from the video, and IM(NS)HO (and those of several of us) you are completely wrong about the lens flare – it makes that particular scene even more beautiful than it would be otherwise.

Avi avatar

These are amazing! personally can you get a picture of trinity college Cambridge university? The famous place where Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity and Sri Nivas Ramanojan published his work on partitions.

Simon Long avatar

A few of the pictures show parts of Trinity College – “wren_library.jpg” is the Wren Library at Trinity, and the bridge across the river in Trinity’s grounds is in both “punting.jpg” and “trinity_bridge.jpg”.

Brendan Lewis avatar

I tried this on a Raspberry Pi Official Display, and I could not exit the screensaver. I had to type “Ctrl-Alt-T” and “sudo halt” blindly. Can you fix this, or is it a problem with the software that runs the screensaver?

Simon Long avatar

I don’t know – I’ll ask the people responsible for the touch screen driver!

We are just using the standard Xscreensaver package to provide the raw screensaver functionality, so I suspect it is an incompatibility between the display and something in Xscreensaver, but I’m not sure where the fault is; we’ll investigate.

JB63 avatar

Very nicely done. As an alumni of the engineering school in the ‘other’ Cambridge, I would love so much to see more participation from MIT-affiliated people.

Robin Newman avatar

Hmm: downloaded and installed OK, and I can load and view the desktop images using the Appearance Settings, but I can’t find any screensaver preferences entry on my Pi3. Checked that Screensaver daemon and frontend for X11 installed.
Where can I find/install the prefs setting?
(did sudo apt-get update before install)

Simon Long avatar

It should be in the main menu, under Preferences – there should be a “Screensaver” option at the bottom of the list, underneath “Raspberry Pi Configuration”.

Robin Newman avatar

It appears to be missing…how can I restore it?

Simon Long avatar

“sudo apt-get install xscreensaver” should work – you might need to use the –reinstall option with it.

Robin Newman avatar

Thanks that sorted it.
I had to sudo apt-get install –reinstall xscreensaver

AND then
sudo apt-get install –reinstall cantab-screensaver

and then it worked. It looks stunning!

Charlie avatar

I don’t think this is compatible with the x86 version of raspian. It tries to claim it can’t install it :
‘E: Package ‘cantab-screensaver’ has no installation candidate’
It looks quite cool in the normal Pi boards though!

Simon Long avatar

Yes, it’s not as yet available for the x86 version – it may be in future.

Dex avatar

I’ve installed the whole theme – Well Done! Just two minor suggestions: 1, a slideshow for the Wallpaper, timing adjustable? and 2, directories for files (per theme plus ‘standard’ and ‘user’, checkbox-enabled over ‘sticky’ file selection(s)?). I envisage being able to select wallpapers across or within easily selectable themes. What sayest thou?

David Atkinson avatar

The screensaver is not working for me. I installed both the wallpapers and screensaver in accordance with the instructions. I can find the wallpapers and they work fine however, although I have the cantab screensaver in settings it says that there is no preview available and all I get as a screensaver when I try to use it is a black screen! Am I missing some sort op player needed to display the video?

Simon Long avatar

No, the cantab-screensaver package installs the necessary player. You won’t see a preview on the main screen in Xscreensaver settings, but you should be able to play it when you press the Preview button. The player application is called “scrvid” and is a simple command-line tool – type “which scrvid” at the command-line and see if the system can find it.

You might need to try reinstalling the package.

David Atkinson avatar

Thanks for your reply, must admit I am a bit of a novice so my apologies! When I type ‘which scrvid’ in terminal the response is ‘/usr/bin/scrvid’ but search as I may I can not locate the actual scrvid file. I tried pressing the preview button in the screensaver settings again but all I get is a full screen of black. I had previously tried to reinstall the package but that simply resulted in my receiving the information that the latest version version was already installed. Perhaps I should have removed the original installation before doing a reinstall but I don’t know how to do that. Can you help please? I am using a pi 3 running it ‘headless’ and controlling it using my iPad pro as the screen

Simon Long avatar

Ah – you hadn’t mentioned you were remoting into your Pi – this won’t work over a headless install. The video playback application renders pixels directly into the Pi’s screen buffer, bypassing Xwindows – whatever remote application you are using never gets to see those pixels, so you get a black screen. There is no easy fix for this – it might work with the experimental direct capture mode in the latest RealVNC server if you are using RealVNC as your remote connection – right-click the VNC icon on the taskbar, choose Options, choose Troubleshooting and select “Enable experimental direct capture mode.” This will work, but you won’t get more than 1-2 fps.

