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James Sessford
James Sessford

Posted on • Originally published at on

Ubuntu splash screens

I'd like to start by saying that I consider myself terrible at design and animation but that is where my original spark for computing came from.

My parents got a 486 for the house when I was about 11 years old that came with a box full of old games and old computing books. Inside this box were two items that would change the course of my life.

Monkey Island

Up until this point of my life, I'd been a cartridge based gamer. After tearing through the instruction manual, I learned that I had an A drive on the machine and that these disks could be installed!

The install process was smooth, if I remember correctly I had an option or two to select from and a beautiful console spinner to watch as the install progressed.

Not satisfied that I just had to run "install.bat", I opened the file in the editor to see if I could understand what it was doing and to my suprise, I could read the contents.

Batch files were a perfect entry point for me! Whilst confusing - there were a lot of keywords I'd never seen before - I knew I'd seen a book in the box that was sent over with a title similar to "Everything you ever wanted to know about DOS but were afraid to ask your parents".

Everything you ever wanted to know about DOS but were afraid to ask your parents

This book became my bible. With it I was able to build context menus to help my parents around the computer, create boot disks for games that demanded more resource and then finally, with the discovery of ANSI.sys, change the entire look and feel of the DOS command prompt that I loved.

The 486 eventually left us to visit the big mainframe in the sky but the ideas I learned playing on that have always stuck with me:

An interface should be simple and easy to understand whilst also providing useful feedback.

Having control over the style of the console was fantastic.

An impressionable child sees Hackers

We didn't have a computer in the house at the time I saw Hackers, and wouldn't for many years later, but I never forgot the splash screens that everyone had when they booted up their laptop. That seemed the obvious extension to me from being able to customise the console.

I wouldn't remember to actually try this until many, many years later.

Enter, Plymouth!

sudo apt get plymouth-themes
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Installing this gave me a directory where the currently running Ubuntu theme could be edited.

Prepare three files to copy:

Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode


This should be the logo you want to appear when the machine boots up. I'd suggest putting it on a transparent background.


This is a progress indicator in it's off state. I made it a blank png with full alpha transparency.


This is a progress indicator in it's off state. I made it the same colour as the logo.

Move the three files you've created to

Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

The default background colour for the splash screen can be updated in

Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

You're looking for the following function calls:

Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

After completing this you're good to reboot and see your Hackersesque splash screen in all its glory!

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