David Atkinson avatar

Thank you once again for another most helpful reply. I do also have a separate monitor that I am able to connect the pi 3 to and having done so the cantab screensaver works perfectly on that display. I would however, still prefer to try running the pi in conjunction with my iPad and I am using Real VNC. I see from the VNC website that the latest stable version of VNC Connect is supposed to be pre-installed with the latest Raspian Jesse installation and as my system is updated and upgraded to the latest version I believe I should have the correct VNC release to experiment with. Unfortunately I am having difficulty following your instruction to ‘right click the VNC icon in the taskbar because I am unable to find the icon so that I am able to access the Troubleshooting option as you suggest. Can I trouble you once again to ask how I can find it? I should also say that initially I set up VNC server to run on startup of the pi and that is what still happens.

Simon Long avatar

You need to run the server by launching Raspberry Pi Configuration from the Preferences section of the main menu. On the second tab (Interfaces) is an option for VNC – set it to Enabled and then click OK to close Raspberry Pi Configuration. You should then get a VNC icon in the top right of the taskbar at the top of the screen.

David Atkinson avatar

I know I am being a pain but in the Interfaces section of the pi configuration panel the enable and disable options for VNC are ‘greyed out’ although the disabled radio button is selected in the background – what does that mean please?

David Atkinson avatar

I think I may have spotted a (the) problem because I think I may be running Tight VNC server and not Real VNC so could that account for the greying out of the VNC options in settings. If so how can I shut down or delete Tight VNC?

David Atkinson avatar

Quite pleased with myself as I have sorted the problem (almost!). It was the Tight VNC server causing the problem and I found out how to remove it but even then I was not able to select the VNC option in settings as it was still greyed out. I then installed Real VNC server and I was then able to switch VNC on in system settings and the cantab screensaver now runs when I am using the iPad as a screen. I assume that because Tight VNC was already installed when I upgraded to the latest system the upgrade was prevented from installing Real VNC as the default option? As you suggested the frame rate is rather slow and I can live with that but the one remaining problem is that once the cantab screensaver is running I can’t get it to stop! This problem remains even when the pi is connected to a proper display it seems as though the screensaver is running on top of the desktop and the consequence is I can’t access the controls to even reboot or shutdown because the shutdown options panel opens behind the screensaver so you are not able to select an option! Have you any suggestions please?

David Atkinson avatar

I finally got the cantab screensaver working on my pi 3 running it headless on an iPad pro by enabeling the experimental direct capture mode in VNC server as suggested by Simon Long. The frame rate is rather low and so the screensaver runs slowly but I can live with that. However, what I can’t live with is the fact that whatever settings I choose for the screensaver it starts up randomly even when I am doing other work on the Raspberry pi, but what is worse is that it appears to ‘float’ on top of the desktop and it can’t be dismissed by clicking on it and it is impossible to work on any open windows on the desktop because you can’t access them. The only way to reboot for example, is to open terminal and type in the reboot command ‘blind’ so to speak because you can’t actually see the terminal window which is hidden behind the floating screensaver. Can anyone help please?

Simon Long avatar

You’re seeing problems due to trying to run it on a headless Pi – I’m not sure there actually is a fix for it. I’d strongly recommend doing without it in a headless install – it looks pretty dreadful at 1-2 fps anyway!

David Atkinson avatar

Thanks for that Simon, I was beginning to think that it would be preferable not to try using it when running headless – now I just have to find out how to switch the screensaver off!

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